On November 15th, 2023, Dengeki Online conducted an interview with the Persona 5 Tactica development team. The in-depth interview with business producer Atsushi Nomura, director Naoya Maeda, and sound composer Toshiki Konishi discusses the different approach to development P5T had compared to other Atlus games, as well as the creative decisions behind the project.
First of all, could you tell us what each of you was in charge of in this project?
Atsushi Nomura: I was involved in launching the project as a business producer. During development, I mainly touched on aspects such as progress and budget management. In the latter half of development, when it comes to delivering the work to the customers, I focused on coordinating with promotion and rights.
By the way, what is the difference between a business producer and a producer?
Nomura: This time, since Maeda—who has abundant development experience—is the director, he was the main focus for aspects such as the game’s quality. I have been working on the project perspective, considering the overall direction and marketing. Budget management is also essential for the project, and I make sure to look into that as well. It’s more of an appeal for internal purposes.
I see. Compared to previous Atlus games, it seems like there was a slightly different division of roles this time.
Naoya Maeda: Yes, that’s correct. This time, I took on the role of director, but my background is originally in design, and I had experience in design direction before. So, while ensuring the quality of graphics and other visual aspects based on my past experiences, I worked with staff and writers in charge of the specifications and scenario.
Kohnishi-san, it was mentioned that you served as the sole sound composer this time, handling all the songs?
Toshiki Kohnishi: Yes, that’s correct. I was in charge of all the music. This includes aspects such as implementing where to play the music in the game. Additionally, I was present for and supervised the recording of Lyn (Lyn Inazumi)’s vocal songs.
Choosing the Genre of Strategy RPG
First, could you tell us about when the project was first launched? In other media interviews, various factors were mentioned, such as “wanting to do a strategy RPG,” “delivering a new ‘P5’ story,” and “results from user surveys.” What was the most important factor?
Nomura: The project officially kicked off mid-November 2019. However, the conceptualization began a bit earlier with a small team. The initial idea for the project was inspired by the captivating nature of the Phantom Thieves from “P5.” Since they were very appealing, we wanted to depict the Phantom Thieves working together as a team.
Although it wasn’t being shown in real-time back then, I was a fan of spy action movies like “Mission: Impossible” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” This interest led me to think about whether we could portray an action-packed scenario with the Phantom Thieves. We wondered, if we were able to create a game where a team takes on missions, what genre would be suitable? We decided that the genre that seemed most suitable for that concept was a strategy RPG.
Both Maeda and I personally enjoy strategy RPGs and played them often in our private time. However, it’s not so much that we wanted to create a game in this genre but rather that we had themes and expressions we wanted to explore. A strategy RPG turned out to be the genre that best matched those themes and expressions, and that’s the logic behind our choice.
In that case, if the theme you wanted to represent was different, you might have created a regular RPG?
Nomura: That’s a possibility. On the other hand, mainline “P5” titles are turn-based RPGs, spin-off titles include action RPGs (Persona 5 Strikers), and dungeon RPGs (Persona Q series), so we have expanded the IP into various RPG genres. In that sense, there’s likely a certain fan base for strategy RPGs, and we thought about broadening the IP there as well. In fact, in surveys, there were many requests for a strategy RPG.
Indeed, strategy RPGs have a dedicated fan base. By the way, when it was decided to go with a strategy RPG, was there any specific concept you shared within the team?
Maeda: One of the first things we shared was the idea of “don’t make it seem too difficult.” Some people who aren’t familiar with strategy RPGs might have the impression that they are “difficult” or “rigid,” so we wanted to lower that barrier.
Of course, we also wanted to make sure that the game didn’t appear too much like one aimed at younger players, but instead we wanted players to feel that it was indeed a Persona game. We were conscious of these aspects from the beginning.
Nomura: Specifically, when it comes to strategy RPGs, managing a large number of units is a key element. However, for those unfamiliar with strategy RPGs, there was concern that players might find it complicated and overwhelming. Therefore, while keeping elements for customization enjoyable, we aimed to keep things simple by reducing the number of units to manage and keeping the training aspects to a minimum.
The decision to lower the characters’ proportions this time, was that also made in consideration of reducing the barrier to entry?
Nomura: That’s one of the reasons, but there were also other considerations. In the early stages of development, there were two opinions within the team: one suggesting that it might be better to fight with original stylish characters and the other proposing the use of the typical low-proportion characters seen in many strategy RPGs.
Because of that, we created mock-ups for both versions and carefully considered them. With the original proportions, characters could be drawn very cool, but inevitably, if the character’s proportions were increased, their height would also increase. However, in strategy RPGs, it’s essential to have an overhead view of the entire battlefield, and we often use an overhead perspective. In that case, it becomes challenging to showcase details. I realized that no matter how much effort was put into portraying the cool aspects of the Phantom Thieves, they ended up looking somewhat bland (laughs).
Maeda: Characters designed by Shigenori Soejima (the P5 character designer) often have a stylish and attractive appearance. However, when you take such stylish models from an overhead angle, especially with a pulled-back camera, the lines appear thin, and the overall visual presentation won’t fit well. Moreover, when placed on the board (stage), one square’s density becomes thinner. So, to address this, making the models deformed was an effective approach.
Indeed, with deformation, character traits can stand out more, and even if the camera is pulled back, you can quickly recognize “this is Ryuji,” for example.
Maeda: Also, as part of the initiative to lower the barrier, it was necessary to make them visually enjoyable. Depicting deformed characters running around the board in a fun way was considered a key proposition.
In another media interview, Nomura-san mentioned that “choosing this genre is a development of the turn-based RPG, and that’s why we chose this genre.” I’m curious whether this is a general evolution of turn-based RPGs or specifically an evolution of “Persona” turn-based RPGs.
Nomura: Actually, it’s not that big of a deal (laughs). Rather than being about P5T, I meant that the genre of strategy RPG itself is more like an extension or development of turn-based RPGs. In the conventional turn-based command RPGs, player interaction during combat essentially involves choosing actions for characters. On the other hand, in strategy RPGs, in addition to choosing actions, players can also select where to move characters, adding an element of player interaction.
I think this is why there might be aspects that lead to the impression of it being a bit more complicated. Personally, I feel that strategy RPGs, compared to command RPGs, offer increased player interaction, making them more liberating as games and placing them as an extension of turn-based RPGs.
Character Design, Erina and Toshiro
Next, I’d like to discuss the setting and characters. Earlier, we touched on the deformed characters. What characters left an impression on you after the transformation, and are there any points you would like us to pay attention to?
Maeda: In the initial stages of development, we used models from Persona Q2 for the mock-ups. However, since these models were not intended for use in an SRPG, there was a some discomfort.
The deformed design of Persona Q2 adopts a technique where the body gradually becomes smaller towards the extremities. While this fills up well at overhead angles, the small size of the limbs made it challenging to maintain visibility and aesthetic appeal when posing. As a result, we decided not to use the models from Persona Q2 and opted to rebuild them from scratch.
Initially, when we estimated the workload, someone said, “Since we just need to touch up the Persona Q2 models a bit, it shouldn’t take much effort.” However, the result was a complete reconstruction (laughs).
Nomura: When we tried it, we realized, “That’s right” (laughs).
Certainly, Persona Q didn’t have gameplay that involved moving models intensely.
Nomura: As Maeda mentioned earlier, in P5T, we aimed to showcase the lively movements on the playing field. I remember that we made a shift in the direction fairly early on to adjust and make that aspect clearly visible.
Maeda: We shifted the focus to a cartoon-style deformation with larger extremities where the characters’ movement, even in their top-down view, appears lively.
Regarding the refinement and touch-up of character designs, I read in a separate interview with designer Hanako Oribe (in charge of character design for “P5T”) that you put a lot of effort into the presentation.
Maeda: It would probably be the fact that we had to completely remake all of the models (laughs).
Was the thought something like “I’ll redesign it myself”?
Maeda: Oribe suggested, “It’s better to redesign from the beginning.” In a dungeon RPG based on Etrian Odyssey, where the viewpoint is in the first person, characters rarely appear on the screen. However, in a strategy RPG, characters moving around the screen are essential. The language for each game genre is different. So, we were aware of the risk of using the same deformation and agreed with that perspective.
Were there characters that were challenging to deform in the process of creating them?
Nomura: Maybe the new characters? Erina had quite a bit of attention, right?
Maeda: We had her redesigned several times. Also, as for Oribe’s method of designing deformed characters, she first prepares a version with fuller proportions.
This fuller proportion version was really good, and Erina embodied a dignified, fighting female figure. For Toshiro, despite being a middle-aged man, his illustration conveyed a mature charm. When I saw those, I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe we should raise the proportions after all.” At that point, the models were already about halfway done, so I didn’t tell anyone (laughs).
I’d love to see that.
Nomura: When you finish the main game, you can see the taller sketch of Erina under the “Special Art” section, so please take a look when you get the chance.
By the way, I noticed that in the movie where there’s a close-up of Erina’s face, the expression seemed more realistic than the usual deformed style. Was that a deliberate choice?
Maeda: It’s probably a scene towards the end, and since it’s the most serious moment in the story, we aimed for a balance between deformed and more realistic expressions.
I see. That’s why it left a strong impression and was a really striking moment. Erina and Toshiro Kasukabe, both original characters in this game, play active roles. Could you tell us about the design concepts and the charm of these characters up to around the second chapter?
Nomura: I received messages from Oribe about what kind of design concepts we had in mind. To sum up Erina in one word, it’s “design infused with charisma.” The essence of the charisma that Oribe envisioned is “an unwavering sense of grandeur” and “an unstable destroyer.” I think that charismatic individuals often have aspects that strongly attract people but also have a slightly precarious side.
Tied to the theme of “revolution” in this game, Erina appears as the leader of the revolutionary army. It’s mentioned that elements of attraction and suspense were incorporated into her design.
So, when you closely examine Erina’s design, it features asymmetry. One side of her hairstyle falls slightly over her eye, and her clothing has one side that is lifted. Additionally, her skirt has a bit of armor around the leg area. This asymmetry is intentionally integrated to convey a sense of imbalance. The design aims to evoke both dignity and instability simultaneously.
As for Toshiro Kasukabe, his role is deeply connected to the story, so we can’t divulge too many details. However, the inspiration was drawn from the world of Kabuki, specifically the female role called “onnagata.” The slightly drooping bangs represent the Kabuki hairstyle called “shike.” The onnagata expresses aspects of a woman’s sorrow and determination, and those elements were subtly incorporated into the design to make it stand out effectively in event scenes.
So that’s why, Toshiro gives off a certain allure, isn’t it?
Konishi: Oh, really… I see. I’m all ears from this side [the interviewer’s side] (laughs).
Nomura: When we announced Toshiro, there were quite a few posts on social media talking about how “cool” he was. From my perspective, I thought, “There are suit-wearing men everywhere,” (laughs). But because we carefully designed the character with proper intentions and purpose, it must have resonated and struck a chord with the fans.
In the early part of the story, Toshiro’s comical side is emphasized, so the impression may change quite a bit when playing, right? (laughs).
Nomura: The initial impression is of a comical and delightful old man, right? However, he progresses as a key person.
Maeda: Erina is a character who doesn’t hesitate to make self-sacrifices for her beliefs and comrades. In contrast, Toshiro is a kind character who is extremely afraid of causing harm to others. Although both aim for justice, their ideologies differ, so their opinions clash as the story progresses.
Nomura: Actually, the comical aspect of the characters was added later. For example, in Erina’s case, initially, she had a realistic height, and there was an image of her being dignified, strong-willed, and passionate. However, if left as it was, without any flaws, she wouldn’t fit well with the high school-age Phantom Thieves, and being too assertive might make her a bit off-putting if she were real, too.
Ultimately, with a decrease in height, Erina’s character became a bit more impulsive, rushing forward. She also has her own quirks and draws very unique pictures (laughs). By adding a bit of approachability, we completed the character.
At the base, both Erina and Toshiro are comical and reveal their inner selves in conversations. Was it also a conscious decision to add those elements?
Maeda: Spin-off titles often revolve around new characters, and one of our tasks was to have players accept them. So, similar to the redesign process, we went through trial and error in settling on the characters’ personalities.
In the early stages of experimenting with Erina’s personality, there was a period where her philosophy was, “If it’s necessary to achieve the goal, it’s unavoidable even if comrades get hurt.” However, when you think about that realistically, it would make her a really dangerous character (laughs).
It’s indeed difficult to agree with that perspective.
Maeda: As mentioned earlier by Nomura, it didn’t quite fit in with the high school students that are the Phantom Thieves’.
It also differs from the Phantom Thieves’ ideology, doesn’t it?
Maeda: If it’s too lofty, users won’t be able to empathize. We needed to depict her in a more down-to-earth way, showing vulnerabilities. Toshiro was the opposite. While he’s a sincere character now, in the beginning, he was more carefree, almost like Junji Takada.
That’s something I’d like to see (laughs).
Maeda: However, when his carefree side was emphasized too much, there was feedback from the staff saying, “We don’t care about him anymore; he seems like someone we wouldn’t want to help” (laughs). After that, there was a bit of a course correction towards seriousness, and the Toshiro we have now was born.
Indeed, both Erina and Toshiro have likable personalities, blend well with the Phantom Thieves, and their conversations flow naturally. They’ve become a natural presence in the group.
Nomura: I’m glad. They turned out well.
Maeda: I was worried about including Erina and Toshiro in the package illustration with the Phantom Thieves. After all, they are not part of the Phantom Thieves. However, the finished illustration has a strong sense of camaraderie, and I think it came together nicely.
Were there any challenging points in terms of artwork for this project?
Maeda: This time, with the theme being revolution, the first Marie Kingdom was inspired by the French Revolution, and the following Yoshiki Kingdom drew inspiration from the Meiji Restoration. Whether we can call the Meiji Restoration a revolution is another matter… We discussed with the staff how closely we should align with these historical events until the very end.
Since it’s still “Persona,” we wanted to evoke a slightly psychedelic atmosphere in the “otherworldly” spiritual world. However, we also grappled with how to convey the “realistic temperature of a revolution.” We adjusted various elements, including the sky, throughout the entire process.
The result of contemplating how to emphasize the connection between a revolution and the mental world led to its current form, where seemingly incompatible elements like a wedding and the French Revolution are combined (laughs). So, even the boss, Marie, wears a military uniform but has a wedding dress-like appearance.
When creating the field, we were mindful not to disrupt the flow of gameplay and considered the visibility of UI elements that appear on top of background models. We took care to use colors that are not overly loud. Additionally, to ensure comfortable handling with free movement, we avoided overly elaborate and complex structures.
Nomura: We made it a point to make it reasonably clear where players can or cannot go. Also, straight vertical structures, when raised in height, emphasize perspective, contributing to the otherworldly atmosphere.
By the way, when thinking of the image of a revolution, one might envision a strong military feel, similar to war movies, depicting a grim battlefield covered in mud with chic colors. Is it right to say you integrated that look?
Maeda: Yes, that’s right. However, the Phantom Thieves are still Phantom Thieves and not soldiers. In some strategy RPGs, a large number of units are deployed to depict large-scale warfare, but we didn’t want to go in that direction.
Instead, we thought that portraying smaller-scale “revolutionary acts,” such as guerrilla warfare, aligns better with the ideology of the Phantom Thieves. This desire to depict smaller-scale battles and revolutions is one of the reasons why the number of participants in battles is limited to three.
We were also conscious of the number of units from the perspective of not making it “appear complicated.” If there were too many units, giving orders to each unit would feel cumbersome. While we acknowledge that enjoying unit management is a significant aspect and joy of SRPGs, the type of gameplay we aimed for leans towards being a little more casual, and we wanted to streamline the number of actions.
Nomura: We wanted to depict the actions of the Phantom Thieves as a team. The image of the Phantom Thieves leading dozens of soldiers is quite different. Since the Phantom Thieves are stealthy by nature, progressing while hiding in the shadows with cover actions felt more fitting.
Maeda: Regarding the character movement, the initial means during the early stages of development involved moving the target cursor to the destination and pressing the confirm button to make the character move.
However, this felt stiff in terms of tactile feedback and didn’t match the tone of P5T. There were also requests and opinions from the staff that they wanted to directly control the Phantom Thieves or Erina rather than using a target cursor. Eventually, we adopted a free movement system where players can freely move around the board.
With the current free movement system, I liked that when you move a unit to a hiding spot and wait, they automatically guard. It’s convenient not to have that extra step of stopping in a location to guard, making it easier to experiment with moving characters in various ways.
Conveying the Story in P5T
The story is set during the period between the end of P5’s main story and the beginning of spring break, so the members of the Phantom Thieves didn’t undergo significant personality changes. Were there any aspects you consciously tried to change or made an effort to keep unchanged in this game?
Maeda: That would be the voice acting. We told the voice actors that they should perform the same way as the main story without being conscious of the reduction in proportions. Deformation may lead to a slightly comical tone or more energetic performances, but we emphasized to everyone before recording that this game is a new drama for the Phantom Thieves that everyone knows.
In reality, the amount of visual information has probably been intentionally reduced with the characters’ deformed illustrations. However, the personalities of the characters have not been deformed, so the impression of the characters from ‘P5’ remains unchanged, and the amount of detail in the drama hasn’t decreased. It feels like an extension of P5. After hearing the story, I felt that it worked as intended.
Maeda: Thank you very much. We made sure to maintain a Persona-like development in the story, even if the proportions change. Additionally, while having a cute appearance, it also has a robust gameplay experience, and I believe it offers challenging gameplay.
On the other hand, Lavenza has more comical direction compared to P5’s main story, and it seems that she is becoming more and more like a resident of the Velvet Room, appearing very cute (laughs).
Maeda: In the Persona series, the Velvet Room’s motif is based on the title’s theme, such as a prison for P5. This time the theme is “Revolution of the Mind,” and although it may seem like a play on words, we’ve chosen the motif of the “Industrial Revolution.” That’s why it’s a smelting factory.
I see. So that’s why there are a lot of gears in the room.
Maeda: The mismatched feeling of having a cute girl appear in a rough outfit in a smelting factory was well-received even within the development team.
Nomura: In the early stages, adjusting the length of the limbs in the deformed style, there was a rough illustration where Lavenza, wearing a welding helmet, spreads her skirt and greets with a “good day.” When that came in, we said, “Let’s use this!” (laughs).
Indeed, this sense of mismatch fits amazingly well (laughs).
Nomura: Even her face after a fusion accident’s explosion is cute.
Maeda: The fusion accident scene has a Showa-era touch to it (laughs). By the way, Lavenza’s idle motion displayed on the menu screen after the fusion accident becomes unique, where her hair is in an exploded state.
I see (laughs). I looked over it and didn’t notice.
Maeda: The most attractive aspect of characters with reduced proportions is that they move around a lot. So that’s why we prepared several variations for characters at the base and in other locations.
In terms of production, animation techniques are also used for event scenes as well as 3D models. Was this choice made with the idea of “If it’s Persona, there should be animation”?
Maeda: Yes, that’s right. In the process of developing the scenario, scenes with movement are inevitably challenging to fully express with just illustrations. Therefore, we use animations for scenes with movement or flashy effects.
However, there were opinions within the team regarding using illustrations for conversation scenes, with comments like “Is it outdated to use illustrations?” In fact, we faced similar opinions when creating conversation scenes in P5.
However, it’s difficult to convey the nuances of emotion—intricate and detailed—with 3D models alone, and illustrations can convey them more succinctly. Therefore, in P5T, we adopted illustrations for conversation scenes to expand the range of emotional expression and prepared a variety of variations. For example, there are about about 70 illustration for Toshiro.
The number of illustrations seems quite extensive. However, indeed, with 3D models, characters like Toshiro and his bandana might come off a bit awkward, right? (laughs)
Maeda: That’s right. When creating comical scenes with 3D models, the workload for model and animation production increases significantly, and we can’t prepare as many variations. Therefore, by preparing numerous illustrations, we were able to depict a wide range of situations, including enjoyable banter and serious scenes.
Nomura: Some illustrations are only used for a single scene. (laughs)
The Music of P5T
The soundtrack was released on the same day as the game, and this time it’s quite impressive with five CDs containing 106 tracks. Can you share the overall theme or concept behind creating the music for this game?
Konishi: When Maeda first talked to me and said, “We’re making this kind of game,” we were still in the stage of deciding whether to go with deformed or larger head-to-body proportions. At that point, the game was in a state where “you can touch it a little.” When I heard that the theme for this game is “revolution,” I decided to go with rock, which is also one of my specialties.
Well, I’m often asked, “What is the ‘Persona’ sound?” Personally, I think it’s up to the creator’s “personality.” So, if I were to create a song, I would focus on the theme of revolution and choose rock, expressing my own style in the music.
When thinking about the tone for P5T, I decided to “view the entire soundtrack of P5 as a genre.” In terms of musical genres, P5 is primarily acid jazz, but if I were to create music in the same acid jazz genre, it would feel like going back to the previous stage for a new work, and it might veer in a strange direction, likely losing the essence of P5. So, to take it a step further, I decided to view P5 as a genre itself and make rock the focal point. That’s how I settled on the concept.
Are there any highlights or points of interest in the soundtrack that has been released?
Konishi: Since I was solely in charge of the music this time, I believe you can feel a sense of unity throughout the entire work. When multiple people work on different parts, each person’s individuality tends to stand out, even if they are heading in the same direction.
For this project, I aimed for a sense of unity with elements like sharing phrases, the texture of the music, and the choice of instruments, which was commonly done in older game music. So, I hope listeners can appreciate the overall unity of the game through the album.
Nomura: There are also tracks exclusive to the soundtrack, so please pay attention to those.
Regarding the actual production, did you create more tracks than those included in the soundtrack?
Konishi: Yes, that’s right. However, compared to my previous work, I think I ended up discarding fewer tracks. In the past, I used to spend a long time pondering what direction to take, but now, once I catch the right wave, I can smoothly create songs until the end.
By the way, considering it’s a strategy RPG, were there any aspects you took into account during composition?
Konishi: The duration spent in one location (stage) is exceptionally long. Since it’s P5 music, vocals were deemed necessary, but I had concerns about whether it would be possible to listen to the same vocal track for, let’s say, 15 minutes continuously.
Actually, without consulting anyone, I considered the idea of making all the tracks instrumental (laughs).
Nomura: That would be quite problematic (laughs).
Konishi: Of course, that wouldn’t work. In the case of an RPG, there are frequent scene changes, such as moving through dungeons, ending up in a battle, the results screen, and progressing through the dungeon again. We can prepare music for these exciting points.
However, in a strategy RPG, you spend a long time in the same place, and there are fewer transition points like that. The timing for excitement is also different for each player.
It’s true that the timing of a climax is more individual than in turn-based RPGs, since each player has their own unique timing, like deciding when to use “TRIBANGLE” or where they decide to attack the enemy.
Konishi: Yes, exactly. Since we don’t know when things will get exciting, there might be a situation where the music becomes exciting, but the player is still contemplating what to do… such scenarios are entirely possible (laughs). Also, Persona music tends to stand on its own as individual tracks, and I think many people have an impression that it’s somewhat separate from typical game music.
So, although this might not be quite the way to put it, I made the music more game-like without being conscious of it. Of course, when listening to it as Persona music, the quality of the tracks, especially focusing on vocal songs, is a point I paid attention to.
Though it might not be the right way to put it, I didn’t feel that it was tiring to listen to.
Konishi: Exactly, it’s not a composition that makes you mentally tired. Actually, before I started composing, I asked the planners, “How long do you expect playing through one stage to last?” They said, “Probably around 20 minutes per stage.” I remember feeling anxious, thinking, “Do they expect players to listen to the same track for 20 minutes?” (laughs).
By the way, I read in another interview that you would give suggestions like, “Wouldn’t it be better to add a song here?” Do you have any memorable episodes or exchanges like that?
Konishi: It wasn’t so much direct suggestions like “add a song here,” but rather, when I played the game myself, I felt like, “This part needs a different track,” and then I prepared new songs accordingly. The result is the number of tracks we have now (laughs).
In terms of composition, I don’t recall specific instructions from Maeda or other staff members like, “Do it this way.” I had the freedom to work on it, doing things like deciding where to place which track. It was an enjoyable and comfortable process, and as I mentioned earlier, I feel satisfied that I could express my own style quite well.
Maeda: I mentioned this in the liner notes for the soundtrack as well, but when Konishi was decided to handle the sound for P5T, the theme of “revolution of the heart” had already been decided. Considering the high energy of portraying a revolution in the game’s content and Konishi’s proficiency with guitar sounds, I was absolutely confident that they would match perfectly, so I had no worries at all and left it up to him.
In that case, I’m curious about cases where you made suggestions, Konishi-san.
Konishi: During the course of making adjustments, there were cases where the stage composition changed, and accordingly, I suggested using different tracks. It was not something I did specifically because it’s a strategy RPG; it’s more about suggesting tracks that I felt would be better after playing the game.
For example, did you change the image for new tracks or elevate certain parts because they were crucial in building excitement?
Konishi: Yes, that’s right. Requests for changes like that often come from departments other than sound, but this time, I think everyone was kind of feeling their way through, so maybe they were busy with their own tasks. That’s why I decided to take the initiative. Usually, if someone says, “Add a new track here,” it might lead to discussions about cost constraints, but this time, I said, “No, I’ll make it!” (laughs).
It’s not often that you hear composers taking the initiative and saying, “I’ll add more tracks!”
Maeda: As the development progresses towards the end, adjusting and adding something new becomes more challenging. Konishi-san taking the lead on this was incredibly helpful.
Konishi: In traditional RPGs, you could predict where a track might be needed, but this time, it was a new genre, so it was quite challenging to imagine. As the completed work started to take shape, I found out many things, and in those instances, I felt like saying, “I really want to add a track here.”
You’ve composed all these tracks by yourself this time, and you’ve had experience working on the background music for P5 and other projects. Did those experiences influence your work?
Konishi: Not really. I think the main factor in creating so many tracks this time was that I could judge each track, thinking, “This is good, this isn’t,” all by myself. There was no time to show it to someone else and get feedback like, “How about this?” or “No, that doesn’t fit.” This ultimately compressed the time spent on each track and contributed to the large quantity.
Also, I used the phrases from these tracks to expand and create additional pieces. It’s a way of composing where you take one track and gradually expand it for use in different parts. In the past, I might have started composing, then midway through thinking, “What should I do?” and returned to change something.
However, with P5T, I was able to immerse myself without going back, which surprised even me. When I was told, “Do everything by yourself,” I was initially very anxious because I had often worked under someone else in the past (laughs).
Do you feel this project has become a new source of inspiration for you?
Konishi: Yes, definitely. After working in the music industry for about 13-14 years, I feel like I finally worked on a title where my own way of creating became clear.
By the way, do you play strategy RPGs, Konishi-san?
Konishi: I stopped with Majin Tensei (released in 1994). Of course, that also means no Ronde/Rondo (released in 1997) either (laughs).
Konishi: Although I’ve been involved in the development of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (released in 2009), I haven’t played any since Majin Tensei. So my knowledge of strategy RPGs is covered by what I know from Majin Tensei (laughs).
Repaint Your Heart DLC Episode
For those who are hesitant about purchasing the DLC, could you share highlights of the episode “Repaint Your Heart” where Akechi and Kasumi play an active role?
Nomura: “Repaint Your Heart” is a DLC episode where you can see interactions between Akechi and the protagonist that you won’t find in the main story of P5. One highlight is the exchange between them in the hideout during a conversation event, where you can catch a glimpse of their rivalry.
Maeda: As for Kasumi, pay attention to her interactions with the original DLC characters. If you’ve cleared P5R and know her circumstances, you’ll likely find the content intriguing.
In terms of game systems, it expands on the core elements of P5T, correct?
Nomura: Yes, it introduces the “paint” mechanic for both allies and enemies. For example, you will no longer be able to guard in enemy-colored areas, even in situations where you’d normally be able to. Additionally, while the main story had elements like elevators and doors opening and closing, these elements change every turn in the DLC, making the battlefield even more dynamic.
Hearing, it seems like the difficulty level would be quite high.
Nomura: Yes, that’s right. Ideally, players would clear the main story first and then continue playing with a full understanding of the gameplay.
Maeda: This DLC adds another layer to the main game’s mechanics. Since the scenario isn’t entirely independent of the core P5T story, we recommend playing it after clearing the main story.
Konishi: Actually, I also prepared music for the DLC.
That’s impressive. So, for this richly crafted DLC, was the idea born from concepts that didn’t fit into the main story?
Nomura: In terms of gameplay systems, there were some additions made after the main story was completed, but in terms of art, there are remnants from the mock-up phase. In the initial concept, there were character designs with a street feel, and the stages had a somewhat underground atmosphere with darker lighting compared to the final product.
Maeda: It was before settling on the theme of revolution. We were fighting in the streets and on rooftops (laughs).
Nomura: Those remnants might be reflected a bit in the DLC. I personally like the character designs a lot, and it’s reflected in the the new character Guernica. So, for me, the DLC has a nostalgic feel reminiscent of the early development days.
Were the music tracks prepared after the decision to create the DLC?
Konishi Before I knew it, there was a massive DLC project in the works. However, since the DLC has a different world and message, and using the same lyrics wouldn’t fit, I had to create new ones (laughs).
Konishi: So, I thought about making it instrumental… but then I was told, “It’s quite substantial. We’ll sell it as proper DLC.” So, I created a total of 16 songs, including two dedicated vocal tracks. Although it’s not on as large of a scale, it feels like I made another game.
It’s certainly a very luxurious offering.
Konishi: Since the atmosphere didn’t match at all, and almost nothing could be reused from the main story of P5T, I ended up creating new tracks, resulting in this number of songs (laughs).
Hearing that makes it even more intriguing. However, it’s quite unusual for a DLC with a completely different direction despite having the same systems. By the way, is the theme of the DLC “Repaint”?
Nomura: While it doesn’t have a specific term like “Revolution,” the phrase “Repaint your Heart” is somewhat akin to the main theme of P5T, which is “Light a flame in your heart.” I can’t provide detailed information due to spoilers, but the DLC is about changing one’s mindset, and there are common elements.
Maeda: I heard that in the culture of graffiti, there’s a tradition of covering up drawings made by rival teams. In that sense, it aligns with the specifications of the DLC.
Finally, could you make an appeal to those who have purchased and are playing, or those who are considering purchasing the game?
Nomura: It may sound repetitive, but we are always challenging ourselves with new genres. We take pride in creating the P5 series. The core elements of P5 are well preserved, so fans can rest assured.
Additionally, some of our development team members had never played a strategy RPG before, but we made sure that the game remains enjoyable and can be completed. We used that as one of the benchmarks in the development process. For those who have never experienced a strategy RPG, I hope you consider this game as an entry point and explore this genre.
There are several fun boss battles, where you use tricks to fight to the end, and I felt that the flow of many of them was completely in the P5 vein.
Maeda: We’ve carried over the passionate drama of rebellion depicted in P5 to P5T and continue to portray it through a revolution of the heart. It’s a story that is straightforward yet somewhat transient, akin to a juvenile drama. As everyone’s familiar Phantom Thieves gets involved in this intense drama, you can discover new facets and rediscover their charm. So, please look forward to that. Also, while the battle system involves the enjoyment of strategic thinking, this aspect might be challenging to convey without trying it hands-on. We would be happy if you could give it a try.
Konishi: This game is a spin-off, but the essence of P5 remains intact, with the added layer of strategy RPG built on top of it. So, I hope the fans can play with confidence. Please experience and enjoy the new adventures of the Phantom Thieves you know so well through this game.