Persona 5 Tactica Developer Interview on Mechanics, DLC Inspiration and Composing the Soundtrack

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Weekly Famitsu #1823, which released on November 9, 2023, includes an extensive interview on Persona 5 Tactica with Director Naoya Maeda, Business Producer Atsushi Nomura and Composer Toshiki Konishi.

The interview discusses various aspects of the game including mechanics, inspirations and composing the soundtrack.

Left to right: Toshiki Konishi, Naoya Maeda, Atsushi Nomura

The game has finally released. How are you feeling now that development is complete?

Maeda: I was having so much fun during the playtests at the end of development that I lost track of time, and even though I knew what was going to happen, there were still some scenes that left me feeling unsettled. So it was a satisfying experience.

Nomura: Reactions from people trying the game at game shows and other events has been very positive. We’ve been asked a lot by domestic and international media as to why we made an SRPG. Personally, I think it’s an evolution from turn-based RPGs. I’m sure some of you were curious to see how it turned out since it’s the first game like it in the series, but I’ve been relieved to hear that it still feels like Persona.

Konishi: From reading comments on the music on social media, I’ve been happy to see people looking forward to it as a new Persona 5 title. In projects I’ve worked on so far, I’ve often found myself wishing I’d done something different, or made a song in a different way in the lead-up to release. This time, there was very little reflection like this, and I think I’ve been able to come up with a final product that I am satisfied with.

What would be the reason behind this?

Konishi: The fact that I’m now completely in charge of the music has been a big help. Before now I have been working on other people’s concepts and ideas, sharing work with Shoji Meguro and other members of the Sound Team. But this time, I was working on it by myself. I started out by solidifying the concepts, and I was able to proceed without getting stuck, so I think this gave me a stronger feeling of accomplishment.

Nomura: During development, Konishi suggested that we should add more songs in certain places several times, and by the end the number of tracks had increased considerably. Thanks to that, the soundtrack—which will be released alongside the game—is very satisfying, and I’d be happy if you could pick it up along with the game.

The first thing that stood out to me when playing the game was that Persona skills had previously been about exploiting enemy weaknesses, but in this game most of the skills are about affecting enemy positioning. Is this change a new revolution for this game?

Maeda: It is something unique to this project. To briefly explain how they work, Garu attacks will blow away enemies, Frei attacks will attract enemies to a target, Psi attacks will lure an enemy towards you, Zio will give an electric shock and Bufu will freeze an enemy.

So the key to using skills wisely is to manipulate enemies to give allies an advantage.

Maeda: Eiha type skills are also useful, allowing you to increase your own movement range while decreasing an enemy’s. Hitting multiple enemies will increase your movement by a lot, so you can create new opportunities like getting behind the enemy to activate a large Triple Threat.

The Protagonist is able to use Eiha from the beginning, so he can use this effectively. Also Erina’s charge attack is pretty good.

Nomura: It is strong, isn’t it?

Maeda: In addition to the regular members of the Phantom Thieves, I wanted players to empathize with Erina through combat, so we were conscious of giving her abilities which would make players want to use her. In addition, there are bonuses for using allies which were not in the party in a previous stage, and there are other bonuses depending on which allies are in the party. Also, each ally can have a sub-persona. The systems allow for players to try out various formations when challenging the game.

And there’s the Undo feature which allows you to rewind to a previous turn at any point during a battle, which was useful. Was this added in anticipation of some degree of trial and error?

Maeda: In the early stages, even if you make some errors, you shouldn’t get stuck. It will depend on your preferred play style but I would be happy for players to use undo regularly for main story stages to make battles more enjoyable.

Nomura: On the other hand, if you want to complete all the awards for each stage, you might need to adopt a completely different strategy from what you used to initially clear a stage. In higher difficulty quests, there are times when one mistake will cause a lot of issues, so I hope you will use the undo feature as needed.

If you choose the Hard difficulty or above, then you will be able to attack allies. This drastically changes the way each character plays.

Maeda: Yes, area of effect attacks are useful on Normal, but on Hard or higher, you will have to completely change your strategies and be much more careful with where you use them.

Initially, we had friendly fire occur on Normal too, but there was concern within the company that this would be too harsh. You could consider Hard and above more typical of the Atlus of yesteryear. We wanted to give players freedom in party composition and difficulty to allow them to play the game as they like.

Nomura: That kind of freedom and trial and error play are some of the pleasures of SRPGs. There will probably be players posting videos of their high level play on social media, and we look forward to seeing strategies that we hadn’t even anticipated emerge.

Maeda: In fact, during in-house testing we saw a variety of strategies used. We did make some adjustments to some which we felt detracted from the game’s enjoyment. For example, being able to defeat a boss in just a couple of turns. In general, however, we valued preserving a wide breadth of options rather than just narrowing it down to one optimal solution.

What is the background behind the significant DLC scenario Repaint Your Heart?

Nomura: The main story is centered around a politician, while in “Repaint Your Heart” it’s about a graffiti artist. Graffiti art is popular in the real world too. In the world of graffiti art, if someone draws something, someone else might draw over it with the mentality that “this isn’t good enough, so I’ll redraw it.” I thought it would be fun to incorporate that kind of back and forth into the game too, so the additional DLC episode and its new rules were born from this idea.

Maeda: Akechi has a powerful unique skill which will allow a character who has already acted to take another action, while Kasumi can make her movement range infinite for one turn. During DLC battles, the battle formation is fixed with these two and also the protagonist, but we hope that you will enjoy the battles with a different style to the main story. We recommend starting the additional episode after completing the main story.

Regarding the music, since it’s the first SRPG in the series, how did that affect things?

Konishi: In a normal RPG, you would explore a dungeon, enter a battle, win, see the results and go back to exploring, repeating this pattern over and over in a short period of time. The tempo of an SRPG is completely different. Exploration and battles here are one and the same, so if the music has too many ups and downs, then there will be a disconnect from the tension the player is feeling. We tried to create music that would not distract the player even when listening to it for an extended period, but music that would still convey the protagonist’s actions as is typical for Persona 5.

If the battle songs keep up high tension all the time, then I might not be able to keep up with them.

Konishi: I thought about creating a soundtrack where the songs would vary depending on whether it is an ally or enemy’s turn, but the game has a fast tempo and if I did that the song would change frequently. Therefore I tried to avoid songs that give the feeling of excitement during the chorus and calmness during the verse, and created a single song that maintains a consistent level of excitement during the battle.

I see. I am currently playing the game for a strategy guide in the next issue, so I like to listen to the music as I progress.

Konishi: In the main story there aren’t that many uplifting songs, but towards the end we include more optimistic tracks, including the song that plays during the ending. In the DLC, the music takes a completely different direction, so please enjoy that as well. Throughout the work I consciously reuse certain phrases between songs, so I hope that players will pick up on small details like this as well.

Maeda: As with the music, throughout the game there will be character interactions that those who have played Persona 5 will enjoy, and there are many little details which will make you smile. Personally, I like Sojiro’s cameo in one scene. I would like you to have fun while playing and listening to the game.

Nomura: One of the goals in Persona 5 is rehabilitation and one of the goals in this work is to bring about revolution. When the Phantom Thieves of Heart, Erina and Toshiro meet, a story in a new world takes shape. Please play until the end to see what this revolution will bring and what will happen along the way.

Persona 5 Tactica will be released worldwide for Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch and Steam on November 17, 2023.