The issue of Weekly Famitsu magazine #1588 released yesterday in Japan included a feature for Persona 5 Royal.
Part of this P5R feature was the first developer interview for the game, with producer Kazuhisa Wada, director Daiki Ito, and character designer Shigenori Soejima.
Below is a full translation of the interview by @shininyan.
Adding more content while improving the gameplay pacing across the board!
Q: First, please tell us the reason behind the name “Royal.”
Wada: The word “Royal” came up early in the planning process. It expresses our enthusiasm in creating a majestic, extravagant game with a strong sense of aesthetics and nobility. If you’ve played Persona 4: Golden, with its numerous new elements and improvements over the original, then it should be easy to imagine our approach to P5R.
Ito: Also, we’re not simply adding in new characters and features. We’re also optimizing the game across the board so that you can play at a better pace; for example, by adding a feature to make gaining EXP easier. And of course, only to an extent that doesn’t break the game balance.
Wada: While there are elements that you’d take your time with, there’s also a new assist feature, so there’s plenty of content for those who want to explore everything the game has to offer, while those who want to progress quickly can do so efficiently.
Q: Is the assist feature similar to “Vox Populi”?
Ito: It’s a separate feature that goes beyond that. The new daily life assist feature takes lower social stats and confidant ranks into consideration and suggests destinations based on those. For example, if your protagonist has low Charm, it’ll suggest going to the bathhouse where you can raise that stat, and pressing the X button will take you there right away.
Q: Oh, that’s handy!
Ito: This feature is aimed at those who want to efficiently discover and experience a wide variety of content, rather than those aiming for a perfect playthrough. There are a lot of destinations in this game, as well as ways of utilizing them, so we hope this will help you learn about them.
Q: You’re adding major new content like the “third semester” with those considerations in mind, then. Persona 4: Golden also added a third semester—can we expect the same amount of new content as that?
Ito: You’ll be able to enjoy more daily life content and events, and even for the so-called “extraordinary” segments, we’re preparing content that will exceed the expectations of those who experienced Persona 4: Golden’s amount of content.
A new town, and the fun that comes with it!
Q: “Kichijoji” is another major addition, being a new explorable location.
Ito: Indeed. It’s a new town that you’ll be able to walk around in freely, like Shibuya and Shinjuku.
Soejima: We did a lot of research before deciding which town to add. The staff even went to scout them out.
Ito: We ended up choosing Kichijoji as a town that would be suitable for depicting the current era. The real-world Kichijoji has fashionable shops where young people gather, an old bar district, and a historic temple. It’s truly a fusion of culture and personality from people of all ages, and in the game, you’ll hear many different voices as you walk around. There are also facilities unique to this town. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: A darts facility is being added to the game. Is this in Kichijoji?
Wada: Yes. As part of our collaboration with DARTSLIVE, we borrowed one of their actual darts cabinets, and the staff are addicted to it *laughs*
Ito: Just like the batting center in Persona 5, this is a full-fledged minigame, so we hope you’ll enjoy it.
Various things to rediscover in Persona 5 with the new character!
Q: I’d like to ask about the new characters in P5R. To get right to the point, what kind of character is Kasumi Yoshizawa?
Ito: Kasumi Yoshizawa is a new student at Shujin Academy, who has been a high achiever in rhythmic gymnastics since middle school. Since she goes to the same school as the protagonist and his friends, there’ll naturally be many points of contact between them. Introducing a new character adds a new perspective and meaning to the story, while also letting us dig deeper into the characters we already know and love. Kasumi was created after much discussion about what kind of character would allow us to realize that.
Q: Kasumi seems like she’ll play an important role from early on. Will this impact the general outline of the story?
Wada: We’re making sure to honor the original Persona 5 story. In fact, if we revised too much of the story just to incorporate Kasumi, then it’d end up turning into a different story from the original. We were very particular about not letting that happen, while making careful adjustments to let her blend into the story naturally.
Q: It seems kind of refreshing to have someone who’ll call the protagonist “senpai.” *laughs*
Wada: Indeed. Age-wise, Futaba is an underclassman as well, but Kasumi is the first character that’ll call the protagonist and his friends “senpai.”
Q: What was the concept behind Kasumi’s design?
Soejima: Adding a new character to a pre-existing game—and this goes for more than just Persona 5—is something that requires a certain mental attitude from the character designer. The people who’ll be interested in P5R first are those who are already fans of Persona 5, so you have to be careful when designing the “newcomer,” or else she’ll look out of place amongst the familiar faces.
Q: It requires the same amount of attention as the story side of things, then.
Soejima: In Persona 4: Golden, Marie had a special position because she was a new Velvet Room denizen. However, Kasumi is being added to the story itself. When designing her, I had to be conscious of the fact that she would become symbolic of “P5R” and draw her in a way where she wouldn’t look out of place among the rest of the main characters.
Q: Her ribbon and ponytail are cute.
Soejima: Thank you *laughs*. Since Kasumi does rhythmic gymnastics, I want her to give off a dignified aura. I also gave her a straightforward design, for that “classic heroine” feel.
Q: What about her phantom thief appearance?
Soejima: Kasumi doesn’t form a pair with the protagonist, but since I was drawing her as an icon of P5R, I designed her phantom thief appearance to feel like it goes alongside the protagonist’s. The idea of “phantom thieves” in itself has manga-like elements, right? Like with the protagonist, I wanted this new character to have that “coolness” that everyone normally expects from a phantom thief. A female phantom thief that has a different stance from the protagonist… What kind of character is she? I hope you’ll be excited to find out.
Q: On that note, the teaser trailer that was released in March showed that Kasumi was skeptical about the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, right…?
Ito: Those who watched the trailer would get that impression, but of course, there’s more to it than that. I can’t get into the details, but as you play the game, you’ll also see a side of her that differs from the impression you got from her lines in the trailer. Kasumi will also develop in her confidant story, and we’ll have further information about that later.
Paying full attention to the details!
Q: Takuto Maruki, the “Consultant” arcana, is also being introduced as a new confidant, and seems like he’ll be adding yet another new aspect to the story.
Ito: Maruki is the school counsellor, so his confidant will involve him lending an ear to the protagonist’s problems. Since he works for the school, he’ll naturally interact with Ryuji and Ann as well, and through those conversations you’ll be able to see what’s on their minds.
Wada: In Persona 5, there aren’t many adults who treat the protagonist and his friends kindly at the beginning of the game, but Maruki is a very gentle adult, so his introduction is refreshing. Persona 5 originally had an “Evil Adults vs. Kids” setup going on, so I think you’ll be able to enjoy the different interactions here.
Soejima: Design-wise, I drew him to look like he’d be absentminded and let down his guard around the students. It was another straightforward design.
Q: Will we be able to leverage Kasumi and Maruki’s confidants in battle with new abilities?
Ito: Yes. As you progress their confidants, you’ll gain new benefits that fit each of them.
Q: Will there be other new confidant partners in addition to these two?
Ito: If I have to say “Yes” or “No,” then the answer is “Yes” *laughs* Please look forward to more information!
Q: All right *laughs* As for the sprites shown during conversations, I noticed that there are new illustrations for other characters, too.
Soejima: Indeed. We’re drawing new art for quite a lot of parts. Just changing the dialogue sprites already makes the scenes look new and fresh. The characters will also get new outfits in the third semester. To be honest, the workload is quite troubling *laughs* but everyone on the art team is working hard, so please look out for the new art.
Q: I’m looking forward to the day I can play it!
Ito: As the creators, we’re pouring into P5R all of the thoughts we had when we looked back at Persona 5 and felt, “I wanted it to be more like this” or “I think it would’ve been more interesting if it went like this.” In addition to the new characters and the third semester, other parts of the game have also been brushed up to produce a new game experience, so please look forward to that.
Wada: At this very moment, the staff are working at full speed, united in finishing the game. This is a very important stage for our games, and we can feel the game’s quality improving with each passing day. We’ll keep running until the end so that we can meet the players’ expectations, so please continue to show us your support!