Dengeki PlayStation magazine Vol. 684 releasing on January 28th will include a 14-page Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers special feature with profiles of the game’s main characters, an introduction to the game’s mechanics, and new information. Part of this feature is a developer interview with core members of the team behind the Atlus and Koei Tecmo Games’ Omega Force collaboration action RPG.
The developer interview was held with the following members of the development team: Daisuke Kaneda (producer / director) of Atlus, Mumon Usuda (director) of Atlus, Kazutoshi Sekiguchi (director) of Koei Tecmo Games, and Nobumichi Kumabe (director) of Koei Tecmo Games. Part of this interview has leaked in advance of the magazine’s release.
Update (2020-01-27): Further details elaborated on with the release of the magazine issue.
Start of Development
- Koei Tecmo Games director Kazutoshi Sekiguchi says that the development for Persona 5 Scramble began at the beginning of the month where Persona 5 (hereinafter “P5”) was released (beginning of September 2016).
- Atlus director/producer Daisuke Kaneda says that it took a long time to get started after the companies talked because the scale was so large and it was Atlus’ first collaboration with Koei Tecmo.
- Kaneda says that the development for the game took three and a half years, and it took about two years to produce the scenario. The game’s development ended at the end of 2019.
- Sekiguchi says that Koei Tecmo Games has so many Persona series fans that they initially proposed the project as “Persona [Series] Warriors” (“Warriors” being the genre of hack and slash game Omega Force is known for). However, at the end of conversations to fill out the story, they decided to delve deeply into the P5 characters.
From Musou Action to Action RPG
- In the early stages, the game was based on “Warriors/Musou action.” After that, however, there were a lot of twists and turns in development that turned it into an action RPG that was a continuation of P5.
- Following the premise of a “Musou Action” game, voices from the development team would say that, “If you want to make it an IP based on the Persona series, you want to bring out the “persona” quality more than usual.” Atlus also gave various opinions, such as saying they would like to include certain RPG elements.
- Nobumichi Kumabe states that the first prototype version of the game couldn’t show off the essence of Persona characters. For example, weak points for attack or defense for advantages in combat were not implemented and only four skills could be selected due to the limitation of the number of buttons. They felt like they wouldn’t be able to make a Persona game like that, and Kumabe was promoted to director in charge of combat and general improvements as a result.
- The mechanic of stopping time when personas are summoned was born from this thought process. Many fans are not great at action, and the developers wanted as many Persona fans to enjoy the game as possible. Time stopping and selecting skills at your leisure was close to the feeling of playing an RPG, and it felt good when trying it for the first time.
- Kaneda says that the overall scenario was put together by the Persona Team. The first plan was proposed by Koei Tecmo, and the companies had a number of meetings to create a story with a Persona-like theme and message. Sekiguchi says that they thought adding new characters was an inevitable factor when proposing a new story, so they drafted it. However, by adding new characters to the world of P5, there was the possibility that fans would find them to be foreign objects. To prevent this from happening, they paid close attention to the appearance of the characters and picking the right voice actors.
- Sekiguchi says that, from Koei Tecmo’s perspective, the amount of effort Atlus puts into their story-building is unbelievable. Basically, audio recording would be finalized for the story, and it would be worked on without compromise until the release schedule would be affected.
- Kaneda says that two years of the development period of around three and a half years was spent on the story. So even though they were developing and supervising the action portion of the game simultaneously, he believes the volume of the scenario was considerably largery than originally planned.
- Atlus director Usuda Momon says that, essentially, they wanted to make a fun story. In the previous game, P5, there were few scenes where the memebers of the Phantom Thieves got to enjoy themselves because it was so serious. The idea [with P5S] is that the group that overcame their situation will have fun while solving the case.
Creating Jails and Feeling Like a Phantom Thief
- Sekiguchi says that they first decided which cities the Phantom Thieves would travel to, and then proceeded with objects and level design for their Jails. To highlight the essence of action in this game, the “Phantom Move” mechanic was added with the thought of interacting with objects in an interesting way. There are actions like walking along a wall, so he believes that the impression is quite different from a conventional “Musou action.”
- The “Phantom Move” actions were decided during the early development phase. If they tried to create the “feling of being a thief” only with fighting action, it’d be like they were assassins, so they tried to create more situations that made them feel more like thieves.
- Usuda says that feeling like a Phantom Thief just by moving around was a theme in P5. It was nice to be able to reproduce it in this game, and create an atmosphere that is full of mystery.
- Kumabe says that since the beginning of development, they wanted to create the feeling of fighting alongside the members of the Phantom Thieves. To achieve that are scramble attacks where you get help from allies, and baton touches to switch characters. A considerable amount of effort was put into this.
- Usuda says that implementing the UI from the start of P5’s development was difficult and that it took more time than expected, so he warned that it would also be the case for P5S (he laughs about this). But this is why there are new screens, such as for camping, Sophia’s shop, and cooking. Proper attention was put into the UI so that it doesn’t look exactly like P5’s.
- Kumabe says that designers and programmers worked hard to combine 2D and 3D techniques such as for the main menu or Sophia’s shop, and he thinks there were two levels of technological innovation within the company (he laughs about this).
Creating Characters’ Actions
- Kumabe states that rather than expressing the skill structure as an RPG, they created character action by dropping them into an action system since it is an action game. Each character’s action was created with the utmost care so that you would feel that, “This is the way this character should attack!” while thinking of their imrage from the original game and that it shouldn’t be destroyed.
- Sekiguchi says that this is where their love for the Persona series is tested. It’s something that designers can’t quite express unless they know a lot about the characters. Kaneda says that, as a result, there were very few instances where he would tell them to revise something about a character’s motion regarding a certain action.
Music and Voice Acting
- Both the Persona Team and Koei Tecmo Games’ sound team worked on music for the game.
- In addition to arrangements of P5 songs, there are many new songs as well.
- Kaneda says that Misaki Kuno is perfect for the role of Sophia, and Shinichiro Miki was happy for the role of Zenkichi as well. After interpreting the scenario deeply alongside the voice actors for the Phantom Thief members, they were able to act, and he believes it will feel just like P5 from the point of view of the players.
- Usuda says that even during battle, the navigator Futaba conveys enemy status, and the characters that you do not control talk in real-time, emphasizing the sense of an active battle with the others.
Daily Life Elements from Persona 5
- Persona 5 Scramble also includes elements from P5 when it comes to daily life. Sekiguchi says that they asked Atlus about what the Phantom Thieves would do during the real life segments. The criterion was, “Is it possible to achieve Persona quality within this limited development period?” When thought that way, they talked about raising the quality of the part that most users would experience, which is the main story and event scenes, and the game took its current form.
- The staff wanted to take a closer look at the peculiarities of going around the country, so they decided to implement that into the game with elements like local shops and local dishes.
- Kumabe says that he hopes fans enjoy the first action RPG in the Persona series, and says that he would like to make a sequel (he laughs about this).
- Sekiguchi says that it’s one of the lucky projects where both teams had a truly good relationship and that they put a lot of effort into working with each other. He says it’s a title you’ll be able to feel confident in and enjoy, so he hopes people play it.
Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers will be released for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch on February 20, 2020 in Japan.