As previously announced, Weekly Famitsu magazine issue #1767 includes a 30-page feature for the 25th anniversary of the Persona series. Four of these pages are dedicated to a P Studio development interview about the series’ 25th anniversary and its future.
Famitsu interviewed Kazuhisa Wada, who leads the Atlus Persona Team, Shinji Yamamoto, the business producer of the soon-to-be-released Persona 5 Royal remaster, and Shigenori Soejima, a member of the Atlus Artwork Team. This interview was held at the “Persona Super Live P-Sound Wish 2022: Crossing Journeys” concert.
After Persona Live…
This interview is being conducted just prior to PSW2022, but the article will be read after the event. First of all, please tell us about your thoughts on this event.
Wada: This was the first live concert in about three years, the first to be held at the Makuhari Messe, and the first to be held over Saturday and Sunday, making it the largest scale event to date. It was very difficult for us to prepare for the event while keeping a close eye on the state of the world, but the entire staff did their best to make it a success. [Read more about this in the concert production diary article.]
For us, live performances are like the best kind of recovery magic. It’s a place where we can directly receive warm support from everyone, which pushes us to work harder on the development of the games, and we are always grateful for that.
Soejima: It’s not often that the development staff gets a chance to feel such enthusiasm, so we feel lonely when the live concert doesn’t take place. It truly is restorative magic.
Wada: Many of our staff members go to the venue each time, and it has a really great effect.
Yamamoto, with both developers and fans happy about this event, is this your first time appearing in this magazine?
Yamamoto: Yes, it’s nice to meet you. I joined the Persona Team with Persona 5 and worked on Persona 5 Royal as the lead planner for additional scenarios such as the third semester. I was also in charge of business production for the remastered version of the same game.
At the live event, it was announced that the remastered version of Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable will also be released on January 19, 2023. Were these developments triggered by the success of the Steam version of P4G released in June 2020?
Wada: Yes, that’s right. In addition to being extremely well received, P5R was also highly acclaimed overseas, so we decided to expand the number of supported consoles. The number of countries where we sell our products and the languages in which they are available are rapidly expanding.
What went into the remastered version?
What aspects did you focus on in the remastered version of P5R, which will be released soon?
Yamamoto: We were particularly focused on the visual aspect. We have made many fine adjustments to the characters, event scenes, battle scenes, etc., so that they look beautiful and cool no matter which console you use. For example, we optimized the number of debris blown away in event scenes for each model.
The number of debris?
Yamamoto: We also adjusted other effects, such as the number of energy projectiles.
When people hear the word “remastered”, they generally think of it as a version where the content of the original version is kept, but the resolution is adjusted to suit the platform… but there is more to it than that, isn’t there?
Yamamoto: Yes, Sega was in charge of the development of the remaster, and we were able to build a very good relationship within the group, so it was a very significant project in that respect.
Wada: The speed of the project was also very fast. It would have been difficult to develop a project like this for multiple consoles without Sega’s cooperation.
Is it still not easy to develop for multiple consoles?
Yamamoto: Each platform has different specifications and features, so we first need to understand them, find the optimal solution, verify the solution, and check it after implementation This was the first time that I participated in a porting project, and I was surprised at how much work was involved.
What are some of the highlights of the remastered version of P5R?
Yamamoto: The biggest thing is that it contains more than 40 downloadable content items from the original version. For those who have already experienced P5R, we hope you will enjoy the BGM during battle that changes when you also change the costumes. If you are new to the game, this is a great opportunity for you to enjoy the game in a variety of ways. I myself was test-playing the costumes while trying them on during development (laughs).
Wada: I am proud to say that the remastered version is perfect. I strongly hope that it will be a good opportunity for fans as well as those who have never experienced it before to try it for the first time.
Wada, you’ve been involved in the development of the original versions of the three remastered projects, so you must have a long-lasting attachment to them.
Wada: That’s right. As chief designer, I decided the direction of the graphics for Persona 3 and Persona 4. Especially since P3 represented a series that was being renewed, I remember having many discussions with Soejima. In P5R, the original Persona 5 had a high level of perfection, so we were particular about modifying that into an even better title.
I feel that I was able to do what I wanted to do with each of these titles, so in that sense, I cherish these works.
How about you, Soejima, working as a character designer on these three games?
Soejima: Honestly, I thought it might be a little embarrassing to show people the illustrations I drew a long time ago for Persona 3 and other titles again. However, once the remastered version started to be promoted and I had more opportunities to see them here and there, I was not as embarrassed (laughs).
I remembered the enthusiasm surrounding the original version, and I was also able to appreciate the quality of each period in which the game was released.
I am looking forward to seeing how people from a generation who did not play the original version will react to the remastered version when they experience it now.
Soejima: I’m glad to see that the games that people enjoyed at the time of their release are now available on the latest consoles, rather than becoming a thing of the past. I hope that people will be able to feel the passion we poured into these works back then.
Thoughts put into each visual
When I first saw the new visual featuring the main characters of the three games, I thought “This is a tribute to the first key visual for the original version of ‘Persona 3′” released in 2006. What was your intention here?
Soejima: The original Persona 3 was the result of many discussions among the development team about how to renew the Persona series. At that time, one of the main points of reference was the idea that we should think about it without putting too many conditions, like “It’s not Persona unless it’s like this.”
If you start putting conditions on things, it becomes a stumbling block and it makes it difficult to seek change. Instead, we were more inclined to simply say, “If the students summon a persona, it is a Persona game!” Persona 3 was our first attempt to try something new.
With Persona 3, you took a fresh look at what makes the Persona series unique.
Soejima: We discussed where we would not change and where we would, and based on that, we created the initial visuals. There were classrooms, students, and personas. We thought that one of the fundamentals of the “juvenile” story was that it was unique to the series. That is why I thought it would work well to apply the main characters from Persona 4 and Persona 5 without them feeling out of place.
And the key visual for PSW2022 was also drawn by Soejima. I think this kind of refreshing atmosphere is rare in the Persona series.
Soejima: As the word “WISH” is in the event’s name, I wanted to express my desire to move forward along with the fans, with hope, in the key visuals. The illustrations we draw for promotional purposes are meant to convey the content, so we wanted the key visuals to convey a sense of “Please take a look!” We wanted to convey an image of our response to the warm feelings of the fans who have been so supportive of the series.
Also, thank you for drawing the cover of this issue! The “essence” of this issue is also very much in the foreground.
Soejima: I decided to take a different approach from the classroom visuals and draw something that is typical of the Persona series. I haven’t had many opportunities to draw the combinations of “masks with the boys and girls” where the main characters have persona masks.
Future of the series
During the past year, various other commemorative events have been held, such as the “Persona 25th Anniversary FES” in Tokorozawa Sakura Town. Will this anniversary year come to an end with the opening of PSW2022?
Wada: It’s a pity, but yes… For the Persona 25th Anniversary Festival, we were happy that many people were able to visit Sakura Town, owned by Kadokawa, and participate in this large-scale event. We also gave our full cooperation to make the exhibition worth the trip to the site, including calling on the development staff to release development materials and unveiling life-size persona statues for the first time.
Thanks to your help, I heard that the event was one of the most exciting in Sakura Town’s history.
Wada: I really appreciate your support!
I have high hopes for future developments. First of all, I hope that the remastered versions of P5R and the other three games will expand the base even further.
Yamamoto: For those who have never played Atlus games before, they might have an idea of demons or a high level of difficulty, but we have been making all of our titles, including P5R, with the utmost sincerity and taking into account the opinions of our users. We will continue to value this attitude in the future as we continue to create new products. We hope to continue to create titles with this attitude in mind. I hope many people will enjoy the remastered versions!
Soejima: The Persona series’ theme has changed with the times, and I think our challenge is how to continue to deliver memorable works inthe future. We are looking forward to seeing the series take shape, and we hope that the remastered version will give you a taste of the series before that.
Wada: The latest mainline title, P5R, is the culmination of our efforts. As a JRPG, I believe that it offers the best possible experience, so I hope all game fans will play it. And there are many more things we would like to tell you about our future prospects… We will do our best to unveil them at the appropriate time. Please look forward to the future of the Persona series even more!