Atlus has released a 15-minute video with the creative leads of Studio Zero — director Katsura Hashino, character designer Shigenori Soejima, and composer Shoji Meguro — where they discussed the creation and inspiration for Metaphor: ReFantazio, the upcoming fantasy RPG landing in 2024 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, and PC. They touched upon various aspects of the game, not revealing too much overall but providing a clearer idea of why they wanted to make this departure into fantasy after developing Persona 5.
Studio Zero Explains the Inspiration for Metaphor: ReFantazio
With other Atlus RPG franchises Shin Megami Tensei and Persona in mind, Katsura Hashino explained, “With (Metaphor), we wanted to build a third pillar for the studio (Atlus) by crafting a large-scale, epic fantasy RPG, something we’ve never done before.” In the past, Atlus had focused on RPGs set in temporary times mostly because they “always felt less common,” and it was a way of “going against mainstream trends.”
As Hashino elaborated, the challenge of developing Metaphor: ReFantazio is to do something with a fantasy RPG that hasn’t been done before while still keeping what is fundamental about fantasy stories. With the themes of Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games, “the stories always tie back to how people should live their lives, in the present day,” and this notion will continue in Metaphor: ReFantazio and informed the decision to use the word “Metaphor” in the title.
Talking about the world of the game, he offered the following:
We originally developed the game in a more Western, medieval setting but quickly realized it was turning into a rather conventional fantasy game. To give it a more unique twist, we thought about the modern world, and elements that we could bring into this fantasy setting, so that there’s an underlying feeling of connection between the two worlds. Whether it’s in the narrative structure, or some of the game gimmicks, we tried to incorporate this concept as a key essence and characteristic of the game’s universe.
A key phrase of Metaphor: ReFantazio is “facing your fear.” Fear can paralyze people or propel them forward, pushing them outside their comfort zone. Hashino hopes players will feel empowered about their lives after playing Metaphor.
Shigenori Soejima touched upon various aspects of the character design, saying that being able to get into fantasy design excited him but that he basically didn’t want to be pigeonholed into just one type of fantasy. For instance, Gallica is a fairy who accompanies the protagonist but has a more modern look.
Shoji Meguro too was excited by the shift in genre. When he heard the plan was to make a fantasy RPG, he said, “Immediately, I heard the sound of grand orchestras playing and thought this might be an opportunity to write songs I’ve never really written before. But there was a feeling of apprehension too, because I knew simply throwing in an orchestra wouldn’t cut it for Atlus.” He added, “The core concept of the scoring is ‘music used in religion.’ How can we fuse that with a traditional RPG? And how can we give that a unique twist, that people expect from Atlus games?” The aim is for a “spiritual music style that also evokes a classical, fantasy feel.”
Basically, as would be expected of the Studio Zero heads, it sounds like they’re having a lot of fun experimenting with big ideas and twisting conventions. The inspiration for Metaphor: ReFantazio will probably become clearer when we’re actually playing it next year. But for now, it mostly looks like a really cool, steampunk-fantasy riff on Persona, even if Studio Zero says this game is being positioned as a separate, third pillar.