Publisher ATLUS and developer Studio Zero have released a 15-minute “Creator’s Message” video featuring comments from director Katsura Hashino, character designer Shigenori Soejima, and music composer Shoji Meguro on the newly announced fantasy RPG.
Get the full staff comments video and the multiplatform version of the announcement trailer below. A transcript and archive of today’s “Metaphor: ReFantazio Announce Celebration Live Stream: The Stalker Club Returns!” follow.
Multiplatform Announce Trailer
Message from Katsura Hashino
Katsura Hashino, Director: “Although it’s taken quite some time, we’re excited to share something tangible for PROJECT Re FANTASY, a project we announced a while back now. Following the worldwide success of Persona 5, I think many people think of either Shin Megami Tensei or Persona when they think of the two largest RPG franchises by ATLUS. With this game, we wanted to build a third pillar for the studio, by crafting a large-scale, epic fantasy RPG, something we’ve never done before.
“Actually, the reason ATLUS always focused on modern storytelling is because we always felt there were plenty of fantasy RPGs in the world, whereas contemporary RPGs always felt less common. At this time, that was our way of going against mainstream trends, and defining our unique perspective and voice as a studio. Given that, when we revisited the idea of a traditional high fantasy game, we had to rethink how we could make this different from other RPGs out there while still capturing fundamental—and this is the really difficulty part—about what fantasies really mean for all of us. Thinking about these questions and how we can capture them in a game is ultimately what drove the development of Metaphor: ReFantazio.”
What meaning does the word Metaphor signify?
Hashino: “So metaphors are obviously speculative in nature, and the word itself alludes to the hidden meaning of things. We’ve told many contemporary stories in our games until now. There’s plenty of fantasy franchises and RPGs around us, right? When I think about the themes explored in past Shin Megami Tensei or Persona games, the stories always a tie back to how people should live their lives, in the present day, and that was an idea we really wanted to capture here, too. So, rather unabashedly, we decided on Metaphor as the title for this game.”
What does a true fantasy world look like?
Hashino: “So, there was actually a time early on in development when we had to ask ourselves ‘what even are fantasy stories?’ Back then, I had read lots of books that explored these fundamental questions, but one explanation really stood out to me. It said, ‘Fantasy does more than immerse us in empty worlds of fiction. They exist because there’s something about our world we want to change, and they help us reimagine something new.’
“I was really moved by this explanation, and thought maybe with that angle, we can make a fantasy RPG that fits ATLUS’ style. That basic concept helped guide all our decisions, from story, to what characters should appear, what powers they should have, and how should they fight, even things like what the final climax should be. It gave us a lot of clarity, and we tried to capture all of it within the game, too.”
Tell us about the game’s world.
Hashino: “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’s gimmicks, we tried to incorporate this concept as a key essence and characteristic of the game’s universe.”
What message did you want to convey through this fantasy RPG?
Hashino: “Throughout my time at ATLUS making RPGs, we’ve always thought about the core themes of each game as the foundation of everything, but one key phrase for Metaphor: ReFantazio is ‘facing your fear.’ Ever since we were primates, humans have always grappled with fear as a fundamental part of our shared experience. Depending on the person, fear can either paralyze somebody or maybe even cause their decline, but it can also propel people forward at times, too. It’s a very fundamental emotion we experience as humans, and depending on how we view it, it can push us to somewhere outside of our comfort zones. That’s a key concept we try to explore in Metaphor: ReFantazio.
“‘Fear’ may sound like a simple theme, but because it’s so simple, we hope people don’t walk away thinking, ‘That was a fun, momentary escape. Now back to reality, where nothing has changed.’ Rather, we genuinely want people to feel something about their life, maybe even feel encouraged, or empowered, through playing this game. That way, the experience is rich and meaningful, even as entertainment, and we aren’t compromising ATLUS’ philosophy towards RPGs, and we’re still providing something new and enjoyable to our fans. That was really the end goal for us.”
Message from Shigenori Soejima
Shigenori Soejima, Character Designer: “With this protagonist, there was a feeling of wanting to depict somebody we haven’t been able to in our past games, because of their modern settings. Overall, we wanted an androgynous and heroic protagonist—someone who looks like they’re about to change the world—with a design that emphasizes their firm, resolute gaze.
“Another important character is Gallica, a fairy who accompanies the protagonist. Although she’s classically fantastical in many ways—and that was her core concept during development, too—in terms of actual character design, we gave her a more modern aesthetic. Once we figured out how Gallica looks, it actually informed how all the other characters should look and feel, too. Although we still had to do a lot of exploring, Gallica certainly gave us that initial creative momentum to smoothly continue the design process for all the other characters.”
Establishing a New ATLUS Style
Soejima: “Of course, when it comes to conventional fantasy elements, there was definitive a desire to incorporate as much of those as we can. But we also didn’t want to be beholden to existing design conventions, either. And we realized midway that doing so would only stifle our own creativity. So, during that ideation phase, we really had to reimagine the fantasy genre from the ground up. ‘What feels right and natural to us?’ ‘What has our creative style been in the past?’ Throughout those discussions, I regained a sense of where we wanted to go, and how we wanted to reflect those ideas into the game.
“Even when it comes to what a character is wearing, ‘Rather than recreating a traditional, medieval look, maybe we could incorporate modern elements?’ ‘Perhaps there are some fashion trends from the 60s that could actually blend well into this fantasy world, too?’ ‘And help give it its unique style?’ Those were some of the ideas we experimented with.
“One thing I think that immediately stands out about this game is how the background feels very painterly. The core reason we did this is because we wanted to really capture the fantastical nature of this world. But how do we balance that with these unconventional character designs? That was something we put a lot of thought into, and we hope it shines through in the final work.”
Do you have a message for ATLUS and RPG fans?
Soejima: “‘What core aspects of our games should we safeguard as our creative identity?’ ‘How do we balance that with newer expectations people might have towards us?’ This was a game where I had to think deeply about these questions. In terms of design, I actually feel that our creative identity as ATLUS has already been articulated by our fans, through the Persona series. Things like the stylishness of the user interface menus, as well as our character models—in our past games, our fans have thought highly of these elements, and we definitely wanted to live up to those expectations this time around, too.
“The things that excite our fans when they hear ‘fantasy’ excite us, too, so we’ve tried to incorporate as much of those as we can. As a result, we think the core ATLUS charm is still there, while still meeting any new expectations people might have, and we think all of these are coming together really well in the final game, so please look forward to finding out more!”
Message from Shoji Meguro
Shoji Meguro, Music Composer: “When I was first told about Metaphor: ReFantazio, I was told it would be an epic high fantasy RPG. 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. But in the end, I’d say my feeling of excitement still won over.”
How did you express this game’s world through music?
Meguro: “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? ‘A spiritual music style, that also evokes a classical, fantasy feel.’ That was the main concept we tried to experiment with.
“Following this concept of spiritual music, we’ve woven in scores inspired by hymns, as well as Buddhist prayers—not rap, by the way—and we feel all these elements help define ATLUS’ distinct interpretation of what a classic fantasy score could sound like. This was a key concept we tried to push to its limit.”
The Effect and Purpose of Game Music
Meguro: “I’ve always felt that game scores are something that exist somewhere between the player and the world they’re experiencing on the other side of the screen. Although the score has to capture the atmosphere of the story for the user, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this music is not actually playing directly within the world the characters are in. In that sense, I’ve always considered game scores to be similar to user interface elements, constructs that exist solely to service the player. However, speaking with Hashino-san, we thought about how the music playing in the background could also link back to the ‘music’ the characters are experiencing in their minds, within that world. I think some of these interesting thought experiments helped us approach the music composition through a different lens.”
Do you have a message for ATLUS and RPG fans?
Meguro: “Although the game is still in development, and we’re working hard to polish everything we need to, we think this RPG represents the best of ATLUS. We’re working very hard to live up to the faith our fans have in us. To everybody looking forward to experiencing this game, I hope you enjoy the amalgamation of my hard work.”
Closing Message from Hashino
Hashino: “Metaphor: ReFantazio is launching in 2024. As we continue to polish the game, we’ll continue to reveal new information. Please look forward to hearing more from us! Thank you for your time!”