Metaphor: ReFantazio Preview – Fantasy New World

When a famous trio of game creators known for the same franchise launch a new IP together, it gets a lot of attention. That’s exactly what director Katsura Hashino, art director Shigenori Sojima, and composer Shoji Meguro, best known for the beloved Persona series, are doing with Metaphor: Refantazio. Although it draws inspiration from many key elements of Persona, Metaphor is an entirely new experience disconnected from the Persona franchise.

Set in the fantasy kingdom of Ukronia, the allegory tells the story of a world full of prejudice. The main character is from the Elda tribe, and in the early stages of my demo, his fictional companion, Gallika, expresses shock at how prejudice against him has come out in the open. The two then talk about a fictional world where there is true equality and imagine such a society. What people love about Persona is its willingness to tackle challenging topics that other games may shy away from, and Metaphor carries that same quality into its narrative.

“What we’ve tried to do in the past with Persona and this game … they’re both a little different from each other,” says Hashino. “For games like Persona in the past, it wasn’t like our goal was to challenge difficult social issues. What we’re really trying to achieve is, ‘We have a story about a young, kind of naive person growing up and entering the world of adulthood, and that’s not an easy thing. There are a lot of challenges that you have to face. There are many ways you need to grow to do that. So by dealing with difficult issues in those characters’ lives, they can grow into who they are and figure out who they want to be. That was our goal with Persona. So, it’s not like we want to hide this issue; We have this character that we want to develop, and since it’s set in Japan, it’s a way for us to explore the personalities of these characters, as they grow up in Japanese society and deal with problems that way.

“However, the metaphor is not really so much about a sense of growth. It’s more about how we can explore the concept of human imagination and human emotions and thoughts, and how we can learn from these experiences to grow and become better people,” Hashino continues. “That’s what we see a lot in this game. For metaphor, what we are trying to think is as broad as we can. We’re trying to achieve something where we’re talking about things that affect people of all times, all ages in the world. That’s why we focus on this concept of fear and anxiety, because I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t live with fear or anxiety at any given time.

Combat feels like the next evolution of the turn-based system found in the Persona games. Most encounters begin with a strike on enemies on the field before entering the game’s primary turn-based combat mechanics. If you sneak up on enemies, you can land multiple hits on them, significantly reducing their health; You can even kill weak monsters without getting into a turn-based battle.

Metaphor also incorporates a line-based formation system where you can choose who your party leads and who stands back. Those in the back take less damage, but their melee attacks are weak, while those in the front often get hit by attacks but can land their own attacks at full force. In my time with this system, I’ve found that placing magic wielders and healers in the back and putting more physical warriors forward has yielded better results.

In battle, characters can also summon persona-like creatures known as archetypes. These powerful entities control magic based on traditional fantasy tropes such as Knight, Warrior, and Seeker. While they are strong on their own, archetypes can also perform team-up attacks called Synthesis. These moves allow one character to lend their power to another to perform more powerful and impactful attacks. During the boss battles I played, I used synthesis attacks to great effect, some applying different elemental effects and others spreading damage to all enemies instead of just one.

Speaking of elements carried over from Persona, Metaphor uses the same UI as Persona 5 Royale, giving it a distinct style. Flashy menus and gorgeous art emphasize the trademark Sujima style, while Meguro’s music replaces the hip-hop and jazzy rock-inspired soundtrack from the Persona franchise with tracks more inspired by battle chants.

“When I first approached the design of this game, I said, ‘I personally love fantasy. I’ll try my best to throw away everything I’ve done so far and just design a fantasy character and challenge myself with a new style,'” Sojima says. I thought – I had a lot of fun doing it – but I was coming up with a kind of imitation of the styles I saw. I was thinking, ‘Well, what can I bring to the fantasy genre? How can I add to that and use what I know, use my own style and put my own riff on it? So, that’s part of what helped inform my design. A lot of the time with Persona and other games, we’re setting games in the real world, but it’s not about trying to make something cool in a game; With my art, I was trying to make something cool in the real world that people would love and enjoy, and then bring that into the game medium. For this, I didn’t want to just go, ‘Okay, what do people like in the fantasy genre? Let’s do more than that.’ Instead, I tried to bring out more of what people from other regions thought were cool and then put that into the game.

While I’ve always appreciated Persona’s real-world setting, the metaphorical fantasy kingdom, narrative threads, and appropriately satirical beasts drew me in, and I’m excited to experience the next evolution of this team’s work. I’m excited to get my hands on the final version when it launches this October.

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