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‘Metaphor: ReFantazio’ Steals The Best Ideas From ‘Persona 5’

When it came time to make Metaphor: ReFantazio, developer Atlus had a guiding principle: make a video game that was a culmination of all the beloved RPGs the company had made before it. “We decided to challenge the fantasy genre,” director Katsura Hashino said this week during an online demo of the game. Atlus has been making games for some 35 years, and it wanted to pull together an all-star team to commemorate the anniversary.

Hashino has been instrumental throughout the Persona series; following Persona 5’s release, he moved away from P-Studio—the team working on Persona games—to start Studio Zero, another internal Atlus group. For Metaphor, Studio Zero brought in Persona character artist Shigenori Soejima and longtime composer Shoji Meguro. They also brought in guest developers Koda Kazuma, concept artist for NieR:Automata, and Ikuto Yamashita, one of the artists behind the beloved anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Metaphor: ReFantazio, scheduled to hit PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X on October 11, will combine many of the social elements of the Persona series with a faster combat system and new fantasy setting.

In Metaphor, a king’s assassination kicks off an election that will allow anyone to be the next sovereign, so long as they get enough backing. That means the protagonist, who is on a mission of his own, will need to form bonds with potential followers, earn monster-slaying bounties, explore dungeons, complete side jobs, and generally rally support.

Like the Persona games, there’s a social element at play, whether it’s building relationships with followers or hanging out with the game’s cast. There’s no fast-travel between destinations; instead, players get around on mobile bases equipped with everything from hang-out rooms to libraries to spots to cook or get your laundry done. It’s reminiscent of Persona’s incredibly satisfying, totally mundane tasks that make the game feel more alive.

Hashino says that Metaphor lets players build their squads using a job system based around powers called archetypes. “By confronting their anxiety, the protagonists acquire these archetypes, a special power,” he noted during Tuesday’s demo. “Their powers manifest in various forms throughout the game.” They may sound similar to Persona games’ eponymous enemies, but they’re more like traditional battle styles. A seeker is a well-rounded fighter, for example, whereas a mage fights with magic. Players can mix and match their parties however they want, including creating squads entirely of the same job.

Atlus is currently enjoying a renaissance thanks to the breakout popularity of games like Persona 5 in 2016 and Persona 3 Reload, released in March. Reload, a remake of a PS2 title, became the fastest-selling game in Atlus’ history within its first week. Metaphor retains much of the series’ eye-catching style and slick combat. It’s a massive game, Hashino says, one that “questions the power of fantasy, a power we all possess.”