After the reveal of Atlus’ new development studio named Studio Zero, and the upcoming fantasy JRPG code named Project Re FANTASY, Famitsu included a long interview to Director of Consumer Software Department Naoto Hiraoka, and Persona 5 Producer and Director Katsura Hashino, who will take the helm of both the studio and the new game.
Below you can read every point they shared, giving more details on the studio, its logo, the vision behind the game and the relationship with Sega. They also hinted that Project Re FANTASY will be for those who love home console games and Atlus games, which can probably be interpreted as an indication that the game won’t be a mobile title, but will be on home consoles.
We also hear about the future of the members of the team, and an explanation of the meaning behind the gorgeous illustrations by Shigenori Soejima shared today.
Hiraoka-san explains that Persona 5 was a big production that involved a large staff, and created a lot of opportunities for younger team members to participate. According to him, Staff members that might be capable of succeeding Hashino-san and creating a “new Persona” are growing up, so it’s a good timing for the Director to lead a new project.
Shigenori Soejima is an indispensible member of the staff of the Persona series, and has been tasked with expanding the breadth of creativity of the newly created Atlus Art Team. Both him and Shoji Meguro will continue to work on the Persona series, while also challenging new projects.
The Atlus team has been able to focus on development, and Hiraoka-san thinks that such a focus shows in the 2016 line-up. Being part of a large company like the Sega group provides Atlus with the necessary scale in terms of promotion, and many opportunities of cooperation. On the other hand, there is mutual respect of each other’s creativity as fellow game developers. The two companies have the best kind of relationship, where they can cooperate while keeping distinct personalities, and will continue like this from now on.
Atlus has been aiming for innovation as one of its goals for a long time. From now on it will continue to work on titles like the Persona series, not only making efforts to meet everyone’s expectations, but also to create innovative games that are different from existing series.
The newly announced JRPG is just on the start line of development, but as a result of this change, Hiraoka-san feels that Atlus will be more aggressive. The Persona series and other titles are being developed consistently behind the scenes, and new games will be announced in the new year without waiting as much as usual.
Producer and Director Katsura Hashino explained the meaning of the logo of Project Zero, mentioning that it’s a stylized traveling boy, representing the Fool of the tarots, in other words, a foolish person that doesn’t know anything yet. That’s the literal meaning, but Hashino-san mentioned that, while he doesn’t have preconceptions, he has a lot of encounters, knowledge and experience to use as a starting point to build up the world of his game. It’ll be a production that will return to the origins of game development, creating a new challenge as well.
When Atlus started with Persona and Shin Megami Tensei, it tried to counter the norm of mainstream fantasy games. They dared to set games in the present day. Hashino-san himself fell in love with that approach and that’s why he sought employment at the company. Yet, looking back at the past 20 years, it’s time to create a game that can be enjoyed by more people, while still cherishing the Atlus-like game development style that core fans enjoy.
While creating a game belonging to a mainstream genre, he would like it to be full of individuality and unique to Atlus. That’s a thought that he has courted before, and now it’s the time to turn it into reality.
Hashino-san feels that if the company keeps following the beaten path, they’ll never taste a different flavor. A fantasy world is worth challenging because it can express different experiences and emotions. That’s why he wants to create a kind of fantasy that appears to be mainstream on the surface, but that only Atlus can do, exactly because they have so little experience in gaming games of this genre.
According to Hashino-san, the fascinating point of fantasy is that you can experience a fantastic world that is different from reality. You can forget about reality while playing. You could say that it’s like “escaping from reality.” Yet, once you abandon reality, you will be presented with a new reality that you see from the first time.
You’ll experience your way of living in that reality, the ways of its society, how to create a better future through the filter “I am in an illusionary world.” That’s why, in creating his game, Hashino wants to let the player become one of the inhabitants who lives in that fantasy world, examining various perspectives, such as why people fight in that world, understanding themselves in the process, and bringing back some of those thoughts to reality. If such a game can be made, Hashino-san feels that it’ll be one answer as to why they selected the fantasy genre.
The illustrations released today have the purpose of sharing the mood within Studio Zero’s team. The red-headed elf on the cover is not necessarily the heroine of the story.
They have been created after the staff convened and share their thoughts, to express that there is a conflict in a world different from reality, set in difficult times, with armor and red hair that are a symbol of fighting spirit.
The illustration depicting a dragon is an image of a mighty existence unique to fantasy, and studying myths and legends of dragons is also interesting for Hashino-san. They’re often positioned at the top among monsters. They’re symbol of awe and supernatural power that can’t be controlled by humans, and also a threat. Yet often faith in dragons is a longstanding tradition among royal families, and they’re depicted in emblems.
Hashino-san explains that When you challenge a genre that you are inexperienced in, interesting things will continuously appear, as there are so many elements that you don’t know and want to further investigate.
The illustrations also display the empathy with the fact that people similar to us also live in this world, and this is expressed in the depiction of a connection with others. “traveling” is also part of the essence of fantasy, so the pictures keep that in mind as well. The concept isn’t the only thing that’s important, but also the attention to details like the characters’ clothes and how tools are carried, the structure of the horse-drawn carriage, and more.
At the present time, the studio counts a small core group, and Hashino-san hopes to welcome developers who resonate with its core attitude. That way Atlus will continue to innovate not only with its established series, but also creating new games at the same time. Hashino-san is sincerely waiting for those who will lend their power to the innovation goals of Studio Zero, making sure to create a lot of noise in the gaming industry while learning together.
In conclusion, Hashino-san clarified that, while platforms are still undecided, the game will be created for those who love home console games and Atlus’ games. It will take a reasonable period of time to complete, but the team will do its best to deliver something fans can be excited about, and they’re encouraged to look forward to it.