Persona director Katsura Hashino has opened up about the creative process behind Persona 5 in a brand new interview.
Speaking about his Persona 5 experiences in an interview with Denfamicogamer, helpfully translated by the folks at Personacentral, Hashino spoke at length about his thoughts on turn-based battles and character and story design.
Persona 5 is a hit RPG from ATLUS, which follows the story of a Japanese high-schooler who, having been wrongly convicted of a crime, finds himself sent to live with a guardian in Tokyo while on probation. Here, he finds that he has the power to enter the psyches of villainous adults. Recruiting a band of misfits, our hero journeys into the hearts of do-badders, stealing their desires to do evil by literally beating up their demons in stylish turn-based battles. It’s a unique, high-concept adventure that offers a fulfilling coming-of-age story that doesn’t shy away from darker themes.
Hashino’s thoughts on turn-based combat were exciting. Though conceding that “turn-based battles are an element that [can] break the continuous flow of a game”, the Persona 5 director uses a sports analogy to help illustrate the unique appeal of turn-based combat: “Sometimes, I like to convince myself by thinking of the difference between turn-based RPGs and action RPGs as the difference between soccer and baseball in sports.”
He continues: “while soccer is always continuous, you wouldn’t say that baseball is less immersive…Naturally, there are interruptions between plays in baseball compared to soccer, but if you have a firm grasp of the rules and the turn changes, you can feel the fun of “what kind of strategy is being planned” for both the offensive and defensive turns.”
RPGs from Japan have been moving away from turn-based mechanics in recent years. For instance: the upcoming Square Enix flagship title Final Fantasy 16 has firmly abandoned turn-based combat in favor of an action-oriented system reminiscent of Devil May Cry 5. However, the success of Persona 5 and Hashino’s game design approach suggests that the era of turn-based battles may not be over.
Turn it up
Hashino also spoke about his approach to character design. “We need the players to empathize with the conflicts and concerns the main character faces”, said the director, keen to emphasize the “human touch”. Regarding supporting characters, too, it’s crucial that “the players feel that these friends are truly human, just like the protagonist.”
However, Hasnino felt it essential to stress that none of these characters should exist in a vacuum. “Even if the situation the protagonist is facing seems impossible to deal with, it’s still a game, so he or she can gain wisdom from other people, or find like-minded friends with the same perspective. No matter how difficult the situation may seem, I don’t want to deny the possibility that there can be a way out of it.”
The director of Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 has since moved away from the Persona series, looking to work on a brand new title: Project Re: Fantasy, currently in development at ATLUS. Though we’ve had few updates about the project in recent years, I can’t wait to see the latest application of Hashino’s comprehensive approach to game design.