Behind The Design Of Persona 4

By Laura . September 22, 2010 . 1:33pm


In a rare audio interview at Japanese games site, Biglobe Games, Persona 4 director, Katsura Hashino, along with character designer Shigenori Soejima, chatted at length about the creation of Atlus’s PlayStation 2 swan song. The questions the two were asked were by fans on Twitter.


Asked what he thought was the biggest change between Persona 3 and 4, Hashino replied that it was that 4 took place in the rural Inaba, which was significantly different from the grand urban setting of Iwatodai. Part of the reason behind this decision was to create a different atmosphere. Hashino felt that a murder mystery in a rural setting would feel creepier because, as he put it, it would be kind like “those local legends” that towns sometimes have.


This move to the fields of Japan also factored into the decision to use a Japanese theme for the main cast’s Personae. For example, Yukiko’s Persona is based off Amaterasu, the sun goddess. Initially, this theme originated because the team was more familiar with Japanese lore, but as they continued work, they predicted that it would compliment the setting of Inaba, away from an entirely urban lifestyle and modernization, as well.


As for the Personae’s appearances, they were mostly based off of the character’s personalities. This was especially possible because, while most people in Japan were familiar with mythical figures (Izanagi, Susanoo, etc.), they had only a vague idea as to their appearances. In Hashino’s words, the team concentrated on achieving a “Hmm, so Tomoe had this kind of a vibe to her…” feel while matching her to Chie’s personality.



The Shadow-personae, on the other hand, were created by Hashino singlehandedly without much outside discussion. They were specifically created with the feeling of “reality” in mind, and Hashino decided on their appearance and names on his own. However, in the case of the girls (Yukiko and Chie for the most part), he had to enlist the help of some of the female staff. Most of the personal problems that lay behind the Shadows’ creation were based off of the team’s personal experiences that they had felt during high school, or experiences that they had witnessed friends go through.


One of the most difficult problems while creating Persona 4, to the director, was trying to recall his high school experiences while making sure they worked in a modern high school setting. After all, a long time had passed since Hashino’s time in school.


The point that Hashino felt that he had to focus on the most in Persona 4 was fitting everything into the game as one whole, cohesive product. The game was huge, with many different aspects, including but not limited to the setup of the calendar, the school, and exploring the dungeons. The calendar was designed such that it would coincide with the pressure the protagonists were feeling. For example, towards the end of the game, after a certain event, the calendar is shown a month at a time instead of just a few days ahead of time.


This was done to convey the sense that the characters need to look ahead and plan their days far in advance because these would be the last days during which they could freely enjoy their time. The locations of the game as well as the game system were all designed with the story in mind.



With all of this data, plus the extensive dialogue from the Social Links and an increase in the number of events since Persona 3, it meant that the game barely fit onto a DVD. Ultimately, the team had to shave off bits of text, word by word, just to try to get the game to fit.


Conversely, the more random aspects of the game required the least effort to complete, such as choosing the food and drink types. When asked why he had chosen to use “meat gum” of all things, Hashino replied that he couldn’t remember. “I was probably eating meat with the staff at the time.”


Most such names were all decided in less than a week. The glasses, too, were a last-minute decision because he had wanted the characters to appear stronger.


The Persona team, according to Hashino, was a very relaxed group of people. While he had only been a part of it since Persona 3, he had worked with most of the main players before while they were still working on the Dreamcast.


The team were an easy-going lot, Hashino revealed. For example, when they usually created a game, the team would compile a document with all the information about the game contained within. However, in the case of P4, they chose not to. When they idea was considered, the team figured that they had a vague sense of what was going into the game already, so they didn’t require one.



Not that it was smooth sailing all along, however. Hashino also jokingly revealed that they would never make that mistake again, considering how much trouble the lack of such a document had caused them.


The last questions Hashino was asked dealt with the future of Persona 4. Currently, he has no intention to create a sequel, although he did mention that there was much material he wanted to explore. He reiterated that there still weren’t any plans for a FES version either, since Persona 4 was created based off Persona 3 FES. Plus, there weren’t too many fans saying they wanted more material, since the game was already jam-packed with events.


In response to the inevitable, “Will there be a PSP version of Persona 4? […] I’m really interested in seeing the female main character!” Hashino responded that there weren’t any plans, but if enough fans asked for it, it was a possibility, and followed up with, “Doesn’t the female version of the protagonist already appear in the game?”


Yes, he was just joking.


Food for thought:

1. In the case of Persona games, usually, the scenario and scenes are created first, and the music is then matched to them. For Persona 4’s opening, though, the opposite was true.

2. The most unexpectedly popular character was Adachi. Perhaps it was because he was a character who knew how to enjoy life?

3. The aim that the director had for fans was to enjoy themselves. Everything from the music to the scenarios was designed with the purpose of “having fun.”

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  • People better start asking for a Persona 4 PSP, I want to play the game, lol.

    No one asked about a Persona 5…

    • FireCouch

      Get yourself a ps2, it only is the best console ever.

      • Hraesvelgr

        SNES and PSX are better, but PS2 is pretty good, yeah.

    • Most probably won’t happen. They’ve already stated that P4 is the final definitive version of the game. That’s why we didn’t get a P4 expansion.Does this mean you’ve never played the original P3? Trust me, you’re missing a lot of stuff with P3P

      There’s only so much the PSP could do

      • I never played the original P3P. For P4 I watched like a 40+ hour playthrough that someone had recorded on youtube since I didnt have a PS2…

        I want a P4P so then I can find out what happens in the story

  • Facebook User

    I’m waiting desperatly for an announcement of Persona 5 / SMT for the PS3. I visit this site everyday to find what my heart craves! T__T

  • I’m still trapped in that blasted Void Quest.

    • lol that’s where I stopped playing at as well, but due to the fact that the PS2 was disconnected from the TV. After moving in the next few weeks, I hope to continue P4 (and finally start P3P, since I need to find my darn PSP charger lol).

  • pridesin

    I wonder how much persona 5 would be different from persona 3 & 4, since most likely it will be coming out to PS3 (being blu-ray), and will not have disk space problem.
    I wonder if they are thinking about doing full voice for the social link event.

    • If it is going to be multiplatform then I dont think they will achieve full voice for social links…and that would make it more costly to dub.

      • pridesin

        I guess you are right (did not think about the multi platform) …though I hope Persona 5 has more contents to enjoy than persona 3 & 4.

        • Ooooh, I hope there’s a multi-player option.. Because I’m tired of all that game over when your team mates can~ resurrect you when you’re dead. XD

          • No! No! A thousand times no! Not every game has to have multiplayer in it. That is one trend that needs to die!

          • Zeik56

            Agreed. There are games where multiplayer works, and there are games where it doesn’t. Persona is one of those games where multiplayer should stay far far away.

      • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

        It’s most likely going multiplat considering Catherine, which seems to be a test of sorts for the aesthetic and engine, is multiplat. Or they’re also using Catherine as a test to see if it will sell well on both systems. If one system does terrible (i.e. 360), then it won’t get P5.

        But man, full voice for social links! Yea… that’s a lot of dialogue–> lots of money.

  • Thanks so much for translating and summarizing the interview. I stumbled upon that link on Twitter and felt I missed out on very important development stories. I certainly felt their intention of having fun the whole way through; it would not have been so if not for the appropriately catchy soundtrack, and perhaps the yellow color theme (compared to blue in P3).

  • Zeik56

    I’m a little surprised that Adachi is apparently popular. I mean I did like him, at first, but by the end he was actually one of the few aspects of the game that left me disappointed.

  • DDanny

    I wonder if there will ever be a Persona in the likes of P2 again with Kaneko designing and Soejima drawing the in game portraits.

    • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

      Wait I thought Kaneko did both the designing AND in game art for P2, same with Soejima for P3 & 4. Honestly, I like Kaneko for other SMT games, but I’m starting to get attached to Soejima’s for Persona games. He’s not a bad designer. Though perhaps the combination as you said might yield some interesting results.

  • Souji Tendou

    Game is cool. 1 thing which a let down for me is, no multiple endings (as in you can hook up with the girls, especially Yukiko).


    No matter what your Social Links Levels at the end of the game. The protagonist will still leave the town. -_-

    • … I don’t get what you’re saying. You have a choice to hook up with any of the female schoolmate Social Links, given you picked the right dialogue choices before the point you decide to. Max them out, and you get to pick who to spend Christmas with. The philisophical purpose of him leaving town in the end is to show that he made bonds with all of his friends that won’t break no matter the distance. The logical one is that his parents are back from their business trip, so he has to go back to living with them. At least he didn’t leave this plane of existence.

      • Souji Tendou

        Yea, I know about that.

        My point is, the relationship with the girl (as a lover) who you hooked up with is stopped when he left the town (At least, that’s what the game told us). While I want the girl who I chose to stay with me, or vice versa. Then again, you already explained it, “The philosophical purpose…..”

        Well, It’s just my wishful thinking.

  • fuzzy_hobo

    Thanks for the interview summary. P4 is one of my favorite rpgs and a prime example of how to do a sequel right. Now if only the persona team would go onto to P5 after Catherine…

    • Did not this site report months ago that they had started work on persona 5?

  • Bruce

    i like it how they listen to fans … it’s kinda different in the west

  • ah I Really Miss Playing This Game :3 …

  • Maxemillian

    I need to get to finish playing the game. I’m pretty far, but after reading this, I don’t think I’m as far as I originally thought. Good read nonetheless. I love reading about the process behind my favorite games.

    About P5, I always thought that Atlus would go after the system with the biggest install base per generation. With that in mind I always had hoped that either P4 would find it’s way to the Wii or that the persona series would move over to the Wii with P5. I’m still crossing my fingers for multiplatform and it being on the Wii, however most likely it will be on PS3 since they have a standing history with Sony’s consoles (even though platform exclusives are vanishing with each passing year).

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