Persona 5 Strikers manages to be something unique, while still maintaining many of the Persona elements people know and love. To help better understand how Atlus and Koei Tecmo achieved that, Siliconera touched base with the people behind it. We spoke with Atlus Producer Daisuke Kanada and Koei Tecmo Director Kazutoshi Sekiguchi about how the game came together and the development of all of its different parts.
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: To start, could you tell our readers about your history in games and your role in making Persona 5 Strikers?
Daisuke Kanada, Atlus: The first game I was involved in at Atlus was Soul Hackers for the Sega Saturn. Since then, I have been involved with Persona 2: Innocent Sin, Maken X, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Maken Shao: Demon Sword, Shin Megami Tensei III, DDS1, DDS2, and Persona 3 as a planner and Trauma Center Second Opinion, Trauma Center: New Blood, Trauma Team, Etrian Odyssey IV, and Persona Q as a director. I was the producer of Persona Q2, and I’m the producer and director of Persona 5 Strikers.
Kazutoshi Sekiguchi, Koei Tecmo: After joining Koei Tecmo Games (formerly Koei), I was assigned to Omega-Force and was involved in Dynasty Warriors 4 and 5. After Blade Storm: The Hundred Years’ War, I became more and more involved in Omega-Force’s challenging titles, and was involved in the launch of Toukiden: The Age of Demons and became its director. For this game, I am the director on the Koei Tecmo Games side.
Graham Russell, Siliconera: Persona 5 Strikers melds Omega Force’s action-heavy development sensibilities with the Persona look and feel. Which elements of each side of the collaboration were your focus? In what ways did you feel it was important to diverge from what Persona normally does?
Kanada: In terms of Persona, the emphasis was on three elements: the story, the characters, and the world-building. All of these elements have been highly praised in the Persona series, and it was important to create each of these with the Persona style in mind. In terms of action, I think Omega-Force did a great job realizing the vision for the game.
Sekiguchi: In terms of action, we focused on combining the “easy controls” and “exhilarating” action that Omega-Force is known for with Persona 5’s stylish movements of the Phantom Thieves. The result of that combination was the Phantom Dash. With this as the core, we built up the other elements around it.
On the other hand, in order to realize the RPG aspect of Persona—things like progression elements, such as combining Personas, or battling using elemental strengths and weaknesses—we needed to move away from the conventional idea of Musou games. These were the areas where we asked for Atlus’ know-how, and worked to create something that was more Persona-like. As a result, I think we managed to arrive at the best solution for Persona 5’s core in an action RPG form.
Kanada: One of the things that sets Persona 5 Strikers apart from previous Persona games is that you leave Tokyo and travel around Japan. Persona games are typically based in a single city, and looking at Atlus titles as a whole, it’s probably unusual for the setting to be outside of Tokyo.
This was partly to differentiate the game from its predecessor, but also because we wanted to let the Phantom Thieves reunite six months after the battles in Persona 5 and give them a chance to have fun as friends and colleagues.
In this respect, I think the road-movie-like arc based on their “travels” turned out well. The level of detail and reproduction of each city, as well as the many road trip-themed events, are the result of our pursuit to bring forth that “travel” feel.
Russell: Persona 5 Strikers is an opportunity to revisit the cast of characters, appending to their stories. How did you approach this? Was it difficult to tell new tales with the Phantom Thieves while not disturbing their original arcs?
Kanada: It took us a very long time to build the story. However, the one thing we had in mind as a clear objective was showing the growth of the cast. These characters have grown since the events of Persona 5, and we wanted to show how they deal with their struggles now. When we thought about this, we repeatedly considered and pondered what the theme would be, what they would fight against, and what answers they would come up with.
People don’t completely change who they are just because they’ve grown. A person’s strengths and weaknesses remain unchanged. However, I believe that growth represents a change in the way we use our own strengths and weaknesses. And that kind of change is apparent in each member of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. I hope that in playing Persona 5 Strikers, players will be able to better see the situation the Phantom Thieves were in before, understand what they accomplish in P5S, and what that means for how far they've come.
Sekiguchi: While we were involved in the process, our focus was on keeping the relationships and image of the Phantom Thieves intact from the previous title. This is true not only for the story and cutscenes, but also for every single detail of action and animation. A lot of people in the development staff love Persona 5, and I think this is where they were able to express their love for it to the fullest.
Lada: What did the character creation process look like for new characters like Sophia and Zenkichi?
Kanada: The two new characters differ greatly from the members of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, in that the latter have already gone through their growth. They’re essentially fully-realized versions of themselves.
On the other hand, you could say that Sophia and Zenkichi are characters who still have significant growth ahead of them. Both Sophia and Zenkichi roles in the story were decided relatively early on, but it took a long time to figure out what kind of people they would be, how they would grow through the story, and how they should be portrayed.
Sekiguchi: For the new characters, we were given many opportunities to make suggestions. What we had to keep in mind was making them blend in with the existing members of the Phantom Thieves without disrupting them. We also took a lot of care when creating the actual dialogue for each scene.
My impression is that Sophia’s appearance, setting, and role were decided relatively smoothly, but our staff took great care in adjusting her to blend in with the Phantom Thieves, as mentioned above. For Zenkichi, on the other hand, it was more difficult to decide on his appearance and tone of voice. At the beginning, we’d even considered his concept as a female character.
Lada: Given the wider range of locations, how did you determine which places to visit and how they could contribute to the story?
Kanada: When we decided to make this a story about visiting different areas of Japan, we had a vague idea of focusing on the "tour of Japan" as a theme. We also considered the distance that could realistically be traveled by camping car during a one-month summer vacation, the scenery, regional characteristics, features of each location, and their relevance to the story.
These factors ultimately decided the Phantom Thieves’ path through the locations featured in-game. However, there are many wonderful prefectures in Japan each with its own merits. If possible, I’d like to feature other prefectures in another story sometime.
Annette Polis: What prompted the more limited shopping experiences in Persona 5 Strikers, compared to the wider array of shops in Persona 5?
Kanada: The main reason was because this story is about traveling around Japan. Every time the Phantom Thieves of Hearts solve a case, they move on to the next city. With the exception of the Jails in the Metaverse, players can’t return to a city once they move on. Therefore, it was necessary to create a situation where, within reason, players could solve a case and then confidently travel on without feeling like they’d left anything significant behind. In this sense, we aimed to create a game where there weren’t too many shops and extraneous functions, but they would still serve their respective purposes by the time players solved a case.
Sekiguchi: When we proposed the concept of Sophia’s character, and the setting detail of the personal assistant app EMMA being popular, we decided that the main shop would be via online shopping through Sophia. Considering how often players would be using the shop function, we wanted to layer it with a setting detail that would reinforce the narrative theme of "technology solving everything."
Lada: How did Joker’s Kitchen become a part of the game? How did you determine which recipes to add to his repertoire?
Sekiguchi: Traveling in a camping car means cooking for yourself, doesn’t it? (laughs) We believe the idea of a road trip full of cooking your own meals is fun, and part of the charm of traveling. The idea for the recipes came from the thought that since players would be traveling around the country, it would be interesting to learn of and then make local specialties. That also adds to the feeling of traveling and discovery. Some of the development team members are from the featured cities, too, so they were very excited about providing ideas. Ultimately, wherever the Phantom Thieves go, they’re always going around and eating. (laughs)
Russell: While many traditional JRPG and strategy series have tried to convert to action in recent years (and most of them have stumbled as a result), Persona has retained its traditional battle style. Was a game like Strikers a way to explore this space while keeping the core series the way the fans like it? Are there plans to incorporate action elements in future Persona games?
Kanada: This being our first collaboration with Koei Tecmo Games and our first action RPG, it may indeed have been the culmination of our intent to explore the space while continuing to define the core series the way fans like it. However, the inclusion of the action aspect was the result of aiming for P5S to stand as its own experience, and there is no current intention to chase that direction for the future of the Persona series at large. My hope is that this will be considered a standalone action RPG, unique and defined by its own experience.
Russell: What was the last major change to the game during development? What prompted it?
Kanada: One of the most memorable things for me personally is the addition of the English version of the ending theme. Like many other titles, P5S contains a core theme or message. The ending theme directly addresses that message in its lyrics. That’s why, in the Japanese version of Persona 5 Strikers, all the lyrics are in Japanese. We wanted this message to reach everyone who reaches the ending. Then, someone suggested that it may be a good idea to use English lyrics for the overseas version. We agreed, so we swiftly recorded an English version of the ending song and had it implemented into the game. You can see this in the Behind the Scenes within the bonus app. We hope players will reach the ending and have the chance to listen to it.
By the way, if you set the voice setting to Japanese, you can also listen to the ending with the Japanese lyrics.
Persona 5 Strikers is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam.