Metaphor: ReFantazio Preview – Stylish Overload

    Perhaps the flashiest ATLUS title yet.

    Metaphor: ReFantazio is an important title for many reasons. Originally known as Project Re: FantasyMetaphor received no initial update until last year. The title is the first original game from Studio Zero, a division of ATLUS formed by Katsura Hashino, who directed titles including Shin Megami Tensei III: NocturnePersona 3Persona 4, and Persona 5

    This is the first major new IP from ATLUS in quite some time, but more importantly, this is the first new IP since ATLUS exploded as one of the biggest names in the RPG space. It might be hard to believe, but the company’s major growth has largely occurred over the last five years. Metaphor: ReFantazio is next up in a busy 2024 for the company, with Persona 3 Reload releasing to critical acclaim earlier this year. At Summer Game Fest, I got to preview an hour of the upcoming title, and there’s plenty to talk about regarding one of 2024’s most anticipated titles.

    The demo was split into three different sections to highlight three areas the game offers. The first was a narrative section, which focused on the story and gave the traditional dialogue and cutscene gameplay fans of the Persona series are familiar with. One thing I immediately noticed, however, was that my chosen response was voiced by the protagonist! The protagonist is largely silent for many major ATLUS RPGs, so I’m excited to see how a more vocal protagonist will play out. 

    At the end of this segment, the Archetype system was revealed as the protagonist awakens. Archetypes essentially act as the job system of Metaphor: ReFantazio, which is a big departure from something like Personas in the Persona series. These were all designed by both Shigenori Soejima and Yuji Himukai, which helps each stand out uniquely. As you develop your bonds with those around you, you will unlock new Archetypes to use and level up with. This system keeps things interesting as you can alternate and shuffle around each of the party member’s Archetypes to fit a certain battle.

    The second demo focused on dungeon crawling, which allowed me to explore one of the dungeons found in the game. I presume this is early on, as I only had three characters at my party. This gameplay loop is pretty similar to previous ATLUS titles, but new twists in the gameplay become apparent almost immediately.

    First, lower-level enemies can now be slashed and killed in the overworld. You no longer need to enter turn-based battles for all enemies you see. That being said, there are all kinds of enemies you’ll fight traditionally, but this eases up on the length that some dungeons have gone to in former ATLUS titles. Once in battle, the real new features become apparent, as Metaphor: ReFantazio utilizes the Press Turn battle system from Shin Megami Tensei

    While I only got to experience around 40 minutes of this battle system, let me tell you – it’s a breath of fresh air. Essentially, you will have a select number of turns when it’s your turn to attack. These are displayed at the top of the screen as the moving stars. Strategy becomes incredibly important here, as certain attacks can cost more than others. When I missed an attack, two turns were taken away. So, I had to think carefully before selecting an ability that had a low chance of landing.

    The real fun comes from hitting weaknesses, as these will grant you an additional turn. You can keep rounds going for quite some time if you’re smart and are able to analyze each enemy’s weakness. Even though this was the beginning of the game, I found this battle system exciting and fun. It’s quite different from Persona 3 Reload or similar titles, and seeing the team attempt something new makes me even more excited for Metaphor: ReFantazio

    Lastly, the third demo consisted of a major boss battle in the sea. This was a really challenging fight, and I was told that only 5-10% of preview players were able to beat the boss. I ended up running out of time, but the gameplay held solid and required me to think strategically about healing my party, dishing out attacks, and exploiting weaknesses for more turns. I expect there to be many challenging encounters throughout the course of the game if this is anything to go by. 

    Above all else, Metaphor: ReFantazio oozes style. It’s seriously incredible. The screenshots cannot and will not do justice to how much effort has gone into the UI and animations in the game. I was blown away by even the smallest details, like the text boxes, having custom animations that flashed across the screen in a noble way. This complements Shigenori Soejima’s art style so well, as it has in all the prior Persona titles. However, Metaphor: ReFantazio feels like a step above the rest. Even having played for only one hour for my preview, I’d argue that this is easily ATLUS’s most stylish title yet.

    I was told that Metaphor: ReFantazio‘s main story can last well over 100 hours, depending on the player and how much side content they work towards. This is in line with many other ATLUS titles, which have incredibly long yet high-quality campaigns. After spending an hour with Metaphor, I expect the game to be no different from any of the company’s previous major releases.

    As you might expect, Metaphor: ReFantazio pulls majorly from both Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. So many mechanics feel very similar, yet the game has all sorts of new features that allow it to stand out on its own. That standard ATLUS DNA is still there, but it’s been molded into something new – something exciting. I look forward to seeing how the narrative will play out in Metaphor: ReFantazio and how ATLUS will push the combat system to new heights. But for now, I’ll be anxiously awaiting my next opportunity to play more of this one.

    Noah Hunter
    Noah Hunter
    Noah is Final Weapon’s Editor-in-Chief. He co-founded the website in June 2019 and has been writing for it ever since. In total, he has over five years of writing experience across many publications, including IGN Entertainment. His favorite series include Xeno and Final Fantasy.

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