You can't date your friends in the new JRPG from the Persona 5 devs because it isn't a game about flirty teenagers: "It's part of the realism of the setting"

Metaphor: ReFantazio's protagonist shakes the hand of a character with bright pink hair.
(Image credit: Atlus)

The director of Atlus' stylish upcoming JRPG, Metaphor: ReFantazio, has spoken more about the decision to leave Persona's popular romance system out of the game, and it's primarily because it just wouldn't fit into the story in the same way.

While Metaphor: ReFantazio will feature a system similar to Persona's 'social links,' allowing players to grow closer to the various characters, there'll be absolutely no hand holding allowed – something which may come as a surprise given how many people enjoy the option in the likes of Persona 5 Royal and Persona 3 Reload.

Speaking to GamesRadar+ at Summer Game Fest 2024, Katsura Hashino, the director of Metaphor as well as Persona 3, 4, and 5, says the team is well aware that "people really like this system and it's really popular," but the reason it was included in the Persona games in the first place was because it added to "the realism of the setting." The same couldn't be said for the upcoming JRPG, he explains, which has a very different setting.

"For us, the reason we included romance in previous games is that a lot of our games are based around the idea of teenagers living their lives. What teenager doesn't want to have romance in their life? It's part of the realism of the setting," Hashino reveals. "We know people really like this system and it's really popular, but for this game specifically, it's not about teenagers. It's about a person trying to become the ruler of the land. They are more focused on the relationships between a ruler and the people who support them. 

"You travel from place to place and you meet these new characters, you gain support from them, you learn things from them, they support you, they inspire you," he continues. "You gain these Archetypes that you bring into the game world. It's more focused on those relationships rather than the back-and-forth of romance."

Elaborating further, Hashino explains that the development team starts off making any game by thinking about what "we are trying to achieve" and "what sort of game" the studio wants it to be. In doing so, the developers consider "what systems fit," and ultimately: "You throw out what you think won't work and take what you think will." Clearly, romance just didn't make the cut.

It's worth pointing out that while Metaphor is coming to us from Atlus, it's specifically being developed by Studio Zero and not P-Studio, which has developed all the main Persona games from 3 onwards, so some differences like this can be expected. Hashino has also teased that difficulty-wise, it's "definitely harder than Persona," so we shouldn't head into the JRPG expecting an easy time. Even so, it still looks just as stylish, if not more so than the likes of Persona 5 Royal, with a gorgeous UI that genuinely makes me hyped to look at menus, which is saying something. Thankfully we don't have too long to wait, as it's set to launch on PC, PS5, PS4 and Xbox Series X/S on October 11.

If you're looking for more games to dive into in the meantime, be sure to check out our roundup of the 25 best RPGs.

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.