Yoko Taro’s “Bad Thought Process” (4 of 4)

The creative mind behind the Drag-on Dragoon (Drakengard) and Nier Gestalt/Replicant series breaks down how he came to create the characteristic hit series in this 4-part, semi-regular column.

What “Drakengard 3” means to me

Hello. I’m Yoko Taro. This is the 4th instalment of the “whatever goes” column…… At last we’ve come to the final instalment. This time let me start with a little story from the past.

This was about the time when “Dragon Quest III” was released. As an elementary school student at the time, I reserved a copy of the game from a local toy store, bought it, and played it day, after day, after day.  My friends and I would trade stories of playing the game as we explored new dungeons.

The atmosphere I experienced within games meant much more to me than the reality of everyday life; things like starry skies and the depths of space in “Gradius”, or getting a taste of the absurd in “Takeshi no Chousenjou”, or to fall in love with the half-naked mecha girl in “The Guardian Legend”. Ah, maybe “falling in love” is going a little too far.

Well, anyway, for me games were the “door into a new world”.

That’s why with my first role as a director on the first “Drag-on Dragoon” game (from here on referred to as DOD1), I decided to “design an experience that we haven’t seen before”.

For example, the last boss. Usually there’s always this fantastically huge monster at the end that screams things like “Mwahaha! I will destroy the world!” or upgrades into a second form for the final stage of battle. It was complete fan service.

I was about 30 then, pretty much an adult. It was from that perspective by which I saw these bosses as nothing more than “fan service”. There was nothing powerful or horrible about them. Imagine a little kid picking a fight with a pro wrestler and in the end the wrestler cries, “Ouch! You win! You win!!” This is no different than with so many final bosses, a sort of hospitable way of giving the gamer something that is neither powerful nor horrible. I don’t know what other people think about it but I was completely fed up with it.

So, I wondered what exactly makes up a “horrible” last boss. If all comfort or promises up until now were taken away, what would be left? That was my initial thought for the ending of DOD1.

Then you have enemies that are neither cool nor anything special suddenly appearing. Without any explanation or clear understanding, you are plunged into a fantasy world, its structure destroyed, and all previously achieved skills and knowledge lost.

I used every trick in the book to incorporate such a last boss even though the development team, from the inside-out, was opposed to it. Just like I had been excited by games in the past, it was now my turn to make people excited through giving the player a truly great challenge. A true test of ability is one of pain. True despair is when an adult gets so frustrated that he throws his controller down in contempt. The intensity of such an experience is the very core of “DOD”.

The direction I took with Nier, the following game after the first DOD, was pretty much the same. From my perspective, I saw the world in various games to only grow more and more boring. If you buy a game, how much can you enjoy it? What sort amusement lies within? What bosses and more can you find? All of these questions begin to open up your imagination. Well, maybe you feel the same? Games that you haven’t got a clue what’s going on have steadily decreased. We are drowning in well-made games that give you a sense of security you’ve felt somewhere before while submerged into a new world. That is why I’ve so completely turned my back on the commonplace and have embraced the idea of “becoming strange”.


In the present day and age in which spoilerish videos are released online shortly after the release of a game, what special experience can we offer to those who purchased the game? The result of such thinking leads way to the “Last Reward”. *

With all the strength of good faith, I have strived to create the abnormal. This was my intention when I made my games. <—please notice the past tense.

This time, when I was approached about DOD3, the majority of the game was already decided; there wasn’t much I could do in terms of the game system. Furthermore, my initial plot was rejected early on, so I was forced to resort to a “normal” story.

Although I shook with the excitement to make something new, I was also stricken with despair. This is what it’s like now for someone who first entered the business 20 years ago. If I may speak bluntly, there is no challenge, no inventions of surprise, places like that—

However, I noticed something for the first time. The rule that I set for myself to “always do something different or strange” is what actually bound and confined me like a curse.

When I look about, I’ve begun to realize that people around me must be thinking, “Yoko’s gonna mess something up ‘again’”. I fell into a sort of “repetition sickness” in which I was so overwhelmed, and despite the distaste of such repetition, I ended up doing it anyway.

That’s how I ended up doing “the same, identical thing as the end of DOD1”. It’s not really new or shocking. I get a really dark, cynical sense of disappointment from not being able to do anything.

However, I believe it’s a suitable answer for someone like me who has continually bared my fangs at the world to create these accursed games. I failed to change the world. And so I decided to conclude “DOD3” in a similar manner with the world falling to pieces.

Since it’s a question of “what intention does one create a game,” it has little to do with the player. It’s not something you can easily pick up while playing nor does knowing have any true merit.

Simply, should there be any meaning given to it, I’d like this to be a message to those young folk who make games today.

Although I’ve been making games for over 20 years, in the end I was not able to change the fundamental existence of games. Even still, I believe that games have great potential for what they can accomplish. I believe they can change someone’s life, bring peace to the world, allow you to kill somebody, and show you what happiness can be.

I just want the next-generation of game developers and designers to be more open to new possibilities and to heartily continue unlocking the potential in games.

Okay then, good-bye. Until we meet again.

The original article was published in the February 13, 2014 (No.1313) issue of Famitsu magazine. Illustrations by Yukiko Yokoo.  Translation by Rekka Alexiel.