NieR New Project – Famitsu Staff Interview

A couple days ago, Famitsu released the online version of their staff interview with the developers behind the new NieR title. This interview was originally published in Issue No.1385 of Famitsu magazine, released on June 25. These are my notes that I took while reading the article.

Front row (R to L): Yoko Taro, Saito Yosuke Back row (R to L): Okabe Keiichi, Taura Takahisa, Yoshida Akihiko

With the original NieR IP, they wanted to only do “new things”. Since there are still many, many people who never played the game, they had the idea back in March of 2011 to work with NieR producer Takuya Iwasaki (current president of ILCA and ORCA) to port it to the PS Vita. But at the time, ORCA was busy producing Dragon Quest X, so the idea was fell through.

Iwasaki Takuya

There was also the thought of making something with Platinum Games, and since five years have passed since the first game, there was even more reason to make a new edition to the series.

Yoko Taro quotes Yosuke Saito as suggesting to make a new game with current technology, however Nier assistant producer Yokoyama Yuki pointed out that it probably wouldn’t be feasible due to poor sales of the first game. They just left it at “It’d be nice to make a new one sometime!”

Yoko Taro & Saito Yosuke

Simply due to good timing, they were able to involve Platinum Games on a new title on one condition: Yoko Taro must come to their offices in Osaka (Sending Yoko Taro to Osaka was initially Saito’s idea). If he would work seriously on the project in Osaka, then Saito wanted him to work as Director. Yoko Taro was not secretive about taking frequent and often long trips to Osaka, but he never publicly stated that this was for the new NieR title…which it turns out to be the case. He now lives about 3/4 of the time in Osaka. On a side note, he attended the final showing of his YoRHa Ver. 1.1 stage play in Tokyo and then quickly got back on a shinkansen back to Osaka that same night.

Yoko imagined Platinum Games to be filled with the Kansai dialect and the “oraora” style like EXILE, but he was relieved to find the offices to be extremely quiet with many young, gung-ho staff members.


“ora ora-kei” style

On the contrary, he felt very unnecessary as though all he did was check Twitter and then head back to Tokyo. Game designer Takahisa Taura reassured him that he was indeed working even if he felt like he didn’t do much. They would be at a great loss without Yoko at the office.

Taura Takahisa

Saito says that beginning with Taura, much of the Platinum Games staff grew to love NieR, so there were many suggestions for a new game. Since Yoko seemed accept them all, as a producer, Saito was a bit worried, thinking that they were bring up far too many ideas… but in the end, he thought that, in order to create something really amazing, it was necessary to first start with a bunch of brainstorming ideas.

Yoshida Akihiko

While discussing who should take up the character design, Yoko suggested asking Akihiko Yoshida of Bravely Default and Final Fantasy XIV fame to contribute to the project. Yoko had taken a liking to Yoshida’s work for quite some time and thought it would be nice to work with him at some point. It seemed like an unobtainable dream to get him on board, but when Saito suggested they ask him, the others were blown away, thinking how awesome it would be to work with him. Since Yoko and Taura were both big fans of Yoshida’s work, they had nothing to lose by merely asking if Yoshida might be available. So, Yoko met with the president of Cygames, Koichi Watanabe, who said that due to Yoshida’s schedule, it would be difficult for him to participate on the new NieR project, but since Watanabe himself was a huge fan of NieR, he pretty much signed Yoshida over to them without even being present for the decision. Although Yoshida had never played the original NieR game, he feels like it will be a fun challenge to work on. Still, working out the schedule will be part of the challenge. Therefore, they hope to be able to work with Yoshida’s current schedule.

Taura played the original NieR title and remembers how it left him with the feeling that it betrayed many of the expectations of the player—in a good way.

Yoshida thinks that although both the NieR and Drag-on Dragoon (DOD) series are full of taboo topics that permeate the World of Yoko Taro, there seems to be many female fans. He feels a little afraid of their reactions to his designs.

Taura’s first impression of Yoko Taro was that he seemed like a very odd individual who liked to upset the expectations of the player, but during talks about with various elements and parameters in the game, Yoko’s response was the exact opposite of what Taura had imagined. There is no one at Platinum Games like Yoko Taro. They’re able to take his motivation and have fun working on the game together. Still, with so many suggestions on parameters in the game, Yoko wondered if it would really work out, but the young staff at Platinum Games are so positive and can easily move a project forward with such power and skill that, unlike working on his previous games, he feels like there is very little to worry about. Saito also commented that the staff works so quickly to implement new ideas. By choosing staff members who liked the previous game, they were able to gather together an excellent group of people to work on the new title. Yoko commented, “it’s true that even good-looking people can do a good job.” If this is the only comment that makes it to print he would be satisfied.

Saito said that there are many foreign fans who liked the unique world view in the original game, but it’s still very much a niche fanbase. He thinks that involving Platinum Games, Yoshida’s character designs, and Keiichi Okabe’s music, everything should work out. Even if Okabe should refuse to work on the game, Saito would force him to do so (this was a joke).

Okabe Keiichi

At the moment, Okabe has not received a list of themes he needs to create for the game, so he’s only composed the theme that appeared in the PV that was shown at E3. Saito thinks that a great portion of his job was over once the others were able to decide on what elements were lacking in the pervious game. “Yoko-san, good luck! haha” Since the addition of Platinum Games and Yoshida, Yoko thinks that they’ve already “won”. All that’s left to do is merely sleep.

Saito talks about the possibility of clashing personalities between Yoko and Taura and that if things had not progressed well during the pre-production meeting that everything might have fallen apart, leaving them to find another company to develop the game. But since Taura understands Yoko’s good qualities, they’re able to forge an enthusiastic team so this concern has worked itself out. The most emotionally difficult time of the pre-production was sometime last summer through the beginning of the year because nothing about the game could be spoken to the public…nor did they have any assistants (haha). Yoko pipes up and says, “Well, you never know what might happen. Taura could suddenly drop dead and I’ll be stuck working with someone who totally doesn’t get it.” He goes on to say that he has a severe affinity for or against people. Either he gets along well with people or not at all. There’s little middle ground. But since many people at Platinum Games have played the first NieR–they will treat it with respect–and Taura has such a friendly demeanour, they’re able to work well together. “It’s true that even good-looking guys can be friendly.”

The new title will have a secondary title just like the previous titles labeled “Gestalt” and “Replicant”. They haven’t decided on the name yet, but as the story is further fleshed out, they’ll be able to give it an appropriate name.

Since the game is not a direct sequel to the previous game, it makes little sense to call it “NieR 2”. He feels that if they’re going to focus more on battle rather than the typical RPG elements of the first game, then they really shouldn’t call it “2”. The staff working on the game has such great respect for the series that they will make it feel like an actual RPG—in fact, it will probably feel even more like a “NieR” title. They think that those who play and enjoy the new game will also enjoy playing the original.

The new title is connected to the previous NieR, but not in relation to the story. The new game takes place in NieR’s future, so it’s perfectly safe to play NieR after the new one. On the other hand, it may be more confusing for those who have played the first NieR.

It was difficult creating ruins in the first game, so they often created open field and desert landscapes or explored the inside of various buildings. This time around you’ll get a much better sense of “ruin” and the scope of its reality. Koda Kazuma is the young artist who created the image boards. It only took him about 2-3 days to work on a single image. The key visual in which depicts a robot has some connection with the Celestial script that appears at the end of the PV. They’re holding back the meaning at the moment, but they suggested fans to have fun decoding it and wonder what it could mean.

Yoko Taro

Yoko calls girl dressed in black who appears in the PV the “main character”.

Not all characters who appeared in the previous NieR title will return, but some will; however, they will not be playable characters. They will appear mostly just to give the player a little “mune kyun” or “squee” moment. That being said, Emil/No7 will be returning, but… (omit)

Yoshida will be responsible for the main character designs, whereas the sub-characters will be handled by CyDesignation. They’ve asked Yoshida to supervise their work. And, a lot of descriptions for the sub-characters are pretty sparse and make little sense, so Yoko thinks that they’re doing a great job with the art. This time, there aren’t that many characters.

During pre-production, they discussed certain character designs for the girl in black, including the length of her hair and skirt, any items she might be carrying (weapons), and how she might walk. The addition of black crow feathers to her sleeves suggests a sense of death.

In the close-up of the girl’s eye in the PV, it appears as though something—a pattern or letter—is reflected in her eye… What this could possibly be is unexplained since neither Yoko nor Taura thought of it. Yoko suggests that someone else added it in as a sort of “mystery” for people to ponder its meaning. He adds that it could just be a new religious symbol that somebody’s into.

About the “sexy” mole on her face, Yoshida comments that this was originally in the character’s design, but the placement is based off of the one his mother has. Yoshida was asked to made the designs with his own unique design, and he wonders whether he did a good job or not—Yoko comments on how good they are and how often the initial design also turned out to be the final. He sometimes adds little transformative elements that really accentuate the design. Yoshida added these aspects after considering what Yoko likes. Yoko says that it’s very unique.

There are also many Yoshida fans within the ranks of Platinum Games, so every time he’d send over an image, the whole crew would get together to look at it. There was also one picture that shocked many people. “Th-that’s……”

Yoko says that Taura is very particular about panty shots and the size of a character’s breasts. After Yoshida sketched a certain female character, Yoko states that Taura had said, “I’m not working on this game anymore unless you make her less busty.” Taura laughs and says, “Please stop twisting my words.” Apparently, Yoshida attempted to draw characters on the busty side but these sketches were rejected.

There will be many other types of weapons throughout the game, but the girl shown in the PV first begins with a katana. Attack motions will also change depending on each weapon. Since the previous NieR was so popular among women, the new game will mesh action with fun parts so that even women who are not particularly good at action games can still enjoy it. (Girls can also be good at action games… Please do not underestimate us.)

They are shooting for 60fps, but the final point of compromise will be decided as the development stage progresses, comparing between action and things they want to express.

Okabe says that the “Song of the Ancients” track is the perfect theme to represent the series as a whole, which is why he choose it for the new PV. He’s not sure whether or not that particular arrangement will make it into the game or not; to which Yoko said it probably will. He took the time and effort to write it, so it would be a shame not to use it. Okabe continues to say that other tracks from the first game will have new arrangements, too, but nothing specific has been decided yet. Saito says that they’ll have the soundtrack list ready by the beginning of August.

One of the things that made him think Platinum Games is really awesome was when those in charge of the sound went so far as to even create a small movie to demonstrate the sort of sounds they’re able to do using Middleware. Perhaps you can call it the pursuit of the affinity between action and sound. It’s amazing that they’re able to create such great-sounding tones. “To put it simply,” Okabe said, “while Yoko’s subconscious is preoccupied with the good-looking Taura, I can pretty much do what I like. (haha)”

The Weapon Stories were one of the most beloved areas in the DOD series. Yoko explains, “We were at the point where we had enough content for the original NieR, and so we were thinking about cutting them from the game. That was when many voices raged at us, saying things like, ‘Why are there no Weapon Stories!?’ So, we will be bringing Weapon Stories back for the new title. The stories are purely text, so we don’t need to pay for character models or things that move. It’s the sort of content that is kind to the wallet.”

Other staff members also had a hand in writing the Weapon Stories for the DOD series. Anyone who had an interest in writing something could do so and then Yoko would make the final edits; however, Taura refused to affect the world view or story. “He’s too preoccupied with panties and breasts,” Yoko said (teasingly). Taura says that he never refused to write anything. Simply, he has such high praise for DOD and NieR that he doesn’t want to touch it. He just wants to experience “The World of Yoko” like a typical player.

There will be multiple play-throughs, but it will be different from what we’ve seen in the previous NieR.

As far as the rating of the game goes, they want to allow the writers to be able to do what they want within a given limit. Yoko began making the previous NieR with the intention of getting a B or C rating…which inevitably turned into a D. He tried to tone down the violence that was present in the DOD series for NieR, but…CERO found fault with a completely separate issue (Kaine’s genitalia?), which lead to the D rating. “I’m always aiming for an A rating when I make my games, though,” Yoko said. “An A?!” retorted Saito. “The same as Dragon Quest!? There’s nothing in your scripts that would be considered A material. (haha)”

It seems like the next time we’ll hear or see anything new regarding the new NieR title will be later this fall—in time for TGS!? There will be more locations and images available to share with the public then. Currently, the game is about 10% complete.

Yoko Taro

Yoko: For those who enjoy my games, I am never sitting back with ease. I am always shaking—in various meanings—with cautiousness.