—What did you think about everyone’s reaction to the new “NieR” announcement at E3 2015?
Yoko: There were a lot of people talking about “NieR” on Twitter from within Japan after the announcement, and I felt like the reaction we got from overseas was from a specific nitch of fans, but after the announcement, many foreign fans were saying how much they loved; I was really shocked. I couldn’t have imagined how much people were going crazy over the news.
Saito: It’s really surprising, huh? Like, where were they all hiding…? (haha)
Yoko: No matter how loud they scream, in the end I sort of doubted whether or not we could actually sell it… (haha)
—At this year’s Paris Games Week, you announced the new title “NieR: Automata” but, did you come upon this title very easily?
Saito: No, it was hardly an easy task. Yoko-san was the first to propose the title “Android” but we had a problem with trademarks with that.
Yoko: There’s no possible way to fight Google with something like this. Just before the E3 2015 announcement we got together to try and think what we should do about the title, but inevitably couldn’t come to a decision, so we had to go with the tentative title “NieR New Project”.
Saito: Since we said more information would be available in Autumn, we felt like we could come to a decision on the title by then. Out of more than 20 possible titles, we finally decided on “Automata”. That was in September.
—So you came to that title pretty quickly!
Saito: That’s right.
—Thus far, there hasn’s been any major announcements made within Japan. The announcement at Paris Games Week makes the 2nd main announcement for this title. Is there any reason why we haven’t received a announcement in Japan?
Saito: We expected that by Autumn we’d have some decent video to represent various areas within the game to show off the quality we were going for; we simply didn’t make it for this year’s Tokyo Game Show. However, it looked like we might make it for the Paris Game Show, so by the time of E3 we decided to shoot for the next announcement at Paris Games Week. Even so, we were really pressed to keep that schedule. The video you saw there was put together only two weeks previous. We were pretty much doing it “on the fly”.
Yoko: We were really on the edge of the edge.
Saito: But, check out that action by Platinum Games! I’m really glad we were able to show off that much at the announcement.
—Even within such constraints, how were you still able make such a dramatic video…… Before the new trailer aired, they played a video between Producer Saito Yosuke and Director Yoko Taro in Osaka.
Yoko: We felt like something was missing for the newest announcement, so we recorded a little something with Saito-san.
Saito: Yeah, actually the day we shot that, I hadn’t slept at all… and I never thought I’d have a beer that soon after a nap. (haha)
—It’s okay to just pretend, you know… (haha)
Yoko: I can’t really see anything around me when I have the mask on, but it turns out that that was the same day they recorded some motion capture videos. Once they finished shooting, they turned to the other staff and asked “How ya doin’?” I didn’t know if it was okay whether or not I could see, but with the camera rolling, they gave me the thumbs up. Now that I think about it, though, the director probably shouldn’t have gotten involved in something he didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on… (haha)
* In a devastated world torn by the continued war between humans and aliens
—Could you tell us a little about the world?
Yoko: In the distant future, aliens suddenly invade the planet, and before the overwhelming force of their “Living Machines”, the remaining humans fled to the Moon. In order to take back the planet, the humans created a new version of androids called “YoRHa” to deploy on the surface of the Earth. 2B belongs to this “YoRHa” squadron.
Saito: Basically, both humans and aliens are using tools to conduct their wars; the humans with the androids and the aliens with the machines. The Player takes the role from the Android side. The setting feels a lot like Science Fiction but, I think if you have a look at the image boards, you’ll get a sense of realism that’s different from conventional SF.
Yoko: I think many people like Fantasy RPGs among the fans of the previous game and Square Enix, so we were careful not to go all-out SF on you.
—Taking a look at the image boards, it seems like quite some time has passed since the aliens took over the planet with the aid of their Living Machines, is that so?
Yoko: Yes, some hundred years have passed since then.
—What might lie at the end of this battle…….?
Saito: A happy ending.
Yoko: A……happy ending.
—Somehow I want to believe you…… (haha)
Saito: I don’t think many people look forward to Yoko-san’s so-called “happy endings”…
—Whether it’s androids or robots, it really seems like there will be a lot of emotional moments in this story.
Yoko: There will be a happy ending this time. I swear, I’m not joshin’ you! Don’t worry! I keep telling people this, but nobody believes me…
Even those not that skilled at action games will be able to make some awesome moves!
—This time, Platinum Games has released some new footage of action scenes.
Saito: We didn’t want the video to look so difficult, so we focused more on the “coolness” of the action. 2B looks so cool when she’s dodging the magic bullets, but it’s really hard to get that footage.
Yoko: No, I don’t think it’s that hard.
Saito: Oh, really? I was thinking about demonstrating how even those who aren’t that great at action games can still pull off these cool moves.
Yoko: I think there’s this image that Platinum Games sets the hurdle pretty high with their action games, but the whole team wants you to know that anyone who wants to enjoy playing the game will be able to, so they’ll continue on adjusting the action.
Saito: This is a Platinum Games game, so I believe they’ll make a really interesting game. I just asked them to be careful not to make it too difficult. That’s an area that can be fine tuned a little bit here and there, so once the game starts taking more shape I want them to check the timing.
—We get yet another impression of the game between the various screenshots and trailers that we’ve seen. We could even see the small details of movements.
Saito: As far as Yoko-san is concerned, I think he’s already given them the OK, but Platinum Games really takes the action seriously, so they’ll continue to think about it thoroughly until development is over. They’re really particular about how nicely it feels to cancel out of actions.
Yoko: Game Designer Taura-san is in charge of the action for this title, but he and the rest of the motion team seem to get along quite harmoniously, so I just sit off in the shadows, enviously watching them work.
—As far as the action goes, is there anything that you, Yoko-san, asked them to do or change?
Yoko: I’ve asked them to do a couple things a certain way when there was a purpose for it, but that only comprises about 1% of the time. I don’t think that I should touch the action portion of the game. Even within the talks with the development team and the action group, I try not to follow them very closely. I often end up saying, “Oh, I didn’t know you added that!” whenever they show me what they’ve worked on.
Saito: There’s a very acute sense of ease to merely let them take care of this on their own. This new addition to the “NieR” franchise is still in its infancy, but there are many different game genres added into it. If there’s something he wants to have a certain way, I think Yoko-san will work hard to make it happen.
—In the most recent trailer, we saw a little bit more of this “Pod” character. It appears as though it has a long-range attack, and 2B is even able to grab ahold of it, jump off, and attack enemies. What exactly is this “Pod”?
Yoko: In battle, it’s able to attack enemies in the distance with its long-range attacks and/or bullets. Therefore, it’s set up in such a way so the player can devote herself to cutting and slashing at enemies close-range.
Saito: The Pod doesn’t have the ability to fly 2B everywhere, but it can carry her to higher areas and let her drop down with great speed. She can grab a hold of Pod to traverse some distance.
—Can the Pod speak?
Yoko: It’s not much of a chatterbox, but it will speak. It’ll sound a lot like a car navigation system.
—Will we be able to upgrade or customize the Pod?
Yoko: I don’t know what will become of it in the end, but the idea to make it customizable has been put out there.
—Speaking of which, will 2B be customizable at all, like with changeable parts or anything?
Yoko: If Square Enix is interested, we could offer a couple other outfits.
Saito: Again, we don’t really know what will become of these ideas, but the skirt will be removable.
Yoko: Depending on damage received, her skirt will slowly be removed.
Saito: Don’t worry, she’s still wearing a white leotard underneath.
Yoko: This is the first time this has come up in interviews, but really… what’s it really matter? (haha)
—No, no—it’s important information to a certain group of maniacs!
Publicity Director: It is still being planned. Nothing has been decided yet, so please take it with a grain of salt.
—I understand. It appears as though there are multiple times of the Living Machines, but do they have more than one face?
Yoko: No, but each machine could have its face in different places. We’ll be able to release more information about them later, but this is a large-type enemy robot.
—Oh, I thought this might have been a mid-boss.
Saito: It’s a pretty strong enemy.
Yoko: We weren’t really thinking about separating these enemies from the bosses.
Saito: There are many other interesting enemies, some much bigger than this and some that can even fly.
—Is fighting a gigantic boss enemy one of the aspects of the game?
Saito: You will fight some pretty massive enemies.
Yoko: Since battles with large enemies have a tendency to become dull, we really need to think about the balance.
—The battle effects are also really beautiful. It feels like particle dust or something.
Yoko: In the video this time, I wanted it to look as good as possible, so if it’s something temporary, production specifications are pretty mixed and varied while various things are adjusted. In terms of how colors and the background blend together, we didn’t want it to be exactly like other games Platinum Games made in the past. Instead, we really wanted it to have the same look and feel of the previous “NieR” title. Even if I say something looks pretty good, they’ll tell me, “No, it’s not quite like “NieR”!” Even I began to wonder, “Huh? What exactly “NieR” should feel like?” (haha) I hear a lot of foreign media asking things like out of all the games Platinum Games, which game will this be similar to, but I don’t think it’s very similar to any of them, plus Taura-san and his team are working really hard to bring out the classic “NieR” feeling. If I may be blunt, I think they’ve made the image of the previous “NieR” much better.
—It seems like matching “NieR” with Platinum Games is the best possible match ever, huh?
Saito: I’m really glad that there were more staff members who had respect for the previous “NieR” than I thought. It’s very clear how much even Taura-san loves the series.
Yoko: But he won’t say what about “NieR” he likes. (haha) Taura-san was the one who picked out the scenes to showcase in the trailer. I think he was able to show aspects of the game that fans wanted to see the most. If you watch the video over a couple times, you’ll start to notice so many small details that they put into it, so please watch it more than once.
Saito: Yeah, like the slight twist motion she does when jumping to evade attacks. They’ve added many awesome, fine details like that.
—Coincidentally, Hideki Kamiya is working on “Scalebound” for Platinum Games. Do you ever have a chance to speak with him about the games you’re both making?
Yoko: Not yet, but I would like to somehow get his official endorsement so I can say, “I got advice from Kamiya-san!”
—Could you tell us anything about the new song that appears in the recent trailer?
Saito: The first time I heard it, I felt like, “Man, even though it’s a new theme, the BGM feels really nostalgic.” I thought “NieR” fans would be extremely happy to hear it.
Yoko: I was a little worried how busy Okabe-san was since it took him some time to finish the theme, but in the end, I’m glad he was able to come up with a theme that fits so well with the battle scene. It feels a little bit different from the themes in the previous “NieR”, but I’m glad it seems to be as popular.
—And according to everything we’ve discussed here, it seems like things are progressing well with the development.
Yoko: Out of all the things I’ve worked on, this is by far the smoothest. Simply, there are many things involved that it’s difficult to know what will happen or how things will turn out in the end.
Saito: That’s right, we’re just getting started. Relying on the youth and “let’s do it all!” attitude of the development team, it makes us old fogeys feel really excited. (haha) I think Yoko-san also has the stance like “If it can be done, let’s do it all.” I just pray we don’t fail.
Yoko: Even if we fail at something, I think even that is like “NieR”. Something like making you go, “What!? You’re gonna end it here!?” Our journey has only just begun— I don’t think such a “NieR” is all that bad.
Saito: (forced laugh)
—It’s still a long ways off before we can play things game, but the where do you think we’ll hear another announcement?
Saito: We’re thinking that we’d like to release something more by spring. We had announcements at E3 in America, and this last time at PGW in Europe, so we’re thinking it’d be nice to do something in Japan next time. The only thing is there really aren’t any gaming events around that time, so we’re still thinking what we should do.
Yoko: Spring…… If Taura-san says we can release something more in 6 months then we’ll do it.