◼︎ Let’s take another look at NieR Replicant since it’s been released on Playstation Now.
Saito: Sorry for the sudden inconvenience, but Yoko is running a little late…
Saito: But, we can start without him. (haha) You can add in his comments after the fact wherever you like. (haha) Or maybe just put them in bold.
ーAlright. (haha) So…… Now that the previous game is available through Playstation Now, may I ask your thoughts on it as you look back at it once more?
Saito: I’ve heard here and there that there are some people who’ve heard the soundtrack from the first game but never actually played it, so with NieR:Automata in the works, this is a great opportunity for them to try it out. It’s absolutely not necessary to play Replicant in order to play Automata—we’ve made sure of that—but still we’d love for more people to give it a try. It will only be available for a limited rental period at a reduced price, though. Even still, we’d love to get more people to experience it. I think there may have been many people who stopped playing after the A Ending, but if you hang in a little longer, the story gets much fuller from the B Ending on, so I really hope you try it out!
ーYou say many people have heard the soundtrack even though they’ve never played the game. It must be pretty special then, the soundtrack.
Okabe: Thank you very much. Actually, as we were gearing up for the NieR concert, I realized how much of the music I’ve actually forgotten over time. (haha) Sometimes I’ve been asked how I came to compose the music, but… The game came out 6 years ago, and I wrote the majority of it well before that—maybe 7 years or more ago? So, I honestly can’t remember what I was feeling when I wrote the score. (haha) I tried to refresh my memory by listening to the soundtrack again, but as I listen, I don’t know if I’m actually remembering anything or just experiencing the music as if it were brand new… That’s sort of what I’m going through as I write the music for Automata.
ーI think you had many tracks feature an imaginary language, too.
Okabe: The lyrics were based on today’s common languages, but since the game takes place far into the future, Emi thought about how they might change through the course of time. For example, if she wanted to emphasize a sense of statelessness, she used Latin as the base language, or if she wanted to express the feeling of the ephemeral, she used French. She thought the sound of the words were more important than the actual meaning.
Saito: There are no songs that use real languages, right?
Okabe: Yes, the only one is the Ending theme, which is in English.
ーWas there any particular reason why that’s the only one?
Okabe: Speaking with Yoko, we wanted players to first imagine what the songs were about, and when they finally reach the end and hear the English lyrics they might get a sort of “ah-ha!” moment.
ーAh, so that’s what you were aiming for. Mr. Yoshida, looking at the previous NieR from the outside, what did you think of it?
Yoshida: I thought that it seemed like I could do whatever I wanted. I rarely ever get that chance. I thought I was pretty free with “Vagrant Story” as well, but it’s relatively difficult these days for artists to have a little more control, wouldn’t you say? I think there are very few titles that let me design characters as I like. I’m very envious.
ーWhat do you think, Mr. Taura?
Saito: I think it was about the same time we released Bayonetta when two other huge titles were released*; I sort of viewed them as rivals. (haha) Looking back now, I think the music and story was great. I feel like “man, they really fit everything in there,” since they managed to include so many different genres. Now that I’m working with Yoko, he’s always saying, “At any rate, make it strange.” I’m sure this put a lot of stress on the planner.
* Possibly a reference to Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest IX.
Taura: Yes, I also question if this is alright… (haha) On the development side, we’re expected to make something different, so it’s not difficult to keep working on this.
Saito: I think Platinum Games is more than capable of making something out Yoko’s reckless behavior. Even if there’s something that makes you think “Is this really okay!?” during development; however, once they get their hands on it, the next time you see it—it will blow you away. This way, even Yoko can continue getting carried away. (haha) This time around, Yoko’s desire to create something better than the original is quite impressive. Welcome to the wide-open World of Yoko Taro.
Yoko: Sorry I’m late.
ーAh! Thank you for coming! We sort of began already…
Saito: We were just talking about what a stupendous creator you are.
Yoko: Somehow, I really doubt that. (haha) Oh, are you going to take photos as we talk?
ーJust the beginning portion.
Yoko: Okay, hold on a second… Let me get ready. (shuffle, shuffle…… takes out “that” mask) Okay, ready.
ーThank you very much for bringing your mask. (haha) I’d like to ask your opinion of NieR Replicant now that it’s available on Playstation Now.
Yoko: ……Did you ask something?
Saito: You can’t hear with that thing on. (haha)
Yoko: I remember all the horrible things that happened because of it the most.
ーThat’s the first thing you think of? (haha)
Saito: It wasn’t that bad. (haha)
Yoko: The development phase was pretty rough.
Saito: Oh, that’s what you meant.
Yoko: We had a tough time putting the Library together. It took a long time putting everything together, especially around the half-way point, but by the end, things finally started to line up. No one really had any clue what the overall picture of the game was trying to express.
ーWow, so it must have been pretty shaky until the very end.
Yoko: Yes, but as the director, I had to get the approval from Square Enix or else we’d have nothing. I worked as hard as I could to deceive them.
Saito: Little by little, he showed us what he came up with, but once all the elements were set, he went in and “fixed” many things by rearranging the order of events.
Yoko: Yes, I fixed quite a lot of the content because I didn’t think it was very interesting. At that time, the English localization was progressing quite rapidly… and they had to edit a huge portion of the script once I had changed things. I think the gorgeous director of the localization team was ticked. I remember kneeling down at their feet at the end. (haha) That is my #1 memory of NieR.
ーYou had that hard of a time? How did things turn out in the end, then?
Yoko: Once it was finished, I never wanted to see it again. You see, once we say it’s complete, I can’t ever go back and change anything… So, if I ever looked at it, I would want to change something. That’s why I didn’t want to see it for a good half-year or so, no matter what. A half-year later, I was able to look at it from the outside and actually watched the opening movie for the first time. Even Okabe’s music—I didn’t listen to the soundtrack for at least a year after it was released.
ーBecause it brings back those tough memories?
Yoko: I simply get tired of it. (haha) Once the game was released, I listened the heck out of the soundtrack, so much that I got sick of it again.
Okabe: Even during the end phase of the game he was like, “I’m tired of this. (haha)
◼︎ Will there be another NieR gathering?
ーEven though you talk about how difficult it was working on the first game, you’ve still managed to grasp the hearts of many fans—so much that getting tickets to the recent music concert and talk live proved to be rather difficult for people.
Yoko: The last live event we hosted was only for about 200 people, and I thought that was a decent size. This time, we had over 900, so I thought… “That’s over 4 times as many as before! There’s no way there can be more than 200 fans out there!” …But I was wrong. I’m very sorry—It’s all my fault.
Yoshida: You weren’t trying to drive up the demand by limiting the supply, right? (haha)
Yoko: No. (haha) I think it’s because, up until now, we’ve hardly done anything for fans. We essentially starved them into wanting more. Therefore, if we allow ourselves to be carried along with this trend, we might really shake things up if—let’s say perhaps 6 months from now—we put on similar event for another 900 people…
Saito: I don’t think 900 will be enough.
Yoko: 2000! This time, Taura is going to lead the demo portion of the talk, but if we’re able to get 2000 people together for the next event, I want Taura to strip half-naked and have him do another demo with a shiny, oiled-down body. This will absolutely happen.
Publicist Director: We can easily get 2000 people.
Taura: I have no idea why it’s come to this, but if you get 2000 people to come, then I’ll do it. (forcing a smile)
ーWill we also get to see an actual demonstration of the gameplay?
Taura: Yes. The action very typical to what you’d expect in a NieR game. We also want convey the particular atmosphere that’s in a Yoko Taro game, like the use of light, or how you’re blinded by it and have difficulty seeing. We hope to show you something new that you’ve never experienced in a game before.
Yoko: Regarding the new footage, we’re going to show a couple event scenes that I think will leave quite an impression.
Saito: Even though the video clip is relatively short, you will get a deeper understanding of what sort of character this is.
ーIs there anything else to take notice?
Yoko: The theme song that Okabe wrote for NieR:Automata will be revealed at the concert.
ーThere’s already a theme song?!
Yoko: I didn’t think people would mind if we showed a song that no one’s ever heard before, so to prepare a little bit in advance, I asked a huge favor to have it uploaded to the official site. I thought it would be a nice treat for those who can come or maybe watch on NicoNico.
ーWho is the vocalist?
Okabe: J’Nique Nicole, a foreign vocalist who lives here in Japan. She goes by the name “Nikki”.
ーSpeaking of which, Okabe, will you be performing live?
Okabe: No! I politely decline. (haha) I will certainly take part in the talk portion of the show, but I will enjoy the performances along with everyone else. With that in mind, I wanted to prepare everything as diligently as possible, then I could sit back and enjoy the show. We’re really busy right now, though, but I hope everyone can look forward to a great show.
ーAnd it seems like you’ve made a lot of merchandise, too!
Saito: Yes, that’s right. There really hasn’t been anything in terms of merchandise before now, so it was my vision to sell official merchandise at the concert. We discussed ideas with Iwasaki-san, the concert producer, about what items people might want, and he said, “Well, things like this sold well at other idol concerts like Dempa-gumi.inc.”
Yoko: Looking at the business model for Dempa-gumi.inc, I think it’s a little excessive… (haha)
Saito: We can’t necessarily do everything we want, but I’m very please with how much we were able to accomplish.
Yoko: If I saw things like stickers and pins, I’d think, “I don’t need that.” But then Iwasaki-san looked at me with a sour face and said, “No, these things sell like crazy.” So, thinking we might as well make something nice out of it, I played hooky from working on game data, and worked forever on retouching stuff for merchandise instead.
Yoshida: Huh? You worked on the merchandise? (haha)
Yoko: Well, if there wasn’t enough color around the edge of the pins, you can see the white of the boarder, so I touched it up in Photoshop.
ーWere you able to make enough of each item?
Saito: We really had no idea how well things would sell at the concert. Even those who don’t have a ticket can purchase items, plus we’ll have mail order sales later. If there’s any surplus of items, Yoko-san and I will ride around on a bike with a cart to sell the rest. (haha) At any rate, I hope this will be a good starting point from which we can do more in the future.
— 齊藤陽介 Yosuke Saito (@SaitoYosuke_Z) April 22, 2016
— 齊藤陽介 Yosuke Saito (@SaitoYosuke_Z) April 22, 2016
ーWe’ve also covered some international events, but NieR seems to be quite popular among international fans, too. Have you thought about possibly having another concert overseas?
Saito: Last year when we officially revealed NieR:Automata, I was thoroughly shocked how many gamers and the media alike responded in an unexpected tone with things like, “I’ve been waiting for this!” It makes me wonder where these fans have been hiding all along. Of course, there are those who have been patiently waiting for this. It’s been years since the last game, so when we announced the new game in such a surprising way—and for fans to respond so positively—I don’t think it could have gone any better.
Yoko: I think it kinda stinks that our publicist only invited media that already had some interest in this, though. Platinum Games is also pretty effective.
Saito: That’s very true. In actuality, we’ve received many requests to host concerts overseas. But, we need to focus on finishing and releasing the game right now, so it’s difficult to decide those things right now. If the game sells well overseas and both Okabe and Yoko have free time, then it would be nice to hold a similar event overseas.
Okabe: Sound producers rarely have the chance to go overseas on business, so if that is at all possible, I would very much like to go.
ーOn a world tour?
Okabe: A world tour! Just that word alone gets me excited.
Yoko: Speaking of going overseas, so many recordings are done in London, but I don’t really understand why that is. Why London?
Okabe: Ah, there’s also Warsaw.
Yoshida: Does the sound change depending on the location?
Okabe: Surprisingly, recording in Japan gets costly extremely fast. I heard that it is possible to enlist a large-scale orchestra oversees, but if you to record many pieces, and if you include the cost of transportation there and back from Japan, you’re not saving all that much as compared to recording in Japan. But just because of the language barrier, it’s rather difficult to give musical directions.
ーWill there be a DVD or Blu-ray release of the concert?
Saito: That will really depend on the fans. We recorded it so that it could be possible, though.
ーSince you’ve recently held the concert, I’d like to take another glance at the music. Do you have a favorite track from NieR?
ーUm, we’re finished taking photos, so you can take off the mask now. (haha)
Yoko: Okay. Not only is it hard to hear with this thing on, I can’t even see… Plus it’s really hot.
Saito: Won’t you suffocate in that thing? Maybe you should connect a hose or something so you can breathe? (haha)
Yoko: I don’t want to! Somebody might hook me up to helium instead.
ーThat would be awesome! (haha)
Yoko: Alright, what were we talking about? Oh, right. A song I like…… I wonder…… I like them all the same, even though I get tired of them quickly. Strangely enough, though, the track I listened to the least was the ending theme. Other songs like the boss battles needed to be adjusted here and there, so we had to listen to them to do the editing; but this wasn’t necessary with the ending. I didn’t really understand the gist of that song, even though it made Okabe make the biggest, smug face…all proud of himself. (haha)
Okabe: I remember that well. (haha) I felt like “So this is what happens when you work hard!” when a song received a lot of attention, but then I thought, “More importantly than that…” Time slipped by and none of that mattered any more.
Yoko: At the time I thought it sounded like a song from the Western world.
Okabe: I think the ending received the response it did because of the amount of string instruments involved and how much money it cost to produce……
Yoko: I am a total amateur when it comes to music, so I remember making Okabe shrink in horror when I said that I couldn’t tell the difference between live performers or an electronic synthesizer…
Okabe: Yes, yes. You would often say, “More importantly” and then keep playing back the piece! I was entirely shocked by that. There couldn’t be more of a difference between real and electronic instruments. (haha) And Yoko was his usual self by not directly complementing anything with things like, “This is a great song like <other song>”.
ーThat’s rather twisted, huh. You guys must really get along well.
Yoko: But seriously, Automata’s had very few retakes, right?
ーHave you made a song list then?
Okabe: Yes, we’ve made a list, but we’re still in the process of composition.
◼︎ Regarding the design of the two new characters, 9S and A2
ーFirst of all, lets start with the design for the two new androids, 9S and A2.
Yoko: We actually placed an order for the three of them at the same time, requesting that they all should wear black and that two of them should be wearing blindfolds.
Yoshida: Their clothes are all black and at least two of them wear these “goggles” that resemble blindfolds… It was a little difficult to work on the details for this particular design.
Saito: Because “character” is mostly expressed through the eyes, right?
Yoshida: As an artist, I would rather you take a look at the characters without these “goggles” first. (haha)
ーWill there be scenes in the game where the characters remove these goggles?
Yoko: No, not many, anyway. Sometimes when they run into trouble, they will remove them, but that’s about it.
ーWhat sort of purpose will the goggles play?
Yoko: They have the ability to help them see and further process that visual data.
ーIs it similar to night-vision?
Yoko: Yes, it’s very similar, but when 2B or 9S put them on, what they see will resemble old Nintendo graphics. Actually, this is something that I haven’t talked to Saito or our publicist before yet, so I’m sure they’re thinking, “What the heck is this guys saying?” (haha) Platinum Games actually came up with a way to display Nintendo-like graphics that I instantly fell in love with, so I really wanted to fit it into the game somewhere. With that being said, I don’t know if this will actually appear in Automata. At any rate, even if your robotic characters receive damage, it will be possible to repair them, which will become an important point. There will be many instances in which you can assimilate various mechanical interfaces.
ー According to the new photos that we’ve seen, it seems like 9S is usually always with 2B.
Yoko: That’s right. He follows 2B around a lot. His AI is rather warlike in which he will rush ahead of the player to become a boy who annihilates anything in his way. (haha) For example, in a certain town, you can enjoy a nice conversation with the enemy, but once 9S enters the stage, he slaughters everything in sight so essentially nothing can be done. (haha)
Taura: Of course, we’re overseeing that. (haha)
ー Is 9S a playable character?
Taura: Yes, you can play as him.
ー What are some of the battle features for each
Taura: 2B is quick and looks very cool in battle; and even if the moves get a little difficult, any player with any background will be able to use her easily. But on the other hand, playing as 9S will be slightly different, so you can get a new sense of gameplay through him.
ーWill 9S also have his own Pod like 2B?
ー2B and 9S usually have two swords floating just off of their backs. Do they always have two weapons?
Taura: They’re able to use just one, or none even; in which case, they’d fight with their bare hands.
ーIs it possible to use two swords at once?
Taura: It depends on skill, but yes, it is possible to wield two swords.
ーWhen the very first announcement was released at E3, was that 9S in the image board illustration?
Saito: That’s right. I believe he appears at the very beginning of that video.
ーI see. What about A2?
Yoshida: Both 2B and A2 have a mole on the same place because their frame is based on the same design. I was told to make her look more like a typical android, but actually the only cloth material she wears is the apron looking thing that covers her stomach. The rest is an external plating that’s flaking off, exposing the layer underneath.
ーHuh!? So…then the black part of her design is the exposed area after the paint or whatever peels off?
Yoshida: That’s right. At first glance, the black appears more like her clothing and stockings are torn, but that’s just an optical illusion. It’s actually what it looks like when her artificial skin starts coming off.
Yoko: I doubt you would have realized it without this knowledge, right? That’s what’s really interesting about the design.
ーThen if the only cloth she wears is the bit over her stomach, then… that must mean… the area over her ch-chest has also peeled off?
Yoshida: Yes, that’s correct.
ーSpeaking of which, may I ask something? Mr. Taura, you seem to like characters with smaller features, but…
Taura: The model is more on the smaller end, but it’s not because I told them that’s what I wanted. Rather, Matsudaira, a modeler at Platinum Games, merely made them a bit smaller than Yoshida’s design. (haha)
Yoshida: He did? (haha)
Taura: We’ll work on fixing up her model to make her silhouette exceptionally beautiful.
Yoshida: You’re right; I suppose it’s slowly becoming the typical silhouette that I like. (haha)
Taura: I tried to challenge my own awkwardness with larger figured characters, but……
Yoko: He rejected it altogether.
Yoshida: But I think she has the shape that I usually like now, so it’s okay. (haha)
ーWhat is A2’s relation with 2B and 9S?
Yoko: That’s secret.
ーWill she be a playable character?
Yoko: Huh!? Did you say something?
ー…You’re not wearing the mask any more, so I know you can hear just fine. (haha)
Yoko: That is also a secret.
ーIs there a reason why the three androids have white hair?
Yoko: It’s just coincidence. There are other androids with different colored hair.
Saito: There will be plenty of oddballs. (haha)
ーThese three androids belong to the YoRHa squadron. Is there any deeper meaning to this name?
Yoko: No, not really.
ーIn Roman letters, the R and H are capitalized. Is there any specific reason for this? Actually, the R in NieR is also capitalized. Perhaps there’s some meaning behind this?
Yoko: For NieR, it was just a design choice regarding the logo. I thought it felt a little light, which is why we decided to capitalize it. As for the YoRHa logo… that’s secret.
ーThe voice actors for the characters have finally been revealed.
Yoko: Yes, we received a list of candidates and chose them by the quality of their voices. Ishikawa, the voice for 2B, was the first to be decided. Then A2 was next. I thought it would be nice if she had a sort of “older sister” tone to her voice, and she was she was so spot on, we decided on Suwa pretty quickly. When I met her at the recording studio for the first time, though, she seemed anything but the older sister type—she was very cute. But, after hearing her speak, it was amazing how perfectly she fit the character. For 9S, I thought it would be great to find someone with a voice somewhere between the boy and young man versions of Nier (Replicant), but it was really slow going to find someone with that sort of voice. That’s when Saito suggested, “Hanae is good for the role, don’t you think?” That’s how we decided on him.
◼︎ Do you think the feeling of NieR is showing itself, and how is the development progressing?
ーHas the atmosphere in these photos changed?
Saito: In the last month or two, it’s gotten to feel a lot more like NieR, as far as the graphics go. The atmosphere, I guess you could call it.
Yoko: I think it may look a little different since a gradation map was applied to the colors. In the last video, we were only able to show off a single location, but hopefully at the next event we’re able to show more than one location. Maybe that will give you a different impression of the game then.
Yoshida: There’s little glitter, huh? Using a high-tech machine, we can create a very rich image with reverse film—that’s why it’s used so much. But instead of that, NieR:Automata generally uses something like negative film, which gives it a kind of gentle feel. I think it lets you see small details very clearly.
Yoko: When I visited Platinum Games, I told them to avoid anything spectacular. (For example, when light contacts with an object, depending on the viewpoint and the angle of the object, the reflection of the light source itself can be highlighted.) After all, nothing shines in a world of dust.
Taura: There will be splashes of light here and there, though.
ーThe music is a major aspect for a NieR title, but at this point, everything has yet to be completed, right?
Okabe: I’m often running into difficulties. Regarding composing the music for the new game, I thought about what the “sound of NieR” was, and as I investigated this some more, I think I’ve discovered the “sound” for Automata. Although I often felt like “Oh, this is good!” and was more confident when I was composing for NieR, but now I think working on the balance is really hard. Honestly speaking, I felt like there wasn’t much expectation from the first game, so I was free to do whatever I wanted with the balance. I thought I understood what the “sound of NieR” was at the time. But now, seven years later, my feeling has changed, plus this is an entirely different product from before. We’re adding new elements into the music while throwing in some parts that those who played Gestalt/Replicant would be excited to hear, etc. Through all of this, I felt like I’ve come to see that “this is it”.
ーThe previous game had a lot of themes that actually had lyrics… Will Automata be the same in this regard?
Okabe: Yoko told me that he wanted lyrics in ALL of the tracks. I had every intention of doing so, but since there were multiple variations of the same theme, we discussed how difficult it would be to keep the lyrics for some themes. Since we went through that instance last time, Yoko’s pressuring me like “You better put lyrics in everything this time.” So, now that’s the most important thing: writing music with accompanying lyrics…
ーWhy are you so particular about having words to all of the tracks?
Yoko: Because that’s what I want. (haha) What’s good is it having 90% of the soundtrack with lyrics and the other 10% without?
ーOkay, you’re saying you need lyrics in everything. (haha) What do you think about the tracks that have been completed thus far?
Yoko: For NieR:Automata, we have Yoshida doing the character designs, Platinum Games doing the development; It feels like the amount of information for this game has well surpassed that of the first. Then to add to everything else, Okabe’s sound has really expanded since that time.
Okabe: You may be overwhelmed with sound.
Yoko: I think we’ve been able to do away with much of the cutting corners we had to do before.
Okabe: The first one was… intentional. Intentional. (haha)
◼︎ The next announcement will be at E3
ーWill the next announcement take place at E3?
Saito: Yes. I’d like to showcase a new trailer and announce a preliminary release date as well.
Okabe: We’re still in the process of getting a feel for where the music is going. The next step will be the real thing. It’s taking quite a long time, but with every intention of not generating careless things, we’re working very hard to meet the expectation of fans. Please hang in there, everybody. We really appreciate your support.
Yoshida: My job is pretty well finished. (haha)
Saito: There’s still other illustrations left to do, you know. (haha)
Yoshida: Oh. (haha) I’ve already made some rough sketch for those. I haven’t been told the specific details yet, so I’m in the process of revising some parts that need to be changed. The CG designs of the characters look cooler than my drawings, so please check those out first (haha). I will continue to draw, to the best of my ability, to beat the CG designs. I’m a bit worried, though.
Taura: From this point on, we’re right at the climax…… or maybe just after? I really want to show various situations of gameplay at the talk event. We’re working really hard on this project, so I hope everyone will look forward to our next announcement.
Yoko: All the young staff at Platinum Games are working ’round the clock on NieR:Automata, so it would be wonderful if you could give them a shout-out. Taura took this photo of the development studio… (shows it to the Famitsu staff)
ーWow, this is really cool! So this is how you’re making NieR:Automata, huh? I’m excited to visit your office!
Saito: There are still several characters worthy to note, but we can only show so much of NieR:Automata‘s work right now. The development will be entering the main climax portion of the story soon, so we’ll be able to show you more in time. I think if the development staff has the support of the fans, they’ll be better equipped to do their best. By all means, please continue to support us with the ranking, too!