Get the full transcript below.
The first NieR came out in 2010, and I don’t think anyone expected a sequel. What made you go back to this IP?
Saito: “Yes, I was the producer on the original title that came out five years ago. Yoko-san was also the director on that project. And we have Okabe-san, who was very well accepted for the composition and soundtrack of that game. At the time, we had contacted a company called Cavia for the development of the actual game. The core NieR staff is actually made up of a lot of Dragon Quest staff members who’ve worked with me on previous Dragon Quest titles over the years. It’s basically an action RPG.
How does this connect to the original NieR?
Taro: “In terms of the story, they’re not actually all that connected. The world is shared, but we really went and made this a game you can enjoy without having previously played the original NieR.”
In addition to yourselves, you’ve got the rest of the Platinum team, Keijii Okabe on music, it’s a dream team of talent. How did you pull together that kind of team?
Saito: “Yeah, it’s been about five years since the last game and, based on a lot of the fan feedback we received, we really wanted to make another game in this IP. There were a lot of points we wanted to address where we felt we could’ve done better. Taking all of that feedback and the things we learned from the previous game, we thought the character design was something that we can work on. So we reached out to Akihiko Yoshida, who was famous obviously for Final Fantasy XII and Bravely Default, and we approached him with the thought that he might turn us down. But fortunately, he said, ‘yes, let’s do this,’ so we’ve been blessed to have him on board.”
Speaking of which, I understand you guys brought a video message from some staff who couldn’t be here today.
Saito: “Yes, that’s correct. I was actually manning the camera myself. The footage may not be that great, there may be some shaking, but everything is in there as I filmed it.”
Saito: “It’s pretty good filming, isn’t it?”
Taro: “That was horrible.”
Saito: “It was very tough [to get those developers together like that]. I consider that 90 percent of my job done. I’ll leave the rest to Yoko-san here.”
The NieR series has always had a lot of strong themes and a very deep backstory. Where will this one go in terms of that?
Taro: “For me, I don’t actually give it a whole lot of deep thought when coming up with the themes. There’s not really this deep theme for me personally. If the fans have read into it and attached to a certain theme, or think that there’s a certain theme to it, I think that’s great. But for me, I don’t go into it with anything pre-planned. I don’t give a whole lot of deep thought. It’s sort of on the whim, or in the moment.”
Saito: “He’s shown me the plot for this new game, and he said he wants to make it end with a happy ending. But we’ll see if that actually happens. No matter how you read it, there’s no way it can end happily, if you ask me.”
Yeah, I remember the ending to the last one.
Saito: “Yeah, he thinks that’s a happy ending, too.”
Taro: “It’s usually a happy ending.”
The trailer looks to feature a ruined, lonely world. And you have this female protagonist. Will she have any relation to the series’ previous characters?
Taro: “None at all, no.”
What then, in your mindset, makes this set in the NieR universe? What gives it that feel?
Taro: “There’s nothing really that sticks out to me personally, as far as being really NieR-esque, if you will. But it just is this image that sort of floats into my mind as I’m working.”
How much direction would you say you’re providing on the character designs?
Taro: “Usually, I don’t really give much feedback and direction in terms of character design. But with Yoshida-san joining the project a little later than we normally have character designers join, we already had the setting of the place in mind. So I really asked him to make a sleek design focusing more on blacks for the coloring.”
Is there anything you can give us about the trailer cliffhanger? Words are very powerful within NieR.
Taro: “As far as NieR goes, if people thought the power of words were great and a big part of the game, that’s great, because I wasn’t really planning that. It just came about that way from how the game was made. As far as the text you see at the very end of the trailer, I can’t say anything. It’s still a secret.”
It seems there are a lot of happy coincidences with NieR. It’s amazing the amount of depth that comes out when you don’t try.
Saito: “He probably has an image in his head.”
Taro: “It’s scary to think how serendipity works.”
What is Platinum Games bringing to the game’s combat?
Taro: “As far as the battle system go, Taora-san, who you saw in that little clip, he’s a little young, but he’s also amazingly talented. He works under me, but he makes work that far exceeds any direction I give him. So I’ve been blessed. In terms of the sword action, he’s just amazing with that. So I’m pretty much just leaving it mostly up to him. Most of our staff is very young, but they have a lot respect for the previous NieR. So we’ve been blessed in that regard, as well. One worry that we did have was that it’d become too battle-centric of a system and not be as open to new players. But fortunately, because of their familiarity with the previous game, it’s become speedier, more action-oriented, and I think it’s becoming a great battle system.”
Is the balance between Platinum Games’ action strengths and NieR something you’re overseeing? Or are you just letting them role with it?
Taro: “This was actually something that Saito-san told me: to make it more open to RPG fans. Because a lot of fans of NieR are RPG fans, and if you have a too action-oriented battle system, it just seems impossible for RPG fans to enjoy. So we’ve been really focusing on making it more open to more RPG-focused gamers out there so that they can also enjoy it. That’s our goal.”
The original NieR had a mesh of genres within it. Will the sequel have those kind of curve balls?
Taro: “In terms of the varied gameplay, we do have plans to include some kind of varied gameplay. But we don’t want to do a carbon copy of the previous game because, for one, I think it gets stale if you just copy what you previously did. We have a couple of ideas. Honestly, we’re still debating on whether to incorporate something along the lines of a text adventure part, because I’ve heard that western gamers don’t like text adventures, so I’m curious if western fans would actually enjoy that.”
Taro: “In terms of that balancing act, NieR wasn’t really balanced, it was very mixed. I think it was fine if you can enjoy it. In terms of the text adventure parts, if we get a lot of feedback, that’s something I would definitely consider putting in based on fan comments.”
Saito: “I think Yoko-san just has to make up his mind.”
Taro: “I think I’m just gonna toss a big dice to make up my mind.”
What can we expect from Okabe on the music?
Taro: “Yes, Okabe-san’s music was very well received. When we asked him to work on the game this time, we asked him to keep in mind that we didn’t want just another carbon copy, we didn’t want to do the same thing. We want him to keep challenging himself and create new tracks and a new feel for this world. Regarding that unique language [from the original game], it was actually recorded from a person called Emi Evans. So we want to reach out to her and have her involved again, because it is so unique and it did add so much flavor to it. But one thing we’re worried about is that she’ll say no.”
I do hope that kind of thing will come back.
Saito: “The music and score always gets a lot of high praise, but honestly, it gets a lot more praise than the actual praise itself. And I don’t know how to put it, but it’s sort of frustrating at the same time. As Yoko-san said himself, in English, it’d be, ‘I am jealous.’ I’ve actually asked Okabe-san and Yoko-san here to incorporate some rearranged tracks from the previous ones because we’ve gotten so much positive feedback on it. And I’ve asked them to include several tracks if possible. So I hope all the fans who’ve played the original game will be waiting in anticipation to play this new one.”
Since we were talking about the ending earlier, there was one ending that left the player with a very terrible choice to make. What kind of role will that kind of choice, or player choice in general, play in the game?
Taro: “Something along those lines, maybe. But I don’t want to do the exact same thing, because it wouldn’t be fun or interesting, it’d get stale and old. But in some form or another, something maybe similar to that kind of feature may appear in the game.”
Saito: “The previous game was a very shocking design in terms of a game. There were a lot of features in the game that caught people off guard and it wasn’t something you’d expect from a game, really. Personally, I didn’t think that you can really surpass that, because it was so unique and original. But Yoko-san here I guess has some ideas and plans to surpass the original.”
That’s what people want—to be shocked and taken into a new direction.
Taro: “I don’t want too much anticipation. If you put too much pressure on me, then we won’t be able to meet those goals and everybody’s expectations. So please keep your expectations understandably high. But not too high!”
Is there anything you want to say before we wrap things up?
Taro: “There’s a lot of things I want to talk about, and here’s a couple points. As a lot of you are probably aware, the home console market isn’t as great as it once was, it’s sort of in decline. So to be able to work on a project with staff and a company such as Square Enix and Saito-san who are willing to spend the money—because let’s face it, creating and developing games for home consoles costs a lot of money—it’s not just a challenge that they’re willing to take on, I think they’re borderline crazy for giving us the greenlight on this. Another thing is the fan support. We have great fans, especially for NieR, very vocal fans. Saito-san has a Twitter feed and Facebook, and he receives a lot of comments from those passionate fans. I think we have a lot of support and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve been able to do this. So I just want to say thank you to all those fans.”
I’m sure they appreciate every word of that. No one expected that to come back. But the reactions were all shock and joy.
Taro: “Thank you very much.”
Saito: “I have several points, but the first one, getting back to the NieR fans that Yoko-san talked about. Obviously we have a lot of JRPG fans, but we also have a lot of female gamers who are big fans of NieR and gave us a lot of support. So when we were reaching out and talking to have Platinum Games involved on this project, one concern was whether it’d be too difficult given their action pedigree. Would it be too difficult for those gamers or other gamers to get in the game. But as you saw in the previous video message, we have an understanding in place to have that balance, so even those female gamers, or those who aren’t as familiar or good at action games can still enjoy it. So I want to tell all those people who are a little hesitant to try it out, because they hear Platinum Games and think it’s going to be a completely action-oriented game, we have you in mind and you should be able to enjoy it. So please, don’t be scared.”
I think they’ll be fine. I know a lot of female action gamers that can destroy me.
Saito: “What I want the fans to really understand and look forward to is, you should be able to use amazingly flashy and cool action combat with simple controls. It won’t be that hard to pull off.”
Taro: “And [Platinum Games game designer Takahisa] Taura-san is actually putting in a lot of effort. Because we’re not actually simplifying it to the effect that we’re making it so simple that skilled players won’t have fun. So for the people who aren’t experienced, they can have fun with those simple controls. But for the skilled individuals, they can still get into it. There’s still a lot of need there. There’s a lot of depth to it. So that’s something he’s really focusing on and making into a great battle system.”
Do you have multiple difficulty modes?
Taro: “That’s actually something that we’re debating internally right now—whether we should include difficulty settings. Do you think we should include them?”
I don’t want to make that call. But as you said, there are skilled gamers who might want to play on a higher level of difficulty. But then there are some players who will play on easy, if given the option.
Saito: “I can’t go into too much detail because it hasn’t been finalized yet, but there may be some kind of system in place of difficulty settings.
“I know a lot of people are anticipating this game, but looking at the staff, we have [talented staff list], and they’re all very passion-filled people and extremely talented, so honestly, I might be the most giddy of the development staff. Because thinking of the talent we have on board, I’m just wondering what kind of amazing game we can put out.
“It’s a great thing when you think about it. It’s been five years since we released the original NieR, we’re obviously at the very early stages of development, so there’s a lot of things we still need to plan and finalize, but at the end of the trailer, something along the lines of ‘More information to come in fall of this year’ is there, and I do want to get some things in line to finalize and share some stuff around that time.”
Last request from me. If you do a soundtrack and art books, make sure we get them in the west.
Saito: “Can our staff from Japan hear? We have a request.”