Gamescom 2016 was a pretty interesting gaming convention for all of us. We’ve sat down with many gaming industry veterans, took pictures with a WWE superstar, and talked about some of the upcoming indie and AAA games. In the middle of all that, we had a chance to sit down with Yosuke Saito, the producer on Nier Automata and the famous Keiichi Okabe, returning composer for the next Nier title.
EmuGLX: In the previous Nier title, designers tried to make the main character more likable for the western public. Because of that, in Japan, there were two versions of the game, respectively named Nier Gestalt and Nier Replicant. In those versions, there were slight differences in the main character, in Gestalt, or western release, there was an older Nier, a father of Yonah, while Replicant – the Asian/Japanese release has Nier – the brother of Yonah. Story background was a bit different, but everything else was the same. Are there any differences between Nier Automata for Asian and western releases or it is exactly the same?
Yosuke Saito: Since we wanted to focus on one story, we’re actually going to have one version for the entire world. And since we had a lot of requests and feedback from the western audience, we’re going to include Japanese voices in the western release as well, and we’re really looking forward to that.
EmuGlx: In addition to my previous question, since you tried to make the Nier character look more “western”, what made you go back to the Japanese look of the main protagonist in this game?
Yosuke Saito: Well, the designer for this title is Akihiko Yoshida, and the titles that he’s best known for are probably Final Fantasy XII and XIV, so we’ve decided to have him on board this time because he’s accepted worldwide and, of course, widely known in Japan. Yoshida-san has experience in the worldwide appeal of designing characters and he’s well known for that. He knows how to create characters that have no restriction and no cultural boundaries, and because of that, we haven’t thought of designing special characters for different audiences, we just wanted to focus on one design for all gamers this time around.
Is there going to be some kind of a base, a hub part of the world where we can rest, fix our things, heal and do other activities?
Yosuke Saito: In the last couple of videos, including those from E3 and now on Gamescom, the habitat/place you saw earlier will be your main base. Aside from this one, you will have another similar location further into the game.
EmuGLX: Are you going to include some mini-games, like you did with the famous fishing in the previous title? I loved that mini-game, even though some of the players couldn’t stand it.
Yosuke Saito: (laughs) Yes, we have some! But it might not be like the fishing that you remember from the previous one. These two characters are androids and they don’t really eat fish (laughs).
EmuGlx: The first game focused more on the story than on gameplay. The story was highly emotional, dealing with tragedy, suffering and a struggle for survival, with some really powerful scenes and moments. Can we expect something similar in this game? Since Platinum is working on this title, does that mean that you’ll put more focus into fighting instead of story-telling?
Yosuke Saito: Today, we indeed showcased battle mechanics and features, but it will be much closer to the previous one than you think. It is an action RPG but there will be 30% action and 70% RPG in the game. So it does have the same kind of feel like the previous Nier title.
EmuGlx: Can you tell us something about the multiple endings and post-game activities?
Yosuke Saito: It’s a little bit different from the previous title, but we do have multiple endings this time as well. However, if you’re wondering if you can unlock other endings with your previous save file, or if you need to delete it and start all over again, that’s still a secret.
EmuGLX: How big is the world compared to the previous Nier title?
Yosuke Saito: It’s much bigger that the previous title, and there’s seamless loading between areas. Since we started with our development, we’ve talked with everyone and mentioned that our game will be 25 hours long with most activities, and everyone said: “No, no, wait, you probably need to make it bigger. Players must play longer than that”. So it is bigger and longer than the previous title.
EmuGLX: Can you tell us something about returning characters or is that still a secret?
Yosuke Saito: We’ll actually reveal all characters at Tokyo Game Show in September, so please look forward to that.
EmuGLX: How many different weapons, weapon combinations, and combos can you use?
Yosuke Saito: There are, I believe, five different categories, with each one having more than ten weapons. That’s a pretty big amount of weapons that you can use throughout the game. And as for combos, it’s a bit difficult to describe. You will be able to unleash combos depending on what kind of weapons you use, so there will be a lot. I think I couldn’t even say how much myself. Also, all of these weapons will have their own stories.
EmuGLX: Is there going to be any crafting in the game?
Yosuke Saito: You will be able to upgrade your weapons with the items you collect by killing your enemies, and you’ll also be able to upgrade or change abilities of your characters as well, depending on who is using those items you collected from the enemies.
EmuGLX: Nier is somehow (according to one ending) a sequel to the first Drakengard game. There, you had a mission that took place on a base “above the Earth”, and the story in Nier Automata is about aliens invading Earth, and people needing to migrate to the Moon, so they can survive. Can we expect some quests that take place outside Earth, some of them, maybe, on the Moon?
Yosuke Saito: I’m not sure if you’re going to be able to go to the Moon, but there will be some exciting and interesting areas you could go to. More info about that will be available in the coming weeks as well!
EmuGLX: Nier was one of the most underrated game in the last generation of consoles. It was great in so many aspects, but again it wasn’t for everyone. It was the definition of a niche game. People loved it or hated it, but still, it made a mark in people’s hearts in the last couple of years. No one thought that Nier will have a sequel, and, since it’s announced, fans and communities had some pretty big expectations of your game. Do you feel any pressure while working on the sequel? You know, you have a lot of people watching you and they’re expecting a pretty awesome game.
Yosuke Saito: So, all staff members from Platinum Games are really big fans of the previous titles, and they are pretty good at their job, creating action games. However, they don’t have much experience in creating action RPGs and they know that the fans expect a great game, so I’m sure that they understood all that and that they did feel pressured. But what’s great about that is, when our director Yoko Taro asks them to do something, they are able to do exactly that. So, I really do trust my team, and I’m very happy that they are able to create something as great as Nier Automata.
Today, we have showcased just a single battle sequence of this game, but the director is Yoko Taro and there sure are a lot of crazy little games inside this title, so please look forward to that!
EmuGLX: Nier was a multiplatform title, found both on PS3 and Xbox 360, but you announced this just for PS4, and two days ago, for PC as well. Why is that, and why not release this on Xbox One too?
Yosuke Saito: We have no plans for Xbox One at all (laughs)! But I am very happy that everyone from Europe did really appreciate our announcement for Nier Automata coming to Steam. And we just wanted to mention that Platinum Games are the ones working on the PC port. We just couldn’t trust anyone else with porting this title to PC. We really want it to be a good experience for PC players too, so please, rest assured about the PC port.
EmuGLX: What does the first Nier title mean to Platinum Games, and to you specifically?
Yosuke Saito: I don’t think that Nier Automata is an AAA title, and I don’t expect it to be, but I do believe that, if you like it, you really like it. There are a lot of people out there who feel the same. I’m not sure if it’s the same case in other countries, but at least in Japan, the definition of games that people like is really different. There are many, many games that have a core audience, like a cult, or a following and this title is one of those that people can dig deeper and deeper into, and fall in love over and over again. The Nier series is one of the most beloved in Japan.
The Japanese media actually conducted a survey not too long ago, asking their readers which the game on the Playstation platform was most memorable to them, and Nier was one of those titles. It was not Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy XIII.
EmuGLX: This one will be concerning your composer, Okabe-san. The previous Nier game had some pretty emotional music following the gameplay. There were only two or three upbeat songs, mostly in fighting scenes, but even those were “slower” than in most action RPGs. Are you going to use the same recipe for Nier Automata – are there going to be emotional songs, or do you want to change the pace with the music in this title? As we all know, the music in the first game brought a special note to everything that was happening throughout the story, and everything was spot-on, from beginning to end. It was a huge part of the game and made it much more immersive.
Keiichi Okabe: In general, music will, once again, follow that feeling we’ve created in the previous title, and it’s a pretty important part of the game. In other projects I’ve worked on, the music would change depending on the situation, location, movement of the characters, but in Nier, it’s more about emotion. So, when you go into a battle sequence in other games, the music would change, but in Nier, it doesn’t work that way. You really need to think about the emotion of the main character. If that character is sad in that moment, the music will follow their emotions, it will have a melancholic tone. But this time, Platinum Games is working on the title, and everything has a bigger scale, battles, and environments, everything looks more beautiful and lifelike, and thus, I tried to implement that bigger scale into my music while keeping that emotional aspect of Nier.
EmuGLX: In the last title, Emi Evans, the lead singer for almost all the songs on the Nier Soundtrack, had an artistic freedom to explore and sing her songs in totally made up languages. She came up with an idea on how would most used languages sound after drifting for 1000 years, without the written knowledge of them, just transferring verbally from person to person. Are you going to do something similar with this game, and include songs in languages that don’t exist?
Keiichi Okabe: All music will be done in an additional Nier language this time as well. We already have announced that Emi Evans is back. That first song you’ve heard is the only one that will be in English. Every other song will be performed by her in a fictional language. So, if you liked her voice, you can look forward to the game, as there will be more of her in this title.
EmuGLX: One general question for Osake-san, the composer. Japan is famous for organizing concerts for their popular games – The Legend of Zelda being a good example. There were a couple Nier concerts, the last one being in the beginning of 2016. Do you have any plans for bringing those concerts outside of Japan, maybe Europe?
Keiichi Okabe: We would love to! But, if we do have a concert in Europe, in which country would you like to have it in?
EmuGLX: Well, Germany is totally fine, since it has an ideal geographical position. People from all of Europe could come and enjoy Nier music like that, and of course, the beautiful voice of Emi Evans.
Yosuke Saito: Yes, that is a good idea! Maybe on the next Gamescom.
EmuGLX: About the lore of the game. The first Nier had such a deep lore around it, beautiful main and side stories. Every weapon with its own history, each character had a detailed past, relationships etc. Because of that, you made the Nier Grimoire, but unfortunately, only in Japanese. Are you planning to do something similar with this title, releasing Nier Automata Grimoire or some kind of a lore book? We all really believe that there are beautiful stories behind every tiny detail in the game.
Yosuke Saito: The lore book that we released in Japan was very popular, so, if publisher asks us, we might do something like that with this title as well, for sure.
EmuGLX: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure talking to you about this beautiful game of yours!