Last year, Square Enix surprised the world with a special announcement at E3 – a little-known game called NieR would be getting a sequel. The original 2010 release failed to live up to critical and sales expectations alike, spelling doom for the now cult classic RPG. For as much love as it received in smaller circles, many fans believed a sequel nigh impossible.
That is, until now. Square Enix revealed a surprise partnership with Platinum Games who are bringing their action game specialties to the plate. Married with Taro Yoko’s world building and story-telling it’s bound to be a treat.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Yosuke Saito, NieR series producer as well as storied composer Keiichi Okabe, known for his work on the original NieR and Tekken franchise. During the interview we discuss the world of NieR: Automata, teaming up with Platinum Games and some of the concepts behind the unexpected sequel.
Nova Crystallis: Can you tell us more about the central aspect of “agaki” (struggle against odds) and how it is reflected by the game’s story, setting and gameplay?
Yosuke Saito: The way you would interpret the story may vary from person to person. It’s not an agaki per se, it’s more a fight between humans and aliens. Both sides and the mechanical or android lifeforms all have their own motives to fight for.
Nova Crystallis: The eyes of 2B and S9 are covered by a military visor for most of the times as far as I know. It seems a bit irritating because the eyes are quite important for the personality of a character. What was the reason behind this idea and will there be moments when we can see their eyes?
Yosuke Saito: It is true that the characters wear the goggles in the game. It’s how they experience the battlefield and how they analyze and get their information.
As for the story we have a certain reason why you don’t see their eyes. It’s something we won’t spoil right now and it’s something you have to discover for your own while playing the game.
Whether you will be able to see their eyes or not will be a secret.
Nova Crystallis: Does NieR: Automata feature an open world or do you have several levels or hubs, which follow each other?
Yosuke Saito: It’s one large region, a real open world. There may be hub-like areas in the game but it is one large world you can discover. While we use the debug tool right now to change levels, there will be a seamless experience in the final game with regions all connected with each other.
Nova Crystallis: Can you travel to any place in the game world right from the beginning and is access maybe limited because of very tough enemies? Or will it be accessible during the course of the story?
Yosuke Saito: You will be able to travel to more areas with each progress in the story.
Nova Crystallis: The art style and graphics are really pretty. What kind of graphics engine do you use for this game?
Yosuke Saito: It’s a unique graphics engine Platinum Games has designed just for this game. For the original game lighting effects were very important, so the team at Platinum Games worked really hard to recreate this for NieR: Automata.
Nova Crystallis: How many different weapons do you plan for the game?
Yosuke Saito: Oh, there will be many of them, maybe 40 or 50. Right now we can’t mention the exact amount.
Nova Crystallis: Since we have two main characters experiencing the story together and since it’s an action game I wondered if you considered including a multiplayer mode.
Yosuke Saito: There is no real direct multiplayer or co-op mode, but we are thinking about a certain connection between players. We can’t get into details right now, but there will be some connectivity.
Nova Crystallis: Originally the first game was going to include Weapon Stories, an element from Drakengard. Is this feature still on the list for NieR: Automata?
Yosuke Saito: The Weapon Stories were not a part of the previous NieR and many players were angry about it (laughs) so we’re trying to add them to this title now.
Nova Crystallis: Mr. Okabe, can you tell us more about your vision for the NieR: Automata soundtrack and your inspirations?
Keiichi Okabe: Since fans loved the soundtrack of the prevous NieR I of course wanted to create something for the new game that they would like. On the other hand, I didn’t want to create exactly the same.
You got a certain impression from the music of the previous game, when you listened to it for the first time. This time I also wanted to add a surprising element to the soundtrack.
For the new game all titles have vocals associated with them. The previous vocalist Emi Evans will be on board again for NieR: Automata, but we also added a second vocalist called J’Nique Nicole to the soundtrack, as well. With her help we will even increase the breadth of expressiveness.
Nova Crystallis: In which areas do you want to improve compared to the original NieR?
Yosuke Saito: I said this several times and on different occasions: We don’t want to betray our fans. What the fans liked about the previous game was the story-line and Mr. Okabe’s music and we definitely wanted to keep it in there. Then there are the different game genres, which were combined in the previous game and created a great mashup.
One of the huge improvements is Platinum Games, a renowned developer that we are working with. Thus, the quality of the game has improved tremendously compared to the previous game.
Nova Crystallis: The previous game had two versions: One for the Japanese and one for the Western regions. This time you only have one version of the game for all territories. Are there elements you specifically added to appeal to a certain region or fanbase?
Yosuke Saito: We don’t think about many differences between the Japanese and Western regions. We initially created the first game for a more Japanese audience, but after release it was accepted worldwide.
We did not think about regional differences, but of course there are certain requests from the fans. For example, many people asked us to include the Japanese voices in the Western release of NieR: Automata and we are working really hard to make it happen.
NieR: Automata is due out early 2017 for PlayStation 4 and PC. For more on the game including our own off-screen demo and limited hands-on impressions, check out our Gamescom coverage here.