The developers of the NieR series discuss the latest games in the series, NieR Re[in]carnation and NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… in the 3/4 2021 issue of Weekly Famitsu, touching on aspects of development of previous games such as NieR: Automata as well.
Participating in the Re[in]carnation part of the interview were producer Saito Yosuke, creative director Yoko Taro, director Matsukawa Daichi, Matsuo Yuki and Ohara Takashi from the writing team, and creative producer Takagi Masafumi.
Part 1 of this interview is available here:
In this part, the interview continues to discuss smartphone game NieR Re[in]carnation, which was launched in Japan on 18th February 2021.
Matsuo says that while the game has the NieR title, they tried not to be affected too much by previous games when planning the story. What they prioritized the most was the experience, and how it would affect players’ emotions. Ohara adds that the story brings out the individuality of the writers as well. Each character in the game has a specific writer assigned to them, and he thinks that each of the writers brings their own “NieR-ness” to their script. Yoko supervises as well, meaning that he acts as a guarantee to the NieR-ness.
Yoko says that for the past few years, he has been instructing the writing team to focus on making the story easy to understand: For example, when something foreshadowed early on happens much later, writers tend to operate on the assumption that all of the readers remember that foreshadowing, without considering that there might be some who do not. He thus constantly reminded them to “understand that people might not understand”.
Ohara says that amongst Yoko’s advice, one thing that stood out to him in particular was the term “emotional core”, which Yoko defined as what is born from thinking about what sort of emotions the readers get through the experience. Matsuo also heard about the emotional core when the team was first formed but did not initially understand, but he says that he started to figure it out as they started to actually make the game.
Yoko says that while there are techniques used in scriptwriting to make things more interesting, words are not all there is to an experience: The characters’ expressions, the background music, the experience of purchasing things in a shop, and even how much a player spends on the gacha all combine to form an experience, and he believes that they need to see things from a wider point of view when thinking. He thus has the writing team involved in things other than writing because he wants them to be able to design experiences this way.
The interviewer points out the sheer volume of weapon stories in the game, and Yoko says that the writing team initially complained that there were too many weapons. This resulted in him getting angry at them, saying that they needed to be able to write things like this easily, and he got them to train for it by giving them 30 minutes to write a story every morning.
The graphics are discussed next, with the interviewer noting that muted colors is part of NieR’s identity, and that Re[in]carnation follows in that vein. Matsukawa says that while the game was designed with this in mind, they did manage to get Yoko to agree that the gacha screen at least should be colorful.
When asked about aspects of Yoko’s directing in graphic design that left an impression, Takagi brings up the phrase “designs that you display in a toilet”. Yoko elaborates, saying that while smartphone games tend to have things like overly fancy banners, he wanted a more refined feel with lower saturation. At the same time, however, there is information that absolutely has to be conveyed, and so there was a limit to designing things the way he liked. As such, he said that even if they could not have designs that he would want display in a bedroom, they should at least have designs that could be displayed in a toilet.
The design team being involved in the new “Re[in] Lab” team is brought up. Takagi says that they have yet to officially form it, but it will be a designer team involved in planning and promoting Re[in]carnation merchandise. As the game has heavy emphasis on its worldview, they want to approach designing merchandise in the same way as they do with the game itself.
Yoko says that with Automata, merchandise projects were supervised by him and Platinum Games’ Taura Takahisa, which was hard work, and so he is glad that the Re[in] Lab team will be taking over. He hopes that they will come up with new ideas infinitely, but also points out that this will be pointless if Re[in]carnation’s launch is a failure.
Re[in]carnation’s collaboration with Automata is discussed next. While the Automata characters appearing in Re[in]carnation (2B, 9S, and A2) have new illustrations by their original designer, Yoshida Akihiko, other designs in Re[in]carnation are being handled in-house.
When asked about how the Automata collaboration event looks different from the picture book style used elsewhere in Re[in]carnation, Matsukawa says that event quests and subcontent in the game use a kamishibai paper play style to them. As for the timing of the event, he says that rather than have players wait thinking that an Automata crossover would happen eventually, it would be better to have it right away, resulting it being launched alongside the release of the game.
To conclude the Re[in]carnation part of the interview, the group is asked for anything that they would like to say about the game.
Takagi says that the game is designed to contain many hidden worlds, such as in the weapon stories, and he thinks that players will be able to enjoy it as if it were a treasure hunt, looking for connections. He also says that the Re[in] Lab team will be designing not just cute merchandise, but also things to have fans theorize about, and hopes they look forward to them.
Matsukawa says that they put a lot of effort into the game, and hopes that players enjoy it. Additionally, they are planning on doing things so that players do not get bored of the game that is not just adding new content, and he hopes that more people will give it a try.
Yoko points out how he has been constantly saying that he is not sure if the game will sell, and that this is also part of how video games are fleeting products of their times. He thinks that of all the games he has worked on, Re[in]carnation is the one that seems like it may be the most fleeting, but it is also a beautiful thing, and so he hopes that NieR players and anyone else who might be interested will at least take a look, and experience its world.
Finally, Saito says that judging from the number of pre-release registrations, Re[in]carnation will be the first NieR game for many players, and they did make the game easy to get into as an entry title for the series. But Yoko was fully involved in supervising the game, and the young staff did their best and fulfilled his requests. resulting in a game that is still fully Yoko-esque, which existing NieR fans should enjoy.
Part 3 of this article is available here: