During AniManGaki 2019, THE MAGIC RAIN had the chance to interview two of the most highly-esteemed game developers from Japan, Yoko Taro and Takahisa Taura.
Yoko Taro is one of the most recognizable developers as of late, with the release of the highly regarded Nier: Automata last year as well as his eccentric trait of always appearing in public wearing a mask of Emil, one of the bosses from Nier: Automata, and a prominent character from the first NieR game.
Takahisa Taura is the director of Astral Chain, a recently launched action-adventure game developed by PlatinumGames. The game has received rave reviews since it released, and is currently available for purchase on the Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: Answers may be edited for clarity of reading and comprehension.
TMR: Earlier on Yoko Taro already mentioned the game that made him a gamer was Nemesis. I would like to know Taura-san’s first game, the one which he first played and the one which made him a gamer.
Takahisa Taura (TT): So this was back in the time when SQUARE ENIX was still SquareSoft and Enix, when Enix had published a PlayStation game called Valkyrie Profile. When I played it for the first time, I was really blown away and thought seriously that I would like to make a game like this.
TMR: Just now during the AniManGaki 2019 panel, both of you mentioned that one of your idols is Sakurai-san, creator of Super Smash Bros. I am pretty sure both of you have played Super Smash Bros and I would like to ask: What are your favourite characters in Smash?
Yoko Taro (YT): I have never really played Smash Bros all that much except on the occasion when my friends played with me. If I were to have the game right in front of me, I would pick Link because I love The Legend of Zelda very much. The Switch version (of Link) would be that character. All of the original games which originated from, I like each and every one of them so it was quite fun for me.
TMR: I know that Yoko Taro has drawn a lot of inspiration from adventure games. Beside adventure games, what other games or anime that you are currently consuming that you find to be great?
YT: First of all, I don’t consume anime or manga. I kind of feel that I am aging. But in regards to that, a movie that had an impression of late is The Imitation Game. It is a drama about this inventor, Alan Turing, who conjured this computer. The story itself is remarkably crafted so I am quite taken aback by it.
TT: As of late, it has to be God of War for PS4. Because in this installment, there has been quite a jump up in terms of all sorts of things, the mechanics and all that and the sensation of throwing the axe and bringing back the axe is really good.
TMR: When you are designing a game, at any point of time, do you design any factors first? Meaning do you decide the story then fit the gameplay or build the gameplay then fit the story?
YT: There are a lot details here and there, but generally, we build both at the same time – both the plot and the gameplay. Such an example is the case of Nier: Automata, I would be doing the scenario, the plot, the story, as we build that up, the team at Titan Games especially Taura-san would build around that and begin designing the game. It really depends on the situation.
TMR: Recently, there are many many games revolving around e-Sports. Like Fortnite, League of Legends and so on. This is a question for both of you: Will you be creating a game for e-Sports?
TT: It is really fun for me to rave and hype around this game and enjoying it as a whole, as a unified team. I really liked seeing that movement.
YT: My way of living is if I get money for it then I will do it. So if someone came up to me with money and told me to make an e-Sports game, then yes I will do it. But, I am not really attuned to making such a game because it is not my specialty. But as long as there are orders from the higher ups and money, I will do it.
TMR: For Taura-san, earlier on you said that you drew inspiration from Ganmu and Battle Angel Alita for Astral Chain. Did you also draw any inspiration from Psycho Pass and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?
TT: Ganmu is the original manga and the movie Battle Angel Alita is an adaptation of Ganmu. It is just renamed differently. Yes, you can sort of say I have taken inspiration from JoJo, especially with the Stands and everything. It came naturally to me. I also love Psycho Pass.
TMR: We mention this because one of the legions literally has DIO’s (from JoJo) Zawarldo’s Stand coloring scheme and his power is to stop time as well.
TT: It really is just a coincidence.
TMR: For YT, Emil has always been around you. You always wear Emil’s mask and also brought in Emil from NieR. Will Emil get an arc or a game in the future?
YT: Well, my creed is as follows. If I am given money for it, I will do it. If I don’t get money for it, I won’t think of anything concerning Emil. It’s just really there per se. But if someone comes up to me with money and tells me to make something for Emil, I will.
TMR: What do you think about games which are developed with great gameplay and great story, but end up being marketed poorly?
I would draw comparisons with Star Wars Battlefront 2. Because they designed a great game, but the marketing for the game fell short and it is regarded as a failure. What is your take on that?
TT: I think that it might have a lot to do nowadays with the fact that there are a lot of free-to-play games, especially gacha games and loot box games. So maybe because of that, many people are hooked onto their free games and they don’t really touch paid games so much. So perhaps that poor marketing has to do with that.
YT: First and foremost, such things have to be left to the marketing team and people like me act as the director, game developer of the whole project. So naturally we will do their best to fill the content and make a good game. But what happens after completing and pushing it out the door has nothing to do with us. So I can’t really say how can it be marketed better or not because everything is pushed to the marketing team. But if I were to know any sort of marketing tactics then I will definitely use it. If it will boost my sales a lot then why not.
The marketing team and I will share the same sentiment as in “We will rather make something that someone will enjoy rather than something that will sell.”
TMR: Earlier on, Taura-san was saying that “they have an ego battle on checking on whose game does better.” (They go online during the panel.) But currently under Metacritic’s ranking, Nier: Automata is 88 and Astral Chain is also 88. What is their opinion on this ranking?
TT: Well but in the end, the Metacritic score for Astral Chain lowered to 86. So in the end, I’ve lost to Yoko-san. From now on, I’m gonna bring out the big guns and raise Astral Chain up. I will write stuff like, “Everyone please buy a copy. Thank you very much.”
With that, we’d like to thank Yoko Taro and Takahisa Taura for the interview! We wish them all the best in their future endeavours and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the future.