When Nier: Automata released in 2017, it was a surprise hit for publisher Square Enix and developer PlatinumGames, selling over 5 million copies. The action / RPG has fascinated players with its engaging storyline, interesting boss battles, and unconventional design. However, in 2010, its predecessor – referred to simply as Deny – paved the way. The original Nier wasn’t the most polished or impressive in gameplay, but it struck a chord and became a cult hit.
People who missed this first entry have a new opportunity to see it at its best. Deny Replicant ver. 1.22474487139, arriving April 23, is a re-release of the original with an array of cool updates. We sat down with series creator Yoko Taro, producer Yosuke Saito, songwriter Keiichi Okabe, and Replicant Development Director Saki Ito to reflect on the game and their approach to bringing it back to a new generation.
Replicant against Gestalt
Replicant against Gestalt
Originally, two versions of Nier were released in Japan: Replicant for PS3 and Gestalt for Xbox 360. This will be the first time in North America to experience Replicant. The difference? In Replicant, you play as an older brother who tries to save his little sister rather than a father in search of a cure for his young daughter.
Yoko Taro (via her Zoom stand-in video, a Kermit the Frog puppet) says it has very little story impact, and it was more of a marketing idea. “Whenever the same title is released on multiple platforms, people tend to compare the technical aspects of it, like framerate and graphics,” he explains. “In order to bring out a complete difference because they’re on different platforms, you might as well use different characters, so that it takes their attention away from the technical aspects and they pay more attention to the most obvious difference of the characters. “
Producer Yosuke Saito confirms that the team struggled with marketing the game, which led to both releases, but he believes the biggest challenge was growing across multiple platforms. “It took a long time, from over a year to a year and a half,” he recalls. “We haven’t seen a lot of development in production, so that’s something that comes to mind. For a year and a half, we [just] had the boss of Hansel and Gretel. And while we were working on this, I heard Mr. Okabe’s voice in this BGM track and kept listening to it. ”
“Other than the vocals, I think it’s a really good song,” adds composer Keiichi Okabe with a laugh.
When we asked Taro how he came up with his ideas for Denying, he said he was giving us a different answer than what he had told other members of the media. “I was actually pretty tired of producing games,” he says. “I was like, ‘This might be the last job I could do in video game media. “And if I was to make this my last title, I wanted to do something pretty normal – classic action / RPG.”
Taro says his mind went to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for inspiration, but when he consulted Saito, Saito turned him down, saying he wanted “something unusual.”
“By making a standard RPG with Square Enix, we have Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy,” says Saito. “So my comments to Mr. Yoko were, ‘Well, I don’t think we can win against something like that. “”
Saito says it gave them the idea to go all-in into the action and focus on that aspect, but it turned out to be more difficult than the team had expected. “So in the pre-production phase, we were talking about making it more action-oriented and less story-driven,” he says. “We wanted it to be more about gameplay… but when we looked at how it played out, I didn’t feel convinced that something that is just pure action would capture the hearts of those in the global marketplace. . That’s why we changed direction from there and went back to a more story-driven RPG ”
Taro also didn’t think the gameplay could hook people up by “just going into a dungeon and killing characters,” so he focused on the narrative to make it stand out. “Thinking about the story, I also wanted to go with something very traditional,” says Taro, who sounded like a Shonen Jump manga like Bleach and Hunter x hunter for inspiration. “These were pretty twisted in themselves,” he says. “I feel like Denying [matched that]. ”
The team also wanted something a little lighter than what fans experienced with the dark and ominous games of Drakengard, of which the Nier series is a spin-off. “I was executive producer on Drakengard, and it was quite a story when it came out,” Saito says. “When we thought about our next episode called Denying, it was like, ‘Okay, maybe we should try something happier. “People might not see the happy aspect of Nier Replicant / Gestalt, but we think it’s a happy title.”
The weight of words
The weight of words
While Nier focused on the power of words and their meanings, Taro had an ulterior motive for the theme. “I’m sorry if this breaks the illusion, but using words doesn’t require a lot of effort and graphic representation. It actually saves on resource allocation. We’ve done our best to created a very engaging game and tried to incorporate the element of words and the weight they carry, but again the start of it all was just trying to save a few pennies.
The cast of Nier included the kind but troubled Emil, angry Kaine, and the selfish book Grimoire Weiss. Kaine and Grimoire Weiss’ jokes became a highlight for fans. Taro says he made a point of having random, insignificant conversations to give players a respite from the chaos of battle. “In an RPG you have a couple of times where you try to take down that particular enemy and you have these really strong emotions like, ‘I hate him. ” [I incorporated banter] as a way to relieve this stress. “
While Nier had an interesting cast, Yoko Taro’s favorite character is not among the main members of the party. “Fyra, the princess of the kingdom of the facade is one of my favorite characters,” he says. Taro thinks the entire part where the player walks into Facade and discovers the kingdom in the desert is one of the most memorable moments in the game. He even played with the cast of Fyra and the King of the Facade as the protagonists. of the story, but as he wrote he realized that they didn’t work best in this role. “I’m sure people will understand what I mean by that when they play the game in this area,” he says.
Replicant Development Director Saki Ito was a fan of the original game and returned to play it before starting work on Replicant ver. 1.22474487139. “The coins really mean a lot to me,” he says. “Some of them were the really tough decisions I had to make. Just being able to get through [the choices] and having that experience of making it my story was something very memorable to me. Without spoiling anything, he says that a particular ending that involves a certain headstrong character remains his favorite.
It’s an unexpected yet fascinating battle that Saito and Okabe love the most, but they find it memorable for very different reasons. Before going any further, we warn that these next two paragraphs contain * spoilers * of the original Deny.
Saito really loves the characters of Devola and Popola, so a big highlight for him was seeing how their roles morph later in the game. “I’m sorry to mess this up somehow; but when you fight them, and Popola was so nice until then and she suddenly goes crazy – that’s my favorite part. “
Okabe agrees that it’s a powerful scene and that he personally invested a lot in making it happen: “It’s actually the same scene for me, but my momentous moment for that scene was with the twins sing and dance to the song and attack you while they dance. I had the song done in advance, so the motion capture was actually synchronized to match the timing of the music; it was part of the film presentation. But the camera was so far away that it really didn’t show the effort that had been put into trying to match everything. The effect was so lost and I was so shocked. I reached out to Yoko-san, telling him, “I don’t think we got the effect we were looking for.” To which he replied, “Oh, well. You won’t know until you do something, haha. “
Create the sound
Create the sound
Nier’s soundtrack is one of the most memorable parts of the experience, but composer Keiichi Okabe had to approach it in an unconventional way. “With the original title 10 years ago – and this is very unusual in the case of game music because most of the time the game will already be built to some extent and then the composer goes into the project. But when I joined the project, they were still in a sort of prototype phase, ”he explains. “I was going in there without really being able to see what was going on and what was going on in the game.”
Okabe says he would compose songs based on the production team just giving them a few adjectives to describe the type of song they were looking for and continuing to develop them based on the comments. “I didn’t have a strong image or vision of what I wanted to do at the very beginning,” he says, “but then I watched the game take shape and widened my imagination based on what I had. seen to build. “
The biggest challenge for Okabe came from a request from Taro. “One of the guidelines provided by Mr. Yoko was to include some sort of voice in every piece of music,” he says. “So we would have these vocal songs where we present Emi Evans, and we would also have a singing choir or choir. Then we also have songs like “Bluebird” where we use the element of voice as a kind of percussion or sound effect. With the recording of vocals, compared to instrumentals, it is a little more difficult because it requires several recording takes. Plus, we had lyrics, even though it was an invented language (aka the language of chaos). The process of developing these parts was just taking time, and not to mention the cost, it’s also a challenge we had to face. “
However, in the end, Okabe believes the extra hardship paid off and is a big part of what made people cling to Nier’s soundtrack and hold it in such high regard. “I think what sets him apart are just the vocal parts and [Emi Evans’] the voice is very memorable. The songs to Nier, because we have voices – and voices so unique – coming in and out of the track, I think that helps to make an impression on the players.
Because all tracks are an integral part of the story and gameplay, Okabe still can’t pick a favorite track. “This is a question I am still puzzled about because the [songs] they all have different roles that they play in the game, and they each have their kind of moment that suits different rooms, ”he says. “I don’t want to specify just one song because it might get people thinking, ‘Oh, this song has special meaning for the game as a whole,’ so I’m afraid I can’t pick just one song. . “
Saito isn’t so shy about announcing a favorite, adding, “I don’t have that worry, so I’ll shamelessly let you know that I loved Devola and Popola, and my favorite song is” Song of the Ancients. ”
Okabe doesn’t hesitate to say that he loves this song too: “Again it serves its purpose and I’m very happy with the way it’s used. I won’t deliberately say it’s my favorite song, but it’s a wonderful song. “
Make the old feel new
Make the old feel new
As Nier’s 10th anniversary approached, Saito said Square Enix wanted to celebrate this milestone, which sparked the idea of releasing an updated version of the game. “On top of that, we were getting out of the cycle of console life that games on PlayStation 3 would no longer be playable, so to speak, ”he said. “[The discussion] It was pretty laid back when we thought about doing an updated version of this game, but when we really jumped into the project, there’s a lot of stuff that we updated and replaced, so that’s become an upgrade.
While having a new edition to commemorate 10 years of cult success seemed like a great idea, not everyone immediately agreed. Taro was on the fence for the entire project, fearing the game would be compared unfairly to Automata. “I was actually against doing a remaster or a version update of [the original Nier] because it’s a very old game, and history will probably feel old if people play it these days, ”he says. “However, working with [developer] Toylogic and seeing how they were able to get the really high quality, I think we were able to create a place where people who have played this game before can come together for a reunion. As for the new players, I don’t know how they will react to this. “
Denying wasn’t very successful on his initial outing, but Saito is confident he will give him another shot at shining. “We were able to glean a lot of knowledge about building a good game [from Automata], “he said.” It’s been 10 years, but we haven’t wasted those 10 years. We think we were able to achieve a pretty good standard in the way we did [Replicant]. Also, we had a few young staff who helped with the Replicant project and they did a good job on it. I feel confident, especially with the success of Automata, and that we were able to incorporate this into the Replicant version update. “
The big changes
The big changes
One of the things the original Ito wanted to improve for Replicant was the action, using Automata as a benchmark and goal. “We have changed some of the action elements,” he confirms. “Some of the most recognizable changes would be the speed of movement, as well as the variation in movement.”
You can now lock onto targets and the team has changed the way enemies move and react to players. “A lot of times I looked at it and thought to myself, ‘I didn’t expect to change so much,’ he said.“ But because the resolution got higher, there were more elements. that stood out that I thought needed some touching up to make it look good on screen. “
Saito was impressed with Ito’s work, especially how his team improved the action and remapped the controls. “Their ideas [for] magic, improved accuracy on the reference element, and how Grimoire Weiss is now available to you as you move around the field… They really wanted to reference Automata and it was really well done. ”
However, Toylogic didn’t stop in combat. Improvements have also been made to environments and character faces, as well as more subtle improvements in character positioning and camera movements. “We also wanted to make Grimoire Weiss more visible to make sure that he is recognized as the protagonist’s pal and that he has that connection to the character,” Ito explains. Additionally, additional dungeons and new story content have also been included.
Fans can also expect to hear some variations of the music. Okabe says he tried to keep in mind how he feels when something he holds dear is remade or updated when he created the new arrangements for Replicant. “Rather than trying to change the feel of the music, I wanted to make sure I didn’t take out the original and make the rearrangements based on what the players would be familiar with,” he says.
When deciding how to approach the rearrangements, a commentary from Yoko Taro on the original Nier stuck with him about the songs being shorter. “I strengthened and extended them in the game while still retaining the good elements of the original,” Okabe says. “I still added a new element, perhaps incorporating it in a different area of the same field to provide a refreshing feel. Hope people enjoy this kind of novelty, but it still feels familiar to them.
Over a decade later, people who haven’t played Deny can finally see what made her so special and how the series managed to live on after its original studio, Cavia, closed. “We hope that people [play] and recognize, “This is how it all began; that’s what it is, ”Ito says. “We updated it so that people can now play it very comfortably and very easily while still having the nostalgic feeling that it was a game that existed in the past.”
To learn more about Nier Replicant, you can check out our recent hands-on overview here.
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