Crashing onto the scene again in 2017, NieR: Automata was a breakthrough moment for Yoko Taro. Although the director is best known for his Drakengard series – including the original NieR on PS3 and Xbox 360 – and his extraordinary interviews, Automata is the game that truly put him and his team on the main map.
Five years later, the game came to the Switch in the form of NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition, an absolutely gorgeous port of a true modern classic. But Why now and not a year ago, two years, three years ago? Why is 2022 a good time for Switch owners to jump into Automata, and what tech magic did Virtuos’ dream team have to pull to play Square Enix and PlatinumGames’ Action-RPG on the Switch?
We spoke to Taro, along with producer Yosuke Saito, composer Keiichi Okabe, and Virtuos’ Chi Qiang to celebrate the success of NieR: Automata, and lamented the lack of 2B at Super Smash Bros. Find out what makes this game so popular. It turns out that not even the team really knows …
Nintendo Life: It’s been more than five years since NieR: Automata was first released. Why do you think the game has resonated with so many over the years?
Yoko Taro, director and screenwriter: You may not believe this to everyone, but the real reason NieR: Automata is so successful is… FULL OPPORTUNITY!!
Yusuke Saito, Producer: It could be the intriguing, mysterious world of Mr. Yoko, or Yoshida Akihiko’s charismatic 2B and 9S characters, Mr. Okabe’s weird melodies, or the great action game sensation of the artisans at Platinum Games.
The real reason why NieR: Automata is so successful is… FULL OPPORTUNITY!!
But I think the biggest reason was probably how Automata combined all these different elements together to get the recognition.
Keiichi Okabe, composer: I think it’s possible that the things that Mr. YOKO envisioned and PlatinumGames’ ability to perceive and balance those things came together well.
After that, it was probably the strength of my music. (Laugh)
Taro-san, you asked Saito-san to port the Switch for NieR: Automata during E3 2018. How do you feel now that it’s finally paying off after four years?
Yoko: I’m very disappointed that we couldn’t make it in time to Smash Bros…
This marks the series’ debut on a Nintendo console, so what prompted you to finally make the switch to the Switch?
Saito: This came from wanting to do something to celebrate our fifth anniversary and from seeing the Astral Chain and thinking that we might be able to bring Automata to the Nintendo Switch as well. I think we were able to finish the game with great levels of fidelity, so I’d love to see everyone playing it!
Virtuos has a very strong track record with Switch ports, how did you find working with them to bring the game to the console?
Looks like there’s nowhere in the gaming industry left for me to live anymore
Saito: I think they’re a great company, and they’ve taken on many tough challenges on our behalf, so I’d love to work with them again if we get the chance!
Given Automata’s fast-paced RPG combat, was it difficult to keep all the different on-screen visuals for the Switch port?
Shi Qiang, Art Studio Director of Virtuos: In fact, it was very difficult in some places. This is why we have been so meticulous in our preparations.
The team started by quickly locating all the hotspots, then developed an omnidirectional feature tracker to improve them. For the engine and code, we made a comprehensive optimization on the CPU, GPU, and shaders. We’ve also made an extensive improvement to the art as well, including all models, lighting, special effects, stamps, and assets.
Once the general optimization process was complete, we ran instant checks for functionality in complex scenes. For example, in the boss fight scenes, we’ve further improved the level of detail for the boss models, textures, and lighting, including large-scale visual effects rebuilds to match the switch’s technical capabilities.
After bringing Voice of Cards to the Switch, did the success of the series influence your decision to bring the game to console?
Saito: Personally, I’d be more than happy to see it reversed, as Switch players play Automata and experience the world of YOKO Taro through it, then continue playing Voice of Cards!
Has the success of NieR: Automata changed the way you approach game development?
Yoko: We had a much more efficient staff on this, so there was little to do. I mean, I feel like there’s nowhere in the game industry left for me to live anymore.
If there is one valid reason “You have to run Automata on Switch because of XXX”, please tell Square Enix’s marketing team?
For newcomers to Automata, why should they choose the Switch version of the game?
Yoko: If there is one valid reason “You have to run Automata on Switch because of XXX”, please tell Square Enix’s marketing team? I think they would be happy to know that. They might even buy you a beer. Later…
Saito: I will answer this as a player, not as a producer. With the captivating characters and worlds created by YOKO Taro, Okabe Keiichi’s beautiful music and Yoshida Akihiko’s superior character design, as well as being made by PlatinumGames, one of the best action game developers in the world, is there really any reason not to play his game?
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Thank you to Yoko Taro, Yosuke Sait, Keiichi Okabe and Shi Quiang for taking the time to talk to us about NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition. You can pick up the game now on Switch.
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