NieR creator insists that his decisions are based on what he thinks will sell, while also quipping that 'at first I listen to what the publisher wants from me, but later I don't'

 NieR creator Yoko Taro in his trademark Emil mask from the games.
NieR creator Yoko Taro in his trademark Emil mask from the games.

In a joint IGN interview with NieR creator Yoko Taro and Stellar Blade creative director Hyung-tae Kim, the two developers had nothing but praise for each other's work, while the famously eccentric Taro insisted that his surreal and existentialist fever dream NieR: Automata was just an Evangelion rip off that played to the market.

While the joint interview seems to have been inspired by the frequent comparisons between the PS5-exclusive Stellar Blade and Automata, as well as Kim's stated love for the 2017 action game, Taro noted that they both play very differently, with Stellar Blade having a greater emphasis on Soulslike precision and difficulty.

"If you actually play [Stellar Blade], you'll instantly realize it's a very different game," Taro said. "If Stellar Blade would have been the same game with a macho main character, I think people wouldn't have pointed out the similarities. It just happens to be that there are not many games with a similar style."

Taro also praised the tech and production values of Stellar Blade, noting that Korean and Chinese developers have been more responsive than Japanese ones to the general industry shift to middleware over proprietary engines, and arguing that this was part of the reason for the slump in the Japanese game industry in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

On his own creative process for the famously weird NieR games, Taro offered some slightly contradictory answers in his customarily self-deprecating style. When asked about Automata protagonist 2B's now-iconic character design, Taro claimed that he was just paying attention to the market: "I wanted to make a style of game that had less competition."

Indeed, Taro claimed to be sales-obsessed in comparison to Kim. "So you make games as an artist without thinking about business too much and still have your own company with 300 employees," Taro said, "While I think about business all the time and don't even have my own company yet?"

What about that famously moving and memorable story in Automata though, with all its twists and emotional gut punches? "I thank you for praising NieR: Automata's story," Taro said, "But actually it's pretty much just a retelling of Evangelion, so there's not much originality to it."

Taro also took some time for some jokes at the expense of NieR publisher Square Enix, a company which Taro is not an employee of, but rather collaborates with on a contract basis with the NieR series. "I guess [not having my own company]'s because I've been a slave to Square Enix for so many years," Taro mused. "Or I guess I could say I was enslaved by Yosuke Saito, NieR's producer. It's all his fault!"

Speaking further on balancing sales and business concerns with his artistic ambitions, Taro said that the latter almost always overtakes the former as he keeps working on a game: "At first I listen to what the publisher wants from me, but later I don't."

Taro seemed most sincere and straightforward at the end of the interview when talking about Gradius, the game which inspired him to become a developer. "Whenever I make a game," Taro said, "I hope to be able to do something that people haven't seen before, just like how Gradius did the same for me."

I certainly got that feeling when I first tore through a used PS3 copy of the original NieR in a week back in 2015, and boy, we're about due for another one of those. We've just ticked over to more time having passed since the release of Automata than there was between the original NieR and its 2017 sequel. While we're wish casting here, maybe Stellar Blade might break free of PS5 containment and make its way to our desktops some day? Whatever the future may hold, you can check out Taro, Kim, and reporter Esra Krabbe's full conversation over on IGN.