It’s been nearly three years since NieR: Automata. It wasn’t the first game from designer Yoko Taro, but it was far and away his most popular creation yet, cementing Taro’s flair for the eccentric in the minds of many new players. Though we’ve yet to hear about what Taro is up to next, he (and Nier) have remained in the public consciousness. Recently, Taro collaborated with the Final Fantasy XIV team for a Nier crossover event, Dark Apocalypse.
This is not the first time Final Fantasy XIV has collided with another game. Sometimes, it’s even from different companies. In 2018, the game featured Rathalos from Monster Hunter.
Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO, and NieR: Automata, an action game, are pretty far apart in terms of gameplay, but that’s the fun of goofy crossovers like this; it’s supposed to be weird. Dark Apocalypse is not a wholecloth expansion for Final Fantasy XIV, but a series of raids playing out within the game. Taro’s involvement wasn’t merely tossing his name into a press release, either. He wrote the story script, helped come up with gameplay scenarios, and helped design the boss hiding at the end.
A few months back, Square Enix offered us an opportunity we couldn’t pass up: a chance to ask the Final Fantasy XIV development staff, including Yoko Taro, questions about Dark Apocalypse.
I don’t know anything about Final Final Fantasy XIV, but thankfully, some of us do. I worked with Ricardo Contreras to come up with a bunch of questions to send over, hoping Square Enix wouldn’t notice we mostly were trying to sneak in as many Taro-directed questions as possible. They were good sports. Ricardo deserves most of the credit here, so you can thank him for the moment when Taro tells us we’ve asked the same question as another publication and decides to, uh, tell us about his nieces.
A short interview? Yes. Worth your time, like all Taro content? Absolutely. In that spirit, please enjoy our delightful conversation, albeit one over email, with Yoko Taro and Final Fantasy XIV producer, director Naoki Yoshida, and Automata executive producer Yosuke Saito.
Warning: There are spoilers for NieR: Automata in these questions.
VICE Games: The first alliance raid dungeon is called "The Copied Factory." This is obviously a reference to The Copied City, which was created by Adam [in NieR: Automata] in an attempt to imitate humanity. That begs the question, who built this factory, and who might they be copying?
Taro: This factory was built by the members of the FFXIV team. Next time I see them, I'd like to ask who they are trying to copy!
Yoshida: Well, well...indeed, the FFXIV team did do the actual development of the factory, but it was Yoko who requested its creation...I wonder what he was trying to copy? We may find out the answer in the next parts of the raid series! (Maybe, or maybe not...)
VICE Games: At the beginning of the raid, you meet the mysterious 2P, who looks just like 2B but wearing white. Are they actually one in the same? She also mentions that “[The Machines] have sentience, they have will” at the beginning of the raid. That is very different from 2Bs thoughts on machines at the beginning of NieR. Does YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse fit into the timeline at all? Would this mean Dark Apocalypse takes place after the events of NieR: Automata?
Taro: In Japan, there is a white food product made of soy called tofu. Many people may be aware of what it is since it's sold in regions such as the US. The reason 2P is white is because she's made of the same components as tofu. No, I'm kidding. I'm sorry if it was unclear, but this is where you're supposed to laugh!
VICE Games: When working on this raid how did you consider what elements of NieR’s combat to bring over? Did you consider adding anything that was more explicitly like one of the twin-stick shooter sections that featured so heavily in NieR: Automata?
Yoshida: This time around, we started development from recognizable mechanics that anyone would notice as features of NieR: Automata. We view the current raid as the starting point, and of course, plan to build up the intensity as we move along. As such, we initially laid out enough mechanics to cover all the raids. From there, we then went ahead and allocated each of the mechanics to each of the raids. Following this procedure, we structured the raids in a way to build up on the intensity of surprise.
VICE Games: The boss Hobbes calls the players “volunteers” and then carries out dangerous experiments on them. That, alongside the design of the boss, makes it feel like a reference to GLaDOS from the Portal games. Are you a fan of those games, and is that why this boss is so similar?
Yoshida: This might just be a coincidence, but there could be something more to this if I asked the staff who was in charge of this boss battle. However, I feel this type of thing might best be answered after the YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse raids are all complete.
VICE Games: In the Copied Factory there is a room filled with the bodies of what seem to be dead 2B units. In NieR: Automata , 2B was made to kill 9S over and over again, but in the raid the roles seem to be reversed. Can you speak to the relationship between 2P and 9S and how it differs to the relationship between 2B and 9S?
Taro: I was asked the same question from another media outlet. As there's no fun in giving the same answer, I'd like to talk a little bit about my nieces (who are sisters).
When I go visit them, my nieces would say, "Uncle TARO, what do you want to play?" And while we're playing, they would tell me, "I love you, Uncle TARO!" And finally, when I'm about to leave, they would say, "Uncle TARO, don't leave!" ...So I've decided to stop working on this FFXIV collaboration and play with my nieces forever and ever. I hope that 2B and 9S end up having that kind of relationship too, yes.
VICE Games: The end of NieR: Automata leaves you with a choice to help other players at the sacrifice of your save file. As a raid is a collaborative effort, and it seemed like there were some moments where individual players had to sacrifice their health for the good of the rest of the party. Can you speak a bit to the themes of struggle, sacrifice, and collaboration in this raid?
Yoshida: In the end, I believe the interpretation of these themes within the raid is left to the imagination of each of the players experiencing the content; I feel it might be a bit tasteless for me to give you a generalized answer. One interesting aspect of entertainment is that there is no clear-cut answer, and everyone reaches an answer through their own experience to which they find satisfying. With that in mind, I hope everyone can come up with an answer of their own.
VICE Games: What FFXIV job would 2B, 9S, and Pascal play?
Yosuke Saito: 2B would be a samurai that repeatedly attacks. 9S would be a ninja, I guess? Pascal would most likely be a white mage.
Taro: 2B: "If it's an order, I'm okay with any job."
9S: "Oh no, I would like to be a healer alongside you, 2B. We can heal each other... wouldn't it be wonderful to appear as 'lovers', as humanity would say?"
Pascal: "I would want to be a game master and ban players left and right!"