At the end of last October, Final Fantasy XIV’s first post-Shadowbringers patch brought the first part of YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse, the game’s 24-person NieR: Automata raid. To get insight into the collaboration between two of Square Enix’s most popular games, Paste had the opportunity to interview Final Fantasy XIV director Naoki Yoshida and NieR series director Yoko Taro.
It isn’t the first time that Final Fantasy XIV has collaborated with another IP. It’s had a collaboration event with Monster Hunter: World for a special trial, for example. Additionally, the previous 24-person raid, Return to Ivalice, was a collaboration between XIV, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics, even involving director Yasumi Matsuno.
On collaborations, Yoshida states that the team isn’t particular about doing them internally; in other words, they aren’t “necessarily set on collaborating with only Square Enix IPs or Final Fantasy series IPs.” The previous 24-person raid came to fruition because “the development team and myself are both fans of Ivalice,” and because of their “great respect for Yasumi Matsuno as a game designer. This is exactly the same for NieR: Automata. I hope we have more opportunities to collaborate with our favorite titles and creators.”
Yoshida confesses that he’d one day “love to do a collaboration with the staff at Blizzard [Entertainment] … what can I say? I’m a Blizzard fanboy.”
On the care that the team has taken to make the collaboration fit in naturally with both series, he says that while the team is composed of developers, they’re “also gamers at the same time. Our biggest fear is generating disappointment among the fans of the crossover title.” Thus, much detail has gone into the creation of the non-combat aspects, such as the sound of footsteps as you walk on the floor of the Copied Factory, the ambience of the sky; and how the rays of light shine through the clouds.
Gameplay wise, the team has precisely replicated the “bullet-hell” aspect of NieR: Automata’s combat and implemented it throughout the raid. Even though it wasn’t too difficult from a technical standpoint, Yoshida states that it was “realized because of all of the ideas from the staff and programmers responsible for these boss battles who racked their brains to come up with them. Please give them a hand!”
The raid doesn’t just replicate NieR: Automata; there are plenty of additions that feel true to the NieR universe. In addition to the iconic small machines of NieR: Automata are both old and new large machine lifeforms.
One exclusive to the raid is Hobbes, who stood out to me because it was also the only named new machine lifeform. Considering that NieR: Automata is known for its endlessly thought-provoking philosophical discussions, as well as that it has characters named after Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, I asked if Yoko Taro intended for Hobbes to be a reference to philosopher Thomas Hobbes. But it was actually not Yoko Taro who came up with the name. Yoshida states that, instead, “the name was coined by the staff in charge of the world lore on the XIV team. I’m sure we could get a clear-cut answer if we asked that person now, but we’ll come back with an answer once the raid series is complete.” What Yoko Taro did was greatly supervise the machine lifeforms right from the design stages, and he even “kindly gave us [the team] a lecture on the patterns and rules pertaining to those designs.”
Perhaps my current favorite part of the raid is the loot. From gorgeous dresses to Pod minions and orchestrion rolls of the incredible soundtrack, you can be substantially rewarded for an endeavor that can take between 30 minutes and one hour. One of the most sought-after rewards is a replica of 2B’s outfit, which you can wear regardless of your character’s gender or race. I found this interesting, considering that the team could have gone a separate way and made 9S’ outfit as the counterpart reward for male characters.
Since I suspected I wasn’t the only one happy about this decision, I asked about what led to it. On the decision to make the 2B outfit gender-neutral, Yoshida says that the team “received requests from around the world for the implementation of a 2B outfit, and we didn’t think it would be right to create a new, male version of the 2B outfit design. We already live in a gender-free world, so I gave the direction from the get-go that both genders should be able to wear the outfit in game. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m glad that you are happy about it!”
Finally, I asked Yoko Taro about what is likely the most potentially exciting factor for NieR fans, which is the story that’s to come. Since he has said in the past that he writes backward (from the ending of a story to the beginning), I was curious as to whether he’s doing the same here. “I start from the end, jump back to the beginning, then go back towards the end… and continue going back and forth multiple times,” replies Yoko Taro. “Especially since there were particular specifications and requests unique to MMOs, I’ve been making multiple adjustments to the story, including the premise.”
In other words, he confirms that he hasn’t “finished writing the whole story. Sorry… I’ll do my best…” And you know what? Yoko Taro is one of the few storytellers in the world who can say this and give me no cause for concern. Glory to mankind, and to his and the Final Fantasy XIV team’s best.
Natalie Flores is a freelance writer who loves to talk about games, K-pop and too many other things.