In 2017, on somewhat of a whim, I purchased a game by the name of NieR: Automata. The game was listed at a discounted price during one of PSN’s annual summer sales. I knew nothing of the NieR franchise at the time, and even less about its creator, Yoko Taro. What I did know was that Automata was made by Platinum Games. A studio that had provided some of my most memorable experiences during the mid-late 2000s, specifically two games by the names of Okami—a game by Clover Studios, though with Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami at the helm prior to their departure to form Platinum Games—and Vanquish. Exhilarating, action-packed games with distinct art-styles. I’d become quite enamored by the studio, Kamiya in particular, and their proficiency in creating incredibly tactile and sharp third-person action games.
Though I had yet to play their iconic Bayonetta series (an omission I have thankfully since rectified), I thought to give NieR: Automata a chance simply based on these developers alone. However, prior to hitting the “check out” button, I thought to do a quick Google search to read some reviews. At this time Platinum were, to put it lightly, inconsistent with their releases, and so I wanted to err on the side of caution. To my surprise, my search led me to see a slew of near-perfect scores and showers of praise from critics across the globe being given to the title, specifically its narrative. This point was a tad surprising for me as Platinum were never known for their deep stories. And so, with my love for Platinum Games and a newfound curiosity in the game’s narrative, I was off to venture into the unknown. Little did I know that the experience would be something unlike anything I’d ever experienced before in a video game, and NieR: Automata would go on to stand alone at the summit of my “all-time” list.
To delve into all the reasons as to why this experience was so special for me is something that frankly I’m unsure if I have the capability (or time) to do. What I can write is this—NieR: Automata did things I never knew I wanted in a video game. It’s a game that is unashamed of being just that: a game. Its story, characters, lore, and themes exist not only through cinematic cutscenes (though those exist), or through audio-logs and journal entries (which also exist), but through utilizing the mechanics that are intrinsic to this interactive medium. From the the multiple play-throughs that each provide unique additions to gameplay, to the very last decision you are given during the post-credits sequence of the final (true) ending, every video game mechanic is added for a narrative or thematic purpose; it all comes together to tell a humanist story of the sorrows of life and trying to fight for hope and a better tomorrow. Sprinkle atop all that what I would consider the greatest soundtrack of all time (in any narrative medium) composed by the endlessly talented Keiichi Okabe, then couple it with the blistering and frenetic gameplay by the masters at Platinium Games, and you have yourself a trifecta of brilliance.
Since the release of NieR: Automata, things have been fairly quiet for Yoko Taro (though he has been the creative director for the table-top RPG series, Voice of Cards, which also sees compositions by Okabe). Platinum Games, however, have been consistently releasing titles since 2017, albeit with inconsistent reception. Where titles like Astral Chain and Bayonetta 3 further showcased their unrivalled mastery in third-person action combat, games like World of Demons and especially Babylon’s Fall failed to elicit the same praise. I was eagerly awaiting for the day that the team would return for another game within the NieR franchise, yet nothing came. However, just three years after Automata’s release it would be announced that the original Japanese version of NieR (subtitled Replicant) would be making its way to North America via a complete remaster. As you can imagine, my excitement was incredibly high.
Unfortunately, though Yoko Taro would return as the game’s creative director, Platinum wouldn’t lend their talents to develop the game. Toylogic did a serviceable job with the game’s combat, but something was definitely amiss in Platinum’s absence. Still, NieR: Replicant ver. 1.22 (I’m not typing the rest of those numbers) was a great, albeit flawed, experience with characters I won’t soon forget; including what I may consider to be the greatest companion in Grimoire Weiss. It was the NieR fix I needed, but I was still waiting for that announcement. The one that would tell me that Yoko Taro will be returning to create another proper installment in the NieR franchise. Well, it looks like my wishes may have finally been answered.
As reported by 4gamer, a recent event—G-Star 2023–saw NieR producer Yosuke Saito alongside Yoko Taro take the stage for a lecture cheekily titled, “A meeting to talk incessantly about the production of NieR: Automata.” At the end of the lecture, Saito assured fans that the franchise will live on so long as Yoko Taro does. He goes on to say that the pair are actively working on the next NieR game, though it may be a ways out as the two are currently partnered and working on a project separate from the NieR franchise, the details of which they will share at a later date. We can presume this date to be sometime in 2024, meaning the alleged development of this NieR title is most likely in the pre-production and planning phase, and far from the hands of programmers. So patience is most definitely a virtue I and many NieR fans must acquire as it’s likely we won’t be receiving this game anytime soon. Still, its existence makes me joyous, and I can’t wait to see what existential dread Taro’s aberrant mind concocts next.