Nier came out over three years ago, and people are still talking about the things that made the Taro Yokoo-directed game memorable, from the fighting action, the mixture of gameplay elements, the generally insane plot, to Keiichi Okabe's richly enjoyable soundtrack.
Okabe and his Monaca studio are back to work on Drakengard 3, Yokoo's latest for Square Enix and a game that was previewed in this week's Famitsu magazine. This is the first time he's been involved with the series as the original Drakengard was scored by Nobuyoshi Sano, and according to the article that makes him more than a tad nervous.
"I've been involved with coming into series midway before," Okabe told Famitsu, "but I think Drakengard's fans have a lot more of a love, or a pre-made image at least, of the series. That makes it hard to figure out what to create to keep them satisfied. I thought at first that there'd be no purpose to rehashing Sano's work, but there were times when I thought that was what I should do instead, even though I knew it'd just be an inferior copy. So I wanted to avoid that, but I wanted to avoid repeating what I did in Nier as well."
The struggle not to repeat himself is made more difficult by the fact that, thanks to Nier achieving cult status in Japan and overseas, a lot more people are going to be paying attention to his work this time. "I think a lot of fans became aware of Yokoo's work via Nier," Okabe noted, "and if those fans are expecting something substantial from me, then naturally I've got to respond to that. Generally speaking, I have divided the musical style three ways between the stages, the events, and the boss battles, and comparatively speaking, I'm deliberately aiming for a Nier-like feel with the event music."
Producer Takamasa Shiba also announced that Drakengard 3's main theme will be sung by Eir Aoi, a woman from the island of Hokkaido who was discovered singing cover songs on Japanese video sites and is about to release her fourth professional single. Why Aoi? "A lot of people may know about this, but Eir is a huge fan of the Drakengard series, and that played a big part," he replied. "If a singer really understands the product they're working on, they can really meld themselves with the game and the music and develop a real passion for the work. That helps the music reverberate more with players. We thought about who we could go for to get that, and when it comes to Drakengard, she is certainly the woman. It's not an act, either, because when I met her the first time, her love for the series was honestly a little scary to me!"
That kind of passion is important to someone like Shiba, who told Famitsu that he values music in video games a lot more than many of his co-workers might. "To me, no matter how great the visuals are, I think music takes up around 40 percent of the product's final quality," he declared. "I may be a little over on that, but music is at least a very important part, and I think it's really coming together well for Drakengard 3. We have the composer and the development staff thinking up songs, and we have artists who really enjoy the game singing for us. The music is fitting perfectly into the game, and already it feels great to play. I can't say how fans will rate it, but as a developer, I think it's fitting well with what we're aiming for."
"It's been a tough production," Okabe added, "but for this game, there's part of it I'm doing that I've never experienced before. Regardless of your musical likes and dislikes, I think part of it will really startle you."
What's that, exactly? "It'd be a spoiler if we told you," Shiba replied, "but for now let's just say that we've got assorted tricks in the works, including in the musical department. The original concept of this title was to make a game that didn't feel much like a Square Enix title. It's not a game that will make everybody happy, but it is one that I think people who're curious about it should watch for upon release."