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Yoko Taro is a damn treasure among game designers

Nier: Automata’s director makes even the most boring assignment hilarious

yoko taro

Yoko Taro, director of Nier: Automata and wearer of bizarre headgear, is a master of making the most innocuous interview worth reading. The PlayStation Blog gave him room to discuss his favorite PlayStation 4 games in the latest Discover the Creators feature, and he used it to muse over life, death and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.

Taro’s list is mostly filled with action and role-playing games, which makes sense, considering his background on the Nier and Drakengard games. What makes this worth more than a cursory glance is what he has to say about big-budget titles like Final Fantasy 15 and Horizon Zero Dawn, both of which have been talked up to death at this point.

Here he is on Final Fantasy 15, a game that “trapped” him for a decade:

I was creating a title called NIER Gestalt/Replicant when this title was called Versus XIII but because it was very likely that our games would release around the same time, I was thinking “oh man, Versus is an action RPG right? It would suck if the release dates were close to each other.” NIER ended up releasing without having to worry about Versus XIII but then, when I was creating Drakengard 3 I thought “it would suck if they release close to our release,” and it was the same again when we were creating NieR: Automata this time too. Looking back, I feel like I was trapped by the curse of Versus for about 10 years. This game and its content created over the course of 10 years is unparalleled and unique, and I enjoyed it a lot. The one thing that surprised me the most is their incomprehensible passion towards food and beverage. FF is amazing.

This is what we call a novel recommendation letter. Taro’s anxiety about these huge games potentially overshadowing his less mainstream works is a throughline:

“By the way, the release date of [Horizon Zero Dawn] was only one week apart from NieR: Automata, the game I created,” he said of another of his favorite PS4 games. “I thought I was going to die. Well, I did die. (I just noticed that I keep on talking about release dates…)”

Taro ... died? Is that why he’s wearing that mask? The man is known to have an obsession with death, but maybe let’s not interrogate that claim any further. Other obsessions of Taro’s include alcohol; he’s pretty into drinking with other game designers. Drinking buds he named in the post include Keiichiro Toyama, director of Gravity Rush, and Danganronpa writer Kazutaka Kodata.

That might make him seem intimidating, but what’s most charming about this very, very strange guy is that he’s really just like us. He, too, waited almost a decade to play The Last Guardian.

“I’ve waited seven years,” he wrote. “Seven. I love Fumito Ueda’s creations but I didn’t think that I would play after waiting seven years since it was announced.”

It especially meant a lot to him that he was “still alive” to see it come out. Same, Taro. Same.

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