Q: The game features a hermaphrodite. Why did you include such a character?
YS: There is quite a simple story behind that actually. One of our development staff, a planner - actually she's a female planner - she came up with the idea, saying it would be interesting if we were to have a male heroin. Other people in the room responded quite nicely with the thought, 'yeah, that would be quite a novel idea'. We didn't have any particular intentions in creation of this character. We just get a bit carried away, if you like.
Q: How difficult is it to retain NIER's Japanese spirit while also appealing to Western gamers?
YS: When the project kicked off, we had this strong consciousness that it had to be a game that catered to all the pallets of worldwide gamers, but as time went on, our priority changed. Eventually, we wanted to create a new Square Enix RPG, with anything that would be very interesting, great fun and pleasurable to play. Yes, we did experience lots of challenges and hard times in terms of creating something new and interesting, but not necessarily something that would be popular among worldwide gamers.
Q: What is it about the game that brings something new to the traditional Square Enix role-playing game?
YS: As you know, most Square Enix projects at the moment are Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and various other command-based RPGs, mainly, as opposed to Kingdom Hearts for example, which is an RPG with lots of action elements. But Kingdom Hearts is for a younger demographic. We wanted to create an RPG with lots of action elements that would appeal to gamers who're slightly older. That's why we made the protagonist a man in his late thirties, which is quite a rare case as far as Square Enix is concerned. Square Enix hasn't created many games for this demographic before. Therefore we put in lots of blood and gore, and quite strange characters, and quite a unique in-game universe. It was a bit of a challenge, but because the people who created the game are all middle-aged already, it was fine.
Q: The game has been described as a new direction for Square Enix. Are we likely to see more action-oriented games of this kind from Square Enix? Is there a chance that we'll see a NIER sequel?
YS: Regarding RPGs with lots of action elements, yes. In Japan an increasing number of users are not necessarily satisfied with command-based RPGs. They turn to other genres. So, I would expect there will be more and more great RPGs coming out of Square Enix with more action elements. As for a sequel, if this game proves successful in Europe and America, we would definitely consider it.
Q: At last year's Tokyo Game Show, Capcom's head of Research & Development and Online Business Keiji Inafune said the Japanese game industry is over. Is he wrong?
YS: Personally I think it was not quite accurate to say it is over as such, or finished. But on the other hand, it was some time ago, many Japanese game creators almost took for granted that they were regarded as number one in the world. Obviously that time is long gone. Now we see the pressure to make games that appeal to all markets in the world. That kind of consciousness is a good thing.
Q: Finally, what do you think of Final Fantasy XIII?
YS: Of course I would say it's a very visually wonderful, great game. Lots of game creators I know have been involved in its development, and I witnessed them going through child birth if you like. I must say it's a great game.
NIER will be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on April 23 2010.