Square Enix: “Only Macho Protagonists Work in the West”

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Interviews with the developers of Square Enix’s new Nier franchise reveal a bizarre development saga in which arguments over whether western audiences could stomach a typical girly JRPG lead eventually lead to the company making two versions of the game.

Square Enix’s new “Nier” franchise launched with two games, Gestalt (PS3/360) and Replicant (PS3), each with radically differnet character designs for the hero; however only Gestalt was released in the west, as “Nier” – comparisons of the two attracted some attention.

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The interview concerning this odd decision included publisher Square Enix’s Executive Producer Yosuke Saito, and developer Cavia’s Nier director Taro Yoko:

Saito: We were initially planning an Xbox 360 target, which we expanded to PS3 multiplatform afterwards. However, the production process turned out to be quite storied.

Yoko: At first we were just doing the youthful protagonist version (which became “Replicant”), but Square Enix started taking talking about international markets during development.

Yoko: In fact, an argument erupted at Square Enix’s Los Angeles studio, over whether a thin looking male character [hereafter translated as “girly”] was possible for the game. For the North American consumers, it was decided to provide a macho main.

Yoko: A heated discussion ensued once the American and European staff were gathered to discuss it. It was said that “A slender and girly protagonist like this couldn’t possibly swing a huge sword like that, it’s ridiculous.” Certainly, if you look at American games it’s always muscle bound mains who look like they play American football.

Saito: We thought that as it’s a new IP, it really must sell, and we were persuaded [by the Japanese staff’s desire to make a girly lead] – we opted to leave the Japanese version with the girly character, and instead make two different versions.

Saito: We did realize that not all international audiences are the same though – it was thought that Replicant [the girly version] might be suitable for the French, as they have a greater appreciation of Japanese culture.

Yoko: That meeting was pretty amazing. A lot of people were arguing for making only the macho old guy version for cost reasons, and we [the Japanese developers] were saying “But if we don’t make a girly version we’ll lose heart and it’ll take even longer.”

Saito: As a result, the Japanese PS3 version only became the girly version, and both PS3 and Xbox 360 international version were the macho old guy versions.

Curiously, the obvious choice of eschewing the entire “Epic vs Enix” problem by just making universally sexy Kainé the protagonist seems not to have occurred to them, although considering the approach they took to depicting her in the US comics this is perhaps for the best.

The obsession Japanese RPG publishers have with supplying western audiences with its crude interpretation of the muscle bound heroes they see as key to the success of American games seems almost pathological – Square Enix actually made two games rather than have to risk releasing an insufficiently masculine lead to supposedly testosterone loving American audiences.

Unfortunately for both supporters and detractors of macho protagonists, the Nier games have received mediocre reviews and would likely have sunk without trace were it not for the cunning inclusion of futanari Kainé – finally proving whether western audiences (apparently shorthand for “American audiences” amongst RPG publishers) really can’t stomach girly androgynous protagonists will have to wait.


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    Avatar of Ribbons
    Comment by Ribbons
    10:24 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    “A slender and girly protagonist like this couldn’t possibly swing a huge sword like that, it’s ridiculous.”

    OH MY GOD, IT'S LIKE I'M REALLY READING A LOGICAL STATEMENT.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:15 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's the stupidest thing I've heard all year and one of the evidences that Square-Enix has lost touch with its audience. The good days are over.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:38 03/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Agree totally, so long SE, you were good up until FF7, and then things started to slide...

    Avatar of Vegio
    Comment by Vegio
    19:04 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I would even find it amusing, if it weren't a line said in complete seriousness.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:55 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    “A slender and girly protagonist like this couldn’t possibly swing a huge sword like that, it’s ridiculous.”

    In other way,seeing that it took so long (story wise) for the big muscular guy to wield a little SPEAR is ridiculous...

    And in my opinion,the move in game for the 2 handed sword are realist enough to make it look heavy and hard to swing.
    It doesn't really look like he's having much ease with it.

    either way,this is BS.

    The truth behind this macho vs girly version is:

    Japanese wants to be called "onii-chan" when westerner are more affected by the father/daughter relationships.

    period.

    Avatar of TheBeast
    Comment by TheBeast
    07:27 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    i admittedly didn't read the entire article. but as far as the title goes. i really do prefer macho heros. as opposed to little whiners like capel? from infinite undiscovery and tidus in ffx. but as far as the looks, i could care less. slender and tenacious is just as good as giant and rugged. yuri from vesperia didn't look as macho as regal(symphonia) or will (legendia), but the character development makes me like yuri more cause he is a super badass once he starts doing his midnight rendezvous.

    Avatar of Imyou
    Comment by Imyou
    09:51 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah... they changed the game because they were concerned a JRPG might come across as unrealistic... in other words, they're idiots.

    Avatar of SanCom Citizen
    Comment by SanCom Citizen
    12:42 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So Square Enix is basically saying, that a game with a female-protagonist cannot be commercially successful, because all of us have a "man-crush" on masculine, bishonen guys, sure.................If that's the case, why was Bayonetta rated favorably in the states. We all know Square Enix is just making excuses because they suck at making games. Heck, they can try add a cameo appearance of Kratos in one of their games, and it'll STILL SUCK! Why?? Its not because of Kratos, or because we "supposedly" don't like girls(at least in their eyes), but because Square Enix can't their act straight; they are not appealing to what gamers truly seek.!

    @Dash--Dash is right, if this is the prevailing feeling from some of these Japanese companies, its no wonder we are missing out on some very awesome titles from Japan. America, Europe, and the West are just about shooters you know.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:47 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I agree with this guy. You're all gay. Accept it.

    Avatar of Myballz
    Comment by Myballz
    05:11 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I am going to agree with some of it not all of it.Square Enix sold well with the Hand-held market with Dragon Quest series, Its no surprise that Mass Effect 2 manage to out sell it just because it marketed a male character who look more suave then muscle bound which you can customize yourself.

    Square Enix tends to go for characters that are ether younger or cute looking which that's what they always market in Japan.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:58 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You COMPLETELY missed the point

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:10 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The argument was against a girly guy, not a vixen.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:38 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So we get to choose between a emo faggot or an imbred frankenstein?

    Both are miserable choices..

    Avatar of Ribbons
    Comment by Ribbons
    23:51 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Emo inbred faggot Frankenstein?

    ...I'd play it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:12 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    try imagine sephiroth with muscular body, that would make it

    Avatar of SaruDa
    Comment by SaruDa
    13:16 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Visible muscle mass = strength. For endurance longer than about 60 seconds, We're looking for leaner, more effective muscles.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:48 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Add to that a very gay hard cock.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:47 24/01/2012 # ! Neutral (0)

    oh man, you truly believe that do you?

    Avatar of Maigo44
    Comment by Maigo44
    10:35 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Who cares!? all we need is fap material!!

    Avatar of Azure Xuchilbara
    Comment by Azure Xuchilbara
    11:33 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Check pixiv...They have a couple of Kaine x Teen Nier futanari and a handful of futanari picture of Kaine...

    There's even one picture of Nier's daughter/sister Yonah sucking on Kaine's tits~

    Make sure you put these tags while searching:

    ニーアレプリカント

    R-18

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:39 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The manly topic has already shown SE made another mistake. Its looks like the rest of the world and America. Not what they concluded.

    Avatar of Shanyy
    Comment by Shanyy
    20:35 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    This proves they don't know much about as than we know about them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:54 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Square Enix does not know how to make badass looking muscular characters. He looks more like a mutant, rather than a human being.

    On a side note, their assumption that traditional skinny protagonists do not work over here is just wrong. Final Fantasy didn't have any problems selling here with all their anorexic character designs, so their point is invalid. If a game is good then it shouldn't matter whether the protagonist is skinny or muscular, as long as it fits the game setting.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:04 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    you can drop the replicant part of your tag
    nier will cover all variations thereof that contain nier in them

    Avatar of Azure Xuchilbara
    Comment by Azure Xuchilbara
    13:26 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not when searching for every hentai of NiER in Pixiv~ You need to put that tag so you can see some Kaine x Teen Nier hotness!!!

    Avatar of Zyst
    Comment by Zyst
    11:47 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I was expecting something more like:

    "Have you seen Gears of War? All of those guys are super macho and it sells, all of the american audience must dig that herp derp."

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:11 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    He looks bad ass in the japanese one. He just looks like fail in the american one

    Avatar of Artefalse
    Comment by Artefalse
    16:10 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Both seem fine to me. I would define the tank version as "Badass" and the slim version as "Awesome". now... in a game like Gears of War in which every aspect is tanky and huge are you gunna have a dude who's awesome or a dude who's badass? awesome may still work but it seems out of place. however in a stealth type game you'd want a more awesome dude... awesome isnt kicking in the door with guns blazing cause that's badass.

    well thats my oppinion on the matter anyway.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:48 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    And Gears of War doesn't sell because everybody there is macho, it's because people dig charging at each other with their shotguns, sneakily chainsaw someone from the back and hiding behind cover when a swarm of dakka flies over their heads!

    Avatar of Aliaus
    Comment by Aliaus
    17:01 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "it was thought that Replicant [the girly version] might be suitable for the French"

    i loled at this part

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:56 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    God of war is famous because of that macho sadistic hero.

    Avatar of Shi nai weaboo
    Comment by Shi nai weaboo
    10:39 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Do they forget ff7 and how popular it is?

    Avatar of Ribbons
    Comment by Ribbons
    12:05 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You WANT more FF7 fangirls?

    You must be insane.

    Avatar of Darkrockslizer
    Comment by Darkrockslizer
    16:34 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    FF7, wee yaay! :D <3 <3 <3

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:06 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Who cares? IT SELLS!

    More fangirls = more side merchandise sold!

    Even if you make a pitiful 5% profit off a game release, if you manage to make 20x of that on side merchandise, you have a bloody gold mine on your hands!

    Avatar of Ghost Dog
    Comment by Ghost Dog
    10:40 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I sort of agree with that analysis of the sword wielding. In a JRPG, you can explain it away with magic or something, but Americans have been brought up to be fans of muscular super heroes who sometimes wield weapons like that.(more long-swords than katana)Also, some of the best selling non realistic games in the U.S. have featured overly muscular heroes.(Kratos, Master Chief, Gears of War guys, etc)

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:19 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I don't know about Master Chief. He is never outside the goddamned armor. But I think it's inferred that he has killer biceps.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:35 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If you understood Halo, you'd know he's a biologically enhanced human, not a cyborg. And no he's not football-player WIDE, but he is 8 feet tall and has muscles that are literally of iron density enough to flip cars over with no problem.

    As for this whole stupid situation, I don't get why they could just get more sales by giving both versions to every market. There have been different versions of the same game before (looks at pokemon games through and through <_<).

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:34 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    He is not a cyborg. All spartans are genetically engineered to be larger and stronger than normal humans.

    Avatar of AsakuraZero
    Comment by AsakuraZero
    11:43 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    he is a cyborg, iirc he is pretty much a normal person but genetically modified with cyborg parts

    Avatar of BlaqCat
    Comment by BlaqCat
    12:15 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    My brother and I had an argument about this some time ago. I was basicly saying I was sick of all the insert muscular war heroes in modern U.S. games. He was saying he's sick of whiny teens, and that he preferred all the game have the war heroes.

    It really bit him in the ass this time, cause he grew to like the character design of Neir before they changed it.

    Avatar of Eddyak
    Comment by Eddyak
    21:07 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Keep the burly muscular men for war/mass melee games, but put in more slender protagonists for one-on-one combat, tactical and stealth games.

    Ooh, but a game where you get to play as an muscleman who PUNCHES PEOPLE'S HEADS OFF would be so win.
    Too many protagonists use their guns and oversized swords these days, where are the guys that can pick up tanks and crush SWAT squads with them?

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:28 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    HULK NO SMASH TODAY...

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:47 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The guys who made Crackdown totally need to snag the Hokuto no Ken license from Koei!

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:52 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    LOL, just make an obese, overweight protagonist American gamer can identify themselves with.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:15 05/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    i.e. Rufus from SF4

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:36 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    so true jajaja jejemons

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:00 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    do you identify yourself with the protagonist in "bad day in LA"?

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:03 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    ... It's a JRPG, is anything in an alternate universe with magic and monsters supposed to be logical? I think everybody needs to be given a nice big dose of "willing Suspension of disbelief"

    Avatar of Sotanaht
    Comment by Sotanaht
    14:10 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It doesn't matter how big the weapon is, if you swing it around for a living, you're going to get definition in your muscle. The Japanese obsession with heroes with physiques of 15-year-olds will always amaze me.
    That said, it doesn't really bother me enough to effect my opinion of a game, and I'm sure that is not a rare sentiment. Their game may have done a lot better if they focused on making one excellent game instead of two version of an "okay" one.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:40 23/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It is a game. Characters in games often shoot fire from their hands, can fight armies and get instantly healed by eating something or just standing still.

    Why does it matter if their muscles are big or not?

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:36 03/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Look at Japanese games and hero's like 10-15 years ago. Muscular than hell.
    What's happened is that Japanese characters have gotten thinner and moodier.
    Western heroes haven't really gotten any more muscular (they always were), and really haven't gotten more badass.
    However, given to epic games like Mass Effect, Western characters seem more human, compared to their neanderthal kill everything brethen 10-15 years ago.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:13 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Isn't the selling point of games the gameplay? >>
    Also SE is racist! I hope their company goes under from the crap games they produce!

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:40 22/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hey Hey hey, I like Dragon Quest, it's not my fault that they suck. It's the Final Fantasy People!... (Hopefully...)

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:08 23/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Damnit Anon.
    West is not a race.
    SE would be nationalist in this case, or something like that.

    Anyway, if this is their attempt at "macho", they missed the mark by a long shot. Sure, other games have macho, but they also have some part of them that could still be handsome. This guy is just straight up freaky ugly. And they STILL gave him crappy anime hair. If you want it macho, give it no hair or a ton of hair(including facial hair), don't try to go for the middle ground until you know what you're doing.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:39 21/05/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    they're racist but that's what makes their games sell, i mean if they make a shooter then why make one? america has alot of shooters, and its not JRPG for nothing









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