Taro Yoko, or Yoko Taro as he prefers his surname to be stylised in front first, is a notoriously enigmatic game designer. He is renowned for his carefully crafted and emotional videogame stories, and courageously unconventional game design choices. To access the true ending of NIER (2010) after your fourth playthrough, players had to delete their save data from their console. Unlike NieR: Automata (2017), this was done without any warning or notification. The final boss fight in Drakengard 3 (2014) was a rhythm action sequence lasting EIGHT minutes long, with a single mistake forcing a restart of the entire battle.
What would compel a game designer to inflict such sadistic, trolling torture on his players? During his stage interview on Day 1 of GameStart 2017, Yoko told the audience that Dragon Quest III (1986) for the original NES was one of his favourite games that he never got to finish — because he suddenly lost all of his save data. His non-gaming family members were unable to understand why he was so depressed over a videogame, and when he eventually became a game designer he wanted players to experience the same anguish he had over a lost save file.
I couldn’t tell whether Yoko was joking or dead serious with his response. There’s no way to read his facial expression under that helmet. Maybe he’s just having fun.
Ah, the helmet. Modeled after Emil, a recurring character in the Nier series, Yoko has stated before in a Famitsu interview that he has an intense dislike for giving interviews and having his photograph taken. He believes that game designers are not supposed to be entertainers or commentators on their work, and that the usual questions asked in traditional media interviews would be boring to the viewer . There is a twisted, cruel irony behind this reasoning: The mask / helmet gives him an aura of intrigue and mystery, turning him into even more of an entertainer. Can you name me any other producer, director, or media creator who would go through such lengths to hide their face from the public? Someone who needs to enter a translucent box in order to answer questions from the audience?
On Day 2 of GameStart, there was a cosplay competition for NieR: Automata. Celebrity cosplayer Lenneth was taking part, and she was the main attraction for the day with her rendition of protagonist 2B. In true Yoko Taro fashion, one of the requirements of the competition was that every cosplayer who took part had to play the game itself for five minutes. Yoko, from inside his box, admitted to the crowd that this gaming showcase had zero relevance to the actual cosplay.
Yup, from that point onwards I was absolutely convinced that Yoko is just someone who wants to have fun, even if it means putting his fans and gamers through hardship. There were two Emil cosplayers, one was forced to take off her helmet to play, while another needed to squat down on the stage floor for the entire session. “I can’t see the monitor from up here!” she screamed.
Just take a look at Yoko’s Square Enix promotional video for pre-ordering the game:
Eccentricity eventually caves in to pragmatism at the end of Day 2, during the private meet-and-greet session with fans. Yoko finally agrees to takes off his helmet, but only because he needs his full peripheral vision to sign autographs. That, and because “Singapore is very hot.” Yes we know, Yoko. Even Singaporeans living in this country for all of their lives agree that being near the equator is very hot. My friend Randy, who was with me at the signing, told me to offer him the NieR: Automata Japanese PS4 version’s game manual to sign. I shook hands with Yosuke Saito, the executive producer of Square Enix, and Mr Yoko himself, unmasked and finally in the flesh.
“Thank you very much,” he said.
No Mr Yoko, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Good designers are able to produce good games, but only great designers have the ability to craft a piece of work that is so emotionally powerful, so moving, that it transcends the interactive medium of videogames to leave an indelible mark on our souls. There is no other way to interpret the true ending (Ending E) of NieR: Automata: If we work together as one, even if it means that we have to sacrifice ourselves to help someone else, our powers combined can achieve great things. Two or more in harmony surpasses one in perfection.
NieR: Automata was only possible because of the combined efforts of developers PlatinumGames, publishers Square Enix, and Mr Yoko’s story and vision. Hideki Kamiya, a game director working at PlatinumGames, wrote on Twitter that “…to say that Yoko-san saved Platinum would not be an exaggeration. I cannot thank him enough.” 
Do you believe in destiny, of messianic figures who are fated to rescue others from their doom? Religious people might call such a person “God”. For gamers, we call him Yoko Taro. Thank you for saving PlatinumGames.