Wearing a simple black hoodie, olive green capris, and a beanie, Yoko Taro is, to put it bluntly, a bit underwhelming in person. Sitting across from him in a hotel meeting room at PAX East 2018, I find it somewhat hard to believe this is the same eccentric, mask-wearing creative behind games like the Drakengard series, Nier, and Nier: Automata. But I soon discover that this, too, is a sort of disguise – whereas Taro’s literal mask suggests a larger-than-life persona hiding behind it thanks to cartoonish proportions and wicked grin, here is a mask of unassuming plainness.

Neither seem fully accurate to the man himself, who is soft-spoken and sometimes short on words, but is also clearly inquisitive and deeply invested in emotions and the expression thereof. He exudes an aura of earnestness, even vulnerability – a rarity in an industry dominated by spectacle, hype marketing, and spokespeople expertly trained to answer any questions, just so long as they don’t actually answer any questions.

After being introduced via translator, I start my questions. I have no idea what to expect.

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