KEY POINTS

  • Following the success of "Nier: Automata," game director Yoko Taro used the world of fairy tales as inspiration for "SINoALICE"
  • Taro chose fairy tales because the characters were free and no copyright fees had to be paid, he just researched on Wikipedia
  • Before "SINoALICE" was even launched, more than 2 million players had already preregistered for the game

Best known for his work on “Nier: Automata,” director Yoko Taro now enters the world of dark fantasy with “SINoALICE,” a game available on iOS and Android phones.

Taking inspiration from fairy tales, “SINoALICE” takes place in a location called the “Library.” There, literary and storybook figures such as Little Red Riding Hood and Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” are wielding swords and fighting off monsters while attempting to revive their “author.”

Why fairy tale characters though? Taro gives a practical yet funny reason. “It’s because the copyright has expired and there’s no cost,” he told The Verge. “I researched on Wikipedia. What a convenient world we live in.”

SINoALICE” is a collaboration between Square Enix and small Japanese mobile game studio Pokelabo. Taro served as a creative director on this game, which launched back in 2017 in Japan. However, it’s only launching globally today as a free-to-play game on both iOS and Android.

In order to lock a wide range of characters and gear, you’ll have to play regularly and engage in relatively simple real-time battles. You’ll also have to do daily check-ins and deal with premium currencies. Taro’s writing, though, separates “SINoALICE” from other mobile games. Artist Jino provided the elaborate character designs while Keiichi Okabe (also from “Nier: Automata”) composed the soundtrack.

Each of the characters is defined by a specific theme — Alice represents “bondage,” for instance, while Sleeping Beauty is “languor” — and has their own multi-chapter story narrative arc to play through. The weapons even have their own lore that you can slowly uncover.

Taro notes that the familiarity of these storybook characters helped ease his creative process. “Everyone knows the story for famous characters, so it’s convenient that I don’t have to explain the backstory every time,” he said. “It’s a hassle to explain why Red Riding Hood is wearing a hood, for example.”

How then could these characters become unique and separate from the hundreds of previous incarnations seen over the centuries? “It’s not difficult to make the characters unique,” Taro said to The Verge. “If you just give Alice and Cinderella four eyes and make them spit out venomous projectile vomit, it’d be something new. What’s difficult is retaining the feeling of both freshness and marketability.”

Producer Shogo Maeda from Pokelabo says one of the things the team learned after “SINoALICE” launched in Japan is that storytelling outside of the game, on platforms like YouTube and social networks, is essential. “Mobile games are growing into a more comprehensive form of online entertainment,” he said.

While there’s no guarantee that “SINoALICE” will be as popular globally as it was in Japan, more than 2 million players already preregistered in the days leading to the launch. That’s a testament to both the hype that the game has generated and Taro’s growing popularity in the video gaming world.