Yoko Taro explains how Nier Replicant's Mermaid chapter was cut from original in new interview
Nier buffs immediately recognized the Little Mermaid story arc in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139... from its original home in the novella collection, Grimoire Nier, but that wasn't the place series creator Yoko Taro first planned to tell the story. In a new interview from the PlayStation Blog, Taro explained that the 2010 release was always supposed to include that storyline, but budget cuts ultimately led to its removal.
Perhaps it's a little more evident to those of us quite in the weeds when it comes to Taro's universe, but it's just as you may have thought, and The Little Mermaid chapter featured in the Nier remaster was planned for the initial release more than a decade ago. When asked about how it became a novella instead of something in-game, Taro gave his typical tongue-in-cheek response, noting the budget cuts and explaining he thought, "I did spend the time to come up with the idea, so maybe I can put it in as a bonus content in the concept book… Besides, unlike games, a novel doesn’t require you to think about budget’ and so I wrote it without thinking too deeply on it. But, little did I know, it would be turned into a game ten years later."
There were other novellas in that concept book collection, too. However, Taro revealed The Little Mermaid Chapter was the only one he'd actually planned for Nier's first game release. The Lost World, another addition in Replicant's remaster you'll recognize from Grimoire Nier, was written as a backup if Square Enix shot down the director's original idea to delete player save data. We wound up with that feature in the game, so that's why you didn't see it. And since Taro never disappoints with a boring interview, he explained that producer Yosuke Saito instructed him to add his Plan B to the remaster and threw in a very Taro-moment with, "I’m a slave of capitalism, so didn’t question it and did as I was told."
As for some of the more interesting bits, Taro also commented on how he "tries not to enforce the lore so strictly" and that he doesn't hold "protecting the lore" up with the same importance as player experience. Even as someone heavily into combing through bizarre lore videos, theories, and extended universe stuff—I think that's something I do appreciate and find evident in his work. Every entry to his universe is absolutely wild but not overly concerned with your familiarity with the other, which makes recommending Nier easy. The PlayStation Blog interview with Taro is certainly worth a read, especially for those a little more interested in how both versions of the game came to be.
If you're curious to compare the older release with Replicant Ver.1.224, it's available via the Xbox Backwards Compatibility program now. Both Replicant and Automata continue to do well for Square Enix as we close up 2021, and RPG Site's Josh Torres highlighted why the remaster's refreshed appeal holds up to modern tastes in his review.