By James Di Martino
Many people may have missed NIER when it released 10 years ago. A bit of history is needed to understand why there is so much diverse love for this game. In the west the version released was called Nier Gesalt.. (With Gesalt being left out of any kind of marketing) with a hulk of a dad who resembled Conan the barbarian and a pretty ugly box art combined with a poor marketing campaign led to a near dead on arrival game that developed cult status rather quickly. In japan, the version that released was quite different called Nier Replicant.
Instead of playing as the father Nier who had to protect his daughter (which was intended to resonate more with the west) you play as the Brother Nier who looks similar to a final fantasy character or when placed next to the games party, a much better fit to the aesthetics of the game. When I went from the original Nier to its sequel (Automata) it left me a bit confused at how much different it looked from the original character designs.
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 (yes those numbers are just random inputs by series creator Yoko Yaro) is considered a version upgrade to the original Nier. I would go as far as to state this is a fine line of remaster and remake, somewhere in the middle.
Fans of Nier Automata may be surprised at how slow Nier Replicant begins, there are a number of fetch quests and strange back and forth running around that reflects awkward game design. These complaints were very consistent in its early reviews of the original release. This however changed radically when it quickly became a cult classic primarily due to its masterful narrative and musical score. Nier Replicant fixes a lot of the short comings while expanding in remarkably interesting ways on the core narrative experience of the world. Combat is vastly improved if kept quite simple for the duration of the game’s length. The good news is that the attacks carry a lot of weigtt this time around and I dreaded combat in the original Nier but found myself enjoying what Toybox did to the combat system. Its no platinum games but it’s a hell of a lot better.
No review would be complete without a detailed explanation on the games narrative and master class score. A brief outline of the games story is a brother who is caring for his sick sister and goes to extreme lengths to ensure her disease is cured. That same disease seems to be infecting the world and monsters known as shades roam the lands. The story is multi layered that places you on an emotional roller coaster that pulls at the heart strings. Each party member is fleshed out and given a lot of context. This video game truly evokes the genre of unique story telling games are able to bring to the table. Secrets are around every nook and cranny. The game has a number of endings (A-E) which encourage replaying the game a total of three times. Replicant brings Ending E which is a brand new 2 hour experience that is worth the trails and subsequent play throughs which not only adds to the nier universe but recontextualises this game and its sequel Automata.
The musical score is crafted by Maestro Keiichi Okabe who is one of the composing gods of video games in the modern era. Niers original score is a very special case which has crossed over outside the realm of video games and into peoples lives. The voice in the OST, Emi Evans has been heard millions of times on YouTube and will be a significant contribution to music. I play the Automata soundtrack in my car and it still amazes me how good it is. The original will also find a place in my car collection of songs. To understand how powerful this music is, I had many play sessions when I finished, I felt a strong sensation like I was in some kind of trance. The music is that strong and blends with the game so well that hours could go by and I would experience highs no other game would give. Feelings of nostalgia, despair, love, hate, fear and doubt are some of the feelings this soundtrack evokes. Music is an immensely powerful tool within games and Keiichi Okabe will not disappoint.
Yoko Taro is one of the most unique voices within the gaming world. The success of Nier Automata enabled a 10-year-old game to get a new life and find a audience. It’s rare that a game gets this treatment. While the game has some outdated game choices it’s a must play and something that will stay with many people once they finish.
I do hope one day we see Yoko Taro as a creative director of a Final fantasy game where he may breathe some much-needed life into the mainstream releases. If not, more Nier is never a bad thing and I cant f***ing wait for his next project
Review by James DiMartino
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