About a decade ago, many of us might have come across a copy of Nier in the local video game store bargain bin or secondhand shelf and not give it a second glance. Things were a bit different back then and nobody really talked about it, so we didn’t really know much about it, so it largely got ignored. Forward a few years to 2017, and its sequel managed to capture our attention thanks to a bit of marketing, slick-looking gameplay and of course a sexy anime android in a French maid outfit with a sword.
This sequel, called Nier Automata, quickly amassed a big following thanks to its incredible characters and engrossing storytelling, making us realise that the Nier series might have a lot more to it than just another JRPG.
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, like its name would suggest, is another, new version of the original Nier. It is essentially a remaster of the Japanese version of the game, with updated visuals, improved gameplay and combat, as well as some other quality of life improvements. And just so you know, this game is just as bonkers as its famous sequel, maybe even more so. You play as the protagonist, which you give a name at the beginning of your adventure, who sets out to find a cure for his sister Yonah, who has been afflicted by a mysterious sickness called the Black Scrawl. Along the way he meets Grimoire Weiss, a floating magical book which accompanies him on his journey, as well as a Kaine and Emil, all of whom has their own troubles and inner demons to deal with.
The story is in a way more intimate and reserved, as the protagonist doesn’t set out to save the world or gain glory, but rather just save the one he loves most. It is the sort of story we can all relate to in some form or another, and because of that, it gives it a bit more of an emotional punch. Nier Replicant does have multiple endings though, each giving a player more insight into the story and lore of the world we are inhabiting, and at the same time giving our action more weight because of it. It’s not the first time we’re experiencing this sort of thing, but it is very well done and just shows us how good Yoko Taro is at telling this sort of story. Saying anything more would start going into spoilers, and you owe it to yourself to experience this on your own.
Showing its age
Nier Replicant is a decade-old game, and it certainly shows when it comes to gameplay and certain mechanics. The combat did get a bit of an overhaul to bring it more in line with Nier Automata and make it feel a bit more modern, but it still feels a bit old. You get three weapon types, that basically work by mashing a combination of the Square and Triangle button, occasionally dodging and parrying. You also have some magic options, which are quite interesting, but it doesn’t really feel intuitive as you need to pause the game in order to switch out for something else, so you end up using just the same two for most of your playtime. You don’t learn any new combos or variations in combat, so it mostly just remains the same. The main enemy type you face – the Shades – are also pretty dull and repetitive, and mostly just scale up in hit points as you go along. Boss fights however are pretty cool and also creative enough, so that at least makes up for it.
Combat, along with all other gameplay elements, can be best described as “repetitive”. The game features a semi open-world with areas of interest and levels connected with large, mostly empty open spaces that you will be backtracking over, a lot! This is probably one of the most annoying and dated elements of the game. It will take you more 35+ hours to complete and get all the endings, and much of it is spent running from one area to the next. It also doesn’t help that almost every single one of the side missions is essentially a fetch quest for somebody in one of the towns.
A product of its time
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is, as could have been expected, a product of its time. The shiny new paint of coat it got does look good, but it still looks and feels like a PlayStation 3 game. That said, it is still worth a look, especially if you liked the much more recent Nier Automata. The combat isn’t as good, since few can match PlatinumGames in that regard, but it is passable, even if it is a bit repetitive.
But the storytelling is where the real magic lies, and if what you’re looking for is a beautiful, sad and deeply personal story wrapped in an action RPG, then Nier Replicant might just be it. If you’ve played it before, then you know what to expect, if you’ve only played the critically acclaimed sequel, well then you also might have an idea. If you’re new to it all, then you get ready for one wild ride.