Yoko Taro has been one of the most enigmatic figures in the gaming industry for a number of years now, always seen with a full mask covering his head in public. He is best known for Nier: Automata, which served as one of two spin-offs of his initial Drakengard series. While Automata was reviewed exceptionally well, the original NieR flew under the radar with mediocre reception upon its release in 2010. Since that time, NieR has received a cult following that has really come to appreciate the game, and now the game is getting a second lease on life as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…
NieR is a very unique example that you won’t find too often in the gaming industry, as it released in two different forms back in 2010. The NieR release seen in the West back then was known as NieR Gestalt, but Japan got a PS3 exclusive version known as NieR Replicant that featured one major difference. Replicant had a teenage boy as the lead protagonist trying to save his sister, while Gestalt instead was focused on a father trying to save his daughter, who many have named Papa NieR. Other than a few dialogue changes to address this, the game itself was the same in pretty much every way. This was supposedly done due to Square Enix’s North American branch wanting an older protagonist, but there is no definitive confirmation of that. However, Taro has gotten his chance to create the definitive version of NieR and it just so happens to go with the Replicant protagonist instead.
As aforementioned, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… features a teenage protagonist that you get to name yourself, who is taking care of his sickly younger sister Yonah. However, the game starts in the distant past with the same protagonist who is also trying to save his sister Yonah. After the quick tutorial type section, you are moved more than a 1,000 years into the future with the same, yet different characters that are living in a little village. The protagonist is just trying to find a way to heal his sister, but she starts to get even worse after getting afflicted with something known as the Black Scrawl, which seems to be tied to the creatures known as Shades that are trying to invade this village and beyond.
In the process of trying to find a way to heal Yonah, you will meet a special talking magic book known as Grimoire Weiss that has lost most of his memories. He ends up teaming up with you, where you two try to find the one known as Grimoire Noir that could be the key to saving Yonah. This ends up being only but a piece of the puzzle, but that would go very much into spoiler territory that is better to experience yourself. Weiss, as you come to call him, serves as the game’s comedic relief in a way to help bring some levity to what is a very dark and depressing story overall. There are a lot of games where the banter between characters while just walking around or fighting isn’t worth paying attention to, but the back and forth with not only Weiss and the protagonist, but also some other characters is well worth listening out for in the game.
As you play through the game, you will meet two other very important characters along the way that play a major role known as Kainé and Emil. Kainé starts off very standoffish when you first meet her, but there are reasons why she is like this. Her truly tragic backstory unfolds not only throughout the game, but especially in what some would consider post-game content later that greatly fleshes out her character. You then meet Emil a little later, who ends up having an equally depressing backstory that you learn more about as you play the game. There are plenty of standout party companions in gaming, but these two along with the protagonist end up hitting those emotional beats about as well as any of them, which very well may bring you to tears before all is said and done.
This is not only due to the writing in the game, but also the fantastic voice acting across the board. NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… makes things even better by adding many more voiced lines to the game, where most of the game is actually voiced outside of some small conversations with NPCs. The voice actor they used for the younger protagonist also does a really good job in the game with all the redone dialogue from the original, on top of redone lines from the other returning voice actors as well.
One of the most interesting aspects of NieR Replicant is how unapologetically melancholy the story as a whole is, which seems to be a Yoko Taro staple. He’s not afraid to just rip your heart out by killing someone even when you least expect it, but it’s not just for shock factor either. These moments carry major weight in the narrative and make the story all the better as a result. There are a lot of moments where the game really plays with the idea of shades of gray, especially when it comes to the lead ups to the endings. While it may sound like a cliché, the world just wasn’t ready for the type of story that NieR wanted to tell when it originally released back in 2010, but games like Nier: Automata and even others like The Last of Us games have paved the way for a game in this style to thrive.
The world just wasn’t ready for the type of story that NieR wanted to tell back in 2010
After you get control of your character following the opening tutorial, the village serves as your main hub in NieR Replicant, with three gates that allow you to venture outside of it to different areas. The game is structured a bit like a Legend of Zelda game, where you go to take on the equivalent of a few early dungeons before something major happens and then you have to not only revisit everywhere, but also visit some new locations as well. This unfortunately leads to a lot of backtracking and going back and forth between areas that can get pretty tedious early on, especially if you are taking on the numerous sidequests in the game. After some major events in the game though, you will eventually gain the ability to fast travel that can really help you clear out those widespread sidequests.
Those coming into NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… fresh off of NieR: Automata will find a familiar, yet still different gameplay style. PlatinumGames stepped in for Automata and escalated the combat in a number of ways from NieR Replicant, but that is not to say that this game’s combat is disappointing in any way. In fact, you can definitely tell where they made some improvements to the camera to be more on the level expected from Automata. Regardless of if you have Kainé or Emil to help you in battle at any given point of the game, you control only the protagonist in combat and have a bevy of weapons at your disposal. These are split between one-handed swords, two-handed swords, and spears, though the latter two do not become available until part of the way through the game. The combat with these are pretty typical for your usual action RPG, but where the game really shines is with its use of magic.
Grimwoire Weiss lends you his magic to use in battle, which only grows more powerful as you play through the game. This is because you start the game off by trying to collect what are known as Sealed Verses, which are actually a series of powerful spells that Weiss can use in battle. You are able to map these to the bumpers and triggers, though the triggers are defaulted to defend and evade naturally. These spells use varying amounts of a magic meter that you have, which replenishes through attacking or just slowly over time. Certain enemies are more susceptible to magic attacks versus melee, but the best way to handle things is to use the two in tandem to take down enemies. This is especially the case with the bosses, where you’ll have to employ different strategies to beat them. For those that may not enjoy the combat all that much though, this version has added a new Auto-Battle mechanic so that you can play through and take in the story without worrying about the gameplay too much. The combat overall may not be as fluid as Nier: Automata, but it’s still pretty enjoyable on its own.
There are 33 different weapons to find and collect in the game, which actually is something you need to do if you want to get the true endings to the game. Each of these weapons can also be upgraded by finding the right materials too, which can really increase their strength. On top of that, Nier Replicant features a rather unique mechanic known as ‘Word Edit,” where all weapons, magic, and even your defend and evade moves can have two ‘words” placed upon them. These words are collected throughout the game by defeating enemies and can add perks such as increased attack power, increased armor break, increased XP gain, and even increased item drop rate. The game could be really played without these in the long run, but it’s an interesting mechanic that can help you out regardless.
As alluded to above when endings were mentioned, NieR Replicant does in fact have multiple endings for you to experience. While it’s nothing quite like the 26 different endings that Nier: Automata had, this game has five total with Endings A, B, C, D, and E. The first four of these were already in the original game, but Ending E is actually brand new to the NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… release. While the second playthrough may seem a bit tiresome due to the fact that you have to replay the second half of the game essentially, the game still has really interesting story elements that flesh out Kainé especially, but also Emil and even some of the Shades themselves. Ending C takes a similar approach, but Endings D and E are quite different and are definitely something you will want to play through to get the full experience.
Not only does NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… add an additional ending to the game, but there are also a number of other elements added to the game as well. This includes new story content that supposedly was meant to be in the original, which finds a shipwreck in the Seafront area of the game. While this doesn’t take place until a bit later in the game, there are some elements of it weaved into the existing story that lead to the eventual shipwreck. For those that have never played the game before, you wouldn’t even have noticed that this wasn’t always part of the game before now either. This story quest ends up culminating in a massive boss fight that is definitely one of the biggest in the entire game by far, which is a very worthy addition to the game as a whole.
That is far from the only addition as well, as you will eventually unlock the ability to change costumes, which ties into something very interesting. In the original NieR, there were a series of challenges that you can take part in after finishing the initial playthrough of the game that let you play as the younger protagonist instead of Papa NieR at the time. This game features the exact reverse, as the father from the previous Gestalt version of the game is playable in these segments that will reward you with the various costumes. Square Enix will also be offering a free DLC pack with costumes based off of Nier: Automata’s 2B and more as well, which is cool to see.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… also comes with another Automata related bonus, as you can also eventually switch the game’s soundtrack to the Nier: Automata soundtrack instead. While that is a stellar soundtrack and is well worth switching to for a change of pace, the NieR Replicant soundtrack itself is absolutely phenomenal, which has been completely re-recorded for this release. The various tracks help to convey the various emotions you will feel while playing the game, with ‘Kaine (Salvation)’ being utilized to near perfection by composer Keiichi Okabe.
One of the biggest complaints about the original NieR was the lackluster visuals that really did not impress at the time. NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… addresses that issue head on with rebuilt character models and environments, which is a major upgrade from how it was before. The game still isn’t a visual showpiece or anything, but now it runs at 4K with a 60fps frame rate, which is a major upgrade from the 720p at 30fps frame rate of the original. There were very few moments where it seemed like the frame rate dipped either, as the game stayed very smooth even when the screen was full of attacking Shades.
There are very few games out there that can turn things around like NieR did after its poor reception back in 2010. Even though there are still some things holding the game back overall, many elements that were not as accepted at the time have aged quite well, while others have even been improved upon in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…. Mix that in with one of the most captivating stories that you’ll find in gaming and you have a real recipe for success with NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, which truly deserves to be seen by many more people this time around.
Gamers weren’t quite ready for Yoko Taro’s NieR back in 2010, but now the now cult classic is getting another chance in the way it was originally intended. On top of additional content and bonuses not found in the original, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… features a beautifully melancholy narrative that is equal parts gut-wrenching and heartfelt, all of which is very worth experiencing.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.