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Review | NieR Replicant

"Shades, shadows, timelines, white hair, a book... NieR is back, it's "nier" and we should all grab it, finish it, talk about it, then talk some more about. If you think you're done, it's time for new playthrough with Automata OST and costumes. Oh boy, so much joy!"

by Foggy, 03-05-2021, Edited by: Jim

Shadows. They are a part of us, our reflection, almost tangible. If we observe our shadow we will realize (that we have gone mad) that it's us. This is somewhat how Yoko Taro envisioned his NieR. Not only him, but also Automata, which has already become famous and I personaly consider it the religion of the generation (lost one of course). If nothing makes sense now, we will make sure to clarify it, you just remember this introduction when you play the game.

I launched NieR in 2010th when it came out on the Xbox 360. It was a "daddy" version and it was mostly a little "stiff" comparing to the version we can now play on the PS4 and Xbox One. Apart from the fact that the versions differ according to the protagonist, it is mostly the same game. Today I’m writing about Replicant, an "upgrade" version of the one with the younger protagonist intended for the Japanese public at the time, and I'm intentionally not mentioning the remaster because this is truly an upgrade of the original game in every way, but again not enough to say it’s a remake. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, to be more precise - if you have another version, be sure to state yours when sharing experiences so your friend doesn't get confused…

Welcome. We've been waiting for you

JARPG - I don't even know if there is such a thing. Japanese, action and RPG. Something like that. If you’re not a fan of games of this style, in general if you’re not for that Japanese approach, I think it’s fair to say that those will not find the light inside. Also, anyone who has problems with unnecessary backtracking - unnecessary going back and forth through the same locations countless times, I wouldn’t really give a recommendation to them either. And if you’re the ones looking for a strong story, an abnormal concept of the same, a madness that only Yoko can tell without saying much, and yet saying it all, you absolutely love going through things like that with one of the best soundtracks - here we are. Welcome. And indulge, enters NieR.

Before we leave this introduction and settle into the juicier part of the review, it’s worth mentioning that with Replicant ver.1.22474487139… comes a couple of things that the original game didn’t have. They put a short part of the story into the game with a new section lasting about 40 minutes, a completely new ending, free costumes of the heroes of Automata, the DLC that came out later is now part of the game, they polished the fight to fit Automata style, the environment looks much nicer and all together it's really a solidly modified version. I would dare say the best you can play if you want to play the first NieR. And I would absolutely recommend it to those who are interested.

For Automatas among you

It took me 5 minutes to fell in love with the game. Beginning. Atmosphere. Music. Even if I tried, I couldn't escape this grasp. Although it looked a little weird and ugly to me in the prologue, the rest of the game definitely looks better. That start reveals that this is indeed a PS3 game in a new disguise, but that soon becomes irrelevant.

Name your protagonist. Remember the date. We are in a timeline before Automata, we are ready and we are going to write the story. Consider yourself a book in which you will write all your adventures, feelings, words… NieR is a very sensitive game with a strong social aspect and brilliant writing. As you go through this world of depression and melancholy and discover its little secrets, masterful music will accompany you on every step of the way. It will stop when needed, progress when needed. Music is the main guiding thread. At just the first notes of some performances I can easily imagine what part of the game I am in. With every gesture it creates I can recall the situations and feelings that were then felt in me.

Young, with a future ahead

These are some dark times...

The world is ruled by shades, shadows against which you create your destiny. They bleed. Yes, and they attack you in various variations. They are very important, think about them as you play. This is exactly how the adventure begins and you very quickly realize that the world you are in along with your sister Yonah is everything, just not ideal. Damn shadows. They destroyed everything. As an older brother, it is important to protect the younger sis'. Still, the shadows are too much… Darkness, emptiness. Zero. There is nothing left.

Many years later we continue with this saga. What exactly is happening is difficult to even explain, but I will also stop here and not go that way because, as I mentioned, the story is exactly why you need to stop by "nier" this game. I want to leave you one unforgettable experience, I don’t want to take a piece of the cake from you. Yoko has really incorporated the abnormal and the less abnormal into one timeless experience that will confuse you, drive you crazy, make you angry, and yet make it positively inspire you.

Old and nasty

Ending A, B... Or D? What the f....

The story is conceived through two periods. Both are moving in the same direction, but, of course, each has its trump cards. You want to stop Black Scrawl - a disease that has no cure, and Yonah (our younger sister) has unfortunately succumbed. Any clue is welcome. Everything I have mentioned so far is very closely connected, so you will experience the story from different angles and think differently every time you go through another part of it again. I must mention that the game is not over when you first see the credits, but that the adventure is just beginning. Let me warn you right away, the idea is ingenious, but it is not exactly implemented the best. Somehow Iit didn't "sit" to play the same parts a couple of times with just some tweaks and extensions opening up, it even got tiring for me at one point. Still, the ultimate goal and pushing to the end paid off. If backtracking and this idea are something you don’t like, I’m pretty sure you won’t like the game because of it.

In one moment the youth serves us the ride, in other the old age holds Emil. Don't ask.

I think I understand all the criticism at the expense of this idea. With all these "facts", the circle of people who want to go through a game like this is narrowing. And that's ok. We don't all like to grind. A little of that actually distracted me from enjoying it. Unfortunately, the quests are also quite fetchy, they mostly take you back to already visited locations and that only prolongs the agony, but it’s great that each one tells a short story and deepens the lore. Does it mean that it pays to spend an hour collecting materials to hear something relatively secondary? Not for most players. If you’re interested in lore it might pay off, some stories just touched me and just buried me even deeper in this raw world.

If you like Farming Simulator and Ultimate Fish Simulator, there are side activities for that as well. Nothing special, but I plucked sharks as this game was eating my spare time (in every positive way possible). When you love that world you are in everything gets a shade better. That happens when the game "takes" you, and it definitely happened to me.

Through story towards success

The only recommendation would actually be to engage in storytelling and sometimes wander off. You’ll go through it all countless times and you don’t want to create repetitiveness problems for yourself. That's the best way to play. Each transition after the first one brings some new challenges and stronger opponents, new weapons and new opportunities. You feel that the game is "flowing" further, and while chasing a new outcome, it's not bad to even think about what's really going on there. You still don’t know, but with all your might you want to find out. And so on, untill the very end.

If the game only lasted one half-transition less, I think it would be much better. What fascinates me is how my feelings and views of the world changed between transitions, pulling me towards all the characters in different ways. Very well placed. If the idea was a little "tighter" and assembled so that the same parts do not repeat so much, this would be a wonder. 

Take a good look, and remember these scenes. We will talk when you finish the game.

By everything else, it could be said that this is a typical ARPG. The action side has been refined and is similar to the one from Automata. That part is good, maybe a little basic, but it was interesting enough for me nonetheless. There are a lot of different combinations of attacks, a couple of categories of weapons, various spells and skills… I found a good recipe and "cooked" according to it.

The fight is very fluid and relatively simple. The variation of platforming is smaller here than, for example, in Automata. And it is well used, although I wished for more. There is less top-down perspective relations, less surrouding utilization. Too bad. Still a solid experience, with boss fights definitely a step above the middle. You should definitely play at "Normal" difficulty, and if you want a challenge, "Hard" is not that hard, you will just be a little more careful what you press (and when).

Hold R1 + Square, Square, Triangle, Triangle (Good combo combination)

Too bad the RPG system upgrade isn’t a little deeper, more complex. This way you can "fly" through the whole game without too much effort and with minimal upgrades. And it is minimal, except for the level and the weapons themselves, there are only "words" that you release by slaughtering shades. These "words" are an addition to the equipment in the form of Magic + 15%, EXP up + 20%, etc. Weapons can be upgraded, and that's it. If it weren't for the magic that bursts as you fight, it might be a little boring, this way you combine two approaches through all the fights and it will definitely be interesting for you to put those damn shadows on the spikes using…

… Grimoire Weiss. Who is that? The book. Your book that is a source of magic and perhaps the only solution for the Black Scrawl. Weissy is a legend of companions with ingenious voice acting and great humor. To keep you from getting bored when you run or sail to a location, Weiss is here to comment on whatever happens while you’re playing, be it quests or something else. There’s a lot of conversation there, even through the fights, and that part is a big plus. Kudos to them for so much text that is all just not boring. Overall, English voice acting is great, and relatively a lot of situations practice it.

I would single out textual stories between scenes that are deep and emotional, that highlight each character in the game even more deeply and evoke the situation without even displaying any animation. Some quests follow the same recipe and I loved those. In general, all dialogues are well written, with a dose of good humor they become very fluid and enjoyable.

If the game was twice as rich in this content and if it was a bit more conceptually "fluid" by using it for gameplay... But we have Automata for all that.

On my PS5 everything ran smoothly. The controls are good and responsive, perhaps a bit "outdated" compared to "modern" titles. It didn't bother me too much. What bothered me on the other hand, it would be camera controls. The camera can be a crime. It wanders everywhere and knows how to get you annoyed. Everything else very quickly becomes fluid and "from the wrist". The loading time between locations is quite sloppily adjusted for the current generation when we have stronger machines for these "older" games. Unfortunately, that damn "Loading" takes a long time and it kills your will to live. Once it loads everything is fine for some time. As you travel everywhere and do it constantly, there will be loading time, prepare. Supposedly the Xbox One version is superior, so try to throw your focus there. Graphically it’s a PS3 game, but a lot of it has really been refined and some animations look wonderful. Most, i.e. all the animations look wonderful, especially Emil in the later part of the game.

What did I just played?

How much Yoko Taro do you want play? I would highly recommend this "reading", just to experience those emotions and get that real impression. I think this work is still ahead of its time, and the possibilities that are still open can be something wonderful. All the more so as this is an overture to the Automata, which is still a spear above this title in my opinion. These 2 titles for me are something out of competition in what they do well, and those are story and emotion. Unreal.

At the end of the day, I will remember for many years and times what was served to me. Every minus I listed will be just an item, while everything else is something much more and valuable. Who are these shadows? Go ahead and see. I'm looking for the game to blow me away, and here, after this, I've been gathering myself for days and I still can't succeed. Long live NieR and Yoko Taro!

I will never forget this crew

Foggy, 5/10 (not the grade, a date).

"Exceptional and unique experience constrained by repetitive elements, but at the end of the day still something worth mentioning"