Back in high school, I wrote game news and reviews for the Game Informer Online Community Blogs. One of these reviews, originally published June 11, 2011, was for the game Nier, which I awarded a 7.5. In the years since, the game has become one of my favorites – earning sixth place in my Top Games of All Time list. With the GIO blogs long gone, I felt it was appropriate to upload my archived version of the review, errors and all, as I’ve referenced it a couple of times on this blog. I’m more fond of the game than I was eight years ago, but I still stand by what I said back then. Still, this is still sixteen-year-old me speaking. Please keep that in mind.
By the way: my username on Game Informer’s site was Hawk_hotlips. Yeah, yeah, I know. My teenage years were full of awkward choices like that 24/7.
Platform: Playstation 3 (Also on 360)
Release Date: April 27, 2010
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Cavia inc.
Genre: Open World Action RPG
LOPSIDED AT BEST
The story behind Nier is a weird one. Originally announced as a 360 exclusive, the game stars a nameless father (whose his name is actually Nier) that needs to save his daughter from the disease, the Black Scrawl. Well, then it was announced that it wasn’t an exclusive anymore; the PS3 was getting the game too. After that, Square Enix came out and said that there would be two versions of Nier: the one I just described, and a Japanese exclusive version, which replaces the father with the girl’s older brother. Lastly, it was announced that overseas gamers who wanted to play as the brother could do so through a DLC pack, but the pack is just a few levels long and has nothing to do with the main story. Got it?
So, does all of this fuss about the protagonist and whether or not it’s exclusive, matter? Well, the answer isn’t exactly yes, but it’s not a no either. It’s a game that has a lot of interesting ideas, but it manages to execute only a few of them correctly. See, in order to save his daughter, Nier decides to become a mercenary and handyman for his hometown, taking quests for whatever person needs his help. The catch is that the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where there are few people and even fewer resources; modern technology having been lost long ago. Since this is the case, most of these quests naturally turn out to be either a “go kill this thing” mission or fetch quests and delivery quests. Those are always fun, right?
[Picture #1 would have gone here. I no longer have the images, but I still have the captions. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve decided to leave them intact. -Dominic]
This floating book is one of Nier’s closest companions
But, honestly calling this game an open world adventure would be a lie. There IS an open world to be had here, but there’s really nothing to do in it. In addition to the quests and main storyline, you can also farm crops and fish, neither of which I had fun doing, and kill some creatures in the overworld for nominal experience. Sadly, that’s all the game has to offer in terms of variety. Of course, you then have to walk pretty much everywhere, as your more efficient means of transportation (a boar, believe it or not) is only restricted to one part of the overworld. This is of made even worse by load times that would be at home on the original Playstation.
Strangely though, a lot of these shortcomings don’t break the mood of the game. In a post-apocalyptic world, you’d expect largely barren areas and monsters (called Shades) to be roaming them. Since there’s no modern technology, you’d obviously be walking everywhere. Because there are few people, and thus not many real jobs to take, your only option to get money would be by doing odd jobs. They’re logical gameplay choices; just not very fun ones. Also fitting is the graphics, which are washed out (the greyness of most current gen games is in full effect) and sterile at times. They’re not pretty by any means, but they go with the setting and get the job done.
One of your party members, Kaine, swears more than a sailor, but she’s pretty awesome
Nier and his unlucky daughter, Yonah
The gameplay is pretty repetitious and dull as well. The two ways to attack an enemy are handled by the Square and Triangle buttons, while the two different types of magic you can use are assigned to L1 and R1. You can mix it up with these options by choosing different weapons and spells to use and maybe have more fun than I had, but for me, I was just mashing Square most of the time. It breaks up the monotony a bit more than, say, a Dynasty Warriors game, but there are action RPGs with better gameplay out there.
I’d say that there are only three areas in which Nier succeeds: Its story, its sound, and its ability to switch to different genre perspectives. The story and sound, of course go hand in hand. The fantastic voice acting is aided by a wonderful script, both of which aid to help a story get better as it goes on. Nier also offers a stunning vocal-driven score as well, but might be a bit too limited for some people. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the DLC’s soundtrack, which opts to remix the songs to give them a more “modern” feel.
As for switching genres, that’s an aspect unique to Nier and clearly shows how much the developers wanted to have a great game on their hands. There are sections which seem ripped from the pages of Kingdom Hearts, while a couple dungeons reminded me more of The Legend of Zelda. Later on, the screen went blank, and all of a sudden the game turned into a text adventure! While I was excited, I imagine that all the reading might make some of the more impatient gamers out there a bit frustrated, so fair warning. They aren’t long though.
Nier’s a bit bloody
Nier is a game that tries to deviate from the normal and tired state of Japanese RPGs and in some areas finds modest success. The vocal-driven score is entirely appropriate, and the story is very well written and developed. In fact, it’s only enhanced as players play through each of the four endings. The idea of switching genres when needed is also a novel idea that’s executed well. However, there are aspects, mostly tied to the repetitive gameplay, which prevent Nier from being a truly great game.
It does concern me that Square Enix and Cavia (which closed after this game was finished) were so concerned about who should be the protagonist, but I’m glad that they chose to let us play as the father. Perhaps it’s just me, but I believe that a father trying to save his daughter makes for a much more convincing and emotional story than another brother trying to save his sister scenario.
Either way, I had enough fun to sink in over fifty hours into this game and complete two of the endings. I would only suggest you do the same, though, if you’re willing to put up with some very slow and repetitive moments along with weak graphics. If story’s your thing, then I suggest you give Nier a try. If you could care less about the story, then your money’s better off spent elsewhere.
Score: 7.5/10 (Good)
And then there’s the brother…yeah
Do you think I wrote better in high school? This review had like 2.1k views originally, so you’re probably right! Leave a comment below, shoot me an email (dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com), or contact me on Twitter to state your opinion!