- Platform- Xbox 360 (version tested), PS3
- Developer- Cavia
- Publisher- Square Enix
- Release date- 22nd April, 2010
Hello everyone. Retroplayer here!
Nier is an unforgettable experience. It’s a Frankenstein of a game though. It feels like a mash-up of Kingdom Hearts, God of War, Final Fantasy, and Harvest Moon. Despite being a game that opens slightly poorly, at times doesn’t gel well together, and can be downright frustrating, it is ultimately a truly terrific game. I feel in love with it, dear readers.
Developed by Cavia and published by Square Enix in 2010, Nier opens in the year 2049. Amidst what looks like a nuclear winter, is a father and daughter doing their best to survive. While the young girl is ill and rests inside a broken down convenient store, her father fights off creatures know as “Shades”. The Shades sprang up after the cataclysm that has left the fallout across the planet. The game then cuts to 1,312 years later, to a very different world; a more or less pre-industrial world that has risen from the ashes of the past. The player also seemingly finds the very same father and daughter from 2049 in this time. The girl is sick and the father, known as Nier, must find a cure for her terminal illness that has been caused by the Shades. Playing as Nier, the nature of the Shades, his daughters sickness, who is behind the Shade scourge itself, and the explanation behind the 2049 prologue, are all revealed over the course of the game. Nier presents one of the best, most intriguing tales I have ever encountered in gaming. It’s moving, thrilling, and absolutely captivating.
Nier is a third person action JRPG, and often feels like a blend between Kingdom Hearts and God of War, as the player is given the ability to free roam even during battles. The world of Nier is relatively small, but highly effective. There are three towns to fully explore, talk to NPCs, take part in basic side quests, as well as numerous locations used for fighting Shades. The movement of Nier himself is great too. Controls are very smooth, and it’s quite refreshing to play a JRPG in which your character runs, rolls, and jumps in such a brisk, and almost beast-like manner. Because of this, making your way between locations never gets tiresome, and fighting the Shades themselves tends to be quite a brief, if highly enjoyable exercise. There’s two kinds of main attacks- magic and weapons. Weapons can be collected and found over the course of the game, and come in three different types; one-handed, two-handed, and spears. There’s a good number of weapons that can be collected for each type, and depending on the weight of the weapon, they will often handle very differently. This, even before talking about magic, makes for hugely varied gameplay experience. The magic comes in the form of Grimoire Weiss, a talking, floating book that becomes a companion to Nier along his travels. Much like with weapons, new spells can be accessed over the course of the game, and, once again, are widely varied. They can be used at any point during battle, but tend to be better suited as ranged attacks. For instance, Dark Lance will fire a large spike towards an enemy, while Dark Blast will send a barrage of smaller, less powerful projectiles at foes. Every magic spell can be powered up if desired, resulting in a bigger, more damaging attack. Used in conjunction with the weapons, magic is Nier is nicely done, and keeps fights new, fresh, and exciting.
However, as mentioned before, Nier is a little disjointed at times, both to the delight and puzzlement of the player. You’ll find yourself killing Shades, and five minutes later tending to your crops in your garden. Or how about when the game cuts to what could best be described as a text based adventure. It’s an odd, odd game at it’s heart, with an insistence of trying new, bizarre things. Some simply don’t work, but Cavia’s ballsy attitude is a thing to behold. I personally loved how cobbled together Nier felt at times. Whether it’s some dungeon sections cutting to a top-down perspective, or how interiors of shops pull down to a side-scrolling perspective, Nier is full of unique, hit-and-miss surprises.
Visually, Nier isn’t top drawer. In fact, there are times that Nier looks almost last-gen. That said, Cavia does have a flare for sheer spectacle, which can be seen early into the game at Aerie, one of the games stand out locations. It consists of a town built inside a canyon, far up off ground level. Houses and shops are connected via walkways, as red banners blow in a strong wind that barrels its way along the canyon walls. Another aspect I enjoyed about Niers visuals were its use of colour. While JRPGs never really suffered from the “brown and bloom” of western titles, Nier has a rich colour pallet that in real-time can change from lush, green hills to yellow, sun scorched deserts. Character design throughout is quite impressive too, with the character of Nier himself being nicely executed. The sheer idea of controlling an older, gruff father figure in a JRPG took me completely off guard. This is further compounded by the absolutely brilliant voice acting. While everyone is at the top of their game, a special mention must be given to Liam O’ Brien who plays Grimoire Weiss. To play a magic, floating, ancient book must have been a tall order for a voice actor, but I have no qualms in saying that Liam gives one of the greatest performances I’ve ever heard in a videogame to date. Excellent. Additionally, Jamieson Price, the voice behind Nier, gives the game its emotional heart. The player gets a very true sense of his love for his daughter, and over the course of the game Jamieson does a stellar job at keeping that emotional connection running very deep.
Did you know?- Nier is a sequel to Enging E of the PS2 game Drakenguard. This ending shows the source of the plague that spreaded the Shades.
The soundtrack to Nier is simply incredible. It blew me away upon hearing it, and much like my praise for Liam, I’d happily say that it’s one of the best videogame soundtracks in the last 10 years. Primarily composed by Keiichi Okabe, with the aid of wonderful vocals by Emi Evans, the music in Nier is a powerhouse of emotion. From the absolutely trilling track “The Lost Forest”, that hits home a true sense of adventure, to “Shadowlord’s Castle Memory”, a song that perfectly encapsulates the feeling the player has upon entering the final leg of Niers emotional journey. I can’t say this enough enough, dear readers- the soundtrack to Nier is sheer perfection.
Overall Nier is an incredible experience I’ll never forget. It starts off slow, tries to handle more than it can chew, but that’s all forgiveable. It gave me one of the most compelling, emotional journeys I’ve ever had with a game. That, coupled with its cast of wonderful characters, powerful soundtrack, incredibly fluid fighting mechanic, and 3 unlock-able additional endings upon completion, make it one of the most misunderstood games in recent years. Why did so many reviewers flush it down the toilet? Who knows. But I’m here to tell you that Nier is well worth your time. While it may test your patience at first, if you give Nier time it more than pays off. Play it, you won’t regret it.