NieR Replicant review ver.1.22474487139, or for the sake of my sanity, just NieR Replicant, as it was aptly named in Japan, is an improved version of the original released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC of the original game NieR released in 2010. Directed by Yoko Taro, NieR Replicant servers as the prequel to the acclaimed NieR Automata and a sequel to the Drakengard series.
AT A GLANCE
GENRE: Action, Adventure, RPG
DEVELOPER: Square Enix, Toylogic Inc.
PUBLISHER: Square Enix
RELEASE DATE: 23 Apr, 2021
FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10
NieR Replicant’s story starts off similar to any other JRPG. We have a hero, a young boy who wants to save his sister. He embarks on a journey to defeat the big bad guy with his band of trusty companions. Pretty boring, right? well if you’ve played ANY of Yoko Taro’s game, you pretty much know that his games are anything but boring and the farthest you can get from normal.
We begin this story in a world devastated and immersed in the apocalypse where our hero—NieR or whatever you name him—tries to calm his little sister Yonha who is suffering from a lethal disease. After a brief battle and cutscene, the game does a huge time skip, to focus on a pair of siblings who look exactly the as the ones we saw a couple of thousand years back. Society, as we know it, has ceased to exist and sent our technological prowess back to those during medieval times. Mysterious beings known as shades roam the land and threaten whatever remains of humanity.
NieR is now a young man living in a village next to Yonhaa, who suffers from the same terminal illness. Determined to find a remedy, NieR goes on a journey to find all the sealed verses along with the talking book Grimoire Weiss, the lingerie donning Kainé, and the magic-wielding Emil. This game starts off pretty cheerful, with only the pressure of finding a cure for your sister at the back of your head, while you go off procuring mutton for housewives and delivering letters. But the story soon takes a turn for a more grim tone and slowly begins peeling its layers to reveal more and more complex themes of layers of raw existentialism is revealed that questions life and death, good and evil, magic and science, salvation and chaos.
Playing the story for the first time will barely get you any answers, and subsequent replays are required to unlock the other endings and finally understand the true plot.
Gameplay wise, NieR Replicant has received some substantial improvements over the original’s clunky battle system. While not as flashy and deep like its sequel Nier Automata, Nier Replicant still offers some satisfying hack and slash gameplay. Combos are simple but effective with fluid animations and you can spice things up with magical attacks. There’s no depth to it, and you can get through most encounters by chaining through combos by simply button mashing but boss fights still offer a decent challenge. Hard mode is there in the game, but unfortunately turns the enemies into damage sponges. Some scenarios might require you to use a combination of magical and physical attacks while some enemies might be immune to magic and vice versa.
Since NieR Replicant is a RPG as well, there is naturally a system of levels and stat improvements that improve your character’s characteristics. This system is very basic and merely strengthens the character basic stats. Enemies drop words when killed and these words can be equipped on your equipment for various benefits. You can also improve your weapons with gold and materials collected from creatures and the overworld. Companions however cannot be upgraded or modified in any way and stay as supporting characters that attack at will, and while, you can give them some directions, they aren’t of much consequence in most battles.
Along the way, you will notice Yoko Taro’s attempts to experiment with other genres and changes in perspectives. The most apparent one is a kind of Bullet Hell that was newer players will have seen in Nier Automata. Occasionally you will be swarmed with enemies that will be constantly attacking you with projectiles and you will be required to utilize quick reflexes and Weiss’s magical attacks in order to survive. But you’ll also find puzzles and platforming sequences, some more tiresome than others, while some requiring you to use your brains in order to solve them.
Unexpectedly, the camera often zooms out into an overhead perspective, or move to the side to turn the action into a side-scrolling game. During certain combat sequences, it would turn into an isometric perspective, similar to Diablo, or the camera might become fixed like the first generation of JRPGS. NieR: Replicant really pulls no punches when it comes to experimenting with the gameplay.
I really enjoyed these sequences, since they offered a welcome change in pace from the game’s constant backtracking. The game forces you to revisit its few locations and add up hours of play. This is a part of NieR, and I understand that this would break the pacing of the game, and alienate the fans who enjoyed the game. But I still feel that this part of the game could have done with some modernizing.
What has absolutely NOT stood the test of time are the sidequests. Despite having fully voiced characters, nothing can change the fact that some of the sidequests in this game are absolute trash, and combined with the fact that there’s no objective marker for some of the more frustrating objectives, it becomes a chore. I appreciate working for my reward as much as the next gamer, but only when the journey to get said reward is worth it. When a side quest requires me to find 10 pieces of mutton, 3 herbs, and 4 thyme or whatever the NPCs constantly demand of me for the 100th time, it becomes tedious and boring. Weiss even makes a stab at NieR for being an errand boy, and NieR offers a somewhat acceptable justification for these fetch quests, but not enough for me to enjoy them. There are also some optional activities such as fishing or farming, that offer moments of peace and tranquility.
Visuals, Sound, and Technical Performance
Unsurprisingly, NieR has had a major technical update. It plays better on all consoles, with a smooth 60 FPS. It has also had a considerable improvement in the textures, lighting, and draw distance. Particles have also been given a significant bump in quality and look like what they were intended to look like and not a blob of poorly detailed images. But where the improvements are most evident is in the new character models. They all have been redesigned from the ground up while being as faithful as possible to the original vision and their aesthetics are closer to what we saw in NieR: Automata. However, it is clear that more attention was paid to the protagonists and main bosses, as the hair and other textures look very plastic-y on NPCs and supporting characters.
Despite all the snazzy new animations and overall improved visuals, it still does not hold a candle to some of the even mediocre releases of this generation in terms of visuals. Even NieR: Automata looks and plays a lot better than Replicant. It’s not as gorgeous as a full remake like something we’ve seen with Mafia 1 or Shadow of the Colossus, but it’s way more impressive than a simple remaster.
The only part of the game that has absolutely stood the test of time is probably the soundtrack. But in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 the vast majority of songs have been remixed regardless, to very good results. New songs that fit the theme of the original just as beautifully have been added while the originals. The result is a soundtrack filled with soul and rich in detail, very few games have soundtracks that actually feel like they are part of that world, fitting the themes the game strives to achieve, and NieR’s soundtrack is flawless when it comes to this.
The voices have been re-recorded with the original dubbing actors and actresses. Also, all conversations with NPCs, who were silent in the original, now feature spoken dialogue. You can choose between voices in English or Japanese.
Overall the voice acting is superb and there’s very little to complain in the sound department.
Bottom line: it’s hard not to be happy with the way this improved version has been treated, both for new players and those who love the original. The first ones are going to find the definitive version of NieR , the most complete in terms of content and with a more satisfactory playability. For their part, fans of the original are going to get exactly what they could ask for in a Yoko Taro game review.
So, even if it is not perfect, the world is prepared to stop being a cult work that only a few have played and finally become what it always should be: a game praised and recognized by all. It’s time for Nier to bloom .