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Great Shit You Haven't Played: Nier
Posted on Friday, January 20 2012 @ 22:29:16 Eastern

So today, we’re going to hit up a game from about two years ago that’s now available for $15 used, Nier.
Nier is the last game made by the now defunct Cavia Inc. and published by Square-Enix. You’ll remember Cavia for the many, uh, games they’ve made like Bullet Witch and Drakengard, and I should probably stop mentioning their previous games. Anyway, remember Drakengard, because it’s important. See, Nier is a spin-off of sorts, with the story stemming from a secret joke ending from the first Drakengard game, which brings me into the first and arguably biggest point of why Nier is such a worthy game, its story.
Now, this is a sort of tricky matter to get into without giving too much away, so let me just say that Nier has one of the best stories of this generation, as well as some of the best storytelling and characterization. And the characters are really a major part of this. Despite being supernatural, the characters are all realistic in their progression and the ways that they act. The game is told from the perspective of the main character Nier, a scraggly old man who spends most of the game caring for his daughter Yonah in a world so post-apocalyptic that it’s borderline medieval. Now the first interesting part of the game is that it is told through his perspective. Things that are important to him get heavier focus, while the things he wouldn’t find so interesting are played more subtly, albeit with some importance still. An example of this is an unlikely character slowly falls in love with him, which is hard to notice unless you know what to look for. What this also means is that the game doesn’t spoonfeed you every little aspect about every little character. However, the information does exist, should you go to find it. This is something few video games do, despite this being a unique ability video games have in storytelling. So you need to read everything you get and talk to anyone important to get the full scoop.

Here’s where things get interesting. So you beat the game, read all the little files you get, and you think you know the entirety of the story. All done right? Well, not quite. The game gives you the option of starting a New Game Plus at about the 2/3rds marker, where it’ll take you maybe five or six hours to beat the game again, which is something you should definitely do. See, like I said, the game takes place through Nier’s perspective. So upon beating the game you get to experience the same events through and entirely different perspective, one radically unlike Nier’s. And upon completion of a second playthrough, you get another ending that gives you a deeper, greater look at the story. And then comes the next playthrough. See, neither of those endings are the “true” ending to the game. If you gather up all the weapons in the game (don’t fret, there aren’t many) and beat it once more, you get to go to one of the “true” endings. These are, easily, worth every minute spent trying to achieve them, as they are some of the best endings ever made. Simple as that. And since there are two true endings, it means you’ll have to beat the game three times to get what is probably the most powerful ending to any game in recent history. (In my opinion, I think this makes it a hard game to review, since you have to do so much to get the full story. But like I’ve said, it’s worth it.)
The other main aspect of glory is the music. It’s all brilliantly mastered and written, with the classic “foreign chanting” made to sound like an ancient civilization has passed by. Very well done, nuff said.
Of course, music and story aside, Nier does have its problems. First of all, the combat is about as average as it gets. It gets the job done, no more, no less. There’s really not that much I can say, because there really isn’t that much to it. There’s some bullet hell parts to it, but they’re easily avoided or blocked, and that’s about it. The only really interesting part is the word system, which powers up your weapons and magic depending on what you do with them. To put it simply, the combat works. It isn’t anything to write home about, and it isn’t the driving point of the game, but it works.
The other main problem of the game is there’s far too many little things in it. You can fish, you can hunt, you can grow crops, there are TONS of sidequests. But they really don’t do anything for the game. You only have to hunt and fish once in the beginning, and both times it pretty much does it for you, and that’s it. And when it comes to the sidequests, unless you’re doing it for an achievement (which I wouldn’t recommend until you’ve beaten the game a number of times) you’re going to want to skip all of them, or at least follow this chart. Basically, fishing and farming are there to fill up time, but they really do detract enjoyment from the game if you try to do everything in them.
Nier is an uncut diamond in the greatest way. If you were to chisel away the drier environments, polish the combat, and cut down on the sidequests, it would be one of the greatest games available. As it is, it’s a game definitely worth playing.
DO NOT play it if:
You don’t care for story/music/etc.
You want to focus entirely on combat
DO play it if:
The above don’t qualify
Also, fun fact: In Japan, there are two versions of Nier. The PS3 version has a young protagonist with his sister, while the 360 version is the old man and his daughter. Originally, only the old man version was planned, but the producers (Square Enix. Go figure) insisted on having a younger, teenage protagonist. Only the old man version was localized to the west.
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