I'm all for hard games. Better yet, I'm all for hard games with punishing save points (Alien: Isolation, i.e.). This aspect of a game raises the bar and demands the player rise to it.
But god dammit Nier: Automata is difficult. - specifically the first major part of the game that takes you from a 3D Asteroids to a third-person hack-and-slash to a top-down bullet hell to a sidescroller all before you even get the actual boss of the level. Depending on how long you take, even getting to the first boss can take 30 minutes to an hour. Die any time before or during this fight, and you'll get the lovely screen below followed by a quick kick in the ass that sends you all the way back to the opening cinematic.
Take it from me, you can easily spend 4 hours just trying to get to the first save point in Nier: Automata if you choose to play on Hard. Even though you can change difficulty at any time, I'm guessing you're a masochist like me and would prefer to spend several hours playing Nier: Automata with nothing to show for it. Otherwise, why would you be here? Use these tips:
Take Luke Skywalker's advice when he crash lands on Dagobah: "R2!!!" Hit R2 like it murdered your family. Dodge early and often. Timing is great, and if you can pull of precise timing, then go for it. If you can't, no problem; just hit that damn button.
It doesn't even matter if you're using it to dodge. Using it to increase your speed in bullet hell segments is effective as well, since it makes you more mobile, and you can also use this to catch up to flying robots as well. It's a multifaceted tool and its importance cannot be overstated.
Live. Die. Repeat.
This is a war of attrition, and the first person who blinks loses. Dying repeatedly in Nier: Automata can tilt even the strongest-willed men, especially in this first segment, since you'll be driven all the way back to the opening lines, which, of course, bemoan the perpetual "spiral of life and death," in a cruel twist of irony (and the knife, for that matter). I watched a Twitch streamer this morning break his monitor out of frustration at one of these fights.
But you have to stay clear-minded. Take your time in fights with ranged enemies. Trying to rush through it is tempting, but you can also just wait out the eight shots each of them take, kill one or two in their down time and then reload again. There's no sense in taking almost 500 damage from one shot just to get through a little faster.
This may not sound like the honorable move, but run past every single enemy you don't have to fight. You'll be locked in a room with enemies on three occasions before the first battle, and there is no reason for you to hit the attack button even once before that. You have a double jump and you can use R2 (see above) to dash mid-air. Just avoid every single one.
This will save you time, which, believe me, you'll want to savor, and it will eliminate the risk of taking a tilt-induced or otherwise unnecessary hit, which, since you're playing hard mode, will take out at least 40 percent of your health.
Know When To Use Your Laser
Your laser is a great weapon. Right before the actual boss fight, you'll face two buzzsaw arms at once, and they will, of course, only stay dormant after attacks for a second or two. That doesn't allow you a lot of time to mash square and triangle at them. However, it does give you enough time to use your laser.
Your laser will charge up while you mash R2 to dodge attacks, then you can use your laser again, and chip away at these arms until they're collectively at half health. At this point, the boss will show up.
However, you can also misuse your laser. For example, it's tempting to try to cheat out an extra kill on a ranged enemy by using your laser during their brief downtime. Since you can't lock on in hard-mode, though, you will likely miss, especially if you're fighting the ranged enemies in a top-down segment.
Getting to the boss is one thing, but actually defeating it? It's damned Nier impossible. First off, your health items are mostly for shit because you'll get one-shot by basically anything he throws at you even at full health. So, watch the ground, as circles will appear where his rockets full down, first and foremost. Secondly, remember to hit that R2 button. Once you stall long enough, 9S will show up to kind of save the day, while also losing some limbs.
Rely a lot on your laser, once more, and mind your surroundings until the boss falters. Once you can climb on him, the same rules apply as earlier: dodge frequently, avoid fights you don't have to take, and be patient and judicious with your laser usage. Once you get in 9S's flight unit, you only really have to avoid the Boss's main laser and the orbs he shoots out. Dodging his swings is straight forward and easy, even on Hard. Pretty soon, you'll be able to detach the boss's left arm and deliver a few good heavy attacks to finish him off.
Then, watch a cutscene, end up in the bunker and hit the quick save button IMMEDIATELY. Do not delay. The congrats, I hope the bragging rights you now have was worth the six hours you sunk into slamming your head against this brick wall.
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