A good work needs a little time on the shelf sometimes.
The original Nier was a game very much before its time. Back in 2010, all anyone expected from a PS3 and Xbox 360 action RPG was a lot of slashy-slashy, and not a whole lot else. Yoko Taro, with his very… distinctive storytelling style didn’t really mesh with general sensibilities back then, at least not here in the west. Years later, though, with the release and success of NieR Automata, people became a little more receptive to that unusual style, which is why Taro and his crew decided to bring back the original for one more go around the block. And I think we’re finally ready for it.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (and I’m only typing that all out once) is a remastered version of the original Nier, opting for its original Japanese title. Just like the original, it follows the story of a young man in a mysterious fantasy world whose sister, Yonah, is stricken with the “Black Scrawl,” a fatal disease that causes strange black text to appear on the afflicted’s skin. Only with the help of the living book Grimoire Weiss can the young man find the ancient magic that could potentially cure his sister, though in the process he may discover a much deeper, darker secret about the world he inhabits. If you played the original game, you may be confused as to why the protagonist is a young man caring for his sister rather than a middle-aged man caring for his daughter. This is because there were actually two versions of the game made, with the younger protagonist in Japan and the older one in the west. The age doesn’t really matter, though, as it’s still a surprisingly engrossing story with some great character interactions and stealthy worldbuilding moments.
The basic game loop hasn’t changed that much; you journey across the land, either in pursuit of Weiss’ Sealed Verses, or to complete odd jobs for various villagers. The character models have been completely remade, so everything looks much prettier, and a couple of quality of life changes have been added such as the ability to sprint automatically instead of needing to dodge roll first. When you get into a fight with Shades, the mysterious dark creatures that lurk across the land, you have a fairly simple light and heavy sword combo, as well as an array of magic spells to employ. Compared to Automata, the combat is a bit on the basic side, though this is balanced out a bit with some more puzzle and dodging-centric boss battles. Between combat encounters, there is a lot of backtracking, especially if you’re doing sidequests, although if you don’t actually have to do that many of them if you don’t want to. The sidequests are mostly just there for some extra money and some worldbuilding moments, some of which are actually pretty intriguing.
— NieR Series (@NieRGame) April 23, 2021
The remaster also includes content that was cut from the original game, such as a new story scenario titled “Mermaid,” as well as an entirely new ending that was originally confined to a novel. The game’s incredible orchestral soundtrack, which is one of its primary highlights, has also been retouched, and is more than worth stopping to listen to now and then.
NieR Replicant is very much an untraditional game, and as opposed to the more widely-specced Automata, there are definitely some strange design choices that will turn some folks off. If you can look past that, though, there is an incredible story to experience, one that is, in my humble opinion, worth the price of entry alone.