Review: Nier

NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS

Developer: Cavia
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform(s): PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Compatability (PS3): 7111KB Mininum Space | HD 480p / 720p
Compatability (Xbox 360): 100KB Mininum Space | HDTV 480p / 720p / 1080i
Rating: 9.0

Nier is a very hard game to review. I had to wrestle with the review for a while. If ever there was a game that the term “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” rings true, it is Nier. The graphics are bad, the animations are a little off, no one part about the game is exceptional (except the music), and yes it may seem a little generic at times. On the surface is a decent, not great, action RPG in the realm of Zelda or a myriad of other hack and slash games. Beneath the surface however, is a game that mixes genres flippantly, offers the player a long list of things to do, and has a story that becomes surprisingly deep and emotional. After I had beat Nier for the fourth time, about forty hours as there are four different endings, I put my controller down and wondered exactly why the game spoke to me so strongly. I cannot quite put it to words. I was enthralled with the game. When I wasn’t playing Nier, I wanted to play Nier. I will outline the different parts of the game but more importantly I will try to explain just how it effects the overall package. Nier is a hard game to quantify but I will do my best. Before I start however I should address the controversy. Joystiq, a video game blogging site for those who don’t know, refused to review Nier. There is a video up on their site that show the assigned reviewer, Justin McElroy, attempting an early mission that introduces the fishing mini-game within Nier. McElroy expresses his anger at the mini-game and says that Nier gets a zero. It is important to note that McElroy is not in the correct location for the mission. I am not here to demean McElroy in any way but the internet made the video into a controversy. It is also important to note that while McElroy is correct in his frustration with the fishing mini-game, I completed the game four times only being forced to fish once. I do not mean to make apologies for the game but in effort of full disclosure a not so glowing review can be found. The other weird thing about Nier is the fact that the game has two different versions in Japan but just one everywhere else. In Japan there is Nier Replicant and Nier Gestalt. The difference being in the look of the main character and his relationship to Yonah. This review is for Nier Gestalt, simply branded everywhere else but Japan, as Nier.

The best part about Nier is the character and the story. The titular character is the main but the player can change Nier’s name to be whatever, but for the remainder of the review I will refer to him as Nier. Nier is one of my favorite fictional characters. He is just a genuinely good person. He is on a mission to save his daughter Yonah but he will help anyone who needs it. This superman complex does not go unchecked however because the second best character, Grimoire Weiss, lambastes points out this ADD attitude every time. Weiss is the old fly British book in the game, you know that character. In the beginning Weiss is pompous, rude, and arrogant but over the course of the game he becomes probably the most complete character, towards the end of the game you really start to feel as if the game has been an adventure between these two very unlikely friends and honestly it’s sad to see the adventure come to an end. Kaine, who wears close to nothing at all (another source of quips and jokes from Weiss) is a loner with a cold heart, but again ultimately shows herself to be a hero. Emil is the weakest link of the main characters but he is not bad. You really start to like him but his voice and attitude can be degrading, he has that usually amount of angst and whine that Japanese RPGs tend to use. When your characters are playing of each other and working together they are a hard group not to like. They all start out very flawed but by the end they are all better for the trials they have endured. I am a sucker for a good story in video games and Nier delivers both on the overall narrative and the characterization of these very different members of your party.

The story will immerse you in, being very deep and emotional.

The gameplay in Nier is traditional and familiar at first but changes afterwards. The basic swordplay and magic system are fine. They are good, not great, but nothing we have not seen before. The best way to describe the system is solid. One button attacks, the triggers are used for two different magic attacks you can have mapped at a time, a special attack button, and a block. Nothing too imaginative but it serves its purpose. The more interesting aspect of the gameplay is how the game crosses genres and times. In Nier the game will shift to, among others, a 2D platformer, a Geometry style dual stick shooter, and even a choose your own adventure text based system. Not all these shifts are great mind you. The text based parts are interesting at first but they do drag on a bit too far, there is one though that is just awesome. The jumping is a little off in the platforming section and and the controls are not tight enough for the dual stick shooter portion. However, these genre bending parts come so quickly and only last for a small amount of time that when you realize just what you’re doing it’s over. The game feels fresh because of it. At any time there could be an entire paradigm shift in how you play the game.

The RPG elements are surprisingly light. Nier does gain experience from each enemy he kills but there is not on screen indicator to neither show your progress nor the amount of experience from a fallen enemy. It may be possible to turn this on in the options menu but I couldn’t find it. The other way in which you make Nier more powerful is through the sealed verse system. Basically they are ways to augment not only your weapons but your spells as well. Enemies will randomly dropp sealed verses, for which each ability has two slots. For example you may have a sword and one of the sealed verse you put on is plus fifteen attack or plus ten magic attack. The game streamlines this process in allowing you to select an ability and have the game put on the best verse for you. For the most part it is good but later in the game the AI has a tendency to favor guard breaks over attack and I did not play that way. The menu system all stems from Weiss. The menus are shown as pages of Weiss. All the information is conveyed through turning pages and lends a nice aesthetic. The quest system in the game is very robust. There are about one hundred side quests in the game that you can get from people all over the world. They are all saved in Grimoire Weiss but an on screen indicator would have been very helpful. The quests range from generic fetch quests to very long chains that lead to good payoffs both monetarily and character development wise.

Unfortunately Nier's visuals are far from great.

The graphics in Nier are not great. It looks like a game caught between generations. They are made better by the dream like white filter that covers the game. There is no way to get around it though, the game simple does not look great. The set pieces are fine but the character models and scenery are both generic and below current standards. On a side note Nier gets the prize as the flat out ugliest main character in video game history. The sounds on the other hand is absolutely amazing. The music is some of the best I have ever heard and the voice acting is also great. The only negative about the voice acting being Emil but it’s the reasons I named before when talking about his character. There were times in the game when I would literally stop moving just so I could hear the music. The first dungeon is the by far the best. I am not a gamer who usually notices music but when it is this good it is very hard not to. The music also plays with the mood of the game. For example, I walked up to a haunted mansion before I was supposed to go there, the music became very somber and foreboding, the second I turned around and got back on track it picked up again. This was the game’s way of saying that I was not ready for that portion yet. The music in Nier is its greatest strength and cannot be commended enough.

Nier has many faults. There is unfortunately a lot of retreading environments. You’ll go to most of the major dungeons at least twice, even venturing through one of them three times. While there is storyline justification, it is regrettable that new dungeons are available. The fishing mini-game is bad as mentioned before and the camera can be a nuisance. However, Nier is strong when it comes to what counts, keeping you invested in its world. The characters are great, the story is strong, and the music draws you in. Like I said earlier it is hard to quantify the game but the best way I came up with is saying that it is a fun experience. The last hour of the game in particular is very rewarding and emotional. There are four endings in the game and the last one, Ending D, does something that I have never seen a video game do. You really need to see it. I will not spoil anything but I will say to pay attention to what the game is telling you. Nier is a game that some people will love while others will hate. I fall into the former and it was one of the most fun games I have played in a long time.

Reviewed by jamespugh5 – July 29, 2010

Graphics
The graphics aren’t great but the dreamlike filter is a plus.
 
Sound
The sounds is absolutely phenomenal in both music and voice acting.
 
Fun
While definitely not for everybody Nier offers a great experience that you owe it to yourself to at least try.
 
Final Score

 

Responses

  1. Very Good review, suprised by the score but that isn’t necesarly a bad thing 🙂

    • Thanks man and I’m glad you liked it. I would say at least try it, it may not grab you like it did me but i loved this game.

  2. Nier is nothing special, there are a bunch of role playing games which are better than Nier. 9 is a too much rating, Iwould give Nier a 6.

  3. I understand the sentiments and I’m sorry u didn’t like it as much. At least you gave it a chance.

  4. I’ve been playing this game for approximately 5 hours now, and as a RPG fan, I really liked it. As James said Nier must at least be given a chance by renting it if one cannot purchase.

    Having said that, I still have to play the last part of the game which from what I’ve read, it’s awesome. Great review.

    • Glad your enjoying it. The end is good because it is a good cap to the story. There are four endings and its hard to say beat it four times but the endings get better and better.
      How amazing is the music?


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