I’d typically expunge on the history of a game in my introduction. Today, I’m going to travel down an unfamiliar path; one that will render this review obsolete. Nier Replicant is a title you need to experience post-haste. There‘s no time to ponder reviews or to scan through my senseless inane drivel. If, however, you feel as though you must, then stick around to the end.
Nier began life on the PlayStation 3 but didn’t quite find commercial success. What it instead found was a cult following that eventually led to a sequel – Nier Automata. That game sold millions and rejuvenated the franchise. With it came the desire to remake the PS3 original, packing it with not only its cut content but also a brand new ending – something that ties both titles together. Now that so many eyes were on Nier, Yoko Taro wanted to give the first entry another chance with its best foot forward. Is it good or bad? Well, considering the disclaimer at the beginning, we know the answer but let’s pretend we don’t!
HIS NAME IS GRIMOIRE WEISS!
You control a young lad tending to his gravely ill little sister named Yonah. She suffers from an odd affliction known as The Dark Scrull. It causes small black runes to envelop her entire person. One day, her brother tells her a tale of a flower known as Lunar Tear. If found, it can lead to riches and the opportunity to purchase a possible cure. His story inspires her and the very next day, while he’s completing tiny odd jobs for money, she ventures over to the home of the legendary floral – The Lost Shrine. Upon learning that, the boy chases after her but his trek is a turbulent one. After finally reuniting with her, he also gets acquainted with a rather unexpected entity – Grimoire Weiss.
Nier Replicant tells an intricately woven story filled with tragedy and heartbreak. In a world ravaged by monstrosities known as Shades, its people struggle to survive. A young boy tries to protect those that can’t fight, while also trying his absolute best to save his little sister from a death sentence. As the story evolves, though, a chilling truth is discovered. It will crumble any understanding the player thinks they have and distort the very perception of the story. This is a narrative that will continuously pummel the heart and leave you questioning motivations. As you meet comrades and their past is slowly revealed, it’ll leave you wondering just what is going on.
WHAT COLORFUL VOCABULARY!
As I’ve asserted plenty of times, I’m massively into literacy and constructing well-thought-out worlds. Something I truly appreciate is when dialogue is organic and the relationships feel authentic. Nier Replicant is a game that nails all of the above and then some. My favorite moments, apart from the story beats, were the ones with banter. Grimoire Weiss is a sassy book with dry sarcasm. From repeatedly calling Kainé a hussy, to hassling her for her clothing choices. I genuinely laughed at what came out from his mouth, or in this case, his book bindings. The exchanges between both he and the young boy also felt natural and real. It was a pleasure to witness their rapport build upon itself as Nier Replicant progressed and it was all done in a believable, genuine manner.
Speaking of Kainé – she’s a foul-mouth, badass woman and I love her for it. It’s because of her that my glossary of diction now contains some vulgar but creative insults. Character-wise, I’d find myself relating to her the most, especially after learning about her past and the turmoil she endured. It was tragic and yet uplifting in a strange way. It also explained the hardened demeanor she has throughout, never letting anyone into her bubble; that is except for one person – Emil. Their interactions were always so heartwarming and through them, we got to witness a side of Kainé she kept hidden. While they shared in wholesome chatter, it was the teasing with Weiss that became the highlight. Their verbal shots at one another were always fun to listen to. In fact, the unadulterated jabs surprised me with how ruthless and frank they got at times. Their words would go straight for the jugular.
A REVIVED NARRATION!
The overall story is, bluntly put, brilliant, and beautifully penned. It’s not without flaws, with sporadic pacing issues. Those issues, however, pale in comparison to what Nier Replicant can and does get right. I was strapped into a roller coaster of sheer emotion and I’d audibly swear as revelations unveiled. That realization as the dots began to connect made for a memorable experience – one I’ll not forget. The game has no hesitation to kill to advance the plot, liking to murder at a frighteningly consistent tempo. While not all of the deaths had a strong impact, those that did outnumber the flaccid ones. I felt sad, I felt glad, and most importantly, I felt engaged the majority of my session.
Finally, before release, Square Enix teased one of the short stories cut from the original about a little girl. As someone that didn’t get to play Nier Gestalt, I’m shocked at how seamlessly it blended into the pre-existing story. That small section in itself is incredibly told and helps to amplify the emotion already in place. I can not understate just how debilitating the narrative is as a whole. For example, there’s a mission in the late game that is absolutely soul-crushing. My eyes were watery and the accompanying text broke me. I can’t get into it for obvious reasons and mileage may vary. It’s entirely possible it won’t affect you as it did me. If so, then please take solace in knowing the writing, at least, is sublime.
THE VOICE OF AN ANGEL!
Music should be used to emphasize a scene or to invoke a certain feeling. Nier Replicant has taken that and ran with it. The music is simply beautiful – both melodic and tranquil. I’d say it’s easily the best facet of the entire game and that’s saying something. Hell, I‘ve yet to even touch on the gameplay but we’ll get into that soon. In the meantime, I’ll attempt to describe the majesty of the score. To help, I’ll also link the Nier Gestalt soundtrack where applicable. Sadly, most examples I found of the Replicant music are accompanied by pivotal scenes but I’ll do what I can.
One of my personal favorite tracks is Kainé – Salvation. The version in Replicant retains the piano while adding violin to create a calm and soothing tune. It assaults your eardrums while gently caressing both until goosebumps begin to appear. Another that I can share directly is Hills of Radiant Winds. It’s the perfect song to be playing as you enter into a sprawling field. I loved how there’s a long winding rock corridor just before opening up. The vocals of the track, depending on your timing, kicks in almost as it does. Speaking of, the voice sings in a dialect noticeably not English. It’s a language created for the sole purpose of never distracting. Your brain will battle itself if during a scene, it hears two voices overlapping. By having nonsensical gibberish, I was able to take in what was being said while the angelic voices added grandiose. In fact, that particular scene that shattered my heart was boosted by the stunning non-vocals. It’s genius how it was executed.
A QUEST FOR YOU AND YOU!
Side-quests were my biggest contention with Nier Replicant. They usually involve fetching items or defeating a certain Shade. It wasn’t the contents that bothered me but more what it expected of the player. In most, I’d need to venture to another village or gather materials in a previously explored dungeon. Then, after accomplishing what I needed to, I’d return to whoever gave me the quest. This inherently meant tedious backtracking. Fortunately, it’s never enough to weigh down the experience to the point of unplayability, but it certainly is a blemish.
What mystifies me is that quests with the option to instantaneously jump back to recipients exist. That fast transition single-handedly mitigates any tedium. If it were implemented in others, this complaint wouldn’t be a factor right now. This is a quality-of-life improvement that the entire game would’ve greatly benefitted from. More so because some of these side-quests do unlock weapons. Acquiring them is important to getting the additional ending added for this release. As you can see, Nier Replicant actively encourages the player to deviate from the core plot. Fortunately, this grief is assuredly lifted with a guide. I’d highly recommend using one if you only desire to do what’s required. If you, however, intend to complete everything, then prepare mentally for a ridiculous bit of back-and-forth.
SHE CUSSES LIKE A SAILOR!
In the PlayStation 3 classic, only certain lines received a dub. With this remake, all speech has a voice accompanying it. For those wondering, the ability to switch from English to Japanese voices is an option. I, however, think that’s unnecessary because all of the actresses and actors did a stellar job. With a roster that boasts Laura Bailey as Kainé, Liam O’Brian as Grimoire Weiss, and even Matt Mercer as random NPC voices, it promises to deliver on an enjoyable listen – and it does. The cadence and range of the performances accented this great game. Every voice complimented their character perfectly, making it hard to imagine any other coming from them. Before anyone asks, the recordings aren’t, to my knowledge, all from Gestalt. It’s incredible to think that despite the global Pandemic, it sounded clear and concise. The discussions felt smooth even though realistically, they lived in various parts of the world. Hearing Kainé uttering vulgarity also just tickled me. A very special shoutout to an end-game scene. The raw rage that the voice exudes is chilling – you’ll know when it comes up.
SLICING DOWN SHADES!
To my understanding, the battle system got a revamp to be more in line with Automata. I never played the sequel so am unfamiliar with how it worked. That said, the hack and slash combat in Replicant is both rapid and fluent. All button presses got an immediate response, with attacks flowing in a seamless stream. Battle animations never did stutter but mid-air strikes did prove clunky to perform. No matter how much I tried, every attempt missed the mark. Fortunately, that‘s easily fixable with a lock-on mechanic that’s, again to my knowledge, something Replicant borrowed. As I said earlier, there are a plethora of armaments to choose from, each with its own stats. Once equipped, the weapon itself will be displayed on the character model. It’s purely cosmetic but it’s a cool touch that I will always appreciate. It gives any title utilizing it a sense of realism and polish.
Remaining true to its Action RPG roots, Nier Replicant has many of the staples that you’d expect. There’s a level-up system, equipment as already mentioned, imaginative locales, and various NPC’s. You’re able to plant and harvest as well as you chase the mythical Lunar Tear. One mechanic that interested me is the Word perk. This essentially boils down to willy-nilly put-together sounds that bestow some sort of benefit – be it raising the attack or making the older brother impervious to damage by some percentage. My only qualm is the volatility of attaining one. There’s never a guarantee and that’s an issue for one reason.
WHERE’S THE BLACKSMITH!?
Items have two variations: common green and rare yellow. It’s the latter that will prove to be bothersome. Drop-rate is low and it’s never a promise that what’s needed will even appear. At times, I’d traverse dungeons three separate times before securing just one. Mercifully, there are Words that’ll increase their appearance frequency. Those, however, are infrequent in themselves because the available Word pool is plentiful. The silver lining is that the more you acquire, the more it shrinks. Unfortunately, it demands an initial grind that could last quite a bit. At this point, it’s an over-reliance on RNG to quickly give you what you need. Thankfully, the pleasurable combat relegates this to be less of a chore and more a time-wasting issue that needn’t even exist.
Blacksmithing grants the player the ability to forge weapons into stronger variants. The first temper requires materials that are frivolously found. While it, indeed, asked for hard-to-find items, the amount was negligible. More times than not, I’d gather all the necessary tools as I progressed the plot. Both the second and third upgrades aren’t worth the effort. To further that point, enemies are fair and balanced. Levels I’d incur during normal play were substantial enough to pose a threat. Battles seemed to be built more on player skill and reaction time as opposed to brute force, though, that’s still an option. As is, forging isn’t a necessity but it’ll certainly make battling quicker. Do note that my difficulty was normal, so it’s possible this information is redundant if playing on hard.
AND THE SHADY VERDICT IS…
Nier Replicant is a game I dedicated 80 hours to and I don’t regret it. The game is supremely fun to play. I wouldn’t say it’s addictive but I found myself enchanted by its setting. Every action was seamless and as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Although, mid-air combat definitely felt clunky unless I first locked on to enemies. What was the quintessential highlight of this experience was the music. I can’t understate how fantastic it is and I find myself humming tunes randomly, especially this. I am in love with Kainé and find her tragic tale impactful and meaningful. Each character felt alive and vibrant in a grim way. It’s hard to describe in all honestly so please, do yourself a favor and play this game.
There are stumbles; the blacksmithing leaves a bit to be desired. It’s difficult to even find the ingredients needed for the tempered recipe for anything further than level two. The egregious stance of not adding fast-travel to side-quests was odd. If the gameplay was a chore, the quality of Nier Replicant would‘ve dipped but luckily, it’s anything but. There, however, is no excuse for the excessive amount of back-tracking. It sounds horrible but in a way, I was still okay with it. As I traveled between locales, I’d murder every Shade in my path. This gave the tedium purpose because I was technically grinding.
Nier Replicant isn’t a flawless masterpiece but what it hits, it nails. The music, the gameplay, and the characters result in this declaration;
NIER REPLICANT VER. 122474487139 IS A MUST-BUY
Many thanks go to Square Enix for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.
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Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.