Initial release date: February 23, 2017
Publisher: Square Enix
Genres: Role-playing video game, Adventure game, Shooter game, Fighting game, Platform game
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
"Review Copy Provided By Square-Enix"
One of the first games I ever reviewed when I created my YouTube channel was NieR: Automata all the way back in 2017 for the PS4. It was the sequel to one of my all-time favorite games, NieR (NieR: Replicant in Japan and NieR: Gestalt in the west) of which was a spinoff to another series known as Drakengard, and yet even though it is a sequel to NieR (and its parent franchise), it doesn’t require you to play the original to enjoy this one. NieR: Automata was the first game in the Drakengard/NieR series to become a mainstream sensation selling millions and put the franchise on the map (along with inspiring countless cosplayers to dress as 2B, 9S, A2, and more) and is regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. It has been ported to PC and Xbox One and has done exceptionally well on those platforms and yet the one curiosity was if the game could ever run on the Nintendo Switch of which many (myself included) viewed this as an impossibility. Well, that was truth until the announcement of the game coming to the Switch at one of the Nintendo Directs and that news was mind-blowing to fans the world over (along with Persona 3.4, and 5 coming to the Switch). So, is the Nintendo Switch port of NieR: Automata worth your time and money? Let’s find out!
NieR: Automata takes place in the year 11,945 approximately 8,585 years after NieR: Replicant on the desolate wasteland that Earth has become. There is an ongoing war between humanities army of androids and machines that are from an alien race that invaded the planet. Due to the war, humanity has hidden themselves away on the Moon while the androids of the YoRHa organization try to reclaim the planet for them. We are introduced to two androids, 2B and 9S, who are flown to Earth to take out a new wave of machines with their unit. What they come to discover is that the machines are starting to become more self-aware and advanced and are starting to emulate humanity. During their journey, 2B and 9S come to learn more about the machines, their origins, their creators, the fate of humanity, as well as their own preordained destinies and the very inevitability of fate itself.
What I love the most about the narrative of Automata is in how it deep dives into the psychology of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, the importance of culture and history, the futility of prejudice and hate, and ultimately what do we want to leave as our legacy to prove that we once lived and not be lost and forgotten by time. The narrative is incredibly strong and is one that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
Gameplay wise, Automata is an action RPG that plays much like other Platinum Games titles like Bayonetta and Astral Chain where it focuses on hack and slash combat, although it does change up the formula several times where it will be a SHMUP (Shoot Em’ Up) and more. You have a light and heavy attack along with the ability to dodge and utilize your support pod to shoot energy blasts allowing you to have ranged attacks. You can string together various combos by mixing up your light and heavy attacks along with using your support pod to glide around the battlefield. If you time your didge right before an enemy hits you, then you will execute a bullet time like evasive dodge that slows time for a short period of time allowing you to either get in a few hits or get away to reassess the situation and get your bearings.
Aside from the combat, you will traverse across numerous locales, level up and gain new weaponry, and unveil the mystery of the world around you. You will come across the destroyed remains of androids in the field that you can either collect chips from or repair and they can go on to become an ally of yours to fight alongside you. There are hacking segments that will play out like a SHMUP and have you need to clear out sections to continue onwards, this is more apparent in gameplay in repeated playthroughs.
So, what comes with the Nintendo Switch version and is anything new you may ask? Well, you get the 3C3C1D119440927 DLC that added three costumes from NieR Replicant along with three additional coliseums to give you some additional stuff to do. What is new is the motion controls added for attacking. When you swing the Joy-Cons, you will either attack or dodge as swinging the right Joy-Con attacks while swinging the left Joy-Con dodges. While it isn’t anything revolutionary, it is something technically new and unique to this version of the game.
Graphically, Automata runs perfectly smoothly on the Switch in handheld mode at a stable 30fps at 720p which looks extra crisp if you happen to have a Switch OLED. In docked mode, the game runs at 1080p at 30fps, however, it becomes quite noticeable of what all was needed to be scaled back to get this running on the Switch and ultimately, this ends up looking rough around the edges when played on a TV or monitor. Other things of note is how the game has occasional glitches when docked that can result in 2B freezing in place mid combo and then fast forwarding to the next flow of the combo; other issues are when playing in handheld mode the text and even objects can be a bit too difficult to see and aren’t scaled well.
Those issues aside, Automata on the Switch is a game that the majority will find themselves playing in handheld mode due to the overall experience being vastly superior on other platforms. I would say that this is the best way to play the game portably, I have to say that if you have a copy of the game on Steam and have a Steam Deck, then that is the best way to play the game portably and thoroughly trounces this Switch port. If the Switch is your only portable or only console then his isn’t a bad way to play the game at all, its just not the ideal way for one to play it.
NieR: Automata: The End of YoRHa Edition is one of the best games to come to the Switch that combines phenomenal combat with a gripping and thought-provoking story. The trade offs for all the greatness that it brings are minor when you look at the fact that this game is even able to run on the Switch at all. While it may not be the best way to experience this masterpiece, being able to play NieR: Automata on a Nintendo platform is simply a miracle and is a gaming experience that you shouldn’t pass up.