Initial release date: April 23, 2021 Developer: Toylogic Publisher: Square Enix Director: Taro Yoko; Ito Saki (toylogic) fandom.com Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows Genres: Adventure game, Action role-playing game, Fighting game, Shooter game
"Review Copy Provided By Square-Enix"
2010 was a year that really changed my life in so many ways and in others it broke me on a personal level. That year I graduated from college with my second bachelor’s degree in Psychology, started an internship at a company I wanted to work for eventually, and also was the year my daughter Callie-Rae passed away. I was in a very dark place following the death of my daughter after spending months at her bedside and signing paperwork after paperwork for any procedure the doctors recommended that would end up saving her life, ultimately, nothing worked and my daughter passed away on my 22nd birthday. I got to a point where I wouldn’t leave my apartment, stopped going to work, stopped showing up at my internships, stopped gaming, and effectively cut off almost all my family and friends. I was mentally broken and emotionally destroyed. One day, a friend of mine who managed a GameStop near my apartment ended up giving me a copy of a game he said I would enjoy on a personal level and could possibly relate to. That game was NieR for the PlayStation 3. It took me several weeks to come out of my slump and when I eventually did I started playing NieR and really enjoying the story and fully relating to the main character. By the end of my time with the game on the final play through to get ending D; I was able to work through a lot of my grief and pain and eventually I went on to get a therapist to help me cope with my grief (of whom I still see to this day).
What I realized during my play through of NieR was that it was part of the Drakengard series as a spin-off semi-sequel following Ending E of the 2003 original. Drakengard is also a series that dives deep into the human condition and questions us to look back on and examine the situations we are in and the reasons why do what we do; NieR continues that level of story telling and examination (Drakengard 2 disregarded that because of a different director) and takes it even further with asking the core question of “What would you do and how far would you go to protect your family?”. While Drakengard ended up getting a 3rd entry which was a somewhat prequel in 2014 and in 2017 we got a sequel to NieR in Automata; neither game ever impacted me the way that NieR (or NieR Gestalt) did. While we in the west got Papa Nier in NieR: Gestalt, in Japan they received Brother Nier in NieR: Replicant which tells the same story with a change in the age and relation to the girl Yonah. Financially, NieR was not a massive success and scored poorly from games journalists and outlets at the time, it did go on to have an incredibly lucrative sequel that sold over 5.5 million units and led to the remake, titled NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… or ver.1.5, which gives us for the first time in the west the story of Brother Nier from Replicant with updated gameplay and graphics along with all previously cut content , additional scenarios, and a new ending from the Japan only novella Grimoire NieR.
So after this long introduction, the question now is does NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… live up to the original release and the acclaimed sequel? Or does it fail to deliver in every way imaginable and is a quick cash grab? Let’s find out!
The year is 2053, roughly 50 years following the event between the Giant and the Dragon in Tokyo, The Protagonist (Nier) and his sister Yonah are trapped in Shinjuku in an abandoned convenience store with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a mysterious tome with a face on it beckoning for Nier to give in and trade his soul for the power it offers. Nier kicks the book across the room and then checks on his sister Yonah whom tries to cheer him up of which he tells her not to touch that book under any circumstances. Nier is then alerted to the presence of strange large glowing yellow and black creatures known as Shades. After fighting off a dozen of them, Nier is then knocked down and realizes he is powerless to stop them; acknowledging his need for more power, he crawls towards the mysterious tome and is then able to destroy over 100 Shades. Afterwards Nier heads back to check on his sister Yonah and notices that she has black insignias crawling up and down her skin after she touched the book.
1436 years later in the year 3489; we encounter Nier and Yonah again around the same age that they were when the story began being 16 (Nier) and 7 (Yonah) in a medieval-esque village governed by twin sisters Devola and Popola. Why has over a millennium passed and what has happened to the world following the Giant and the Dragon? Why are Nier and Yonah the same age?
Nier Replicant has seen a substantial upgrade in the combat department as the controls have not only gotten tighter from the 2010 original release but are also more responsive and they added in a few things that was needed to make the combat feel more fluid and fun. Now added are the ability to lock onto enemies and toggle between them with the press and flick of the right stick; another addition is the ability to do fully on parries/parry combos.
Your controls consist of jump, light attack, heavy attack, dodge, block/counter, and magic usage. You can string together flurries of light and heavy attacks and if you hold down the button for either heavy or light attack then you’ll either do a area clearing attack or a rush down attack. You can mix in a variety of magic that you get along the way from Dark Lance which allows you to charge up several lances to throw at your enemies to Dark Blast which allows you to shoot magic at your enemies as if you were in a SHMUP.
Each weapon has its own stats such as their strength and what their weight is along with various buffs and advantages. The Nameless Sword that you start the game with has a weight class of lightweight and is one of the most balanced weapons you’ll have in Act 1. You’ll eventually go on to gain various swords, daggers, short swords, spears, and more as the story progresses. You’ll gain more magic abilities as you level up of which can be fully remapped as you see fit to any button combination on your controller.
As you defeat Shades, they will sometimes drop words of which you can equip to your weapons, magic, and abilities like dodge and guard. They act as stat buffs which can increase your attack, magic, and defensive properties.
Outside of combat is a wealth of side quests and content to dive into all of which will be necessary if you want to unlock each additional ending to the game such as the new Ending E which is adapted from the Grimoire Nier along with other content from that book which adapts the Novellas into playable sections of the game. Talking to the NPCs in the game will often open up the various side quests which to range from simple tasks like eliminating a portion of Shades to fishing to catch a specific fish to delivering mail to the lighthouse lady and more. The best way for me to describe these side quests is that they do wonders in world building. Many reviewers both in 2010 and in present day have complained about these side quests calling them pointless fetch quests serving no real point to the overall plot when they couldn’t be further from the truth.
The side quests such as the lighthouse lady serve to tell a very intricate backstory into a woman who’s waited decades for her lover; the mail man who has been delivering her mail has took it upon himself to continue writing letters to her as if he is her lover both out of pity for her and also out of a need to keep hope alive in her so that she will continue to light the light house. The various stories that you come across dive very deep into the human condition and the various topics of morality, psychology, human frailty, mental health, free will, individuality, collectivism, and much much more so definitely make time to explore these side quests.
One very important thing I need to mention is the fact that this game requires multiple play through in order to get the full scope of the story as well as play all of the game. The game has 5 different endings each with varying lengths and various events that occur only within that specific play through; new to this version of Replicant is ending E which adapts the novella Grimoire Nier’s ending following ending D and continues it onwards to give us a farewell to these characters while also setting up the events to the sequel Nier: Automata. Many reviewers have bashed both the original game and this one and yet have only completed the first play through and not seen all this game has to offer so I explore you to sink some time into this gem.
Oh, and last thing; there’s BOAR riding! You can even drift while riding these boars too!
NieR: Replicant is a substantial upgrade over both the original Japanese only release of the game (also known as NieR: Replicant) as well as the one we got here in the west known as NieR (also known as NieR: Gestalt). The character models are substantially improved from Kaine to Emil to Devola and Popola to the protagonist Nier himself. The facial details from their hair and eyes to their clothing all the way down to their weapons looks impressive bringing the visuals up to current generation standards even though this is a last generation game. Compared to Nier: Automata; Nier: Replicant looks slightly better than that game with improved character models and textures.
Kaine most definitely looks more like 2B and A9 than she did previously but I assume that’s just to keep the art style and aesthetics in line with the sequel. Nier is where I’ve had to honest take some time to adjust to because I personally am used to Papa Nier and is who I originally experienced this story with and not Brother Nier. I know both are canonical but I do prefer the look of Papa Nier. Brother Nier starts off looking like a traditional heroic pretty boy youth with his adventurer garb and then with the time skip he goes on to look more like Simon Belmont or Conan in a bishonen way; it works ultimately.
The environments all look a lot better with updated textures and effects along with a higher polygon count and Improved draw distances along with a better frame rate.
On PS4 and PS4 Pro the game runs at 1080p 60FPS with the Xbox One/One S/Series S running at 900p at 60FPS and the Xbox One X/Series X running at 1080p 60FPS. The PC version can run at 4K 60, 1440p 60FPS, and 1080p 60FPS.
Keichi Okabe is one of the greatest composers in gaming as he has not only worked on the original NieR releases, this entry, and the sequel Automata; but also has worked on the Tekken series, Soul Calibur series, Super Smash Bros, Ridge Racer, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy XIV, and Drakengard 3. The composition of NieR Replicant/Gestalt is considered legendary in gaming with amazing songs such as Kaine’s Salvation, Shadowlord, Song of the Ancients, Karma, and so many more. There is not a single bad song on this OST at all and all will evoke emotion out of you.
The voice acting has all been re-recorded with the entire original cast with the only exception being Jamison Price not being the main voice of Nier in this entry as Nier is now voiced by both Zach Aguilar and Ray Chase. Price is still in the game as Nier but only has one line and that’s during the 15 Nightmares sidequest where you get to play as Papa Nier. The voice acting in the original game was outstanding and yet the delivery of lines in the new recordings is absolutely stunning. Laura Bailey absolutely slays as Kaine in every line she delivers especially the infamous opening with her swearing at Weiss. Liam O’Brien is still the star of this game as the smarmy and ostentatious Grimour Weiss. I can listen to Liam deliver lines all day because this man is absolutely amazing!
If you’re coming from only having played NieR: Automata then you may feel put off by both the gameplay and the pacing because the combat system for Replicant was done by ToyLogic and not by Platinum Games. Many will expect the same free flow combat with layers of depth and creative ways to punish enemies in Replicant that they experienced in Automata and will be disappointed that it isn’t there to the same degree. Yoko Taro wanted to update the gameplay to appeal to the Automata fans but not change too much of the original games combat and while I find that the perfect balance was struck, I can easily see Automata only fans upset with it.
The pacing of the initial half of the game and lack of fast travel are other issues that will annoy some. The game has you doing a lot of fetch quests for NPCs and the reason you’re doing them is to not only progress the plot and world build but also to get you used to how this game wants to get you to play it and that honestly might come off as too slow for many especially when you’ll need to run from point A to point B at times on foot.
I think the biggest downside here is that if you Started with Automata then the bulk of the major reveals in Replicant wont hit as hard and will feel not as grand to some. The lack of 2B and 9S for many is already a sour point which I find to be odd considering this came before that game.
NieR is a game that is very NEAR to my heart. It is a game that helped me get back into gaming and work through massive depression and grief in 2010 when I Iost my first daughter to health complications. I related fully to Papa Nier and his struggles to do any and everything that he could for his daughter Yonah as I did all I could for my daughter Callie and like Nier, in the end, it wasn’t enough. There are not many characters in gaming that I can personally relate to and I’m not one of those people who lobbies for representation in gaming and media solely on the basis of a character sharing the same skin color as me and or features, I seek representation in characters that I can get behind and understand on a deeper level. For me, that’s Papa Nier and the willingness to to do anything for the sake of his daughter; I relate to that and that I feel is something that’s representative of many. While I don’t relate to Brother Nier, I am still one who can respect the chraacter and his drive to protect his sister even in the most dire of circumstances. What NieR and Taro’s works have taught me is that life isnt a fairy tale and that tragedy is ever present and can hit home at a moments notice and yet despite that we have to do all we can to continue moving forward and making the most out of what we have in this thing called life.
Nier Replicant was an absolute joy to play through and overall to experience again in the time skip since I last played Gestalt in my early 20s. With an absolutely brilliant story, phenomenal gameplay, excellent characters that stay with you long after this journey ends, incredible graphics, outstanding voice acting, and a soundtrack that is one of the greatest OSTs of all time; NieR: Replicant is a game I cannot recommend to you enough to go out and not just play, but to go out and experience. This is my game of 2021 and a return of one of gaming greatest stories.
In Loving Memory of my Daughter Callie-Rae