The Nier remaster changes less than I anticipated, warts and all – and that’s brilliant


Let me tell you something here. Listen carefully. Yoko Taro is as much a visionary video game director as, say, Hideo Kojima. I am not exaggerating here. If you look at the ideas expressed in the Drakengard and then Nier games that Yoko wrote and directed, there are ideas and experiments as bold and fascinating as anything Kojima has attempted with the protagonists’ switcharoos, reading data from the memory card or the invention of the ‘strand kind’. You wouldn’t know it, though – Yoko has generally made low-budget, niche games that his genius has gone unnoticed.

But then 2017’s Nier: Automata arrived. By this point, Yoko had honed her skills on four titles from the shared Drakengard and Nier universe, and crafted a sharp, clever story with a big heart and a ridiculous sense of humor. His stories and the way he uses the unique elements of the video game medium to tell them has always been a winner; but pairing it with the action chops of PlatinumGames, it was able to blow the doors off. Automata was a smash hit and sold over 5.5 million copies. These are low-end Final Fantasy numbers – of course, Square Enix took notice.

That’s how we got here, with the imminent release of Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139, which is basically a remaster of 2010 Deny, a deeply flawed classic that worked so automatons could work.

If you’ve never played the original Nier, which I assume is true for many readers, there’s a lot to unpack here. The original features Yoko’s unique writing and world-building, as well as incredible music helmed by the brilliant Keiichi Okabe, but it was developed by Cavia, a now-defunct Japanese studio that certainly didn’t have the… action experience from Platinum. Barring an expensive remake, the idea of ​​properly aligning this game with Automata isn’t exactly realistic.

To complicate matters, the original Nier actually had two versions: Gestalt and Replicant, which are slightly different sibling games. Gestalt introduced you as a father trying to heal his sick daughter; Replying like a brother doing the same for his sister. The old version was what the West got, and only supposedly because the American branch of Square Enix stepped in and asked for an older, gruffer, more marketable protagonist. This time around, Yoko gets her way to her original vision – and for us in English, it will be the first time the brother-led Replicant story has been told – which means an all-new localization with a new voiceover. from new and old players. members.

I have now played a few hours of Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139, and have completed the original several times as well. If you’re making it as an Automata-converted fan, here’s what you need to know.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Another brilliant story from Yoko Taro, with the same silliness, meta-wall-breaking, and heartbreaking twists you’ve come to expect
  • An engaging albeit clunky action-RPG
  • Lots to do, including lots of meaningful side content and reasons to replay.
  • Starting with the remaster, expect massively overhauled and much improved visuals, but expect other changes to be limited – it will often look like a game from 2010

And here’s what not to expect:

  • PlatinumGames-level action combat
  • A game structure identical to Automata
  • A story that is directly related to automata in a significant way

If you go in with those expectations understood, you’re much more likely to have fun. All of those things are good too. In fact, going into the Remaster, I wasn’t sure how far they would go – the well-cut trailers don’t give you a very good idea of ​​how the fight moves, how heavy it is, or how which the camera could handle. I was half expecting a really major combat overhaul that might even push this into remake territory. The answer, however, is that everything looks quite similar to the original, although everything has been tightened up. It also benefits immensely from presenting with a stable and high frame rate.

It’s not automatons, but it’s… okay? It’s not supposed to be automata. Nier Replicant is its own game, with its own hodgepodge of genres and ideas. Some of these ideas, like the obsession with dropping bullet hell style sections into full 3rd person segments and fixed cameras, are present in both titles. Others are not. And it doesn’t matter.

At times, Nier Replicant’s slightly tweaked battles have some of that thrill that its successor gave. Fighting robots in an ancient dungeon known as Junk Heap, there are flashes of this sequel. But equally, there are enemies with attacks that just don’t feel as well telegraphed, which inherently makes them less fun to dodge and sneak around. These are issues that didn’t even seem so obvious in the original because so much else was wrong with his fight thanks to sketchy performance. Now that performance is fixed, you can feel how combat failed and was later fixed more clearly in Automata. There is an exchange with Nier; it was never perfect.

Even where things aren’t as smooth as the sequel, it’s still hard to stay mad at Nier. You might want to scream when the camera annoys, leaving enemies out of sight as they eventually attack you. Improved but still sometimes sluggish combat is no patch on the nimble Automata. But quickly, you end up looking at other elements of this game like its brilliant narrative or the deft way it brings wildly disparate playstyles together in a cohesive way, and you just have to forgive it.

One of the biggest issues with the original was also how it looked – and that’s been significantly revamped. This is the area where it’s most aligned with its successor, with visual improvements across the board and even some pretty major character overhauls. In my review of Nier Gestalt, now almost eleven years old, I described it as sporting “flat, boring areas with muddy textures”, and looking back, the original was pretty exemplary of that very brown period. in the history of video games. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do, though.

Higher resolution textures and a generally brighter art style brings the world much more life, and it’s now a place I want to inhabit for more than just its characters. In some places I still wish the environments were clearer – on one occasion early on I had to google a playback video of the original because the level design didn’t really indicate where I was. was supposed to go next. It’s an issue authentic to the original, showing just how far this remaster goes – improved look, music, and even story execution in places, but the same world layout geometry.

The characters and narrative remain Nier’s best. I had forgotten how much I loved this story and its characters, especially the sensitive Grimoire Weiss book, which is a constant companion.

Although in the terms of this preview I can’t go into too much detail – nor would I, as this is a story that shouldn’t be spoiled – I will say that I actually think that might to be a more compelling story than the much-loved Automata thread, at least based on the strong emotions aroused in me replaying the game’s early phases that I’ve seen so far. Surely there’s less finesse here, but there’s so much heart that doesn’t really matter. It hits the ground running and bludgeons you beautifully with a plot, engaging characters, and questions you’ll desperately need to learn the answers to. Again, this will keep you going even when rougher elements rub you the wrong way.

And so, for now, these are my first thoughts on Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 based on several hours with a non-final version of the game. There is much more to say about it as we get closer to its release final, but it’s a tough game to talk about – despite being eleven years old, there’s a lot that shouldn’t be spoiled, but rather experienced.

As a remaster, it’s a competent effort to take a flawed cult classic and improve on it without going so far as to completely redesign huge chunks of the game. insight showed me something is that a lot of what makes Nier special and unique is deeply embedded in that experience, the warts and all – and I’m glad a lot of that was dutifully preserved.

It’s a game that had already seen a renaissance and reassessment as a cult classic in the years since its release, making it an absolutely perfect candidate for a remaster. I can’t wait for more people to experience it in this enhanced form.

Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 is coming to PC (minimum specs have been announced), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with console versions of course running on next-gen consoles via backwards compatibility. It is slated for release on April 23.

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