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The 2021 Nier Remake Will Make You Forget About The 2010 Version
Platforms: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action RPG with crazy twists and turns
Back in 2010, I had the pleasure of experiencing the action RPG that is Nier. For all of its rusty gameplay & subpar graphics, it boasts one of the best plots that require you to pay attention and play through to get the most out of it. Even then, it would be remiss of me to spoil the key bits of that old game.
Too bad it doesn’t hold up now. Believe me, I tried. I booted up my PS3 and played through the 2010 game. I felt ill after an hour or two. The sluggish controls and awkward gameplay, not to mention the graphics that didn’t age well over time, just made me felt like I was enduring through the game rather than relishing in it.
It’s like going through the first edition of a now-famous fantasy book; there’s a lot of rough edges here and there that make it painful before its superior editions fixed it. Luckily, Square Enix and developer Toylogic remade the 2010 game for this generation so you don’t have to sit through all that last-gen jank. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (or just Nier 2021) is not just a faithful remake that improves so much but is a lovely action story-driven RPG on its own merit that newbies need to jump aboard on.
Nier Replicant puts you in the shoes of the title character Nier (or “Toff33” since I can change his name to whatever I want). His young sister is plagued with the Black Scrawl disease and it’s up to you to find a cure. Luckily, you got a tip-off concerning a magic tome that can help with the conundrum; turns out the book is a sentient smart-aleck floating tome called Grimoire Weiss. Nier is then joined by a foul-mouthed skimpily-dressed woman fighter named Kaine and a magic-wielding boy named Emil.
Everything else that follows is a series of linear quests, some backtracking involved, a time skip in the main plot, and a boatload of enemies to fight and kill. The world of Nier Replicant is a relaxing-yet-desolate one filled with black-clouded beings called Shades, mysterious creatures who attack the villagers and are quite the pests for our hero. You have a few towns and cities for you to visit and a load of plains and wide spaces to traverse and fight enemies in. And of course, that lovely music from composer Keiichi Okabe that matches the serene yet desolate tone of the adventure.
As you progress, and as soon as the first 20 hours have passed, you may already have beaten the game and seen the ending. Soak it all in, then replay the game via your completed save file. Don’t stop.
In order to fully appreciate the full package, you will need to play through the game a couple of times for the full picture. You’ll find out that a lot of things on the surface are not what they seem. It’s through the game’s second playthrough (which puts you in the middle of the game, after the time skip) where you see the genius storytelling from Yoko Taro and his Cavia/Square Enix team unfold.
Without spoiling anything, the game’s plot revolves around perspectives between the heroes and who they’re fighting, what it means to be human, and whether the ends fully justify the means especially if someone is in the wrong direction of the moral compass.
And yes, when you figure out how to get the other endings in your third playthrough, you’ll then see why the series is the talk of the town for its many years to come. In many ways, Nier Automata would not be possible without the 2010 Nier, and subsequently, this remake.
Thankfully for many fans looking to jump in, this isn’t the 2010 game you’re replaying that’s plagued with sluggish action controls and lacking gameplay. The 2021 remake with the square root subtitle has revamped combat and controls, running the in-game action & RPGing at 60fps or higher depending on what machine you’re running the game on.
Nier can cancel one attack to another (or to a dodge), and has a different set with their own animations and functions. Your light sword is the all-rounder, while the spear has the longest reach. The two-handed swords hit the hardest but have slow startups and animations.
All can be switched on the fly and all have their uses. You can also evade and do parries if you guard at the right time. And then you have your Dark spells cast by your grimoire. These range from giant demon fists that crushes guard tactics to “dark magic spears” that incapacitate enemies in a straight line, making them vulnerable to your attacks. But generally, you’ll need your trusty Dark rapid-fire spell bolts that will hit enemies at long range and also clear out stray spell “bullets” in the game’s many “bullet hell” segments.
Yes, the game switches things up by not only making some enemies and bigwigs spit out magic projectiles like it’s going out of fashion, but also making some of them only vulnerable to magic, requiring you to get up-close and risk getting a heavy beatdown. You also have to deal with top-down “shooter segments” and even an isometric-style maze in one major story area.
And of course, you have to fight many sizes of Shades ranging from the armoured kind to the behemoths with multi-stage boss patterns and segments. Defeating them can net you special words that you can equip onto your weapons and martial skills to buff them up passively; these range from increased attack damage to even sped-up mana regeneration for your Dark spells.
All these amount to lots of gameplay fun that’s part challenging and part enjoyable with the controls & movement. Best of all, replaying the game for the full context I mentioned is now less of a slog and more of a joyride.
Fighting Shades and the game’s bosses are the most exciting parts of Nier Replicant that players can look forward to. And if it’s not challenging enough, you can bump it up beyond Normal difficulty.
The bonus content is also welcome and adds replay value. Apart from the other endings you need to unlock for the full story, you can also play through the gauntlet called 15 Nightmares. This extra mode puts you in a series of levels and fights with remixed Nier music; it’s challenging and is a great source of rewards and materials (like these nifty alternate outfits for Nier, Kaine, and co.). Plus, it answers the question: “Where is 2010’s Papa Nier?”
For all of its positives, I do wish Square Enix and Toylogic found a way to make the game less repetitive in the first half. I would argue that there are better ways to implement the journey to Endings B and the rest, but having to replay the second half of the game and going through the same boss fights is required for that context and full picture. Still, a “skip to chapter X” option would be nice for the mandatory third or fourth playthrough so that you can go about settling the requirements needed in a timely and faster fashion.
Fans of Nier Automata who haven’t played the first game should buy this one without question. Anyone who has the patience to go through an action RPG for 30 hours and need a great story will not be disappointed with this title at full price. If you wished that the 2010 Nier needed a major tune-up, this version basically fixes the original’s glaring problems.
It’s a no-brainer: Nier Replicant is for the books. It’s a textbook example of how to combine narrative and gameplay into one cohesive experience that will leave an impact to your soul.