Review: Nier (Sony PS3)

Nier
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Cavia
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 04/22/10

Nier, developed by Cavia, seems to try and smash absolutely every video game genre it can onto its humble little disc. Not only that but it has one of the widest range of characters I’ve ever seen since beginning my gaming quest at the lowly age of four (go Pong!). On the surface Nier is an action RPG with fairly simple weapon and magic choices with slight customizations that can be done to both, but at its core a mash up of video game references and throwbacks to old games. This doesn’t always work very well, but it gets an A for effort.

Story

Nier is a story about a father trying to find a cure for his ailing daughter’s sickness. Along the way Nier finds himself befriending Kaine the foul-mouthed hermaphrodite, and Emil the staff-wielding, magic-using, hideous, skeleton, boy… thing. Also, he makes nice with a magic book by the name of Grimoire Weiss who fancies himself the best book to ever book in all of book-land, and to be fair he is amazingly useful as he opens up the ability to use magic spells. Each of these characters has amazing voice acting attached and quite honestly the best dialogue I’ve heard in any game save Mass Effect. Kaine, especially, made me laugh out loud nearly every time she spoke. Calling a boss a “shit-hog” and then later hearing the word “fuck-head” while Weiss remarked on Kaine being a hussy made my day about twenty times over. The game also has some rich stories in the places Nier must visit. From a village trapped in their own dreams to a village that has over 36,000 rules, Nier paints a colorful landscape of characters throughout the game that add much to the story.

Though the story’s characters and setting are very good, that doesn’t stop the main plot from being rather simple. Not only that, but with the game sporting over 40 side-quests, it kind of makes saving your daughter seem almost secondary. Spending hours of the game playing the (extremely boring) fishing mini-game made me wonder how in the world this was helping my daughter. That being said the story, for the most part, is very solid and the beauty of the game is in its characters, not its plot. Trust me though, the characters are enough to justify this game, and the plot doesn’t take away from the massive amounts of charm Nier provides us with.

Graphics

Unfortunately the graphics are rather subpar. Not only is Nier himself one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen with his hair stiff and face far too weathered, but the scenery itself isn’t all that good. The PS3 has been out for some time now and Nier’s graphics seem as if it was a launch title. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the water. Not only are you unable to swim in this game (which is in itself ridiculous), but the water looks absolutely, unforgivably bad. To top it all off, being able to detect where the squares begin and end for wall textures is usually not a good sign.

Character design, however, is extremely well done. Emil is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and the enemies look awesome. The one major complaint I have is with Kaine’s character model. Weiss keeps referring to her as a hussy, which is nicer language for what I would call a whore. Her skirt doesn’t go more than 3/4 of the way down her ass, and the part of her dress that is supposed to be covering her breasts only barely accomplishes the job. I find it rather obnoxious when every time a character bends over you’re just straight up seeing her ass. I mean, even making her underwear solid material from the back, rather than laced up lingerie would’ve made her a little less uncomfortable for me. With this one minor exception (which is more or less a personal taste), the character design is very well done.

Sound

I love the music in this game. I’m listening to it as I write this, that’s how good it is. Composer Keiichi Okabe spent a lot of time on the music, and quite honestly it’s the first soundtrack I’ve ever considered buying, with the exception of the Nobuo Uematsu stuff I own. There is even a song made specifically for when a quest is completed. You can’t ask anything more of a video game score. Voice acting was amazing from start to finish. All of the run of the mill sound effects are in place where they need to be. This game gets full marks for sound.

Control and Gameplay

Where to start? The control in the game is sketchy at times. Unlike other action games like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, the actual control of my character didn’t seem very refined. I wouldn’t be able to express it properly here, but in an attempt I can say that there were many times that I saw attacks coming miles away, tried to dodge, and Nier was too busy pondering the meaning of life that he just didn’t feel the need to properly respond to my controller. It seemed as though sometimes I could dodge things with ease and at other times wasn’t able to get Nier to move. This didn’t usually hurt me too much, and I wouldn’t really dock the game too harshly for it for reasons I’ll explain in the next paragraph.

Nier wowed me. I was really not expecting to have the experience I did with it. One minute you’ll be playing the normal hack and slash style fighting as advertised and then in the next you’ll be doing a top down view that looks like Diablo, after that you’ll get a rail shooter portion, and then you’ll have a text adventure, directly followed by Zelda style puzzles inside a temple. I’m sure I have the order wrong, but it was awesome to experience all this different gameplay in one game. I would recommend this game to anyone if only for the exposure they’d get to all of the different styles.

Replayability

There are four different endings, and a significant amount of new storyline and insight into Kaine that goes with playing the new game plus. Collecting all the weapons and completing all the quests provides for a lot to do, and a lot to go back for.

Balance

The game is very easy on normal difficulty. Even though this is becoming standard for video games I’m going to be bullheaded and judge it based on the idea that this is the difficulty that was intended. Based on that it was way too easy. With the correct weapon and abuse of the mana resorption mechanic bosses become somewhat of a joke, and that’s not even considering normal enemies.

Originality

Nier has a hermaphrodite that curses like a sailor, a magician child changed into a monster, a talking book, a town trapped in its own dreams, a text adventure, a town obsessed with rules, a town living on skywalks, crazy enemy design, and some of the funniest damn dialogue I’ve ever heard. I’d say every other current generation game can go ahead and bow down to Nier’s originality.

Addictiveness

With a ton of quests to do, and a fairly interesting level-up and weapon/spell customization system this game can get very addicting. When I first picked Nier up I played it for five hours, and that’s not because the intro is five hours long. The world is easy to get lost in, and the characters are extremely fun to listen to.

Appeal Factor

This game is going to appeal to older gamers, as in people who have been playing games since the “good ol’ days”, and those who enjoy hack and slash adventure games. There is a lot to like in Nier, though the large amount of different play styles in the game and wacky characters may not appeal to everyone. If you were a fan of Drakengard you will like Nier. For that matter, anyone that has a brain and can tell when a company actually tried on a video game will appreciate Nier. It’s nothing if not cool and surprising from start to finish.

Miscellaneous

Did I mention how good the music is? I think one of the reasons I like Nier so much is because the music takes a front seat in a lot of places. There is a fairly lengthy portion of the game that takes place with just text on a black background with music playing. The song changes with the mood to the story, and delivers an extremely effective tone. Other games should take cues from Nier in that music can be a very powerful tool, not just a filler to be thrown in after the fact. I’m reiterating music for the miscellaneous section because it’s that damn important and unfortunately not enough games take their musical scores seriously.

The Scores:
Story: Classic
Graphics: Good
Sound: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Decent
Originality: Unparalleled
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Classic
Final Score: Great Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

Though the graphics may not be the best, Nier’s story and characters can easily catapult it up to a very high rating. The controls are sometimes a little annoying, but overall the gameplay is consistently fun. You won’t find any other game like this, so my suggestion is that you, at the very least, rent it.

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