Doing side-quests for cash is the only way to get some of the more powerful items, and to afford to upgrade your weapons.
Doing side-quests for cash is the only way to get some of the more powerful items, and to afford to upgrade your weapons.

Doing side-quests for cash is the only way to get some of the more powerful items, and to afford to upgrade your weapons.

You can ignore all of this, and, thankfully, the game doesn't punish you if you do. If all you want to do is concentrate on the main story and leave the NPCs to their own devices, that's up to you. There is no need to grind; NIER is perfectly beatable without it. And having the option is welcome: do you want a 20 hour Japanese adventure, or a 30 hour one? The choice is yours.

What's great about NIER is that, unlike so many JRPGs these days, you actually want to see it out to the end. NIER's ethereal, mysterious air, complemented beautifully by a quite stupendous soundtrack (the music that plays as you're out in the field digs a hole in your brain and buries itself alive) rekindles memories of Haruki Murakami's multi-layered dream-like worlds. Nothing is what it seems, says Square Enix's blurb, and truer words were never spoken.

Unfortunately, while NIER's nonsensical plot is adult and smartly woven, it can't help but succumb to quintessentially Japanese cheesy melodrama, particularly towards the end, and is just a bit too far out there to fully grasp. Really, only half of the story is ever properly explained. Throughout you know something isn't quite right, and you excitedly await huge revelations at the end, but satisfying exposition never comes. As NIER unravels the truth behind earth's shady past, there's more than a hint of frustration as the game does an Akira and decides making sense is for losers. Once finished, a new game plus option presents itself, and multiple playthroughs result in further story details, but why should we have to play through a game four times to get the whole story? The answer is: we shouldn't. I found more explanation from the list of must-avoid spoilers sent to us by Square Enix than I did from the game's dialogue and cut scenes.

Really though, compared with so many recent Square Enix games, NIER's story, and indeed its attitude to gameplay, is refreshing. It's packed to bursting with interesting ideas, from occasional 2.5D side-scrolling platforming to top down perspective puzzle solving. NIER's camera is in a constant state of flux, and only occasionally suffers from the embolisms that afflict so many third-person action games. One section, set in a horribly creepy manor, sets the camera in ceiling corners in classic Resident Evil style. As you explore its mysterious innards and meet Emil, a powerful young boy who eventually joins your eclectic party, you feel as if you're playing a completely different game. Later, there's a section with the camera set at a distant isometric view, a clear nod to old-school Western RPGs. At one point, the camera goes birds-eye, leaving you free to direct Dark Blasts with the right thumb stick in a section that brings to mind Geometry Wars. There's even one section which doesn't involve a camera at all, instead presenting the player with walls of "choose your own adventure" text. NIER, really, is one big electronic doffed cap to games past and present.

If NIER's genre-fusing gameplay is its strength, then perhaps it is also its weakness. As is the case with so many games that try their hand at being a Jack of all trades, NIER ends up being master of none. The combat, while functional, isn't brilliant. The graphics, while styled, are horrible. The 2.5D sections, while interesting, are throwaway. The text-based sections, while different, are completely unfair. In an effort to be as unique as possible, cavia has at points forgotten what it is that makes video gaming fun: fun. Some of the boss battles, while appropriately bonkers and screen-filling, are frustrating in the extreme, particularly when they go all "shmup" and spray hundreds of red blobs at you. And some of the side quests are so mundane that you wonder if they're designed to make you resent them.

Still, the wonderfully designed characters and intriguing plot do just enough to elevate NIER above much of what is coming out of Japan these days. It is, in many ways, the kind of game critics of the Japanese RPG have been calling for: different, fresh, and in parts distinctly un-JRPG. Not all of it works, but it's a commendable effort, and a memorable experience.

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4 Comments

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Highest Rated Comment

WhisperingMute's Avatar

WhisperingMute

Awesome Review and very well written. It's a first to see a reviewer with such an open and modest mind about the game. Though, I must humbly admit that I've just recently ventured to this site from Gamespot and the difference in writing styles are quite starking in that this site is far greater and much more informative about the actual title. Often times their reviews are plagued with ill-informed reviews with a plethora of unsubstantial opinions. Besides the point, I honestly thought this title was in the reigns of pure-action along the lines of the snore-fest Dynasty Warriors series, but I didn't realize this was an action-RPG or even that of an open world reminiscent of Zelda. My interest for the title has gone way up since this review and may even consider purchasing the title down the road.
Posted 17:39 on 22 April 2010

User Comments

zangetsukakashi's Avatar

zangetsukakashi

really really an awesome review... nier is one of the best games i've ever played and i hated it when gamepot gave it a 5...
Posted 10:34 on 08 July 2010
WhisperingMute's Avatar

WhisperingMute

Awesome Review and very well written. It's a first to see a reviewer with such an open and modest mind about the game. Though, I must humbly admit that I've just recently ventured to this site from Gamespot and the difference in writing styles are quite starking in that this site is far greater and much more informative about the actual title. Often times their reviews are plagued with ill-informed reviews with a plethora of unsubstantial opinions. Besides the point, I honestly thought this title was in the reigns of pure-action along the lines of the snore-fest Dynasty Warriors series, but I didn't realize this was an action-RPG or even that of an open world reminiscent of Zelda. My interest for the title has gone way up since this review and may even consider purchasing the title down the road.
Posted 17:39 on 22 April 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Yeah I agree with FM,
whenever a game includes a new game plus option you always end up getting a hell of a lot more out of it.
Some notable games that left it out for me were Batman Arkham Asylum (although I see how that wouldn't have worked)
and also God of War III
Posted 16:46 on 22 April 2010
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

Thanks Wes, if anything the sheer diversity of gameplay types here means there's probably something for everyone if they stick at it. Very glad I preordered now and love the fact there's a new game plus option which usually at least doubles the longevity of any game in my collection. Just gotta wait for the postie now, it didn't arrive early but got my hopes up for release day.
Posted 13:57 on 22 April 2010

Game Stats

NIER
8
Out of 10
NIER
  • Lots of fresh, unique ideas
  • Captivating story
  • Graphics are poor
  • No one single element stands out
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 23/04/2010
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360
Developer: Cavia
Publisher: Square-Enix Co
Genre: Action
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 10,423 42
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