There is a hermaphrodite in NIER. And no, we don't mean an androgynous spiky-haired anime boy with a high-pitched voice. We mean a proper, penis and vagina packing hermaphrodite.
His/her/its name is "Kainé", and is described by publisher Square Enix as a "female warrior" who was part-possessed in a demonic attack. The demon then decided to grow a member, and Kainé became a hermaphrodite, or a "Futanari", the Japanese term to describe or "shemales".
Don't laugh. That's tough luck, right there. Kainé was bullied from an early age, and, out of resentment, came to emphasise her female characteristics. She expresses this resentment by dressing like an anime hooker.
When she opens her gob, though, the man in her comes through. She swears a lot. And not rubbish swearing either, like "damn", "crumbs", and "cripes". She drops the f-bomb all over NIER's virtual world. She says it so much she's wearing it out. You'd think, then, that the game would have a big fat 18 certificate on the box art. It doesn't. It's a 15. Apparently, the f-bomb on its own is fine. The BBFC wags its finger when you say f*cking f*ck. True story.
So, yeah, there's a hermaphrodite in NIER. Obviously the game, due out this April, isn't particularly brand Square Enix. We can't think of another Square Enix game that features a hermaphrodite. Actually, come to think of it, we can't think of any other game that features a hermaphrodite. Well, does a music game with Lady Gaga count? Has there been a game with a voice over from Jamie Lee Curtis? Was there a True Lies game?
But NIER's different from your typical Square Enix game in other ways, too. It takes inspiration from the God of War series, incorporating blood, guts, and loads of hack and slash action, but it's a combination of a number of genres, really: the narrative of a JRPG and the action of a hack and slash, sections viewed from a top down perspective, and even "2.5D" side-scrolling platforming. SE bills it as "Bayonetta with a story", but that's simplifying NIER's variety. Either way, NIER is not your typical Square Enix game. "Toto, I have the feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
This unfamiliar feeling is no more keenly felt than in the design of the game's central character, NIER. Now, most lead characters from Square Enix games are thin, spiky-haired, teenage angst-ridden cry babies. NIER's in his forties, never moans despite his horrendously difficult life, and is beefier than Arnie. He's also a father (we can't remember any Square Enix lead character being a father), who's desperately trying to save his daughter, Yonah, from a disease called the Black Scrawl.
Set in the summer of 2049, the game begins with the sword-wielding NIER and his daughter struggling to survive in a deserted building. Mysterious, semi-transparent creatures called The Shades stalk the snow-covered land, preying on those who suffer the Black Scrawl. NIER sets out to find food when he is attacked by the skulking monsters.
Combat follows typical action game templates. On the Xbox 360 controller, X attacks, Y is a context sensitive action that either triggers a "block breaker" (useful for defeating defending enemies), or a counter attack. The Left Trigger defends and the Right Trigger evades. This is NIER's combat in a nutshell: a basic, slow, and considered system that is more accessible than the likes of Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden, but challenging enough to prove enjoyable. Where does the challenge come from, you ask? The answer is a book.