Now Playing – Nier (2010)

Playing the original in preparation for the long-awaited sequel coming out…tomorrow actually. Nier is a strange, strange game that is not for everyone and I’m pretty amazed that it’s actually getting a sequel. Nier is actually an indirect sequel to the first Drakengard game back on PS2. The plot doesn’t really require any knowledge of the Drakengard storyline to understand, but it does help, as the fallout of the final battle in Drakengard is what caused the world of Nier to turn out the way it did. What follows this final battle is a mysterious disease, the sudden appearance of monsters and magic, and a collapse of modern society that leads to everyone living in villages and fighting with swords and etc again. This neo-fantasy world seems simple enough, but as it turns out, the story is much, much more complicated than it first appears.

The main story of Nier isn’t really that long, but it and its characters are really fascinatingly bizarre and compelling. I’ll get back to them in a second though. First, the side quests that will eat up 80% of your time (you can easily drop 60+ hours into this game if you want to be a completionist). Never have I seen so many blatantly worthless and punishing side quests in a game. Nier delights not only in making you backtrack over and over again and grind your ass off looking for rare materials, but it often straight up throws the fact that you’re a gullible sucker who will take any shitty job under the sun in your face on a pretty regular basis. Getting 100% quest completion and weapon upgrade completion is a masochistic feat that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Note to myself and anyone reading: never do that shit again. Just cherry-pick the few side quests that have weapon rewards so you can get all the weapons you need to get one of the alternate endings and forget about the rest. It’s not worth it unless you really, really, really, really want that platinum trophy.

I mean there are quests where a guy will tell you to find his lost son, so you go look for him in another town all the way on the other side of the map, find him, and he sends you to find some items before he’ll go back with you, but then you go get the items and come back and he’s just run away again, so you have to go to a different town all the way on the other side of the map to find him again, then he runs away into the desert, then you go catch him and finally send him home and go back for your reward, but when you get there you’re told that the family borrowed money from everyone in town and left and that the son was trying to run away from the family business of being thieves, so you just did all that work only to have this kid forced into a life of crime and get no reward for it. HEY YOUR QUEST COMPLETION WENT UP BY 2% THOUGH, BRO! Fuck.

Anyway, aside from that nonsense, Nier is a fun action RPG with decent combat, a well-crafted world with an amazing soundtrack, and a horribly convoluted and insane story. You’re the village tough guy trying to save your daughter with the help of your companions Kaine, a violent and foul-mouthed scantily clad half-human half-monster who is supposedly a secret hermaphrodite, and Emil, a young boy trapped in the body of a large-headed flying skeleton. With them, you investigate various strange ruins of the old world and fight and kill many different forms of shades, the monsters that are terrorizing the poor villagers, until you reach the end of your journey and find out that the shades are actually all the original humans, who were transformed by the weird science/magic plague of the past, and you and all your fellow human-looking villagers are actually replicant bodies that were supposed to be used as new bodies for the original humans, except they accidentally ended up having sentience of their own. Also, the leader of the shades that’s been causing all the trouble throughout the game is actually the original Nier, who just wants his daughter and his body back. OOPS.

Even worse, after getting ending A you can play again and can now understand the shade language and oops it turns out a lot of the shades you massacred along the way were just innocent people trying to defend themselves. All those little shades running around in the fields, dropping weird items like old schoolbooks and used coloring books? Those were children that you were mass murdering. OOPS. And don’t even get me started on poor Beepy and Kalil. So you have shades trying to attack the replicants to get their bodies back and the replicants slaughtering all the shades basically just because they’re ugly and they don’t understand their language anymore, and in the middle on both sides are a bunch of innocent civilians getting slaughtered all over the place, so really, everyone’s terrible in this game.

As is often the case with Drakengard and Drakengard-related games, there are multiple endings to get, each unlocking a bit more of the story, and each usually getting more dark and terrible for everyone involved (though at least the game is merciful enough to not make you play the entire game again each time. You only have to replay a little under half of the game again each time, which isn’t long at all if you cut out all the side quests and stuff). In the fourth and final ending you end up giving your life to save Kaine from being completely taken over by her monster half, so much so that you actually become erased from history and everyone forgets about you and game even literally deletes all your Nier saves just to hammer that metaphor home extra hard. Fun times. I don’t know though, I really like the Drakengard and Nier series’. The crazy, complicated, super bleak and disturbing plots are fascinating to me, and while the gameplay has its flaws, overall its more fun than not. With some tighter gameplay and combat by Platinum Games, the new Nier ought to be quite the game.

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