Entertainment

PETER HOSKIN: Why NieR is so dear to my heart 

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… (Playstation, Xbox, PC, £49.99)

Rating:

Verdict: Sad, in happy ways

NieR:Automata (Playstation, Xbox, PC, £29.99)

Rating:

Verdict: NieR perfect

Just what we need: a game in which a plague has ravaged the world, sent people spluttering to their homes, and set humankind back by several hundred years.

Sorry, that sounded sarcastic, but I really meant it! This game may actually be what we need — or at least what I needed — after a year of pandemic.

It’s called NieR Replicant and it requires some explaining. It was first released in 2010 in two forms: one, which came out in the West, in which your character is an older man questing for his daughter. And another, which came out in Japan, in which you’re her teenage brother instead.

Now a remastered edition of the Japanese version is coming out everywhere — with prettier graphics, a revised story, and more fluid combat.

This game may actually be what we need — or at least what I needed — after a year of pandemic

This game may actually be what we need — or at least what I needed — after a year of pandemic

A remastered edition of the Japanese version is coming out everywhere — with prettier graphics, a revised story, and more fluid combat

A remastered edition of the Japanese version is coming out everywhere — with prettier graphics, a revised story, and more fluid combat

But even with those improvements, NieR Replicant shows the limitations of its decade-old design. Its shattered future-Earth is not the sort of detailed open world we gamers now expect, but a series of sparse areas separated clumsily by loading screens.

Impressively, though, NieR Replicant strains against those boundaries. It begins as a fairly standard role-playing game — your character swinging a sword at ghostly ‘shades’ — but the experience is soon punctuated by different types of gameplay, with you crawling through ruins like Lara Croft, or hopping about like Mario.

And it all coheres, thanks to the game’s overriding mood. Its moving story, the voiced soundtrack, even that sparseness… there is something beautifully sad about NieR Replicant. Sepulchral, even.

The experience is soon punctuated by different types of gameplay, with you crawling through ruins like Lara Croft, or hopping about like Mario

The experience is soon punctuated by different types of gameplay, with you crawling through ruins like Lara Croft, or hopping about like Mario

Just what we need: a game in which a plague has ravaged the world, sent people spluttering to their homes, and set humankind back by several hundred years

Just what we need: a game in which a plague has ravaged the world, sent people spluttering to their homes, and set humankind back by several hundred years

Its moving story, the voiced soundtrack, even that sparseness... there is something beautifully sad about NieR Replicant

Its moving story, the voiced soundtrack, even that sparseness… there is something beautifully sad about NieR Replicant

Not wanting spoil that mood, I decided to return to NieR Replicant’s sequel, NieR:Automata, from 2017 and… gosh, this is what NieR looks like with fewer limitations.

This time, the sadness hangs heavier, not least because it’s set in an even more futile future where your character — an android with major, er, fetish vibes — battles for all that’s left.

But Automata is also more explosive, less constrained, richer. Play it. Then play it again and again for the additional endings.

This is a game about repetition and gaming itself, but also about humanity.

The game was first released in 2010 in two forms: one, which came out in the West, in which your character is an older man questing for his daughter. And another, which came out in Japan, in which you’re her teenage brother instead

The game was first released in 2010 in two forms: one, which came out in the West, in which your character is an older man questing for his daughter. And another, which came out in Japan, in which you’re her teenage brother instead

It begins as a fairly standard role-playing game — your character swinging a sword at ghostly ‘shades’

It begins as a fairly standard role-playing game — your character swinging a sword at ghostly ‘shades’


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