Nier Replicant hands-on preview: Very charming — and very weird
After 11 years, Nier Replicant is finally available in the West. This is great news if you were one of the 12 or so people waiting for this particular action / RPG version of Square Enix. For everyone else, Nier Replicant is designed to be an unforgettable and heartfelt game, albeit with virtually the same pros and cons as last time.
For those who do not know the details of Square Enix releases, a game called Nier was released in 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. In the West, this game put you in the middle age trying to find a cure for his sick daughter , in collaboration with a woman with a mouth, a speech book and a skeleton young magician to do it. (It makes a little more sense in the context, but the weird is definitely part of Nier’s charm.) However, in Japan, the game was called “Nier Replicant” and starred a teenage boy trying to find a cure for his sister. Other than that, the story and the game were almost the same.
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 …. (yes, this is really the full name of the game and no, I will not try to write it from memory) is a PC, PS4 and Xbox One remaster of the original Japanese game, first released times in western lands. Square Enix provided Tom’s Guide with a copy of the game’s first review. While we can only discuss three areas of this much larger game, these levels help set the tone for a strange, captivating title.
(Credit picture: Square Enix)
The first level we can discuss is Junk Heap: an abandoned weapons factory where the protagonist (named Nier by default) and one of his companions fight a small army of robots in search of a missing woman. This is actually the perfect level to start with, as it highlights some of the joys and frustrations of the Nier Replicant.
First of all, Nier Replicant deserves a lot of credit for the friendly cast of its characters. Members of Nier’s party do not immediately join him. Therefore, you will get to know each other closely before the other joins and changes the dynamics of the team. At this point in the story, Nier’s only companion is Grimoire Weiss: a talking, floating spelling book with an inflated opinion of himself and a soft spot for the brave boy who woke him up.
Nier and Wiss are constantly joking as they explore Junk Heap. Listening to them discuss Nier’s condition, Weiss’s skills and the original purpose of the factory is really fun. This is good, as it turns out, because exploring Junk Heap itself is more than just a mixed bag. Junk Heap, like many of the game’s dungeons, is a somewhat repetitive experience. Explore a small collection of extremely similar square rooms, each adorned with brown and gray, and occasionally turn on a switch to unlock a remote door. For the most part, Nier Replicant is a game you want to play for the characters and not for the level.
The good news is that while exploring Junk Heap, you will also have a lot of time with the game’s combat system. Although the battle of Nier Replicant does not exactly open new ground in the action / RPG genre, it works well enough to keep players interested in the game’s running time of 30-40 hours.
You control Nier as he runs around the battlefield, combining tactical and special attacks with a variety of swords and daggers. (You can change weapons on the move, although early in the game, there is not much reason to do so.) You can outrun enemies for more advantageous attacks, or avoid hitting them or climb to perform aerial combinations. Targeting may be a little impossible (blocking enemies is never as smooth or accurate as it should be), but male battle generally works well.
The most interesting is the magic system of the game, which allows you to match two different spells on two different shoulder buttons. Press a button and you will start a basic version of the spell. Hold the button longer, however, your spell will charge, often with disastrous results. The trick is that the most powerful spells consume more MP, which takes some time to recharge during battle. Since you can use magic attacks and attacks at the same time, achieving battle requires a good balance between the two. There is a lot to watch, but once you enter a groove, the battle has a pleasant pace.
Junk Heap ends with a climate boss fight against a huge robot called Defense System Geppetto. This is where some of the Nier Replicant influences, such as the bullet hell shooters and the Legend of Zelda series, come into full force. The Geppetto is a huge, floating robot, and as a result, Nier cannot attack it directly. Instead, Nier must either block, dodge, or pass through Geppetto’s bullets while waiting for rare opportunities to scratch the robot’s arms when struck to attack. It has more than a resemblance to Bongo Bongo from Ocarina of Time and it feels just as satisfying to win.
(Credit picture: Square Enix)
The second area of the game we can discuss is a remote mountain village called The Aerie. A few hours into the game, Nier and Weiss teamed up with an enthusiastic woman named Kainé and captured a huge boss named Hook.
Like the fight against Geppetto, the battle contest is the focus here. Kainé is one of the strangest female molecules in a Japanese RPG in recent memory. He is neither a healer nor a brave swordsman, but rather an angry, mad fighter, letting go of a series of shocking swearing every time he digs up her twin broken swords. She struggles with her underwear (as Nier and Weiss never tire of pointing out) and seems to have little use for either Nier or his book. He’s a tough character he can like – and, therefore, he’s even more satisfying that he’s really starting to grow on you over time.
Hook is one of the most exciting fights in the Nier Replicant, with Nier, Weiss and Kainé fighting a huge glowing lizard as they fight to keep their ground on small platforms, hundreds of feet in the air. During this multi-stage battle, Hook jumps from place to place in the Aerie, making melody, magic and platform all the keys to victory. That’s what Nier Replicant does well: exciting, long battles against incredibly large monsters.
(Credit picture: Square Enix)
The final area we can discuss is the Northern Plains in the second half of the game. Without spoiling any of Nier Replicant’s interesting stories, we can say that after a certain point, the action jumps forward five years. When Nier revisits old areas, the enemies become much tougher – but again, so is he.
Northern Plains is one of Nier’s great outdoor spaces, and like other elements of the game, it’s an imperfect execution of a great idea. Theoretically, these huge levels help the Nier Replicant world feel big and connected. In practice, the Northern Plains can feel a little empty, with a lot of time between hostile encounters and only a few side quests to do along the way.
Northern Plains, on the other hand, are also a great place to try out Nier’s full range of magic and fighting skills, both of which extend far beyond the first half. Magic is not just about hitting distant targets. Now, Nier can throw defensive obstacles, create flawless dumplings or even summon a huge elf hand to overwhelm his enemies.
The Battle of Melee is also much more varied in the second half of the game, as you are no longer limited to one-handed swords and daggers. Now, you can also equip slow and heavy large swords or balanced spears. Since each weapon has different combinations, it is worth experimenting. But on the other hand, certain enemies are not very sensitive in one weapon against the other, so it mainly depends on the preference of the players. It’s another area where Nier Replicant offers some depth, but it could have promoted the idea.
(Credit picture: Square Enix)
Nier Replicant prospects
After about 15 hours with Nier Replicant, it’s easy to see why the game became a cult classic – but it’s also easy to see why it never became a mainstream hit. Nier Replicant has some of the most fascinating and bizarre JRPG characters I have ever encountered, and their constellation takes the game a long way. At the same time, the world itself and many of the tasks given to you can feel repetitive.
The race is also good, without ever overcoming the barrier in “wonderful”. There is a great variety and finding a game that works for you can feel satisfying. But again, the game’s difficulty curve is everywhere. Even ranking and file enemies can take a long time to submit, without offering much XP as a reward.
If nothing else, Nier Replicant is different and in a market full of similar games, it deserves some recognition for that. Sure, it’s technically a remaster, but it’s a remaster of a variation of a game we haven’t seen on this side of the Pacific. If this sounds good to you, the game will end on April 23 and will cost $ 60. We will have a full review closer to the release.
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