Yes, the name is really long. NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139, henceforth abbreviated to NieR Replicant, is a remastered version of the original NieR role-playing game that debuted in Japan in 2010.
This new release is also a prequel to the more well known NieR: Automata, released in 2017.
With improved visuals and combat system, it’s probably a good place to start for someone new to the series.
Previously, there were two versions in Japan, namely NieR Gestalt with an older protagonist for the Xbox and NieR Replicant with a younger one for PlayStation 3.
In this new release, which is available across all three platforms, you get to play the protagonist as a teenager.
I played NieR Replicant on the PlayStation 4 without knowledge of the events that transpired in NieR: Automata.
The abstract plot is a challenge to grasp, but hopefully things should be clearer in Nier: Automata which I intend to play next – fortunately, it is currently available on Xbox Game Pass.
Bonding over battles
The protagonist, whom you can name as you please, is a kind-hearted and overly helpful teenager, who makes a living by performing errands while trying to find a cure for his younger sister, Yonah.
Yonah is afflicted by a strange terminal illness known as the Black Scrawl, and has to stay home alone most of the time while waiting for her brother’s return.
In one of his earlier adventures, our protagonist finds Grimoire Weiss, a floating and talking tome who provides magical powers as well as being a constant cynical companion.
Grimoire Weiss, with his gruff attitude and blunt honesty, is a good counterbalance to our overly nice and idealistic protagonist, who wants to help everyone, even to the extent of performing menial fetch tasks.
Along the way, he finds companions in the form of Kaine, who is inappropriately dressed for battle in lingerie and swears like a sailor, and Emil, a sheltered young boy with special powers and a mysterious past.
There is some strong language from characters that like to bicker, especially from foul-mouthed but endearing Kaine, and the sarcastic Grimoire Weiss, but it’s nothing that anime viewers will be unaccustomed to.
What’s great about NieR Replicant is how emotionally invested it makes you feel about the protagonist and his friends.
It is easy to get attached to the characters, and the game uses that to its advantage in orchestrating emotional scenes.
Despite featuring a young protagonist and plenty of humourous quips, NieR Replicant isn’t a light-hearted game. There are frequent depictions of death, fear and sacrifice.
Certain sequences can be rather emotionally manipulative, like slow motion and overly dramatic violence dealt to characters we care about.
However, there are also genuine tear-jerking moments that are made more profound when complemented by the heart-rending score.
As our protagonist goes around helping everyone he can, he has to fight enemies in the form of shadowy Shades who vary in sizes, attacks and armour, as well as robots.
Things take a dark turn midway in the game, which makes our protagonist’s quest even more pressing, and with many more people who are desperate for his help.
Go there, fetch that, farm these
Apart from the main story mission in finding a cure for Yonah, NieR Replicant offers plenty of side quests which vary from mundane and tedious fetch quests to those that genuinely try to help desperate characters. Sadly, the cruel world of NieR Replicant means not all of them end well.
Side quests in NieR Replicant are well-written and rewarding, not only in terms of pay, weapons and items, but also in terms of developing empathy with the characters.
Even though completing the actual quests can be very tedious, repetitive and involves lots of fetching or grinding, the rewards are worthwhile if you like to know how the characters fare from your actions, whether you decide to be honest about the painful truths or not.
For instance, you might have helped a lovesick young man woo his lady love but you struggle to tell him that she is toying with his feelings.
The well-paying jobs means the protagonist has plenty of spare cash since there isn’t that much to spend on.
Weapons typically quite affordable to upgrade, and the limitations are mainly the required items that need to be farmed from killing foes and clearing dungeons repeatedly.
The game offers plenty of well varied challenges that keeps you on your toes. For instance, there are sections that can be punishing and challenging, requiring well-time jumps, working around restrictions and escaping from unbeatable foes.
Thankfully, they are not insurmountable if you are armed with some persistence, luck, and a well-stocked inventory.
The map for NieR Replicant is rather limited, with only a handful of dungeons and towns, so you can expect to revisit the same places multiple times.
Things got to be so deliberately tedious that the wise-cracking Grimoire Weiss lamented, just as I did, about why the quest giver always has to send you off to someplace far away rather than somewhere nearby.
All I can say is that if you are a completist, do try to finish all the side quests as soon as possible. Try to spend the money to buy items from merchants if it can help complete the side quests faster instead of waiting to farm the necessary items.
There are certain key events that can render some of those side quests incomplete, so just spend the money and the effort to get them done quickly!
There are also side quests of the fishing and gardening variety that require plenty of patience, persistence and luck, but for die-hard completists, they just have to be done!
Fortunately, these two particularly onerous quests were still available after my first complete run of the game, which provided for some relaxation and down time in between the intense reruns of the main story missions.
Of Shades and Robots
Another interesting aspect of the game is that it can feel very different during the when exploring various dungeons and locations. Some sections play like a text-based game, with plenty of reading and quizzing involved.
In certain dungeons, the camera perspective changes to an isometric, 2D scroller or even a top-down view, which affects how you target your ranged attacks.
Combat is fluid and fun, with melee combos that differ depending on the weapons you wield, and a choice of magical attacks that deal ranged, area or assist types of damage.
As you fight the Shades, you can collect “words” that can enhance both your weapons and magical powers in the form of Sealed Verses, such as increasing item drops or speeding up magic regeneration.
It’s easy to get a hang of your favourite attacks and use them to suit your fighting style. I also like the fact that you can switch between one handed and two handed weapons using the D-pad on the fly, which is critical when facing enemies with different attack and defense styles.
I did feel that the game can get rather grindy especially when you have to clear out certain dungeons multiple times just to complete different quests or farm for materials dropped by the enemies.
I went through a particular dungeon so many times that I know exactly where to start shooting missiles in anticipation for the enemies to spawn.
Apart from fighting hordes of Shades, there are also climactic, over-the-top boss battles and satisfyingly violent finishing moves that involve Grimoire Weiss’s spectacular dark magic abilities.
NieR Replicant’s climactic ending leaves more questions than answers, which compels one to unlock four additional endings.
That means playing through the main missions all over again but for each time, you will be rewarded with additional scenes and dialogue that reveals more information about the plot.
Completing the game also unlocks additional dungeons where you can play as a middle-aged protagonist (from the original NeiR Gestalt) and test your mettle while battling hordes of enemies.
The hills are alive
NieR Replicant’s landscapes, although limited, are beautifully rendered. Whether it is a Santorini-inspired coastal town, a village suspended in the mountains, or a city on flowing sands, they are fantastical and awe-inspiring.
Of course, after visiting them dozens of times during the course of the game AND the reruns, it is easy to take the views for granted. It is always daytime in the world of NieR Replicant, so the scenery doesn’t vary much either.
In terms of the interface and menu, some aspects seem rather dated. Yes, they are functionable after some getting used to, but definitely aren’t as slick as newer games and feel rather clunky.
What I really love about Nier Replicant is the ethereal and magical soundtrack by Keiichi Okabe, which is truly beautiful and changes seamlessly to suit the different locations and moods of the game.
The way the music is engineered and mixed makes the game so immersive. For instance, you will hear a certain melody while wandering about the village but when you are near the singer, you can hear her voice blending in seamlessly, then fading off when you are further away.
Even the most tedious tasks are made easier with the enchanting soundtrack, which I constantly catch myself humming throughout the day.
Voiceovers can be heard either in Japanese or English, but I felt the Japanese voices are more emotive, so I stuck with that throughout the game, which meant I was very heavily reliant on the subtitles even during intense, eye-watering battles.
Dialogue is witty and clever, and it was very enjoyable to see the characters bickering and trading barbs with each other.
NieR Replicant is an action role-playing game featuring fluid and fast-paced combat, endearing characters, witty dialogue and an ambitious, mind-bending story.
A good combination of melee and magical elements makes combat very enjoyable, with a great variety of enemies and incredible bosses that put your combat abilities to the test.
Although the multiple side quests can get rather grindy and repetitive, the rewards make them well worth it.
So if you like helping people out, and don’t mind visiting the same places or clearing dungeons over and over again, you will enjoy NieR Replicant.
Do note that, despite the game’s young protagonist, it comes with strong language, blood and violence. So it might not be suitable for younger players.
NieR Replicant is available on PlayStation (S$79.90 from PlayStation Store), Xbox (S$80.25 from Xbox Game Store) and PC (S$79.90 on Steam).