I didn’t get a PlayStation 3 at launch, due to financial issues. Instead, it happened years later. So when I did get it, I picked up an array of games that might have been secretly great, but were for some reason or another ridiculously cheap. The original NieR was among them. I thought it was something special back then, and that holds true with NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…. In fact, I think the story it tells and some of the decisions it was criticized for back then will be better appreciated now.
NieR Replicant is, at its core, the story of a young man and his devotion to his little sister. In its opening moments, we see two children in a desperate situation, with an elder brother resorting to a mysterious book’s power to protect his ill sister. That situation is then mirrored hundreds of years later with Nier and his sister Yonah, two orphans in a small village. They inhabit a world where magic is real, but so are robots and technological remnants of a long lost time. After she falls victim to a disease known as the Black Scrawl, Nier and a newly found, sentient tome called Grimoire Weiss go in search of a cure.
In so doing, they visit many places. They ally with Kaine and Emil, people who have their own mysterious powers. They run errands, like collecting machine parts, fishing, or getting seeds. More importantly, they face monstrous Shades, shadowy figures with magical powers and tremendous strength that sometimes seem determined to attack people. Though, given this is an “upgraded version” of a game from 2010, people probably aware of that.
As for new content, it is there. Though in some ways, the changes might seem subtle and sneak up on you. The visual changes might not really catch you until you face a particularly large Shade or see an event scene that gives you a clear look at one of the characters. You might not notice some of the dialogue is slightly different unless you actually had a script in front of you. All of the returning voice actors are as amazing as ever, especially Liam O’Brien as Grimoire Weiss. Zach Aguilar and Ray Chase fit well as the new Nier who, while different from “Father” Nier, offers new insights and perspectives by being younger and growing up before our eyes.
But NieR Replicant is most striking when it is incorporating things that are new. Especially when they are things that might have originally appeared as supplemental content. It’s like it is showing an appreciation for what came before and the extra possibilities and stories by integrating them in a way that feels natural. It builds upon it, especially the new ending. Given the reach of and reception to the original NieR, I’d imagine people who didn’t play the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game might not even realize it is new. Which is a testament to how well it all fits together.
NieR Replicant also strikes a balance between new and old. For example, fishing is easier to figure out. So even though some might still have something “take forever” before you catch it, the explanation is better. But the drop rates are most assuredly unchanged. This means that some quests can take forever. Especially getting certain flower seeds. But at the same time, these sorts of quests always felt like a commentary on both the nature of both RPG quests and Nier himself. We know what games ask of us, and NieR Replicant even lampshades it. But the fact that Nier is willing to go through all of these things to help people, even those mocking him, speaks to his own kindness for others.
Consideration and the influence you have on others are major themes in general. After all, we have a world where situations are dire. People are troubled and dealing with horrible things. We constantly witness how Yonah, Kaine, and Emil suffer. But still all of these people are thinking of others. Nier is helping others, even though his sister’s salvation is his priority. Even royalty in one city is willing to fight and sacrifice for others. (Unfortunately, there is a certain achievement that feels like the antithesis of the consideration Nier and players are encouraged to show for people around them.)
Still, the game uses its imagery, storylines, and soundtrack to evoke feelings and encourage you to connect with these people. You’re constantly making a difference in their lives. Then, it twists and offers insights to make you think what fighting for one person or cause could do to other people or the world in general. Are your actions selfless or unexpectedly selfish? You question what you and everyone else was doing. Decisions tug on heartstrings, and each playthrough builds on what you’ve done by offering that new information or giving you a reason to go through it all again.
A part of that is why I appreciated seeing the accessibility efforts here. Like NieR: Automata, NieR Replicant includes a number of options to accommodate people who might otherwise be unable to play due to its difficulty or other limitations. There are one-handed control schemes. You can assign controls. There is an auto-battle option if you play easy, and you can choose exactly what the game will handle for you if you enable it. So if someone has trouble normally handling action games or two-handed games (or maybe just wants to collect screenshots or rush through to see a different ending), it is still possible to go through and enjoy the story or play.
Though if someone can, trying NieR Replicant on its standard difficulty level is advised. It’s an action-RPG at its core, with players using Grimoire Weiss to cast spells while Nier runs around with various melee weapons attacking. Even the more general enemies are capable of sending off energy bullets along the line of a shoot’em up boss, with your own attacks able to dissipate them if you’re unable to dodge. Building up combos is satisfying, accruing new spells lets Grimoire Weiss be flashy, and adding new words to your vocabulary is a means of building up your arsenal a bit without paying a visit to the Junk Heap. The fact that it’s now also running at 60fps makes it feel more fluid as well.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 is a more approachable version of an emotional and thought-provoking RPG. This is a game people might not have known what to do with years ago. Now, following the success of NieR: Automata, it’s presented with additional accessibility options, better looking and smoother gameplay, and additional content that gently builds on what was already there. It’s an opportunity to connect, question, and put your emotions through the wringer yet again.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 23, 2021.