Looking at the popularity of the NieR franchise today and one would never believe that it all began in a rather strange way over a decade ago with two different versions of the same game being released, only with Japan getting both versions of the game and the West only getting NieR Gestalt. With the story altered only slightly to place the focus on a father daughter relationship instead of a sibling one, the game was something of a hidden gem thanks to its incredibly unique story that was buried between aged combat mechanics and a number of other troublesome design decisions. So now with NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… bringing the original Japanese story to the West with upgrades all around, can the rest of the game now match what the original was known for?
For many returning fans of the original game they will find that the gruff Papa Nier has now been replaced with a younger main character that serves as a brother to Yonah. This decision matches the original release of the game in Japan and may be a bit off-putting to some longtime fans initially, especially as a father trying to save his dying daughter can strike home a lot harder for most, but given that the script never was really altered outside of a few interactions in the original release, the characters continue to act the same as before, which will explain at least a few of the more awkward seeming events that happened in the original NieR.
Now, that being said, NieR Replicant follows the story of a nameable young boy whose little sister Yonah has been afflicted by the Black Scrawl, a strange illness that has no cure. The post-post-apocalyptic world has been filled with monstrous creatures called Shades that roam the lands and attack everything from animals to people. With the Shades increasing and Yonah’s conditioning worsening, her brother continues his journey into tracking down any possible clues that may cure her illness and what better stop than the local library.
With the help of the village’s librarian Popola and sister Devola, the boy travels to a mysterious shrine where he manages to obtain an all-knowing book by the name of Grimoire Weiss who believes that there may just be a way to cure the Black Scrawl. NieR Replicant stays true to tone when it comes to telling its original tale, with the brother taking on a fitting enough role compared to the father figure Western fans are familiar with, meaning that things are still a slow burn through the first few hours but then once the story does begin to move quickly, players will quickly find themselves engrossed in the tales that the writing team has to tell.
The world of NieR Replicant is a hopeless one with many side-quests having unfortunate conclusions to them while even the core cast members that join the brother on his adventure suffer from tragic backstories and even worse fates in the future. It is also worth noting that there is a brand new chapter included in the core storyline that was never offered in the original. Rarely are there moments of joy in this world and even when they do occur, they tend to be rather short lived. That being said, there are plenty of moments of humor mixed into the game thanks especially to the witty banter between Kainé and Weiss as well as some of the sidequests that tend to take a more unusual turn. These brief moments of levity help balance the tone of an otherwise darker themed game where nearly everyone is struggling to survive and nearly every new piece of information always seems to make things worse.
Regardless of humor or drama, NieR Replicant‘s strongest element remains its story, especially since there is some significant payoff when it comes to rewarding players for their efforts. It is worth noting that once again players will want to make sure to play through the game more than once as the first ending is not truly the end. Instead far more backstory elements for the player’s companions, the world itself, and more are revealed throughout the second run of the game with subsequent runs featuring even more content, though it is worth noting that players will need to meet a certain requirement to obtain these endings, especially since this time around players will find that there is something brand new at the end of it all.
When the original NieR was released, it suffered from stiff combat mechanics, relatively simplistic and often boring side-quests, and tons of grinding for materials to upgrade the player’s arsenal. One of the first things players will notice when playing NieR Replicant is that the game’s combat is now far more fluid than it ever was in the original release. Where combat was previously a stiff affair that players would need to struggle against at times, the newly revised mechanics make it flow almost as smoothly as can be. This leads to some truly outstanding looking fights, especially against the bosses that continue to stand out as exceptional today.
Players can quickly move in to deal damage to foes, dodge or parry incoming attacks, and even chain together combo strings by using the quick weapon swap mechanic unlocked in the second half of the game. Enemies will also drop “words” that provide a variety of buffs to the player’s stats and can be applied to weapons, magic, and basic skills. All of this can be done while using Wiess’ magical powers to deal damage or protect the player, making for a revised combat system that, while still a bit sticky at times thanks to a camera that can be problematic in tight spaces.
That being said, if players simply want to experience most of what the story has to offer without trying to challenge themselves, there is an easy mode with an auto battle system that will take care of most battles for them. It is not really recommended as the game itself is fairly easy even on Normal difficulty but it is a nice option to have for potential newcomers.
Where NieR Replicant‘s combat has seen a significant improvement, the same cannot really be said about the game’s handling of side-quests. While players will still be able to use Devola to track down side-quests they may not have noticed in various towns, the quests themselves are almost always of the fetch quest variety, often asking the player for a large number of rare item drops, or require traveling back and forth between the same locations numerous times with no actual difference. It is worth noting that many of these side-quests can be ignored if the player chooses, but not only do some reward the player with weapons but also unlock things such as the ability to use the garden next to the player’s house, the ability to ride a boar and cut down on traveling time, and more.
Just like when trying to complete side-quests players will also find that the grind for materials, both for upgrading the player’s arsenal and for quests, remains as annoyingly time consuming as ever. It is worth noting that players will unlock a series of dungeons once they clear the first ending of the game and can earn extra money and items for completing them, but still this level of repetition can be more than a little frustrating even with NieR Replicant still requiring the player to make their way through the game multiple times in order to see every ending.
Visuals & Audio
When one considers the fact that the original NieR released in 2010 and, even at time, was not a great looking game it is amazing to see just how far NieR Replicant has come in this upgrade. Not only have nearly all of the character models been completely revamped and designed but many aspects of the world itself feature completely rebuilt designs that still hold true to the original vision but now harness what current consoles are capable of. Players will find that the game’s outside environments are gorgeous to explore as they see ruined architecture in the distance all while fighting without a single dip in quality.
While it only makes sense that NieR Replicant features a freshly recorded English voice track as it features a brand new main character alongside the returning voice actors for past characters, it will be surprising to many to hear that nearly every piece of dialogue in the game is now actually voiced. This includes random tidbits players will hear from NPCs when wandering around town and any time they interact with characters, even those not relevant to any quests. As for the sound tracks, the game’s original music may have already been stellar but NieR Replicant takes things a step beyond that by making sure that almost every track is memorable in one way or another.
After over a decade NieR Replicant ver.1.2247448713R9… feels like the game that fans should have been able to experience back when the original came out as it capitalizes on its amazing storyline with now stellar gameplay and gorgeous graphics. There are still elements of the game that continue to feel dated, with grinding and repetitive missions remaining a problem, but with improvements that capitalize on most aspects that have helped the franchise grow over the years, it is easy to see why NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is an action game that should not be missed.
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