The game you never played

Nier

Tea: Arabic Night

After the surprise-reveal of a Nier sequel, with no final title as of now, I thought it only appropriate to share my thoughts on the first game and why I was and still am so in love with this game. The game, at the time, was something you wouldn’t really know about as it flew so deep under the radar it might as well have been a submarine. Even I only heard about it in one of those “What is coming out next month”-videos. I was intrigued by the odd enemy- and art-design, but the slightly bewildering design choices kept me from immediately ordering it. A few months later I found out that it had severely dropped in price and I had nothing to play anyway, so why the hell not.

The first minutes of Nier immediately hooked me. Something as simple as the time during which the events take place was enough to draw me in. “Summer 2049” with a thick layer of snow covering an entire city. Soon after that we are introduced to a father and his daughter. Both seem to be starving and the daughter is supposedly terminally ill. Monsters of unspecified origin and shape are attacking them from the outside and you, playing as the father, are barely able to fend them off. But they just keep coming and in your desperation you turn to a book, a book you forbid your daughter to touch, a book that grants you blood-based powers. With it, you manage to kill all the monster. Jumping ahead, we are now in what seems to be an earlier stage in the human history from the looks of it. Just a small village with no electronics or vehicles of sort. Rural life and our main character seemed to have survived the time jump. The father and the daughter are still well and appear not to have aged, but the daughter is still terminally ill. Now it is up to you to look for a cure, but seeing as you are apparently the village’s most capable man you are also tasked with various kinds of fetch-quests from the ever unmoving NPCs around town. On your quest for the cure you will come across your own magical talking book named Grimoire Weiss. This cynical remnant of a bygone age is only reluctantly willing to aid you, but ultimately becomes your companion. I will leave it at that for the story as one should experience it rather than just read it. Suffice it to say it only gets darker the further you get.

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– A typical summer day… –

As mentioned before the graphics aren’t quite what one expects to find on the PS3, neither is the gameplay really cutting edge. The combat is very straight forward and allows only small variation. The magic is varied enough to feel fresh, but has some really odd inspirations. One of your attacks and a lot of enemy attacks seem to have adopted the mindset of bullet-hell-shooters. Does this sound a bit out of place? Well get this, there are several quests that are good old text adventures and some side scrolling stages. Grimoire Weiss doesn’t seem to be the only thing from a different time. All of that creates are rather strange looking visual aesthetic for the fights. Enemies blast big red balls straight at you, while you either avoid them, sometimes even in a top-down perspective, and other times just strike them with your blade to make them disappear.

The enemies themselves are hard to define as they appear to be half-existing versions of themselves or just unfinished textures. The character design is all over the place, your main character looks decent enough, but later puts on a fetish-esque mask. Grimoire Weiss obviously has no facial animations, but is a very welcome sidekick as he is not too fond of endless questing and often makes sarcastic comments that almost all the time made me smile. He is relatable, since he feels aware of some of the odd choices the game makes and purposely draws attention to them. Your first female sidekick might as well have escaped a brothel with a vocabulary a sailor would feel ashamed off. Later on you get a third companion that is something straight out of a scary kids show and his never changing expression makes it difficult to look at him for longer than a few seconds as you feel he is devouring you soul. All of the other characters are laughably normal in their design compared to your group of misfits. The level-design ranges from pretty impressive to very bland and straight-forward with one area being big and open, but you unable to jump around at your leisure, hindered by the ever present invisible walls.

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– Floating book, Fetish-man, big-mouthed nude-model, and that…THING, is what you are stuck with –

So if Nier is such a weird and apparently flawed game, why do I like it so much? This is a case where he whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. The more you invest yourself in the story of Nier the more you will gain from it. Your view on the entire scenario will shift dramatically until black and white blur together and become grey and after that white is suddenly deepest black. The characters, although weird in design, a written very well, with meaningful struggles and character arcs that not only make sense, but engage you on an emotional level.

The game encourages and demands multiple playthroughs and I highly recommend them as well. Your second time will show you a different perspective on everything. It also opens up a lot more story for your sidekicks. The soundtrack remains stellar throughout the entire game. With no track being a disappointment. Be it an over-world track or battle theme, all of them are fitting and beautifully haunting.

Nier is a game you think could not exist in this day and age. It takes a lot of risks, but rewards the player for taking the leap of faith. Graphic-enthusiasts will not find what they are looking for, but then again what are you doing on this blog anyway? Nier leaves you with a different feeling every time you turn it off. The last playthrough climaxing in Ending D is the most impressive one and will shock you as well as instill a feeling of sadness in you. I for one could not be more excited for the next game in this franchise. I know the story will be touching and heart wrenching again. With Platinum at the helm for the combat I have nothing to worry about. It is a game I can recommend for the overall experience and not just for specific parts. This is not something for everybody, but if it clicks with you, then you will get one of the greatest experiences out of it for sure.

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– I am ready for the next one! –

Image sources in order of appearance:

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2 thoughts on “The game you never played

  1. Obviously a rather exotic mixture of gaming elements here (reason for the Arabic Night-flavour?) but if Mr Teatime approves: why the hell not?

    Like

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