Review by newramen

"A Game About Playing Games"

Nier is a game tailor-made for gamers who grew up losing themselves in the worlds of the 3D Zeldas (Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twlight Princess) and 16-bit/32-bit adventure games (specifically Landstalker, Alundra and Brave Fencer Musashi). It is also a game made by fans of Team Ico for fans of Team Ico (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), capturing the melancholic feel of those games through its adult fairy tale-style story, overblown lighting, sparse environments and overall art direction.

The Story

A father vows to save his daughter from a curse. The player controls this father. To say anything else would be to take away one of the absolute greatest joys of experiencing Nier.

The Gameplay

Nier is an action-adventure RPG, with its gameplay most closely resembling Landstalker (at its most simple) and Brave Fencer Musashi/3d Zelda games (at its most complex). There are many times when magic will be used more often than swords, with a quickly recharging MP meter that emphasises its necessity. There are towns to explore, fields to traverse, dungeons to conquer, bosses to fight -- everything one might expect from a classic Japanese adventure game.

The Legend Of Nier

Nier is loosely structured after Ocarina of Time, with a central hub, plains that act as Hyrule field (with a drifting boar to ride instead of Epona), and other towns which give way to dungeons. The puzzles never become as complex, and the game world never becomes as detailed, but it is clear the 3D Zeldas were an inspiration and influence on Nier. For example, one of the townspeople in the central hub says 'Hey, listen!' when you talk to them. If that wasn't enough, there's a moment when a character finds something in a dungeon and holds it up in an exact parody of the 'item found' pose from the 3D Zeldas, complete with unintelligible grunt and catchy jingle.

The Graphics

The graphics, which have often been referred to as 'generic' and 'mediocre' by both reviewers and players, are actually more appealing to me in their simplicity and general lack of detail than many of the big budget games currently available. I personally find that too many games of the current generation opt for incredibly busy graphics and overly-detailed textures, leaving almost no room for imagination. The look of Nier does more for my imagination than most of the games I've played since the Dreamcast, with notable exceptions being the aforementioned Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. There's also a certain thickness to the graphics that make it look like how I would imagine a Dreamcast 2 game to look like, in the very happy alternate dimension where that console exists. In other words, it looks like how Dreamcast games tend to look in my fond memories of them, with the reality revealing something markedly different. So it's really not just the art direction I love but the technical graphics themselves, which may not impress at any point but delights my brain in more important ways.

The Music

The heavy use of vocal music can quickly become repetitive and grating, which is my biggest complaint, but I do find it interesting that one of the lowest points of the game for me tends to be one of the most loved aspects of Nier's defenders. The instrumental music, however, is always beautiful, with a special oddness to the sounds and arrangements.

The Fetch Quests

The endless fetch quests in Nier are awful, focused almost exclusively on insane grinding and farming. They're entirely optional, of course, but really shouldn't have been in the game in the first place.

In The End

By combining its influences in clever ways, the whole of Nier becomes a game that is altogether unique. If only it had been marketed as such and not as a Devil May Cry-style clone. I highly recommend Nier to fans of atmosphere and originality, and of course to fans of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Landstalker and Twilight Princess.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/05/11

Game Release: NIER (US, 04/27/10)

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