NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 | The gang

NieR Replicant ver.1.2247448713… (PS4/XONE/PC): Absolutely Breathtaking (Detailed Review)

So, it’s been almost six years since I wrote my review of the original English release of NieR Gestalt, released as just NieR on the PS3 and XBox 360 in 2010. Given the lavish praise I heaped upon the original game’s story and upon Automata as a whole, the only question is why I didn’t write this review sooner (especially since I beat the game several months ago? The short version is that I also write about politics, and shit started getting crazy around that time. But why should we talk about the real world becoming a dystopian hellscape when we can talk about a fictional world becoming a dystopian hellscape?

I’ve frequently listed the sequel, NieR Automata, as one of my favorite games of all time, but I’ve always been more partial to the first game’s story. That’s not to say that Automata didn’t have a great story, but there were a few hiccups with it, and I felt a greater attachment with Replicant’s characters. Also let’s be real, Automata was a bit heavy handed with the symbolism at times.

Maybe it’s intentional given the fact that Automata’s cast is literally made up of machines, but there’s something much more human about Replicant’s cast. The silly banter between each of the main characters not only livens things up in contrast to the rest of the game’s depressing atmosphere, but you really get a sense for who each of these characters are, and you form a deep connection with them. This also makes their struggles hit all the harder. In other words, if you started with Automata and you’re going into this one after the fact, get prepared to be emotionally punched in the gut repeatedly.

If you couldn’t tell, Kaine is my type of woman.

I don’t feel the need to go too into detail about the story since most of you could just read my previous one, but what I can add is the amount of smaller details that I missed the first time through. NieR Replicant tends to be a lot better at subtlety than its successor, and this makes the second half of the game all the more impactful. The gist of the story is that you play as Nier, who comes across a sentient talking book named Grimoire Weiss while looking for his sister. Nier’s sister is struck with a deadly disease known as the black scrawl, a disease with no known cure. Nier then sets off to find a bunch of macguffins called the sealed verses in an attempt to save his sister.

I don’t want to go into specifics, but I will just say that the second half is DARK. Comparatively, the first half is meant to give off the feeling of a typical lighthearted Zelda clone. For fucks sake, one arc of the game basically copies Twilight Princess in both design and presentation, and even ends with a character picking an item up with a Zelda Item jingle sound alike and accompanying animation playing.

Despite this, you are given a few hints at the game’s true nature through the sidequests. One of them has you try and locate a lost dog, only to discover that the dog died protecting its owner. Another one has you track down a runaway kid and return him to his family, only to realize that he was fleeing a life of crime from his family who wanted him to join them. You also get no reward for that quest. Let’s also not forget about the lighthouse lady sidequest. I’m not going to spoil that one.

Yeah, Platinum Games is back for this one to.

Over time, you learn the dark truth about the monstrous creatures called shades you fight against, the black scrawl, Grimoire Weiss, and the world you inhabit. Things start to gradually get darker and more tragic as you advance, and this is made all the more jarring due to how much you connect to this world and its characters. Once again, I already talked about the story in greater depth in my original review, so I will focus on the few things that were changed in this version.

The most obvious is that Nier is much younger and is Yonah’s brother instead of her father. While I am more partial to father Nier, there are a few aspects of the story that work better with brother Nier. The first of these is Nier’s change in appearance after the time skip is much more striking, and it makes a lot more sense why he couldn’t use large swords and spears in the first half. Additionally, Emil’s crush on Nier makes a lot more sense with Nier as a younger bishounen type than as a grizzled old guy, which means they didn’t have to remove it in this version.

That being said, I do feel like there could have been more done with father Nier rather than just having him in the world of the recycled vessel sidequest. When Yoko Taro said there was something fans of father Nier could expect, I was thinking it would be something like “You play as father Nier after Ending D” or something creative, but nope. I really don’t see why they couldn’t just add NieR Gestalt as DLC or something. Now that I think about it, I think the same could apply to the soundtrack from the original PS3/360 version.

Any game that allows you to go fishing in the desert is okay in my book.

That being said, I can overlook that because the remixed tracks in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 are absolutely amazing. Can someone explain to me just how it’s possible to improve on perfection? Because that’s what Keiichi Okabe has accomplished. Okay yes, there are a few things I could nitpick, namely the lower emphasis on percussion does weaken the effect of some tracks like “The Dark Colossus Destroys All,” but the improved instrumentals and added lyrics are more than enough to make up for any minor errors. And a lot of tracks are just outright better than the original, such as Emil Karma or Gods Bound by Rules. Hell, they also went above and beyond with the Shadowlord boss theme, making it vastly superior to the original, which I was already convinced was perfect.

I made a pretty egregious mistake of ignoring the sidequests in my playthrough of the original version of this game. Since my original playthrough, I’ve made more attempts at playing as much of the games I play as possible and getting as much as I can out of it. I think I spent about 30 hours on my playthrough of the original, while my playtime with Replicant ver.1.22474487139 was well over 100 hours. I actually don’t know the exact amount because the in game timer maxes out at 99 hours and 59 minutes. That’s how you can tell a game has you hooked.

Anyway, I don’t know for sure if I spent more time on this game because of the improved combat mechanics or if I just didn’t have as much patience when I played Gestalt six years ago, but I had a lot more fun with the sidequests than I expected to. Granted, I expect that some people won’t be fond of all the running around and item farming that’s necessary, but I’m autistic. We do simple, repetitive shit all the time just to recover our energy. Seriously, it’s called stimming, look it up. Would have really helped me through high school if my teachers knew that instead of shouting “FOCUS” every other second.

Though it’s kinda hard to defend it when the game itself calls it out.

There is at least some fast travel options with a boar that you can ride, and a boat that takes you to other parts of the map later on, but you don’t have that boat in the first half, and slaughtering enemies in this game is so addicting that I’m constantly hopping off the boar to go and kill them even though they stopped being a challenge several hours ago. I think you can consider that a testament to the game’s sound design that slaughtering weak enemies is so addicting.

On top of this, the original NieR’s Godawful fishing minigame was instead replaced with something more similar to Automata’s, which is a welcome improvement. I can safely say that I enjoyed the fishing this time, which is not something you say in a lot of JRPGs. I also found something quite soothing about planting crops and harvesting them the next day. I actually don’t know if it’s any different from the original since I completely ignored this back then, but it was nice.

While NieR Replicant’s sidequests do tend to involve a lot of the repetitive fetch questy stuff in them, they also do add a lot of insight into the game’s world, and the game feels less complete without them. Especially given that some of them were pretty fun and made you think about how to use the game’s mechanics to your advantage. A major complaint I had with NieR Automata was just how easy most of the late game. While this was partly because NieR Automata’s hard mode removes the lock on feature which makes the combat clunky as hell and not fun, which in turn meant it was either the too easy normal mode or the frustrating and annoying hard mode.

NieR | Sidequest Guide
Guess we won’t be needing this any more.

Not only does NieR Replicant have a more standard hard mode, but there’s also more sidequests that involve a genuine challenge. The “World of the Recycled Vessel” sidequest was especially good at fulfilling this role, as I didn’t beat it until after several New Game plus cycles. Granted, this was all stuff that was in the original, but there’s also some neat touches like the weapon stories from Automata. That being said, the vastly improved combat system plays a significant role in the game being as fun as it is.

But the real question you all are here for is, how is the new content? Fucking fantastic, that’s what it is. The edition of the Louise sidequest really adds a lot to the game, and it fits right in with the tragic tone of the story. The boss battle itself really shows off how much more of a budget the game had this time when compared with the fights that were in the original. Oh, and the fact that they had an entirely new track for the boss battle theme was the cherry on top. The only complaint I have is that I wish there was an option to skip the horror esque scenes on the boat on repeat playthroughs. They were good scenes, but anything is gonna get old after the first few times.

As for ending E, I will admit that it kinda makes ending D lose a bit of its power, and it certainly does not come close to the same level of emotion as NieR Automata’s Ending E, but I do think it was a nice touch. It was interesting to not only foreshadow Automata, but also adds a lot of insight into Kaine’s character that wasn’t there before. Additionally, that ending narration still manages to tug at the heartstrings. It is nice to see that Yoko Taro didn’t do something like retcon the original game’s depressing ending to appeal to the new audience that preferred Automata’s more hopeful ending.

All I can say is that NieR Replicant ver.1.2247448713… was not only an improvement over the original game, it was an improvement over NieR Automata as well. The original game already had a close place to my heart, but this remake was absolutely breathtaking. You so often see remakes that struggle to capture the passion and soul of the original, yet this one has improved upon it so much that I can never see myself going back to the original. The only criticisms I had was that you can’t replay the pre time skip portion on New Game plus, and that there were a handful of cutscenes that weren’t skippable (keep in mind, most are skippable, and I only even consider this an issue cause of repeat playthroughs.

I really went out of my way to extract every last drop of content out of this game that I could because I just had such a powerful connection with it. It’s a must play experience that I may be able to recommend even to those who weren’t the biggest fans of Automata’s storytelling. Just, holy shit this one was good, do not pass it up.

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