Nier Review

   17/05/2010 at 20:25       Chris OToole       5 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Square Enix, Nier, RPG, Role Playing Game, Squenix

Before I begin this review, I must say that I knew nothing about Nier before it was released. A fact which struck me as quite odd. What with it being a Square Enix RPG and all. After all, Square Enix is well regarded as the master of the RPG in most quarters, so why was this being quietly pushed out to almost no fanfare?

On only my first play-session I got the first inkling as to why this might be. The graphics are very rough indeed, almost, but not quite PS2 in quality. And the main character's voice was of the constipated Conan variety. "Maybe this was a product of the 'B' team" I thought to myself. Or at least the result of some budget cutting.

As the game unfolded though, the vistas opened up revealing some beautiful scenery and some really quite impressive lighting effects. And, as always the cut-scene work was very impressive - though why they chose to have strange borders plonked over the top of them was a really odd decision.

The story itself is rather engaging with an enigmatic mystery, and in truth it is one of the reasons I couldn't stop playing. The character's motivations and reasoning working well to grab hold of you, and not let go until you have found the resolution, I'd love to talk more about it here, but I feel I'd be doing you a dis-service in not letting you discover the twists and turns for yourself.

Game play wise it's a tough nut to describe, though it's mostly a Zelda type game in reality. The combat working in much the same way, only you have combos to think about. You'll eventually settle on one weapon which will mostly suit and more than likely stick with it throughout the game. Or at least until a game changing twist around ten hours in.

But Zelda isn't the only game Nier is reminiscent of. At times you'll be platforming in sections much like a Smash Brothers homage. In others the camera will pan upwards, calling to mind the earlier NES Zelda games, including their block pushing puzzles. But it's the boss battles where it gets most interesting - there are time these resemble a bullet-hell Japanese shooter, played in the style of the obscure N64 game Sin and Punishment. You'll have to dodge, roll and block, looking for the perfect moment in which to unleash one of your time slowing special magic attacks, and when these hit, the elation felt can be truly marvellous.

Your weapons, magic and physical attacks can all be upgraded with 'words', and these are dropped by the villains of the piece called Shades, who have more than a smattering of the dark beings from Twilight Princess about them. Two 'words' can be equipped for each attribute, and can affect everything from your damage, item drop rate, and even the distance you are knocked back if struck. This latter option can prove quite handy when facing off against many a tentacled beasty on top of a rickety precipice, make no mistake about it.

The tipping point of the game for me, taking it from being 'okayish' to 'oh yes this is actually really bloody good' was a certain quest near the middle of the game. I'm going to be ever so slightly spoilery here, so feel free to skip this bit if you like, I won't be offended, honest. It involves you travelling to a village that worships a giant tree, but when you get there the whole village seems to be locked in its own dreams. As you investigate you gradually start being pulled into them too. The text at the bottom of the screen seems to get larger and larger, and suddenly you realise you are reading the chapter of a novel. You'll have some decisions to make towards the end, and it's a complete surprise, but a brilliant one. Having the rug pulled from under you happens less and less with games nowadays, and it's a gaming moment I'll remember fondly for a long time.

Okay, so those are the spoilers over with, but how do I sum up Nier? A game pulled from lots of different influences, sometimes blatant (one boss is a straight copy of one of Zelda's) and sometimes just gently referencing great gaming moments from the past. But overall I'd say Nier is like a wonderful yummy cake. A wonderful yummy cake sprinkled with tiny bits of shit. It's awesome, but sometimes it'll leave a bad taste in your mouth.

And don't get me started on the bloody fishing mini game..

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