NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 05.05.2021 6

Review for NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... on PlayStation 4

The original NieR released in 2010 and quickly became a cult classic in spite of mixed reviews. While critics bemoaned the title's basic gameplay and lacklustre visuals, fans took to the mature narrative, eclectic cast, and unique development history. NieR wasn't just one game in Japan; instead, it was split across two distinct releases: Gestalt and Replicant. The former released internationally while the latter only domestically. Although both titles share the same skeleton, they feature different main characters in the form of Nier himself - creating a slight domino effect between him and his relationships. Where Gestalt stars a father taking care of his daughter, Replicant sees a brother desperately trying to be a parent for his sister. Taking cues from NieR: Automata's faster paced combat and crisper art direction, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… brings Brother Nier's struggle to an international audience for the first time.

While fans of the original will surely miss playing as a father looking after his daughter at the end of the world - especially since older protagonists (let alone parents) are so uncommon in the RPG genre - NieR Replicant 1.22 works better with a younger brother as the lead for a multitude of reasons. Nier is a temperamental and deeply emotional character, but his idealistic passion doesn't always translate well for a grown man pushing 40. More importantly, there's a five year time skip mid-game to allow Nier to grow up and become stronger (similar to the seven year time skip for Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), which naturally hits harder when audiences transition from an inexperienced 16-year-old to a 21-year-old warrior who's now in his prime.

Brother Nier's arc is framed as a classic coming of age story that slowly gets twisted, using his intense hatred of Shades - the primary antagonists - as a means to comment on the one-sided sense of justice so many JRPG heroes carry with them. Father Nier is an aversion to the typical JRPG main character, but tropes need to actually be used for them to be deconstructed or challenged. Brother Nier looks and acts like the average hero only to subvert what audiences regularly interpret as heroism. The result is a story whose dense themes shine with greater clarity.

Similarly, Nier's relationships with his party members are considerably improved upon in Replicant's revised script. Nier and Grimoire Weiss - his sassy, talking magical tome - go from having a rogue/nobleman routine, where the former is a down to earth optimist and the latter is an educated cynic, to a more mentorship-focused role. Brother Nier and Weiss share a similar dynamic, but they aren't equals anymore in their interactions. Weiss grows a fatherly quality over the course of the story and their interactions tend to highlight how Nier's idealism and hatred are rooted in a younger man's passion (even if only in the subtext).

Screenshot for NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... on PlayStation 4

There's an inherently romantic angle to Nier's relationship with his ally Kainé, but it didn't land elegantly in the original when there was a two decade age gap between them. In this remake, however, Brother Nier is only a year younger than Kainé, framing his feelings for her as a boyhood crush that gradually develops into love. Kainé now being older also justifies Nier's more awkward moments around her, especially since he hasn't experienced romance like the Father. At the end of the day, it's just easier to appreciate the interplay between Nier and Kainé when they're roughly around the same age.

Rounding out Nier's team is Emil, a boy hiding a deep secret behind his eyes. The heart of the party, Emil's seemingly endless empathy contrasts nicely against Kainé's aggression while keeping Nier himself grounded as the stakes rise around them. Emil is also canonically gay and has a one-sided crush on Nier, which was a detail downplayed to the point of omission in NieR Gestalt's localisation (likely due to their massive age gap). NieR Replicant 1.22 features the Japanese script's references to Emil's sexuality, adding a little bit more depth to his interactions with Brother Nier.

Whether he's her father or brother, the most important person in Nier's life is Yonah. Although the relationship between Father Nier and his daughter is incredibly well done, the story works better when Yonah is his sister. For starters, siblings needing to take care of one another and potentially losing each other is a theme that was already present in Gestalt. With Nier now Yonah's brother, he can function as a blatant foil to several characters in the cast. Yonah is framed more as a burden and it's easy to see the ways that Nier is irresponsible in how he takes care of her.

Screenshot for NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... on PlayStation 4

Father Nier leaving his daughter home alone for weeks at a time clashes with how intensely overprotective of Yonah he is, whereas Brother Nier simply lacks the emotional maturity to understand what he's doing to his sister by abandoning her so often. This also plays into the idea of Nier as a subversion of JRPG heroes: he has a clear motivation, but he's also prone to distraction and isn't as hyper-focused on Yonah because he's not her parent. The brother/sister dynamic might not be as appealing or relatable to fans of the original, but NieR Replicant's storytelling is so much richer as a result.

It's worth noting that Replicant 1.22's translation is a mixture of Gestalt's localisation with some reincorporated elements of the original Replicant's cut or changed content. References to Emil's sexuality are present like they were in Replicant, but Yonah mercifully doesn't refer to herself in the third-person this time around. Kainé's cursing remains uncensored as was the case in Gestalt, but the Lunar Tear's legend now grants "riches" instead of "wishes." This isn't exactly a best of both worlds scenario, but it's a better localisation altogether.

Naturally, the most significant changes come from all the newly added story beats. Seafront - an area with no major plot content in the original release - now sports a haunted shipwreck with what might be the title's best boss fight. Seafront's new arc helps flesh out the Shades as antagonists while also tightening the bonds between Nier, Kainé, and Emil even further. Playing through New Game Plus for the first time puts players on Route B, a return to the last 40% of the story with new cutscenes that put the conflict between Nier and the Shades in a new light.

While these scenes were always present in the original, the remake adds new interactions between the main trio during Route B. Audiences now get a glimpse into what camping is like for Kainé & Emil whenever Nier is in a town, along with a particularly tender moment between the whole party before the final dungeon. Completing Route B triggers Route C, featuring even more new scenes exclusive to the remake that create a cleaner narrative thread between Replicant and NieR: Automata - something pushed even further in an entirely new unlockable epilogue.

Screenshot for NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... on PlayStation 4

Combat-wise, Replicant 1.22 reinterprets NieR's action in the style of Automata. The original battle system - while not bad - was very basic and a bit too deliberate for how simplistic the enemy AI was. The action was propped up by interesting systems, but the actual gameplay was just "good enough." The remake's combat is as flashy as it is fast paced, turning Nier into an acrobatic character who can quickly chain attacks from enemy to enemy. The inclusion of Weapon Quick-Switch (go into the Options and switch it from Hold to Tap) even allows players to change between all three weapon types mid-combo.

One-handed swords are Nier's only weapon type during the first half of the story and function as the jack of all trades of the available weapons. Their stats tend to be lower than two-handed swords and spears, but they make up for that with a balanced move set. Two-handed swords are slower (but much faster than they were in the original), with their emphasis placed on taking out waves of enemies and dealing heavy damage up close. Spears are fast-paced and sport a longer range than either sword type, but their combos tend to focus on individual enemies (though crowd control is still possible).

While all three weapon types have their own attack patterns, they follow the same control scheme: Square for combo attacks, Triangle for heavy attacks, Circle for finishing blows near fallen enemies, L2 to defend, and R2 to evade. NieR Replicant 1.22 also features light platforming in certain segments, playing off Nier's ability to double jump and dodge mid-air. On that note, Automata's influence leads to far more refined aerial combat and there are even some new gameplay quirks like the inclusion of a perfect block. Deflect right as an enemy attacks and Nier can get a counterstrike in. Additionally, older mechanics like sidestepping (essentially a perfect dodge) simply work better with a faster gameplay loop.

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Combat can feel a little simplistic early on, but that changes as Nier unlocks Sealed Verses (new magic spells) and Shades starts wearing armour. Nier will eventually have eight different Sealed Verses to choose from, most of which add a shoot 'em up element to the action that gels quite nicely with a more frenetic pace. The addition of armoured enemies also means that players can't just button mash their way through combos, instead having to rely on either charge attacks or well timed heavy attacks. The only real downside to the battle system is that Kainé and Emil are still relatively useless as party members, but that at least keeps the gameplay focused solely on Nier.

Like in the original NieR, players can augment their abilities through the Word Edit system. Shades will randomly drop different Words in combat which can then be equipped onto Nier's weapons, magic, and martial arts. Two Words can be attached per weapon/Sealed Verse/skill, offering a range of buffs from increased attack power, faster MP recovery, and higher drop rates for items. Word Edit is simple, but it adds a fun bit of customisation to the gameplay without making things too imbalanced.

The actual gameplay structure closely follows the Zelda formula codified by A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. Players collect two sets of mystical artefacts spread out across distinct halves of the story, usually found deep inside dungeons. NieR's dungeon design mainly consists of enemy gauntlets, but they all have their own unique gimmicks. The new dungeon at Seafront is a horror-themed ship side-scroller that's built like a 3D diorama. The Forest of Myth's Divine Tree is a text-based adventure set to somber music that tests if readers are actually paying attention to what they're reading. The Barren Temple is a deeply Zelda inspired dungeon that features unique puzzles restricting Nier's actions from room to room. What dungeons lack in Nintendo's polish, they make up for in sheer creativity.

Where dungeons shine most are in their boss fights. Bosses are consistently a highlight, utilising multiple phases, featuring party banter, and scored to some of the best music ever composed for a video game. Between action packed duels and elaborate set pieces, there's fantastic boss variety throughout. More importantly, bosses are never random and always carry an emotional weight to them - especially on Route B onwards. There's an epic quality that keeps NieR Replicant's action engaging, but certain bosses will manage to elicit a surprising amount of sympathy.

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Things kick off slowly in terms of pacing, but this is offset by a brisk back half where Nier sets off to collect Key Fragments in a mostly non-linear order. The only problem with the second half in terms of gameplay is the fact that virtually every area is revisited at least once as part of the story. Anyone actively doing side quests will be traveling all over the world non-stop, even returning to dungeons on the regular. It's a nice way of reincorporating previously used set pieces in theory, but it's abused in practice. The Lost Shrine and Junk Heap in particular really push the limit of how many times a dungeon can (and should) be revisited.

Replicant 1.22 is a faithful remake, so much so that it maintains what was the original NieR's single greatest flaw: the side quests. As mundane as they are often tedious, most side quests demand tracking down rare materials with low drop rates, running back and forth from the same few areas, or dedicating an inordinate amount of time to tasks that aren't explained in-game (like splicing hybrid flower seeds through farming). Their saving grace is that virtually every quest is well written, whether they be tugging at players' heartstrings or making them laugh. The often tongue-in-cheek script also makes it clear that achieving 100% of the side quests is not meant to be taken seriously, but they're nevertheless a sore spot.

Fortunately, the rest of the side activities fare much better. The aforementioned farming is slow-paced and crops actually grow in real time, but it's as relaxing as it is rewarding. Growing crops is one of the best ways to make money and flower splicing is an inspired mechanic. Fishing won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's implemented quite well and tied to some of the best side quests in-game. Nier's fishing skills level up as he completes The Fisherman's Gambit series of quests and there are a surprising amount of different fish to catch (complete with a list of records in the menu).

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Weapon upgrading is an admittedly grindy affair, but every weapon has its own Weapon Story detailing their background. Each new upgrade adds a new entry to their Weapon Story, capping out at Level 4. Collecting weapons is also a fun process, with several hidden in dungeons and tied to different side quests (usually the better ones, thankfully). Completionists will need to have a long conversation with themselves about how worthwhile this endeavour is, but the gameplay variety adds to the replay value more than it detracts from it. Even the most annoying tasks are fulfilling in their own right.

The new soundtrack is a bit of a mixed bag, but really only in comparison to the original score. Every track is well composed, but some are a noticeable downgrade. Tracks like "Gods Bound By Rules'' lose their bombastic edge in favour of a more cinematic approach that doesn't actually play to the song's strengths. On the other hand, songs like "Blu-Bird" and "The Dark Colossus Destroys All" gain a greater level of depth, featuring dynamic musical changes that make their respective boss battles even more intense. Fans of the original should expect some disappointment, but newcomers won't be able to recognise which tracks have been rearranged for the worse - just excellent music.

Graphically, character models take after NieR: Automata and do a much better job at conveying emotions through their facial expressions. Overall designs have been tweaked as well, with Brother Nier going from looking like a lifeless action figure to the handsome protagonist he was always envisioned as. There's a distinct sense of life behind everyone's eyes that compliments what's already a superlative example of English dubbing. The original's excessive bloom has also been more or less removed. This has the consequence of actually muting the colour palette in some respects, but the tradeoff is beautiful lighting that leads to more realistic environments and bolder shadows all around. There's certainly a charm to how NieR Gestalt did things, but the visuals are an improvement across the board - if only for how fluid everything looks in motion now.

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As a whole, the presentation is superb. The re-orchestrated soundtrack and revised art style do wonders with keeping cutscenes engaging and full of pathos. Just as importantly, they make it easier for players to spot how refined the level design is, from the dungeons to the overworld. Despite being on the cusp of societal collapse, this is a world filled with life and culture which the remake has only amplified. More than just a subversion of JRPG tropes, NieR Replicant 1.22 is a story about humanity and the importance of perspective. The tone is realistically morbid, at times bitterly heartbreaking, and written to encourage audiences to reflect on the nature of life in what can sometimes be an uncomfortable manner.

The storytelling is emotionally charged and the path to the credits is littered with tragedy. Yet there's a warmth surging through the plot that holds onto the idea that there's meaning to life even in the most hopeless and impermanent situations. The core combat is exciting but deceptively clever in how it eventually twists players' perspective on even the most routine acts like killing enemies in a video game. NieR was always a greater RPG than critics gave it credit for, but it is truly amazing what a fresh coat of paint and some sensible gameplay tweaks can do for a diamond in the rough.

Screenshot for NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139... on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

NieR Replicant 1.22 is an outstanding remake and an excellent action RPG in its own right. Combat is fast paced, focused, and well varied between three distinct weapon types and eight magic spells. Dungeons appear simple but their design is deceptively clever, and they carry a Legend of Zelda-esque charm to them. The visuals are greatly improved from the original, from character models to background details. Bosses are downright bombastic, masterfully juggling tense battles with visceral set pieces. The story is simply beautiful, making brilliant use of music to amplify already deeply emotional storytelling. Above all else, Replicant plays into concepts only possible in a video game - leading to a genuinely unforgettable experience. If you only play one game this year, make it NieR Replicant 1.22.

Also known as

Nier Replicant

Developer

Toylogic

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Noice! I am very close to feeling that about it myself! Glad to see the original game getting some real love even if it's not got Papa Nier in the driving seat

( Edited 05.05.2021 15:38 by Sandy Wilson )

The original Nier was already one of my favorite games and Replicant 1.22 has somehow made it even better. I REALLY hope that Father Nier DLC actually happens. Ray Chase is amazing, but it's hard not to miss Jamieson Price just a bit. 

Father Nier is way cooler than brother nier, it feels like a more real love/quest.

I love Father Nier as a character, but I really do think the story works better with Brother Nier. So much of Replicant is subversive by nature that by having a more traditional looking main character in the lead makes it easier to appreciate where the story is twisting classic JRPG tropes and conventions. 

I also like thinking of Brother Nier as a perversion of Link/The Hero of Time from Ocarina of Time. Both have their childhoods ripped away and are forced to grow up fast, but where Link remains the classic romantic hero, Brother Nier is just too psychologically damaged to carry such a label into the second half. 

Brother Nier also makes a lot more sense with being so innocent to his actions and consequences as well as the childlike do-gooder attitude he has

Sandy Wilson said:
Brother Nier also makes a lot more sense with being so innocent to his actions and consequences as well as the childlike do-gooder attitude he has

It was "Kaine, we're friends now" where it really hit me just how much more appropriate the dialogue is coming out of Brother Nier. 

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