JRPGs aren’t really a genre I partake very often. I rarely finish them for one reason or another. Either they’re too damn long or because they haven’t really evolved with the times. The last one I played was Final Fantasy 13, and I immediately lost interest when it dumped me into the Calm Lands 2.0. And that was all I played this generation. Western RPGs however have become one of my favorite types ever since Fallout 3 took over months of my life. Lately friends of mine have been bringing this game up all the time. After the 3rd or 4th thousandth time, I decided to pick up a copy of the game and see what so special about this game. And chronicle my adventure. We'll see how long this lasts...
The game starts off in a city 30 or so years in the future. A man and child are taking refuge in a supermarket. In a snow covered New York? Presumably the world has become a post apocalyptic world. The setting and characters feel oddly familiar.
Barely holding on to hope or even health, the child is coughing and appears to be at death’s door. They’re soon interrupted by Shades…basically The Heartless from Kingdom Hearts. From here Nier attacks them with a sword and a book from which magic spews out and becomes the official pea shooter. What follows is an overlong series of enemy waves, oddly enough throughout the fights, you level up incredibly fast. By the time you’re finished with the fights you’re already level 35. Either the game is almost over – or the end game level is in the tens of thousands.
After the battle, Nier returns to Yonah to find she’s dying, but it’s okay, she has a cookie she wants you to have! What follows is quite odd. Yonah dies and Nier calls out for help-fade to white and the game goes over 1000 years into the future. Nier is in a house with Yonah who has a mild cough. Many questions flow through my head when this happens, but the number one question is, What about the cookie?!
Anyway, Nier tells her this story about these flowers called “Moon Tears” and how if you have one they can grant you wishes. And with that obvious plot line introduced, he walks out and goes to the library.
Not really a story Nier…
After talking with the librarian Nier finds that he has one thing to do. Kill every single goddamn sheep in the zone. Not really but he takes odd jobs from people. He later finds his daughter has run off to get herself lost in the abandoned temple across the area. Somehow slipping past the townsfolk, and guards, monsters and traversing over difficult terrain…
Pretty nimble for a bed ridden girl. So you follow the linear paths through the hills and come across a titanic temple sitting on this spire in a crater. You fight through floors and floors of identical rooms to the point I lost track where I was. Oddly enough some rooms change your camera’s orientation so that it becomes top down perspective. Why does it do this, is there a gameplay mechanic that takes advantage of this? Nope it’s just there to distract you from the fact that you’re in the same room only 4 floors up. Eventually you reach the room Yonah is in, and wouldn’t you know it she’s in suspended animation by 2 monster guards. Here is when you are introduced to the game’s McGuffin Grimoire Weiss. Played by Illidan Stormrage. He’s a smart alec of a book that acts as your magic construct. Together you defeat the guards and rescue Yonah and coincidentally the temple starts to crumble for no other reason that to check off the cliché list of modern entertainment. Will I have to carry the girl out by running and dodging falling debris? Nope, they cut away to right outside after the temple crumbles. Slow down there, this is an RPG we can’t have exciting moments too early now.
To be fair there is a bit more to it, when you acquire the book which acts as your magic generator, and certain magical attacks are bound to the shoulder buttons. One is a legitimate pea shooter, and the other is a shadowy spear which you can’t really aim. It automatically aims in the general direction of the enemy, and you can sort of select specific body parts. But aiming that is like digging through cement, it’s clunky and frustrating. Oddly enough, the enemy hit boxes must be big as the spear auto aims in an area that is clearly over the head of the enemy, but it some how manages to strike it. You can swing your weapon while in the air, but you’re never in the air for long and you can’t knock the enemies in the air with you.
Overall the combat at the early levels is pretty unremarkable. Ideally you would use the pea shooter as the enemies like to knock you down when they’re close, but it being a pea shooter, it takes quite a lot to take a single enemy down with it.
Nier is one ugly ass character. Nothing about the look or movement or voice is appealing. Oddly, the Japanese PS3 version, the developer saw fit to change the protagonist to Raiden from MGS. Apparently Japanese players wouldn’t want to play a game with a hero that looks like a half dead drug-addled boxer with Doc Brown hair. Can’t see why.
Purely a story device to tug at the player’s heart strings. Which means shit is gonna happen to her.
The talking book, who acts as your magical construct. He’s also voiced by the same voice actor as Illidan and War. But I like to imagine that Illidan was sucked into a book.
Strangely, despite his name clearly spelled with a W, people pronounce his name as “Vice.” I’m told it’s German for White, but considering his rival book is Grimoire Noir. He should really be called Grimoire Blanc. Whatever, I guess it’s because Nier has some kind of theme surrounding languages. A theme that it has made no attempt to explain as of yet.
That’s basically it at this point; there are some minor characters, Popola which is just a librarian. We’ve yet to run into one of the more…interesting characters. That’ll be for next time.
By far the most memorable aspect of this game is its soundtrack. It’s one of those soundtracks that permeate half of all minecraft videos on YouTube. The other half being the Bayonetta soundtrack. Unfortunately the music can be overbearing sometimes. There are soft sweet songs (of which there are only 3 different ones with a dozen remixes for each) or some overly dramatic song right out of Titus. It’s almost as if those latter songs are trying to emulate Final Fantasy VIII’s opening theme “Liberi Fitali.” Sometimes they’ll play at some really inappropriate moments like killing a sheep will result in some end of the world battle music.
The game actually seems afraid to just stay quite for more than a minute. Probably because the environments and sound design do little to enrich your senses.
This is only the first part in what will no doubt be an overly long trip through this overlooked game. Will I find something of value or will this be yet another mediocre JRPG to add to the growing pile. I’m sure excited to find out.