Welcome to the first proper "JRPG CHALLENGE!!" covering all the antics that I've got up to in the month of February!
This month, as shown by our schedule I tackled a recent Square Enix RPG known as Final Fantasy XIII! Or, I would have had if my LoveFilm had not decided to send me a copy of Nier instead. So this month.... Nier!
Nier was kind of an interesting game for me, of all the games that were not originally listed in my schedule Nier was probably the most requested and seemed to be held within a high regard. So when I got the disk in the post I was at least excited that I could see what all the fuss was about.
The first thing I was confronted with upon starting Nier was how ugly it is, I know that sounds like a bit harsh but this game is bordering on looking like a PS2 game. Some of the geometry in the game is really flat, walls have no shape to them at all and everything just looks kind of boxy with some really blurry textures. Character design is also a gripe for me, none of the characters were very visually appealing at all and had very little consistency throughout the designs. Emil for example after his transformation looks like nothing else in the entire world. He actually looks more something I would of expect Jeff and Vinny to fuse in the Persona 4 endurance run rather than the so called 'weapon' that he is.
The beginning of the game doesn't do anything to remedy this situation either, far to much time is spent going back and forth, not just on the side, with fetch quests which populate the majority of the world but even within the story it's very disjointed. For example early on in the game you are told to visit Popola in the library, then to return home to your daughter Yonah, then back to the library to speak with Popola again, then out to the fields to collect something before going back to your house and finally back to the library again. This could be ok if something happened during this time but the majority of major conversations between characters, while voiced, take place with them simply standing staring at each other. It's not until very late in the game that the cut scenes become actual cut scenes with things happening in them.
The world feels kind of empty as well, and not in the way that the game wants it to through the story, this is mostly because NPC's are pretty static with only a few of them even moving at all. Even then however they only ever move in very obvious patterns such as back and forth, or to three or for points in a town before turning round and walking the same route again.
However, I don't dislike everything in this game, I actually really enjoyed the music, even if the theme that plays while out in the wilderness is apparently on a 25 second loop as I actually woke up humming it one day. I also appreciate the game for having the balls to kill of both major and minor characters at will and with very little warning. For example the two young brothers who work at the scrap yard have a pretty hard time in this game, firstly losing their mother and later having the older brother cut in half by falling rubble, it doesn't sound like much but it's things like this that help to create an atmosphere that actually makes you wonder if you will beat the last boss and get a happy ending or if everything is already doomed.
The major point people mentioned to me before playing Nier was the incredible story that apparently lurked within this game, and I've got to say I kind of disagree. The idea that makes up the main arc of the story is a very interesting one I will admit that but it is told pretty poorly and it's method of delivering the ending is downright evil. For example when you finish the game you will unlock ending A, an ending that to be honest made very little sense to me and was a major disappointment. After the credits rolled and I was ready to send the game back to Lovefilm however I was given the prompt by the game to reload my final clear save and play through 'Kainé's story' for ending B. What this means however is that you have to play through the second half of the game for a second time only this time with an occasional bit of extra dialogue either within Kainé's head or from the shades that you are about to fight. It really tries to drive home the point that the shades are in fact human rather than you and try to gain some emotional response from me, but I just found it down right annoying, The second half of the game is already way to similar to the first half with you going through the only 4 dungeons in the game each again, but to get very little new information out of it was just frustrating. I personally decided to stop after the second ending as I felt that what I was getting out of the game was no longer worth the time I was putting into something I had already finished, but to get every part of the ending you have to play through that second half 4 times. 4. Times. Here is a graph to illustrate my point.
Imagine if another game made you do this, Final Fantasy VII for example. Imagine it shows you the beginning of the ending before demanding you go back to the death of Aerith and play it from there if you want to see the rest of it, 3 times!, Craziness! OK, I think I've probably made my point with that, but it's still kind of crazy.
It's kind of weird to think back on it, even though this blog has an overly negative tone to it I still kind of enjoyed Nier, even with it's simplistic combat, unlikeable characters (except for Emil) and ugly looks I still had a good time.
Anyway that is all we have time for in this months edition of the JRPG CHALLENGE!!! Come back next time when I will have either played Final Fantasy XIII or pushed it to the side again to play Rogue Galaxy!
Thanks for reading!