gruntsavage's Nier (Xbox 360) review

Nier review (insert witty pun here)

I'm going to get this out of the way right at the start. Nier is not for everyone. Most people will be turned off by its boring fetch quests, simple combat, dated visuals and ugly protagonist (not to mention the awful, mandatory fishing minigame). But if you are like me and have a thing for interesting, if imperfect, ideas then Nier might be worth checking out.  

Nier is a (oh-so) Japanese action role playing game where you play as the father of a girl named Yonah. Yonah is sick  with a quite possibly incurable disease and it's up to you as a loving dad to do whatever it takes to find a cure. Early on you'll come across a floating, speaking tome called Grimoire Weiss, whose magic may hold the cure for Yonah's illness. The problem is, most of his magic has left him, and you've got to get it back. The majority of the game is spent collecting Sealed Verses which unlock more spells, fighting Shades (one of two types of enemies in the whole game) and avoiding doing boring side quests.  

The game starts off with an abilitease, then quickly degenerates into fetch quest after long dialogue sequence after fetch quest. After a couple hours you'll start to get into some dungeons and fight some bosses, and meet a couple of characters who are, if not interesting, at least eccentric. There's a woman who wears next to nothing and swears like a sailor, there's a boy who turns anything he looks at to stone, and there aren't many other memorable characters. I'm not sure what it says about the game that by far the most memorable character is a floating book with a disembodied voice. The story  ranges from absurd to downright indecipherable, and as a result you won't ever really care what's happening. It doesn't help that the core of the game, the combat, isn't very good either. 

The combat consists of one combo per weapon type, a guard break attack and the spells you unlock throughout the game. You'll get a decent variety of spells, but chances are you'll just stick with a couple throughout the game. Halfway through Nier, you'll unlock the ability to use two-handed swords and spears in addition to the default one-handed swords, but neither addition really changes up the combat. There's a decent variety of weapons in each category, and you can modify their attributes by either upgrading them at a smith, or attaching special words to each weapon. You'll be fighting the same enemies a lot. There are basically two types of enemies: robots and Shades, and the robots only appear in one dungeon. So you'll be killing lots of Shades, which all look and act pretty much the same. There's also a wild boar that is horribly tedious to kill and 
inexplicably ends up being a boss later on in the game.  

You'll be backtracking a lot in Nier as well. The game has roughly a dozen locations, and you'll be visiting and revisiting them each pretty frequently. Most of the environments you'll visit look pretty neat when you first get there, and a few places gave me a distinct ICO vibe from their architecture and muted color pallette. At the same time, the rest of the places are bland and the impact of seeing a cool temple or village wears off after the second or third time you have to go back there. 

Nier is not perfect, by any means. Quite frankly, the game can be kind of terrible sometimes. But for some reason, I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was the somber, ICO-esque environments, the excellent music, or maybe the game just caught me at a time when I didn't have anything else to play besides Iron Man 2. Nier definitely has some interesting ideas, such as a whole area where the action all takes place as text, almost making the game a choose-your-own adventure book, or the parts where the camera pans up and the game effectively becomes a top-down dual-joystick shooter.  

Despite the fact that I enjoyed my time with Nier, I have a hard time recommending  the game. Despite some interesting segments and a great soundtrack, Nier is more often than not repetitive, boring and sometimes downright frustrating. If you're willing to forgive a flawed game for some intruiguing ideas and have nothing else to play, you might enjoy it. But if not, or if you have a limited amount of gaming time, stay far away from Nier.  

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