What the Nier?!


Better late than never.
  
 

"This is a bad game."

Each time I booted Nier, a large booming voice inside of me screamed the following:

"Nier is not a good game!"

 I'm not afraid of writing about you!
Perhaps my critical side is over-exerting itself. It's a statement that is not contrarian, the game has issues. Normally the following would be a review, but the greater whole of Nier demands a far more finite examination, versus some-form of quick write-up.

For those uninitiated to this game, take up a chair and get comfy.
For those that know Nier backwards and forwards: You're probably going to get a kick out of my feeble attempt to make sense of this game.
 I've been dreading to write about Nier almost immediately after booting the game. Without any context or exposition, almost immediately after the logo's of both Square-Enix and developer Cavia expire from the screen, your ears are brought to full attention of a woman screaming the following:

"Weiss, you dumbass! Start making sense, you rotten book, or you're going to be sorry! Maybe I'll rip your pages out, one-by-one! Or maybe I'll put you in the goddamn furnace! How can someone with such a big, smart brain get hypnotized like a little bitch? Huh? Oh, Shadowlord! I love you Shadowlord! Come over here and give Weiss a big sloppy kiss Shadowlord! Now pull your head out of your goddamn ass and START FUCKING HELPING US!"

The black screen evaporates and we are shown a goofy fantasy language, coupled with a typical opening video montage anyone would normally see in the beginning of a JRPG. The tone though, has been completely altered. The opening screaming diatribe still rings in your ears. You try and make sense of the almost non-sequitur nature of what has transpired. Desperately you try and make sense of it. Sadly the more you think about it, the more your face begins to contort in mannerisms and spasms comparable to having nerve damage.
 
That's pretty much Nier in a nut-shell. It's not good...
...At the same time it's the most creative game to come out of Square in the last decade.  
 
Did that previous statement make you exclaim some form of confused verbal regurgitation? 
What if I told you, that after playing, and beating the game twice: That's probably my most expert explanation of what Nier is?.

One step forward, ten steps...No...Ten leaps, not forward, nor backward. Instead off to the side, into some nether-region that any concrete explanation becomes void. Every facet in Nier is subject to this bizarre truth: From it's core mechanics and design, to it's presentation that unravels into whirlwind of for better or worse: "What were they thinking?!". This storm of conflicting concepts creates hands-down: The strangest experience I have played in years.
 
I hope you get the impression by now why I've been dreading writing this.

Nieieeieierieieeier

Even though Final Fantasy XIII was the fastest selling game in the franchise's history, this has not been a good year for Square at all. Their online venture, Final Fantasy XIV was dead on arrival. According to interviews, there are concerns internally at Square that Final Fantasy has lost it's solid base of sales for future releases. (To be taken with a grain of salt for sure.) Future releases in the series have been delayed. It's western developed releases are not fairing any better: Kane and Lynch 2 was received kinda all over-the-place from everyone, and to top it off: Deus Ex: Human Revolution was delayed this year.
 
Out-side of their core franchises: New Sqaure IP's have been a joke for the most part. While MindJack is already being forgotten, by everyone, Nier shared a similar fate last year when it was a released very haphazardly.

My knowledge of the title prior to playing was that it, was that it was Square's half-baked attempt to appeal to the high combat hack-and-slash franchises, primarily God of War. This miss-conception was not primarily my own fault, Square's own pre-advertising was a mirage of just straight-up confusion. Early trailer's were laden with blood, and copious amounts of rock-epic music. The whole production looked like an over-the-top attempt to appeal to some demographic out-side of Japan that doesn't exist...Or did ten years ago.
When the game was released, there was an influx of internet discussion regarding the amount of cursing in the game.
Reading certain comments, and my knowledge of what I previously knew immediately turned off any interest I would have had. The cursing deal really slammed the coffin shut. Don't get me wrong, I love a good four letter-salute, but it has to be natural.

The fact that Rico: The Jar-Jar-Binks of Space Marines, doesn't die within the first few moments of Killzone 3 depresses me.

I hate cursing for the sake of cursing. I remember trying to find the mute button while playing Killzone 2 a year ago, unnatural cursing is absolutely grating. Nothing is more annoying when another country makes a videogame, and proceeds to inject it copious amounts of four-letter words. 
Why another country? Because nine times out of ten, it's never natural. Playing Killzone 2 was a grating experience, listening to a space Marines cough up another forced four-letter exaggeration bomb every five minutes eroded my suspension of disbelief. The intent is on display: That's what those kinds in North America like! That's how Marines talk, all the time, right?!
The initial information about Nier for me, felt and followed this example.
 
The pre-buzz information about Nier game the general impression of something akin to a "B movie, out of touch" palpable mound of annoyance.
So when Nier promptly came out, received stellar score like this , I passed it up and never looked back. 
I remember reading an article on Kotaku about something regarding fishing. Strange. The game left my memory.

The return

My interest faintly returned when a friend of mine sent me a youtube link regarding Nier's soundtrack. I loved it.
 
When I was putting together my 2010 best soundtrack list, I felt bad once again, I wasn't giving Jesper Kyd a proper shout-out. My rule is that if I haven't played the game yet, the game doesn't get on the list. Assassins Creed 2 and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood were strangely both games I received for Christmas, not enough time to play and write about it. 
So when I do those lists, I really want user participation because there are so many game soundtracks and composers that go under the radar. One that kept pooping up on that thread was Nier. I received a few more PM's regarding my lack of putting Nier on that list. Every new iota from the soundtrack was shared made my ears explode in interest.
 
Perhaps the most important point of chasing down this game was perhaps Bonbolapti. He kept talking about how great the game was, and even nominated it as his GOTY...Or something... :P The choice of something akin to a "personal game of the year" was something I felt an affinity for. I chose Yakuza 3 for such a category, a game that I will probably enter my mind whenever I reflect back on 2010.
 
I had to hunt-down a copy at an obscure GameStop that I seldom drive-by. They didn't have the game on the shelves, thus resulting in what was probably the strangest beginning of a conversation concerning the whereabouts of a game I've ever had:
"I'm looking for a terrible game called Nier."  

How poorly did Nier sell? It came out this year, and I bought it new for $15.

So, what is Nier

 
Nier is an action adventure game that borrows design elements from a myriad of different genre's, but never seems to capitalizes on any of them.

  • It incorporates an open-world town and dungeon design comparable to Zelda...Yet, it only has a small percentage of towns and dungeons, and it's open-world flow feels strangely claustrophobic. 

  • It incorporates what...seems...to be something akin to God of War combat mechanics, yet it never capitalizes on anything outside of hitting one button over and over again. Combo meters? What for? The "Y" button does another style of attack...But why do I need to use it, if I can beat everything by hitting "X"? 

  • It incorporates RPG style leveling...Bah, you won't notice it.

Nier is filled to the brim with undercooked mechanics and design choices. None of which are bad, just barely fitting together. It's like the game's mechanics are wrapped in tape, barely holding together, ready to fall apart at the drop of a hat. Everything works, as in it functions, but anything more than that is wishful thinking.
 
It's essentially an RPG at heart, but outside of the roughly ten hour linear plot, is a cornucopia of fetch-quests. Now in theory, these can be fun if the game-world is lush interesting place...
...
...

 It looks pretty terrible.

Nier probably has one of the ugliest game worlds every made. 
I am not someone who put's visuals over a functioning game. I loathe internet comments made by the immature, who proclaim that a titles graphics look: "LIKEZ A PS2 GAME!!!" Without any description why a game that runs on Unreal 3, somehow looks as if though it was made on hardware that couldn't technically run the fu%^@#* engine!
...
...We've all seen comments online akin to that, which is why Nier upsets me again. It's crazy, because if I were to describe what the visuals of Nier, a quick point to the previous generation would probably be the most effective way of describing them. 
Let's put it this way: I could not look away as my eye's first noticed the main Library in the middle of the first village, with it's one texture. 
 
Nier tries to....uh...hide, it's low production values by flooding the screen with some HDR lighting...
...Hah, no, I'm joking. It's a bloom effect you haven't seen since the first Fable. Shiny everything! 

So to recap: Nier's graphical fidelity show's general inexperience and incompetence. It's core gameplay mechanics, and design, barely hold together.

So why is Nier the most creative game to come out of Square? More importantly, what does Nier show about current Japanese development? 

The strangeness...

My early negative impressions regarding Nier began to mutate and mature around roughly one-third into the game. Something that rarely happens with me. There was more going on here, that one simply could deduct within the first few minutes.

Let's stop and reiterate that this game was produced by Square: The same guys that made Final Fantasy XIII. The same guys that make some of the most visually stunning games this generation. While developer Cavia might not have a grasp on the technical side of things, I'm guessing Square's money more than makes up for the utter lack of visual polish, with what appears to be sweeping production values everywhere else:

Nier has the best original soundtrack of last year. Period. 
Nier has one of the best localizations, and excellent voice acting.
Nier story is experimental, and reminds me of a time when Japan's core console games, all didn't seem to follow the same cookie-cutter plot arch.
If anything, Nier practically bastardizes the core: "Save the child! Save the world" story-thread, in a manner that will freak you out during the end-game.
Were getting ahead of ourselves, let's back-up and talk about the music.

Nier's soundtrack was composed by four people: Keiichi Okabe, Kakeru Ishihama, Keigo Hoashi and Takafumi Nishimura. 
Out of these four composers, I know one: Keiichi Okabe, who's past work includes primarily the Tekken series. 
 
This soundtrack sounds nothing like Tekken, and is primarily composed of strong vocals and haunting chants. The vocals used are primarily a fictitious language, similar to "Panzerese" from the Panzer Dragoon series. 
Usually I get the impression that I can describe how an album sounds pretty well. In this case, I honestly feel that nothing written here will properly convey how fantastic this album is.
Here's a quick sample. 
 

 

The brilliance...Yet still very...very strangeness..

Nier's story takes place in your traditional post-apocalyptic future, where humanity is on the brink of extinction from an army or unknown creatures called "Shades". You play as Nier, a middle-aged father roughly in his late 40's, tending to his daughter who has been inflicted by a strange disease. 
 In Japan, this guy is a teenager.

 
In a wired twist that has to take some-type of localization award of "general strangeness", in Japan the game's titular lead protagonist is not a middle-aged man. Instead he's been changed into a young man in his early twenty's, trying to protect his sister. 
 
While changing the age...and relations...of the two lead characters for an over-sea's market might sound weird, it's probably the least strangest aspect of Nier.
 
The game's supporting cast includes Kaine, a scantly clad woman who wears lingerie and hunts shades.
It's hinted throughout the game, so let's get the following out of the way: Kaine is a hermaphrodite. That's probably the least strangest thing about the character, as she's also possessed by a Shade who lives inside her. When you replay the game during it's robust New Game+ mode, you get to hear the Shade talking to her.
Kaine curses quite a bit in the game, and it's great stuff. My early rallying against excessive unnatural swearing in part one, can be tossed out the window. Kaine's script plays with four letter words like an artist. 
 
Trying not to smile with her proclamation, during a very broken boss fight, that enemy was a "shit-hog!" will make you smile. It's a combination of excellent voice acting, and an equally excellent localization. It's never forced or awkward, it's pure unadulterated: Fantastic cursing.

Kaine, like all the voice actors, is uncredited. She is played by Laura Bailey.
You probably know her as Serah from Final Fantasy XIII, or Rise from Persona 4.
 
I'm not sure why all the main voice-actors seem uncredited. Perhaps they didn't enjoy the project? Perhaps it's some strange logistical thing regarding voice-acting that I'm ignorant about? 
Regardless, Laura's performance is fantastic, and the character she plays is probably one of the most mentally fractured heroines ever to grace a medium. She does the job phenomenally though, and the combined efforts with a really great script (fully-loaded with four letter treats) really turns into something really special. Consider myself a fan.
 

 Weiss is kinda like War, except he's an actual character.

Then there's the second character in the party, Weiss: A floating talking book with a high-class British accent, who spews magic attacks on your enemies. 
Weird enough? Don't worry, he's also voiced by another uncredited actor: Liam O'Brien.
You probably best know him this past year in gaming, as War in Darksiders.


While you collect the remainders of your brain from that previous statement, like Laura, Liam seems to be having a load of fun regarding the confines of his character. The best moments of Nier come from the back-and-forth dialog between Nier, Kaine, and Weiss. There develops a real form of commrodery between the characters, something that is pretty difficult to convey in writing.

Then there's the main character Nier.

There is something continually bizarre playing a character, that one has the knowledge that the real version of said character is not the version you are playing as. As stated before, the character of Nier was aged for the North American market, at the same time the main story of Nier is unchanged.
 
When Nier himself goes off the deep-end, talking about the power of friendship and being the general "good guy" in the villiage, his mannerisms and dialog seem only slightly altered from the original context. What's crazy is that it works . What is originally the same tired-and-true character persona that you've seen in a typical JRPG, becomes something generally new. You empathize more with the main character, and there's a general sadness regarding his situation.

Creative

Finishing Nier for the second time, made me stop and think hard about the current state of Japanese game development.

I remember a time when developers and publishers took strange risks like this. Nier is clearly not at all some strange back-handed attempt to break into ground covered by others like I originally believed. Not all of Nier's plot and exposition are golden. There's a throw-away character named Emil who joins the party at a certain point.
Outside of a few hiccups, there is a part of me that want's to nominate, at least the general intent of Nier to something greater than a poor hack-and-slash with a killer soundtrack and a story that's going to be stuck in your head for years.
 
I get the feeling that a better allocation of production dollars in certain key-area's could have made up for Nier's shortcomings. At the same time, I am understanding of developer Cavia's plight. I feel that my favorite games from Japan last year, Resonance of Fate and even Yakuza 3 were held back in several key-area's due to a lack of stable production values.

There's...A part of me that wants more games like Nier.
Not games that have questionable mechanics, but games that push the envelope in aspects like plot with reckless abandon. I'm not suggesting that Japan at one point, had some golden age of "pushing the envelope regarding plot", but I feel these days that there is a general lack of trying to do something new or crazy like this. A lost mentality, perhaps due to the rising costs of game development. Something I see more in the indie-scene these days.
 
Sure, it's not commercially viable 100% of the time. Although, I get the feeling we forget that the staples of the industry, were at one time or another commercial risks. To see such genuine creativity, doing things like changing a 3rd-person hack-and-slash into a text adventure when you enter someone's dream, is something that should be applauded versus scorned. 

 At the end of the day: There are worse way's to spend $15.  Pick this up if you're feeling adventurous.
19 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by vidiot

Better late than never.
  
 

"This is a bad game."

Each time I booted Nier, a large booming voice inside of me screamed the following:

"Nier is not a good game!"

 I'm not afraid of writing about you!
Perhaps my critical side is over-exerting itself. It's a statement that is not contrarian, the game has issues. Normally the following would be a review, but the greater whole of Nier demands a far more finite examination, versus some-form of quick write-up.

For those uninitiated to this game, take up a chair and get comfy.
For those that know Nier backwards and forwards: You're probably going to get a kick out of my feeble attempt to make sense of this game.
 I've been dreading to write about Nier almost immediately after booting the game. Without any context or exposition, almost immediately after the logo's of both Square-Enix and developer Cavia expire from the screen, your ears are brought to full attention of a woman screaming the following:

"Weiss, you dumbass! Start making sense, you rotten book, or you're going to be sorry! Maybe I'll rip your pages out, one-by-one! Or maybe I'll put you in the goddamn furnace! How can someone with such a big, smart brain get hypnotized like a little bitch? Huh? Oh, Shadowlord! I love you Shadowlord! Come over here and give Weiss a big sloppy kiss Shadowlord! Now pull your head out of your goddamn ass and START FUCKING HELPING US!"

The black screen evaporates and we are shown a goofy fantasy language, coupled with a typical opening video montage anyone would normally see in the beginning of a JRPG. The tone though, has been completely altered. The opening screaming diatribe still rings in your ears. You try and make sense of the almost non-sequitur nature of what has transpired. Desperately you try and make sense of it. Sadly the more you think about it, the more your face begins to contort in mannerisms and spasms comparable to having nerve damage.
 
That's pretty much Nier in a nut-shell. It's not good...
...At the same time it's the most creative game to come out of Square in the last decade.  
 
Did that previous statement make you exclaim some form of confused verbal regurgitation? 
What if I told you, that after playing, and beating the game twice: That's probably my most expert explanation of what Nier is?.

One step forward, ten steps...No...Ten leaps, not forward, nor backward. Instead off to the side, into some nether-region that any concrete explanation becomes void. Every facet in Nier is subject to this bizarre truth: From it's core mechanics and design, to it's presentation that unravels into whirlwind of for better or worse: "What were they thinking?!". This storm of conflicting concepts creates hands-down: The strangest experience I have played in years.
 
I hope you get the impression by now why I've been dreading writing this.

Nieieeieierieieeier

Even though Final Fantasy XIII was the fastest selling game in the franchise's history, this has not been a good year for Square at all. Their online venture, Final Fantasy XIV was dead on arrival. According to interviews, there are concerns internally at Square that Final Fantasy has lost it's solid base of sales for future releases. (To be taken with a grain of salt for sure.) Future releases in the series have been delayed. It's western developed releases are not fairing any better: Kane and Lynch 2 was received kinda all over-the-place from everyone, and to top it off: Deus Ex: Human Revolution was delayed this year.
 
Out-side of their core franchises: New Sqaure IP's have been a joke for the most part. While MindJack is already being forgotten, by everyone, Nier shared a similar fate last year when it was a released very haphazardly.

My knowledge of the title prior to playing was that it, was that it was Square's half-baked attempt to appeal to the high combat hack-and-slash franchises, primarily God of War. This miss-conception was not primarily my own fault, Square's own pre-advertising was a mirage of just straight-up confusion. Early trailer's were laden with blood, and copious amounts of rock-epic music. The whole production looked like an over-the-top attempt to appeal to some demographic out-side of Japan that doesn't exist...Or did ten years ago.
When the game was released, there was an influx of internet discussion regarding the amount of cursing in the game.
Reading certain comments, and my knowledge of what I previously knew immediately turned off any interest I would have had. The cursing deal really slammed the coffin shut. Don't get me wrong, I love a good four letter-salute, but it has to be natural.

The fact that Rico: The Jar-Jar-Binks of Space Marines, doesn't die within the first few moments of Killzone 3 depresses me.

I hate cursing for the sake of cursing. I remember trying to find the mute button while playing Killzone 2 a year ago, unnatural cursing is absolutely grating. Nothing is more annoying when another country makes a videogame, and proceeds to inject it copious amounts of four-letter words. 
Why another country? Because nine times out of ten, it's never natural. Playing Killzone 2 was a grating experience, listening to a space Marines cough up another forced four-letter exaggeration bomb every five minutes eroded my suspension of disbelief. The intent is on display: That's what those kinds in North America like! That's how Marines talk, all the time, right?!
The initial information about Nier for me, felt and followed this example.
 
The pre-buzz information about Nier game the general impression of something akin to a "B movie, out of touch" palpable mound of annoyance.
So when Nier promptly came out, received stellar score like this , I passed it up and never looked back. 
I remember reading an article on Kotaku about something regarding fishing. Strange. The game left my memory.

The return

My interest faintly returned when a friend of mine sent me a youtube link regarding Nier's soundtrack. I loved it.
 
When I was putting together my 2010 best soundtrack list, I felt bad once again, I wasn't giving Jesper Kyd a proper shout-out. My rule is that if I haven't played the game yet, the game doesn't get on the list. Assassins Creed 2 and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood were strangely both games I received for Christmas, not enough time to play and write about it. 
So when I do those lists, I really want user participation because there are so many game soundtracks and composers that go under the radar. One that kept pooping up on that thread was Nier. I received a few more PM's regarding my lack of putting Nier on that list. Every new iota from the soundtrack was shared made my ears explode in interest.
 
Perhaps the most important point of chasing down this game was perhaps Bonbolapti. He kept talking about how great the game was, and even nominated it as his GOTY...Or something... :P The choice of something akin to a "personal game of the year" was something I felt an affinity for. I chose Yakuza 3 for such a category, a game that I will probably enter my mind whenever I reflect back on 2010.
 
I had to hunt-down a copy at an obscure GameStop that I seldom drive-by. They didn't have the game on the shelves, thus resulting in what was probably the strangest beginning of a conversation concerning the whereabouts of a game I've ever had:
"I'm looking for a terrible game called Nier."  

How poorly did Nier sell? It came out this year, and I bought it new for $15.

So, what is Nier

 
Nier is an action adventure game that borrows design elements from a myriad of different genre's, but never seems to capitalizes on any of them.

  • It incorporates an open-world town and dungeon design comparable to Zelda...Yet, it only has a small percentage of towns and dungeons, and it's open-world flow feels strangely claustrophobic. 

  • It incorporates what...seems...to be something akin to God of War combat mechanics, yet it never capitalizes on anything outside of hitting one button over and over again. Combo meters? What for? The "Y" button does another style of attack...But why do I need to use it, if I can beat everything by hitting "X"? 

  • It incorporates RPG style leveling...Bah, you won't notice it.

Nier is filled to the brim with undercooked mechanics and design choices. None of which are bad, just barely fitting together. It's like the game's mechanics are wrapped in tape, barely holding together, ready to fall apart at the drop of a hat. Everything works, as in it functions, but anything more than that is wishful thinking.
 
It's essentially an RPG at heart, but outside of the roughly ten hour linear plot, is a cornucopia of fetch-quests. Now in theory, these can be fun if the game-world is lush interesting place...
...
...

 It looks pretty terrible.

Nier probably has one of the ugliest game worlds every made. 
I am not someone who put's visuals over a functioning game. I loathe internet comments made by the immature, who proclaim that a titles graphics look: "LIKEZ A PS2 GAME!!!" Without any description why a game that runs on Unreal 3, somehow looks as if though it was made on hardware that couldn't technically run the fu%^@#* engine!
...
...We've all seen comments online akin to that, which is why Nier upsets me again. It's crazy, because if I were to describe what the visuals of Nier, a quick point to the previous generation would probably be the most effective way of describing them. 
Let's put it this way: I could not look away as my eye's first noticed the main Library in the middle of the first village, with it's one texture. 
 
Nier tries to....uh...hide, it's low production values by flooding the screen with some HDR lighting...
...Hah, no, I'm joking. It's a bloom effect you haven't seen since the first Fable. Shiny everything! 

So to recap: Nier's graphical fidelity show's general inexperience and incompetence. It's core gameplay mechanics, and design, barely hold together.

So why is Nier the most creative game to come out of Square? More importantly, what does Nier show about current Japanese development? 

The strangeness...

My early negative impressions regarding Nier began to mutate and mature around roughly one-third into the game. Something that rarely happens with me. There was more going on here, that one simply could deduct within the first few minutes.

Let's stop and reiterate that this game was produced by Square: The same guys that made Final Fantasy XIII. The same guys that make some of the most visually stunning games this generation. While developer Cavia might not have a grasp on the technical side of things, I'm guessing Square's money more than makes up for the utter lack of visual polish, with what appears to be sweeping production values everywhere else:

Nier has the best original soundtrack of last year. Period. 
Nier has one of the best localizations, and excellent voice acting.
Nier story is experimental, and reminds me of a time when Japan's core console games, all didn't seem to follow the same cookie-cutter plot arch.
If anything, Nier practically bastardizes the core: "Save the child! Save the world" story-thread, in a manner that will freak you out during the end-game.
Were getting ahead of ourselves, let's back-up and talk about the music.

Nier's soundtrack was composed by four people: Keiichi Okabe, Kakeru Ishihama, Keigo Hoashi and Takafumi Nishimura. 
Out of these four composers, I know one: Keiichi Okabe, who's past work includes primarily the Tekken series. 
 
This soundtrack sounds nothing like Tekken, and is primarily composed of strong vocals and haunting chants. The vocals used are primarily a fictitious language, similar to "Panzerese" from the Panzer Dragoon series. 
Usually I get the impression that I can describe how an album sounds pretty well. In this case, I honestly feel that nothing written here will properly convey how fantastic this album is.
Here's a quick sample. 
 

 

The brilliance...Yet still very...very strangeness..

Nier's story takes place in your traditional post-apocalyptic future, where humanity is on the brink of extinction from an army or unknown creatures called "Shades". You play as Nier, a middle-aged father roughly in his late 40's, tending to his daughter who has been inflicted by a strange disease. 
 In Japan, this guy is a teenager.

 
In a wired twist that has to take some-type of localization award of "general strangeness", in Japan the game's titular lead protagonist is not a middle-aged man. Instead he's been changed into a young man in his early twenty's, trying to protect his sister. 
 
While changing the age...and relations...of the two lead characters for an over-sea's market might sound weird, it's probably the least strangest aspect of Nier.
 
The game's supporting cast includes Kaine, a scantly clad woman who wears lingerie and hunts shades.
It's hinted throughout the game, so let's get the following out of the way: Kaine is a hermaphrodite. That's probably the least strangest thing about the character, as she's also possessed by a Shade who lives inside her. When you replay the game during it's robust New Game+ mode, you get to hear the Shade talking to her.
Kaine curses quite a bit in the game, and it's great stuff. My early rallying against excessive unnatural swearing in part one, can be tossed out the window. Kaine's script plays with four letter words like an artist. 
 
Trying not to smile with her proclamation, during a very broken boss fight, that enemy was a "shit-hog!" will make you smile. It's a combination of excellent voice acting, and an equally excellent localization. It's never forced or awkward, it's pure unadulterated: Fantastic cursing.

Kaine, like all the voice actors, is uncredited. She is played by Laura Bailey.
You probably know her as Serah from Final Fantasy XIII, or Rise from Persona 4.
 
I'm not sure why all the main voice-actors seem uncredited. Perhaps they didn't enjoy the project? Perhaps it's some strange logistical thing regarding voice-acting that I'm ignorant about? 
Regardless, Laura's performance is fantastic, and the character she plays is probably one of the most mentally fractured heroines ever to grace a medium. She does the job phenomenally though, and the combined efforts with a really great script (fully-loaded with four letter treats) really turns into something really special. Consider myself a fan.
 

 Weiss is kinda like War, except he's an actual character.

Then there's the second character in the party, Weiss: A floating talking book with a high-class British accent, who spews magic attacks on your enemies. 
Weird enough? Don't worry, he's also voiced by another uncredited actor: Liam O'Brien.
You probably best know him this past year in gaming, as War in Darksiders.


While you collect the remainders of your brain from that previous statement, like Laura, Liam seems to be having a load of fun regarding the confines of his character. The best moments of Nier come from the back-and-forth dialog between Nier, Kaine, and Weiss. There develops a real form of commrodery between the characters, something that is pretty difficult to convey in writing.

Then there's the main character Nier.

There is something continually bizarre playing a character, that one has the knowledge that the real version of said character is not the version you are playing as. As stated before, the character of Nier was aged for the North American market, at the same time the main story of Nier is unchanged.
 
When Nier himself goes off the deep-end, talking about the power of friendship and being the general "good guy" in the villiage, his mannerisms and dialog seem only slightly altered from the original context. What's crazy is that it works . What is originally the same tired-and-true character persona that you've seen in a typical JRPG, becomes something generally new. You empathize more with the main character, and there's a general sadness regarding his situation.

Creative

Finishing Nier for the second time, made me stop and think hard about the current state of Japanese game development.

I remember a time when developers and publishers took strange risks like this. Nier is clearly not at all some strange back-handed attempt to break into ground covered by others like I originally believed. Not all of Nier's plot and exposition are golden. There's a throw-away character named Emil who joins the party at a certain point.
Outside of a few hiccups, there is a part of me that want's to nominate, at least the general intent of Nier to something greater than a poor hack-and-slash with a killer soundtrack and a story that's going to be stuck in your head for years.
 
I get the feeling that a better allocation of production dollars in certain key-area's could have made up for Nier's shortcomings. At the same time, I am understanding of developer Cavia's plight. I feel that my favorite games from Japan last year, Resonance of Fate and even Yakuza 3 were held back in several key-area's due to a lack of stable production values.

There's...A part of me that wants more games like Nier.
Not games that have questionable mechanics, but games that push the envelope in aspects like plot with reckless abandon. I'm not suggesting that Japan at one point, had some golden age of "pushing the envelope regarding plot", but I feel these days that there is a general lack of trying to do something new or crazy like this. A lost mentality, perhaps due to the rising costs of game development. Something I see more in the indie-scene these days.
 
Sure, it's not commercially viable 100% of the time. Although, I get the feeling we forget that the staples of the industry, were at one time or another commercial risks. To see such genuine creativity, doing things like changing a 3rd-person hack-and-slash into a text adventure when you enter someone's dream, is something that should be applauded versus scorned. 

 At the end of the day: There are worse way's to spend $15.  Pick this up if you're feeling adventurous.
Posted by verbsveli

This is a wonderful blog. Have you gone back for the third and fourth endings yet? What you have to sacrifice for the final ending is one of the biggest 'Fuck You' moments in gaming EVER, which is saying something coming from the guys what made Drakengard. 

Posted by Shirogane

Ahaha, oh yeah, the final ending. It's like, hey, watch as we slowly delete everything. We'll even do it one by one, page by page.
Posted by Chop

That ending was great. I didn't really like Nier so when I got that ending I wasn't sad or anything, it was just pure awesome hilarity. It cemented the fact that I'd never play it again.  
 
But yeah I've been saying much of the same stuff since the games release. Nier bums me out hardcore; amazing sound track, the story is wonderfully weird and non standard but everything else is garbage. There is a great game in there but good luck trying to tolerate everything else long enough to find it. 

Posted by Ghostiet

Great someone finally wrote about Nier in a different way than "THIS GAME IS SHIT, FISHING MINIGAME". The game's boring to play, but its story makes up for everything, really. Deadly Premonition, Nier and Red Dead Redemption, the definite triumvirate in the "Best Plot" department in 2010.


And yes, that text adventure bit is brilliant.

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

If there's anything you can count on Cavia for, it's weird storylines and great characters.  The cast of the first Drakengarde game was still the most horribly inappropriate protagonist team in history.

Posted by Lautaro

I thoroughly enjoyed Nier, though I didn't have many issues with the gameplay myself.

Posted by obcdexter

Saying gameplay and graphics are garbage is horribly exaggerating it. This game - unlike previous cavia ventures - is totally functional in every way. Graphics and gameplay are (maybe a little below) average - nothing more, but certainly nothing that would drive any half-experienced gamer away from it. It works.
My GOTY 2010.

Online
Posted by Animasta
@obcdexter said:
" Saying gameplay and graphics are garbage is horribly exaggerating it. This game - unlike previous cavia ventures - is totally functional in every way. Graphics and gameplay are (maybe a little below) average - nothing more, but certainly nothing that would drive any half-experienced gamer away from it. It works. My GOTY 2010. "
word!
 
the side quests are cavia trolling you though... There's one where you have to find a runaway boy, you chase him to different cities, and when you finally get him home... they skip town and don't give you a reward.
Posted by vidiot
@Verbs:  Thanks, and I have not, due to my flirting with trying to S-Rank Nier. I've been watching late night TV and listening to podcasts while I've been farming materials of that terrible Forging Master achievement. More about that later.
 
@Shirogane:
Sadly, what happens during the fourth ending has been spoiled for me. Yes, I have a USB drive ready to go if I reach that point.
 
@Chop said:
"There is a great game in there but good luck trying to tolerate everything else long enough to find it.  "
I agree, although I don't really agree stating everything else in Nier is horrible, although I can totally understand where you're coming from. Poorly allocated production values and a lack of understanding it's core mechanics. Like I stated, it works, it's just just nothing more than actually working. It's like a first-time effort.
 
@Ghostiet:
...Deadly Premonition for best plot?...
...I'm holding back friend. Although there are defiantly similarities regarding general strangeness...
 
 @Make_Me_Mad:
Nier also takes place in the Drakengard world, so there's another notch in the metaphorical weird rope. I haven't played Drakengard, but everything I've heard about that game seems to be in similar tone with Nier. 
 
@drag:
I'm going to be remembering Nier for a very long time. That's saying something. There is more than enough heart and soul in this game to overcome it's very dramatic shortcomings. Making sense of these shortcomings is important, because I find them systemic with a lot of Japanese development these days.
 
@obcdexter:
I wish perhaps Nier's general world, or artistic atheistic was better. Instead Nier's version of post-apocalyptic involves very bland character designs, and a world that conceptually from a visual perspective: Didn't gel at all with me. 
The game looks bad, and is probably the one of the worst looking games to be released this generation, but I think it's completely okay to accept that. Like this blog states, there's a part of me that initially wanted to hold Nier's shortcomings with a hard-line mentality. 
I can't though. There is too much going on in Nier that deserves positive attention. Too much that is more than brilliant enough to recommend. 
 
@Laketown:
I got around 95% of the side-quests finished. That's my OCD gaming tenancies cropping up. My favorite one involved the lighthouse lady.For me, it was probably one of the most gut-wrenching scenarios, and morally hazy decision's to make in a videogame, since siding with slavers in Fallout 3: The Pitt. To have that level of interest in what you choose, in what's essentially a JRPG no-less, is unbelievable. 
 
 
I regret to inform all of you regarding the current fate of developer Cavia. 
I get the impression that perhaps some of you don't know this: Cavia is currently no-more. While a sequel is being talked up at Square, the developer has since been absorbed by it's parent company AQ Interactive. Nier was Cavia's last project.
Upsetting because I get the impression that many of Nier's shortcomings is due to a first time effort in making a hack-and-slash. I would have liked to see them take another stab at it.
Posted by xyzygy

I think what you're saying about the whole Teenage/old man thing is a little off. There are two versions of Nier and BOTH of them were released in Japan - the Old Nier and the Young Nier. Old Nier was exclusive to 360 owners and Young Nier was exclusive to PS3 owners. However, the PS3 game was a port of the 360 game which technically means that Nier was originally meant to be an older man - they just made him younger for the Japanese audience. Every other region except Japan got Old Nier. I think it's fairly obvious from this game that it's an RPG geared more towards a western audience (hence the older Nier) because it is so different from typical JRPGS in more than just its mechanics.  
  
 Personally, I think that the addition of Older Nier was such a great decision because it not only sets it apart from other games where you're an androgynous boy, but I feel that the bond between a father and daughter is something that isn't ever done well in games and Nier does it perfectly.  
 
Something I wanted to ask - did you ever use spears? You mentioned that you never really have to use the Y button but man, the spear is all about doing the dodge attack followed up by the dash attack. I felt like the combat got tons better once you were given spears. Two handed swords are WAY too slow and the damage the inflict based on the time it takes to attack makes them not worthwhile.  
 
I hope you liked the game as much as I did. I seriously thought the story was one of the best I've ever experienced. Playing through all the endings only enriches the experience. I just love how the general theme of loss, death and emptiness carries throughout the whole game and is consistent - it foreshadows like a motherfuck yet still managed to hit me right there. I was blown away by this game. Now not all of it was perfect and I realize that, but as far as storytelling, characters, music, setting and themes go this game was awesome. 

Edited by Make_Me_Mad
@vidiot:
I heard about Cavia going under, which is dissappointing.  You may be disappointed to know that both prior Drakengarde games were Hack'n'Slash style as well, though, so it wasn't because it was a first effort for them.  The gameplay in the two Drakengarde games wasn't particularly stellar, but as in the case of Nier, the story and characters were often engaging enough to pull it all through.  The Weapon histories that they had alone made me grind out needless levels on weapons I wasn't even fond of, just for more backstory.  Very interesting games, and I like them a lot, but I'm not sure I could ever call the gameplay good.

And seriously, the first Drakengarde had a team with a mildly psychopathic mute main character, his misanthropic Dragon partner, an insane serial murdering elf woman who targeted and ate children, a vaguely reformed/not quite sure blind pedophile you found living in the woods with his 'brothers', and... a 10 year old boy who can never age.  Traveling together.  To save the world, and the sister of the main character, who is the seal keeping evil gods from devouring the world.  Did I mention that she wants more than anything else to get it on said main character?

Cavia was pretty messed up, but where the hell else are you ever going to find that?  Drakengarde 2 had a MUCH more normal cast, but a deafening lack of giant cannibalistic gods that look like newborn babies with electric wings.

Edit: And please don't reply to this.  I'm pretty sure that having the description for the Drakengarde cast in an email is considered a felony.
Posted by vidiot
@xyzygy: 
Not a "little off", I just didn't expand on the exact specifics of how this game was released. 
Yes you are right, both versions were released in Japan. At the same time, the change of the character being younger/older is an attempt to cater to different cultural nuances.
To use this moment to clarify: The two versions in Japan are Nier Gestalt (old Nier) and Nier Replicant (Young Nier). 
At the same time, while there is obvious catering to one region to another with the change of the lead character, I don't feel like Nier as a whole is a giant catering attempt to western sensibilities. I think that the developers were far more free with what they wanted to do, given the haphazard production values, but I don't think we will exactly know their exact intent without some-form of in-depth interview.
 
To be honest, I never really used spears. I used the large swords and enhanced them with words that increased damage. For my own character, I enhanced myself with words that stopped armor-breaking and knock-back rates. I've only been experimenting with the spears recently, and I was able to get most of the boss time-limit achievements by just using the big swords.  
 
In terms of my over-all enjoyment: Hey, I recommend it. I'm also considering S-Ranking it.
Yet at the same time I hope people who go into the experience adjust their expectations regarding many portions of the game.
Posted by vidiot
@Make_Me_Mad:  I'm replying to point out my disappointment that this was not Cavia's first attempt at a hack-and-slash. 

I'm not replying regarding your description of the Drakengard cast, that the more I read about and the more I learn about, apparently makes Nier's cast of characters look perfectly sane. Or how that the cast was so freaking strange, that even with an M-Rating, the game was actually edited and had cut-content due to it's insanity. 
 
What I'm trying to say is that I'm hunting down a copy of this game.
Edited by xyzygy
@vidiot: If you can find the Phoenix Spear (I believe it's sold in Facade during Act 2 obviously), it has a damage output that rivals two handed weapons with the speed and range of spears. IMO it's the best weapon in the game. 
 
I S-Ranked the game and it was very satisfying... well... except the seed-planting bonanza you're going to have to go on. It's annoying as hell.  
 
@Laketown said:
" @obcdexter said:
" Saying gameplay and graphics are garbage is horribly exaggerating it. This game - unlike previous cavia ventures - is totally functional in every way. Graphics and gameplay are (maybe a little below) average - nothing more, but certainly nothing that would drive any half-experienced gamer away from it. It works. My GOTY 2010. "
word!  the side quests are cavia trolling you though... There's one where you have to find a runaway boy, you chase him to different cities, and when you finally get him home... they skip town and don't give you a reward. "
I love this though because it's consistent. The whole game is so sad and the ending to most of the sidequests are horribly depressing - I remember this quest and giving you no reward seems very fitting. Adding to the richness of the universe like that is almost a reward in it's own sense :P
Posted by Ghostiet
@vidiot:

I felt that the story of DP is pretty good, not getting too deep into it since it's not a spoiler thread. And I appreciate it on a technical level: it's devoid of major plot holes - unlike the biggest crime story of 2010, Heavy Rain, a complete mess someone forgot to read a second time - and it explains just about enough to make sense and still be ambiguous. The last bit annoyed me VERY much in Alan Wake - that game was all about making questions, but in such a way that I wasn't waiting for an answer, I was rolling my eyes instead. There was no sense of getting into the core of things, just a festival of obvious sequel hooks.

And the full deal with York was genius. This and RDR's ending are one of the bravest things done to storytelling in games in recent years, IMO.

Posted by bonbolapti

You've basically said it all in more words than I could ever put down. It's a shame that a game like this ended up getting a fake of being an unkown "masterpeice" to say the least. Specifically in the context of today's gamers being nit picky about the dumbest shit. 
 
If they did up the production value to FFXIII it probably would have warranted a sequel, but there's just so much about this game that felt like Square didn't even care.
what's also more of a shame is how much of a cop-out the DLC was.
 
But I digress. just what makes me happy is knowing other people are giving themselves the chance to play the game all the way through.
 
Thanks vid

Posted by TeflonBilly

I just finished it and Nier is one of the most aggressively depressing games I've ever played and I bloody loved it for it. 
I think you're a bit too harsh on the graphics and gameplay, but it's certainly the most exciting thing Square has released in ages. 
Big ups to the localization and voice actors in this game, cause this really is an unsung gem of 2010.

Posted by buzz_clik

Welp, apart from the whole cursey thing, it seems you and I are pretty much in agreement on this game. Neir defies credible explanation to someone who hasn't played it not because it's got indefinable parts, but because of the strange hazy otherworld of gaming the parts seem to make up. Is it the best game I've ever played? Nope. Was it memorable? For damn sure.

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Posted by rargy

Finished Nier last night.  I really can't describe how i feel about it.  All i know is that i want to play it more to get all the endings. 
Also, Hills of Radiant Winds is a great song.