NieR Replicant for PS4 Review

NieR Replicant is an updated remaster of the original NIER released in 2011. Serving as the prequel to the popular 2017 Action/RPG, NieR:Automata, this title features the protagonist of the Japan-exclusive PS3 release. NieR Replicant, the PS3 2010 title, and this 2021 remaster, featured few differences from the original Xbox 360 release. However, the 2021 version of NieR Replicant offers more than a visual remaster of the title with a redone voice track and updated battle system. In fact, it adds many new story elements as well as an entirely new ending.

This tome will become one of your best friends.

The title features hack-and-slash gameplay set in a post-apocalyptic world. You’ll play as the main character — dubbed everywhere as Nier — and try to save your sister from a plague called the Black Scrawl. The premise involves dungeon crawling, taking on side-quests, fighting huge bosses, and unearthing a much larger plot. However, NieR Replicant quickly becomes a much wilder ride than its first impression suggests.

If you’ve by chance played NieR:Automata, then you might know what to expect from Yoko Taro’s writing. You’ll be riding wild animals across the field, learning that people die at the end of quests, and discovering an all-too convoluted plot with more backstory and theories than you can likely handle. On one hand, NieR Replicant suffers heavily from its heavy focus on padding and repetition. On the other hand, it will bless you with a beautiful story and one of the most haunting soundtracks you’ve ever heard from video gaming.

Story

NieR Replicant’s story begins with a young boy trying to protect his sister from black creatures called Shades. Initially refusing, the boy turns to a mysterious tome for help. Granting him powers, he uses his magic to repel the creatures to protect his young sister, Yonah.

The title flash-forwards to over 100 years in the future. Yonah lives with her older brother while suffering from The Black Scrawl. All but bedridden, she relies on her older brother to go on quests to bring her back medicine. As Nier, you’ll go on these quests and eventually uncover dark truths surrounding the post-apocalyptic world. You’ll meet an interesting cast of characters joining you including the foul-mouthed Kaine, the eloquently spoken Grimoire Weiss, and the innocent, kindhearted Emil.

The Ending B replay includes extra cutscenes detailing the motivations of the bosses you fight.

NieR Replicant’s story goes far beyond the reaches of your typical JRPG fanfare and I daresay it establishes a sort of counterculture against the usual cliches. You’re sent to rescue someone and, in spite of the protagonist’s optimism, find their carcass instead. You’ll find yourself fighting loved ones and learning that the world is more than just a fantasy built on legends and magic but instead comes from failed science experiments, genocide, and much more. While the overarching story is a bit too much to take in, the writing, voice-acting, clever dialogue, and relationships will surely capture your heart.

Audiovisual

This title serves as a remaster of an Xbox 360 and PS3 title and it shows. That is to say the character models, backgrounds, and animations clearly show their age. However, that’s not to say they’re old and dated and look as they did back in 2011. Rather, the developer’s cleanup job looks remarkable in comparison.

But where NieR Replicant stands out is its beautiful, haunting soundtrack. Keiichi Okabe stands out among gaming composers with his use of the Chaos Language. The chorus involves singing in a made-up language so as not to distract the player who might be trying to figure out the lyrics. In conjunction with sad, emotional themes and fast-tempo battle music with and without chorus, NieR perfectly captures emotion in every facet.

You will surely fall in love with the voice acting as well. Featuring names that voiced games including Persona, Odin Sphere, and more, NieR Replicant features a completely redone voice job. This also includes the additions of new voiceovers for young Nier (who previously was exclusive to the Japanese release) as well as new additions exclusive to this version of the game.

Gameplay

The original NieR featured standard, if not slow, hack-and-slash action. However, the developer incorporated the fast-paced, combo-heavy battle system featured in its sequel by Platinum Games. As such, NieR Replicant plays more akin to Devil May Cry or Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. Thanks to the bevy of weaponry you can use, the magic you can cast, and the passive stats you can customize, you’ll find yourself armed with a variety of combat options.

You can wield light swords, great swords, and spears at your disposal.

This comes in turn with impressive boss battles as well as the option to change the difficulty. Hard Mode will turn enemies into bullet sponges but also make enemies deal more damage to you. In turn, you can also farm items faster. However, if you find the lengthier process to be cumbersome, especially when racking up multiple endings, you may want to stay on Normal difficulty.

Hard Mode increases the drop rate.

You’ll find yourself taking on side-quests, crawling through dungeons, and exploring several paths extending outside of the hub as opposed to an overworld. However, the problems of the game rear their ugly head thanks to several facets. One, you’ll find yourself backtracking across the game’s world frequently and without quick travel. The ferry, unlocked after the timeskip, travels to limited areas. The boar you can ride also has significant limits to where it can venture. On top of that, you’ll be replaying the second arc twice after to get the last three endings.

The title boasts incredible boss battles including new ones exclusive to this version.

The other problem comes from the repetition of side-quests. You’ll do a quest just to get assigned another similar quest. I feel this problem extended into a game that publisher Square-Enix developed several years after the original NieR release: Final Fantasy XV. Subsequently, NieR:Automata handled side-quests and quick travel options with less unnecessary repetition as well as quick travel points. If you don’t mind the relentless padding, you’re doing it for the amazing narrative, plot twists, and music that come with it.

Final Thoughts

As such, I find myself finding it difficult to rate this game lower than an 8. Normally, I’m much stricter about rating games that purposely through you all over the world back-and-forth ad nauseam. However, it’s much easier to forgive when you consider the immersive storytelling, fast-paced battling, and endings that await you.

Even despite the repetitive nature of the game, I still wanted to see Ending E through to the end.

I should also mention that this game’s Ending E originated exclusively from this version. As Ending E was the canon ending of NieR:Automata, it makes sense to consider that it would apply here as well. If 50+ hours to earn it warrants your attention, then you’ll surely enjoy the ending. If you enjoy hack-and-slash games with amazing soundtracks, then I also recommend it.

NieR Replicant is, oftentimes, a nihilistic and gloomy title that does not care about your feelings. It will hurt you emotionally, take away what’s dear to you, and make you question your existence. If this sounds like NieR:Automata to you, then you’ll surely fall in line with this game quickly. However, if this is your first NieR title, expect to be impressed.

Score: 8/10

Product Release: NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (US, 04/23/21)

Originally published at https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com.

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