Overall - 75%
Despite being a great game and a worthwhile remake, NieR Replicant ver.1.22 is not for everyone. Some of the dated design elements are frustrating and needlessly time consuming. The story, while incredible, is locked away behind multiple playthroughs and endings, with its true value being entirely subjective depending on how much time you're willing to invest. However, none of this is news to fans of NieR: Automata. Put simply, if you've been waiting for a deeper, darker dive into the world of NieR, ver.1.22 will not disappoint.
Building on the huge success of NieR: Automata, Square Enix looks to rekindle an old flame with the Western release of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139, an RPG originally released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan in 2010. Fewer genres have expanded in the way role playing games have. Massive worlds, vibrant, living environments, complex social structures – it’s a genre that reaches new heights each and every year. With standards and expectations continuing to soar, is there room for a classic, old-school RPG?
NieR Replicant Ver1.22 Review
The 2010 releases of NieR Replicant featured two different characters, one with an older male character and the other with a much younger male character. NieR Replicant ver.1.22 features a younger protagonist, in line with the original Japanese version of the game. As such, fans familiar with the title can expect new plotlines, dialogue, voice overs, and all the other goodies that come in the remaster package.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22 follows the journey of the protagonist and his younger sister Yonah. Afflicted with a deadly disease, Yonah is the main character’s motivations as he explores a broken world in the hopes of finding a cure. A legend speaks of two books: Grimoire Weiss and Grimoire Noire. As two opposing forces – the light and the dark – Grimoire Noire looks to bring disease and calamity to the world. The main character discovers Grimoire Weiss and sets out on a journey to rid the world of Shades: evil entities summoned into the world to bring death and destruction.
All sound a bit familiar? It’s difficult to criticize a game for a cliché plot, which tells of a young brother is searching for a cure for dying sister. However, at the time of its release, it didn’t feel quite as cliché. It’s easy to overlook NieR Replicant ver.1.22 as an effort to cash in on the success of NieR: Automata, but there’s something far deeper and more meaningful in play.
If I were to have reviewed NieR Replicant after the first 20 or so hours of play, it would likely have been the kind of score that results in hate mail and threats. While old school has a certain level of charm, it doesn’t quite hit that level here. The story is incredibly slow to start, with nothing massive happening for a good 20-25 hours – depending on how you play. Couple that with the archaic exploration and questing system, and you have one of the most painfully challenging experiences I’ve played this year.
The game world is relatively large but consists of only a few regions, regions you will return to over and over again, and then again, and then one more time. Both the main quest and side quests will have you doing meaningless deliveries for much of the first half of the game, spending more time running between locations than doing anything else. At times, I dreaded even turning the game. However, as each hour passed, I began to appreciate the journey.
NieR Replicant’s core systems are outdated. Exploration is dull and unrewarding, and visually it’s an upgrade, but nothing to get excited about. Despite this, there are two main components to its success: the combat and the story.
The combat is everything you want it to be. The game boasts several difficulty levels and an auto-battle system on Easy. It’s a complex system, one complicated further by a poor tutorial system. Once you start to learn the sidesteps, the attack combos, the magic spells…it takes a bit of time and patience to get there, but once you do, NieR Replicant’s combat is absolutely thrilling. Thanks to the various difficulty settings, there’s something for everyone. The higher difficulty settings will see you nearly fall to a single swipe of a powerful enemies attacks, while the auto-battle mode on Easy is a fantastic way for fans to explore the story and characters of the world without needing to master the combat.
NieR Replicant’s shining jewel is the boss battles, a gentle mix of real-time RPG action and manic shmup mechanics. There are several challenging fights throughout the game, with bosses of all shapes and sizes looking to cut your adventure short. The combat system offers the player a lot of tools to duck, dive, and counter attack, and you’ll need to use a combination of the entire arsenal to emerge victorious in some incredibly intense and exciting battles.
Much like the narrative, the combat takes a long time to really get to the meat and potatoes. For the first half of the game, you’re limited in the number and type of weapons you can use, the spells you have available, and the combo attacks you can pull off. It’s a bizarre system that, ultimately, becomes very rewarding as you feel free of shackles after the halfway point. However, it does make the earlier stages of the game less compelling.
While much of the first half of the game felt more like getting up and going to work than booting up an exciting new release, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; I only wish I got to the end of the tunnel a little faster. I spent a lot of time exploring, completing side quests, and gathering materials, only to be physically drained mid-point. I didn’t even unlock the fast travel option until about 30 hours in. But then, as a light sweeps across a darkened room, everything started to click.
The side quests became more impactful, the characters more interesting, the combat evolved in an instant, and the story explodes onto the scene in fantastic fashion. It’s a bizarre experience, and one I struggle to relate to anything in the modern gaming sphere. It’s a slow burn, across every aspect of the game, and one that may be a little slow for some people. If you have the patience and the desire to dive deeper, its abundant side content and multiple endings have a lot to offer.
Despite being a great game and a worthwhile remake, NieR Replicant ver.1.22 is not for everyone. Some of the dated design elements are frustrating and needlessly time consuming. The story, while incredible, is locked away behind multiple playthroughs and endings, with its true value being entirely subjective depending on how much time you’re willing to invest. However, none of this is news to fans of NieR: Automata. Put simply, if you’ve been waiting for a deeper, darker dive into the world of NieR, ver.1.22 will not disappoint.
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