This next game, I bought on a whim while I was still working at Best Buy. It looked interesting enough, it was on sale, and I got an employee discount. So, I took it home and popped it in. I’m glad to say that my whim paid off.
When I beat Nier the first time, I said to myself, “Yeah, that was good. I’m glad I bought that.” When I played it more recently, I got much more involved with everything the game had to offer. With the help of my significant other, I really did everything that I could, and now, I say, “This may be one of my favorite PS3 games now.”
The game plays similarly to the 3-D Legend of Zelda games with its expansive overworlds and dungeons, and limited move-set. In fact, there are multiple points where the creators paid homage to them. The first time I heard a random townsperson exclaim, “Hey, listen!” I cracked up. They openly admit that Legend of Zelda inspired them greatly. That’s not to say they were copying it or ripping it off. They took many of the things that they loved about Zelda and made it their own.
The game starts in the ruins of a modern looking city (whether or not the game takes place on Earth is not indicated, but it really doesn’t matter). The only people around are a middle-aged man and his daughter, named Yonah. There are also two cryptic looking books lying on the ground, which the man (you get to name him, but I will refer to him as Nier for the time being) curses. Yonah is very ill, and to make matters worse, shadowy creatures, called Shades, attack while Nier searches for food. As the Shades begin to overwhelm him, Nier touches one of the books and it grants him the ability to use dark magic. After killing the Shades, Nier discovers that Yonah has touched the other book and is now dying.
Cut to 1,300 years later. It seems the same two people are now living in a much more rustic village filled with people. Yonah is ill with a disease called the Black Scrawl and Nier must work as a mercenary of sorts to support her.
When first going into it, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by what was going on.
But enough backstory.
I’ll start with the downsides. My biggest complaint is probably the overwhelming amount of fetch quests included. Most of the quests given by townspeople are fetch quests of some kind. There are two upsides to this. One, I found myself enjoying them, which is weird, because normally, my hatred for fetch quests rivals my hatred for my old roommate (and if you knew him, you’d understand what an accomplishment that really is). The other upside is that you don’t need to do them. Most quests will only yield money. Occasionally, you’ll get a weapon, but you will never get experience. So, if you find yourself hating the quests, don’t do them. There are other ways to make money, such as fishing or farming.
Speaking of farming, the farming in Nier is monstrously tedious. What happens is, you go to your field, go into a menu, select a fertilizer, go into a menu, plant a seed, go into a menu, water the seed, and then go to the next spot and do it again. If you’ve expanded your field all the way, and you’re trying to cultivate a certain kind of flower, you end up going through those three menus fifteen times. Luckily, farming is 100% optional. There’s never a point when you need to do it.
Another downside would be the lack of places to go. There are only three towns (technically four, but The Aerie is kind of a stretch) and only a few dungeons. You end up running across the same fields and desert a million times just to complete your quests. I will say, the scenery is beautiful, but you will get sick of it eventually.
The fishing system is not my favorite, either. There are some rules to it that you have to figure out on your own because the fishing tutorials are less than informative. It took me a long time to figure out that the reason I kept losing fish as soon as they bit was because I kept the X button held down. And even when you get the hang of it, catching some of the bigger and rarer fish can still be long and frustrating.
Fetch quests aside, you will still need to gather items at some point in order to upgrade your weapons. This is also not necessary to complete the game, but you will be making it much harder than it needs to be. The problem is, some of the items you need for the later upgrades are a bitch to get. Example: I needed to gather four Metal Piercings. There is only one enemy that drops them and only one map in which they appear. Only two of them appear on the map before you have to leave and re-enter. They almost never drop items, even if you are equipped with enchantments that increase the drop rate. And when they finally do drop an item, the chances of it being a Metal Piercing are pretty fucking low. This becomes a much bigger downside if you decide to go for the Trophy to fully upgrade 25 different weapons.
And lastly, I have to complain about the character models. Not even all of them. Just the character models of the three main characters. Her’s what they look like.
Ew. I mean, Nier is simply hideous. He doesn’t wear that eyepatch at the beginning. But when he does, it’s actually a huge improvement. And honestly, that still pictures does not do it justice. When you see their faces moving, it’s just gross.
None of those downsides are something that can’t be overlooked, however. Again, you can simply not do the sidequests, the gardening, the upgrading, and the fishing. Actually, that’s not 100% true. There is one point where a fish is necessary to advance the story.
And here’s where the upsides come in.
The controls are fluid and easy to get the hang of. Anyone can pick up a controller and play it. The downside to this is the very limited move set. Each kind of weapon only has two basic attacks: a combo attack used by pressing Square repeatedly, and a special attack, unique to each weapon type used by pressing Triangle. You can also assign abilities and magic to the four shoulder buttons. At least there are no complex combos to learn.
Graphically, Nier is very good (with the exception of the character models that I previously mentioned). The landscape is expansive and beautiful, the monsters are creative, the animation is good, the weapons are top-notch. The graphics are definitely not the best ever, but they’re pretty good.
The characters, besides being ugly as sin, are actually extremely well put together. The dialogue and the way the characters interact with each other is hilarious. Even the non-essential characters really add to the depth of the game.
The music is great. Most of the tracks include very pretty vocals and strings. It’s catchy, but not intrusive and it does a great job of adding to the overall atmosphere.
Where Nier really shines though is in its story and storytelling. The beginning of the game is bizarre, to say the least, but by the time you get to the end, your mind is blown. It’s not easy to guess the ending. And going back to the non-essential characters, the creators really did a great job with them. You really begin to feel for these people, even if they don’t really advance the plot. There is one instance where one of these characters died and I actually had to put down my controller and just say, “…Fuck…”. I became involved with all of them, and to see their (more often than not, depressing) stories unfold is really effective.
Put bluntly, I love this game.
Gameplay: 8/10: All the fetch quests get tedious, and you do get a bit tired of doing the same few moves all game.
Graphics: 7/10: I had to deduct a whole point just because of the ugly characters.
Story: 10/10: I absolutely love the story. And I still have yet to see all four endings.
Like I said, Nier is one of my favorite PS3 games, so I really wish I could rate it higher. But I need to be objective in my reviews, so I couldn’t in good faith give it more than an 8.