It only takes a split second for a game developer to make a long lasting first impression and if the title itself doesn’t give you all that, I don’t know what else will. Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139 if you aren’t already familiar with, is an eleven year old title that originally launched as Nier exclusively in Japan back in April 22, 2010. This decade-old title despite already being considered as a grandpa in the gaming world is a breath of fresh air in the oversaturated industry of massive RPGs and big budget titles. Unlike the massive and expansive worlds of AAA titles like Horizon Zero Dawn or Ghost of Tsushima, the game doesn’t have that jaw-dropping scale and freedom however it tries to open up the nostalgic feeling of what it truly is—an RPG encapsulating the retro feel of the old school. More on that later…
But to give you a bit of a backstory, Nier Replicant is a spin-off from the Drakengard series that follows the fifth ending of the first game which left the planet in a state of decay. This alternate timeline drops you off a thousand years later when the Black Scrawl, a mysterious disease has pretty much engulfed all of humanity to its knees and with monsters known as Shades running rampant and ravaging the world. Here you play as Nier, a young boy who has gained the powers of a grimoire only to find the cure for the said disease in order to save his sister Yonah.
It’s a pretty heartwarming story of adventure and discovery while also being casually thrown out the window as soon as our risqué lingerie-donning warrior starts talking. The foul mouthed badass (and I do mean it as a literal word) has always given the sappy Nier with its goody two shoes attitude a fun mix of character dialogue on top of an already eye-catching sense for fashion. However like most games, the story starts off slow with very little reason to excite you thanks to its errand boy-styled progression as it teaches you the basics of pretty much every RPG game ever made. If you felt sleepy during the first few hours of the game, I can’t even blame you for that. Although it does pick up the pace after a while and it pays off to get that extra cup of coffee or that Venti-sized Cappuccino for all you Starbucks lads out there.
The game pretty much throws you off for a loop as you move from town to town as you explore the world with your companions. The journey into each larger world gives off a different vibe each time that ranges from the vast salty Seafront as you learn to catch a fish to help your sister relieve the pain before getting stopped by an old lady to do some more manual labor or when you and your scantily-clad companion ventured to save the missing prince only to find a series of puzzle-platforming sections waiting for you at the entrance of it all. Mix it in with some larger than life boss fights with its unique mechanics other than the generic dungeon progression of mapping and forced encounters and you have yourself a solid game with tested and proven game elements that is both interesting as it is engaging.
Though what makes Nier Replicant a blast to play is not because you can casually see the forefront of the badass that is Kaine from time to time although it does help, but what really made it fun for me is how well the swordplay and its magic-based elements blend into one cohesive combat structure. Sure, there’s the basic two-button sword combos you can chain together however you want but there’s also the freedom between choosing which magic-based attacks or moves you’ll use and there’s a whole lot to choose from. It can be a bit overwhelming at times but that’s also part of its charm… you never really get bored of it because there’s a lot of ways you can approach a fight. And thankfully, the game doesn’t even throw you into countless battles for who knows how long as you get to explore the world and approach the environment in a number of ways. From putting itself into a top-down puzzle-platformer filled with little intricacies or going into a three dimensional bullet-hell shooter that is both crazy as it is heart racing. The way the game explores its tiny little changes to the camera angles when entering a room for some dialogue also appeals to me as a fan of the classic RPGs we old folks started with. Nothing pays homage more than getting to remind you about the old days.
Its world design however does feel old as it should. It definitely can’t compete to the more modern RPGs and thankfully it doesn’t have to. The charm to which Nier Replicant has is more of an emotional rollercoaster of nostalgia while also being a bit modern and well-bred with its gorgeous art-style despite feeling a bit washed. There’s some great character designs here and the overall clothing choice does strike some twigs every now and then. The game’s world despite being scaled smaller than most games does still offer some great architecture and variations to keep each one of them unique like the creaky wooden town of The Aerie where the entire town is connected with large wooden platforms and bridges that sticks besides the barren canyon. Its voice acting however is a bit of fresh air to say the least, getting blasted with a foul mouthed lingerie-wearing intersex warrior opens up some interesting scenes while also making some great contrast to the people-loving protagonist and his band of merry men and egotistic floating book.
Nier Replicant is definitely not the best game that ever came out in 2021 but it might bloody well be my favorite if Ys IX wasn’t around. The only difference here is that Nier being a decade-old game still has its charm despite its age. If you can look away from its turtle-paced opening sequence then there’s a fun and engaging game waiting for you at the end of that bridge. From having a fun and engaging combat system and the multiple approaches to encounters, the mix bag of goodies might just be what you’re looking for. And if anything, the only flaw here is that the game does throw a chock-full of unnecessary mobs at you at certain points in the game. “Looking at you robots at Junk Town!”
This review is based on the PlayStation version of the game which can be purchased here for £49.99
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139 is also available on Xbox and PC.
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