|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cavia||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 27, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
There's a lot to like in Nier, however, there is also a good deal more to dislike; the game has a handful of quality needles hidden under a haystack of tired gameplay mechanics. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this title is the well-crafted, heartfelt story that will keep any RPG connoisseur engaged. Players will also be treated to a few interesting dungeon puzzles and bosses, as well as an ability/weapon enhancement system with serious potential. That's why it's such a shame that the overwhelming number of asinine side quests, blight of mundane minions, superfluous diversions (fishing, collecting, harvesting), and boxed-in, featureless environments reduce this game to little more than a common slog.
Players take on the role of an anxious father consumed with protecting and curing his afflicted daughter, Yonah. The game setting takes place in a future Earth where today's humans are considered to be ancients. All the technological knowledge that humanity harnessed has been lost to an apocalyptic event and the passage of time. The survivors now find themselves in a world fraught with danger, magic, and nightmarish Shades.
The player character and Yonah live in a sleepy village, surrounded by wilderness. Your character fills his days taking on odd jobs and errands, while his sickly daughter mostly stays home resting and cooking. Yonah also has a penchant for getting herself into trouble. On one such unsupervised outing, she ends up being held captive at an ancient shrine. The player-controlled hero saves her from the clutches of Shades, but Yonah contracts a lethal disease called the Black Scrawl.
Fortunately, the PC's rescue efforts also net him a powerful companion: Grimoire Weiss. This magical tome is the counter to Grimoire Noir; the black magic compendium that is spreading the devastating Black Scrawl. But, Grimoire Weiss is no standard magical text. This book is a supreme being that's both loquacious and arrogant, but also extremely powerful. Throughout the journey, the protagonist will harness the power of Grimoire Weiss in order to battle the Shades and secure the cure for his daughter's affliction.
While the story may not seem to be particularly unique when painted with broad strokes, it eventually evolves into an charming narrative about the love of a father for his daughter and the great lengths he'll go to, to ensure her well-being. The story, more than any other facet of Nier, is what kept me going through the game's myriad shortcomings.
But before I hit you with the bad, let's talk a bit more about what Nier gets right. For starters, the musical score is full of nice background tracks, some of which are actually quite excellent. Also, the voiceover work, for the most part, is capably done - Grimoire Weiss is voiced especially well.
Players will undoubtedly find the weapon and ability enhancement system to be quite nice too. As you hack and slash your way through the game, Shades will drop prefixes and suffixes that can be combined by Grimoire Weiss to form more potent weapons, higher player stats, and augmented magical abilities. There are even bonus effects that grant, for example, paralyze or poison modifiers. While these word portions can be combined in many different ways to obtain distinct results, the game also offers impatient players the ability to simply utilize the best combinations at the touch of a button via the Word Edit tab.
In addition, weapons can also be enhanced in a more conventional manner. By finding key components strewn about the world and dropped from enemies, you can, for a fee, have your current weapon leveled up by smithies. This typically adds bonuses to damage or even magical force.
There are also a number of bosses in this game that, while straightforward to beat, will have you using all of Nier's abilities. The result is several instances of very satisfying gameplay - almost Metroidvania-like battles that will test your mettle. Similarly, there are several dungeon puzzles that nicely break up combat and keep you thinking.