Well because I appear to have sold my soul to Square Enix I had already pre-ordered the remake of Nier Replicant and it was finally released last week. I’ve always wanted to play this version as it’s a prequel to Nier Automata but it was only available on PS3 and who even has a PS3 anymore? Fortunately Automata’s popularity clearly inspired Yoko Taro to make this remake a reality and I’m glad I finally got a chance to play this title. As usual, big fat spoilers after the jump so if you plan to play the game please wait until after you finish before reading the review!
In order to make sense of where this game begins, one must scourge the internet for details about White Chlorination Syndrome aka the disease that turned everyone into piles of salt and spread faster than Covid19. The best site that explains the details and background is the LP archive by DarkID. Unfortunately, the Nier Replicant game itself does a very poor job of explaining why Project Gestalt was even created or what the goal of it was or why humanity was dying of this “black disease”. The summary is that in one of the bad ends of Drakengard (Dragon Dragoon in Japanese) the protag Caim and his pet dragon get killed and his weapons and magic spells get spat out all over the place. And then the WCS spreads, salts people so they start project Gestalt where they separate the human souls and create “replicants” aka empty shells of bodies to eventually transfer the souls. So in a way it’s a way for humanity to “live on forever” or rather “be in a quarantine for like 10,000 years until the disease is gone from this earth” lol. But unfortunately they didn’t really count on the fact that 1) the souls might “relapse” and turn into crazed monsters called Shades 2) the replicant bodies might form their own ideals/personalities and not want to give up their body to the gestalts because they just see them as “monsters”. So now you basically got a bunch of Replicants living life “like normal” (except the fact they can’t reproduce) and killing “Shades” who are actually humans but appears as “monsters” to them. It would explain why when we play as Nier, a replicant, we only see them as monsters as well but when you defeat them blood spurts everywhere because essentially we’re just killing people. (;^ω^) Also the original gestalts are supposed to be in cold sleep, so when they wake up and have no body to merge with they go around destroying shit like crazy.
Anyway if that wasn’t confusing enough, Gestalt Nier is now the dark lord cause he made a contract with the Grimoir Noir, and has his replicant sister Yonah’s body ready for merging when it’s time. But instead somehow, his replicant body has the Gestalt soul of his sister Yonah who’s on the verge of relapsing which is why she has the black scrawl disease and is always “sick” as she’s awakened and not in put into her “vessel” for whatever plot reasons. On top of this Replicant Nier ends up making a contract with Grimoire Weiss so now you basically got 2 Niers at odds with each other over imouto-chan. Replicant Nier doesn’t understand that shades are people, he just knows them as monsters. He doesn’t understand that his “sister” is just the same “monster” he’s been killing that’s to be put into her “vessel” and is on the verge of turning herself. He just kinda follows orders from 2 androids, Devola and Popola (who were basically put in charge to watch over Replicants/the Gestalt project) and also does a bunch of menial tasks (aka in game side quests) for all the random replicants walking around town.
During his adventures he also has Kaine, a cussing “underwear woman” (as Weiss calls her – or hussy in English lol) and Emil, a former experiment subject child whose eyes turn everything to stone. Kaine’s replicant body had an error during creation and gave her male genitalia on a female body. So because of her intersex features, she was constantly abused and bullied as a child until her “Grandma” (who is not really her grandma but an old lady who adopted her) drove the bullies away and took care of her. Unfortunately a big ugly shade attacks them one day, kills Grandma and heavily mangles Kaine’s body (basically chops off her arm and leg and one of her eyes.) While Kaine is on the verge of death, she remembers her Grandma telling her that she must live on, and so Kaine accepts the soul of a チャラ男 shade named Tyrann and he basically “rebuilds” the missing parts of her body. He even offers to fix her genitalia but she refuses. They make an agreement to share the body as long as Kaine keeps killing in revenge for her grandma but even after they kill the big ugly shade that killed grandma (With Nier’s help) and she’s kinda like “ok I guess I can die now” Replicant Nier calls out to her and brings her back to life.
Emil they meet in some haunted mansion that sits on top of an underground laboratory that acted like an orphanage but instead it took in homeless kids and used them as experimental subjects. One of the few successful experiments were Emil and his twin sister Halua. Halua was turned into a hideous monstrosity that was only set to kill (initially this was created before Gestalt Nier contracted with Grimoire Noir). When she went berserk, the only one to stop her was Emil, who was lab ratted into having a power to turn everything to stone like a Medusa. And so when Halua went berserk one day, Emil used his powers to turn her to stone and she’s been kinda sitting in that underground lab for thousands of years. She has crazy amounts of magic power though, and so once Kaine is stoned in the library (in order to hold a shade back after Gestalt Yonah is captured), adult Replicant Nier and Emil scour the underground lab, find Halua, somehow manage to wake her up (I thought she got stoned so idk what is happening here) and after fighting her, Emil “merges” himself with her weaponized body. This basically turns him into the weird Yoko-Taroesque head that you see in all Nier franchise. So now he has the powers to un-stone Kaine in the library and she wakes up 5 years later to find out the boku-shota she knew from 5 years ago is now a SUPER HOT IKEMAN ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)✨.
So once grown up, Replicant Nier ends up spending time training, doing menial sidequests and gathering artifacts to unlock the temple where his Gestalt self is chillin’ waiting for Yonah’s body & soul to merge. And so after many battles (and an original takogirl scenario which was really creepy but actually well written) Replicant Nier arrives at the castle of his original self and they face off in which you arrive at one of several endings.
In ending A you save imouto, and then Kaine buggers off because she cannot compete with the siscon. In ending B yet more i wuv Gestalt oniichan end. In ending C and D based on your choice you either kill Kaine’s shade transformation to free her, or you decide to sacrifice your body to Kaine so that she’s a “clean” replicant free of Tyrann’s posession. And finally ending E is a newly added ending based on one of the side stories in the lore book. In this one, Kaine ends up going into the forest which has a portal dimension run by androids (voiced by the va’s of 2B and 9S xD) and showing to the robots that she’s a good replicant – data that is later used for creating A2 and 2B. Thanks to this data, the machines are able to recreate Nier, shota form, because essentially he’s not a human but just a copied vessel. So in a way, happily ever after (?) ending with Kaine, Nier and Emil who sprouted 4 arms upon his attempt to recreate his form after Popola blew him up lol.
Kinda crazy and convoluted probably but I still enjoyed it. In fact it actually makes me want to replay Nier Automata (and not on my poo PS4) – but unfortunately the Steam version is a massive shitshow so until they finally patch it (and they finally plan to) I guess I’ll wait patiently. I feel like after playing Replicant, a lot of the lore I read back in Automata will be a lot more interesting to read about. Nice new graphics aside, I loved the remastered soundtrack and the MANY versions of my favorite BGM – Kaine. The BGM in Emil’s mansion really gave it the spoopy mansion feel and the soothing BGM in the forest gave it that “enchanted forest” feeling. The BGM in the wrecked ship really gave it that spooky horror game feel, honestly if it wasn’t for the music I feel like the “tension” in a lot of the scenes was lost so I really mean it when I say the music is a HUGE part of this game.
The only thing I can say in poor taste is the fact that there’s a trophy/steam achievement for looking up Kaine’s skirt…. ( ´_ゝ`) I didn’t care about it with 2B but since Kaine is intersex it just feels like gross harassment bleh. One final complaint I have is while I played on easy mode because story-first battle later here, there were random parts in the game that required crazy jumps to perform. Example here. I don’t know if it’s me using keyboard/mouse controls or what but I struggled a lot in these parts. Honestly I feel like “jumping platforms” was my biggest systematic hurdle in the game. Everything else is taken care of by auto-battle mode so you don’t have to worry about actually defeating bosses if you are just trying to read the story and not care too deeply about how much ass kicking you do. Regardless I would still recommend this game whether or not you’re a Nier Automata fan, but it’s definitely more interesting if you’re an automata fan. They even have a DLC that lets you dress up the charas as 2B/9S and change the bgm to be from Automata 😂 But honestly it felt so out of place I ended up just using their regular outfits anyway lol.
And now some game thoughts from my husband who was playing along with me:
My short evaluation of the game was “basically, a trial run for the concepts for Nier Automata.” It had a pretty similar feel and pretty similar gameplay, but like a first draft version of all of that compared to how refined Nier Automata felt. A good way to look at this are all the sidequests. There’s a ton of them, and you’ll probably pick up the ones you run across because hey, why not. But you have so many now (too many, often) that they start feeling tedious. Regardless, you complete some and turn them in and oh hey, this had a neat little story behind it (perhaps about the ne’er-do-well husband whining about the ol’ ball and chain). So that then motivates you to try to complete some more, even though ugh, this time I have to grind monsters over and over again for rare drops. Welp, turns out that turning in THAT quest just ends with the NPC saying something like “oh thanks, now I can fix my boat”. Now you’re like ehhhhhhhhhh, do I REALLY want to keep doing these? And then now it’s up to you to decide for yourself if this is still fun and worth it or not.
Similarly, you’ve got the multiple ending structure, again which Nier Automata uses as well but with a much better execution. The way it works here is that after you complete the game for the first time and see Ending A, you can start a NG+ about halfway through the second act of the game. The clever part here is that since you’ve already completed sidequests in your first playthrough (they don’t respawn in subsequent NG+ playthroughs), and since you’re significantly overlevelled, you can focus mentally more on the new events and also on recontextualizing everything that you did the first time as you now do it again. But then after you complete Ending B and start a third playthrough for Endings C & D, the tedium starts to set in. You’re not really seeing anything new now, plus you’re attention span is starting to waiver once you realize this. At this point you’re essentially trying to speedrun everything just to get to the end so you can see what’s different, so if the game really does want you to still reflect on what’s going on again it’s failing at that. And then Ending E yet again has the same problem, just that this time you’re replaying all the stuff from the beginning of the game until it diverges. So while seeing all the different endings (and the wild new scenes in Ending E) are fun, you’re slogging through like an extra solid like 10 hours of stuff you’ve stopping caring about a long time ago. Compare that to Nier Automata, with how each of the three routes are heavily different, sometimes in terms of story and sometimes in terms of gameplay so that you’re constantly engaged the entire time.
So it does make it feel kind of weird to come back to this now, since we’re playing the games in the opposite order. If you played them each as they came out, you’ll still feel the jankiness, and you’ll still probably enjoy the parts the game does well like the engaging characters and occasionally poignant story beats, but also since you won’t have a point of comparison to a superior version it’ll make the game easier to stand on its own since you won’t already know the answer to “how can someone make a game that’s like this but without the unnecessary frustrations?” In other words, 8/10 pretty deece but more for completionists since if you just want to play a single game you can skip right to Nier Automata…
…and on that note, as you can see from the first part of this review, the backstory for this series is super complicated and needs you to draw from multiple sources to really grasp all the events and why everything is happening, but also you can sorta just ignore it and vibe. Especially in Nier Automata.