A few days before Square Enix released the NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… Creative Director YOKO TARO said in a statement, “I mean, you really don’t understand anything in this game until you play it through multiple times right? And the reviewers will find it pretty hard to do that in the limited time they have…” Well…he was right. So, after multiple playthroughs and experiencing all 5 endings, we’re finally ready to share our review.
This is our review of NieR Replicant 1.22474487139…
Impactful Story of Hope, Loss, and the Cost of Revenge
Over 10 years ago, the original NieR was released in Japan and in the West. However, both versions weren’t exactly the same, as the powers that be thought it would be better to make the protagonist a father trying to save his daughter, rather than a young boy trying to save his sister, for Western players. The daddy version was called NieR Gestalt.
Publisher: Square Enix
Creative Director: YOKO TARO
Director: Ito Saki
Release Date: 4/23/2021
With NieR Replicant, Square Enix and Toylogic took the game back to its original version by having players play as a young boy on a journey to save his sister Yonah from the Black Scrawl. Along his journey, he encounters allies in the wise-cracking Grimoire Weiss, the foul-mouthed and amazingly strong Kaine, and the iconic NieR series character Emil. Together, they take on all manner of shades and other magical enemies in pursuit of rescuing Yonah and ridding the world of shades.
NieR Replicant’s story starts out as one of hope and growth, as you start off as a young boy. The young protagonist is full of energy, hope, and optimistic ideas. However, as events transpire and years go by, you see that the story turns to one of loss and revenge. It’s very similar to real life in that aspect.
This synopsis encompasses most of what Ending A is all about. If you were to finish the game there and move on to a new game, you’d probably feel quite satisfied with the experience. However, to truly understand every part of this game and feel the weight of it, it requires multiple playthroughs. I thoroughly enjoyed A track, but it wasn’t until Ending B and the Endings that followed after that I truly began to understand the weight of my actions. It had me really questioning if what I was doing was right, yet in the end I had no choice but to continue on my path.
The last time I felt this conflicted playing a linear story like this was in The Last of Us Part II. Getting context and seeing things from a different perspective is a story element that isn’t explored enough in games. Yet, it creates a depth of story that just sticks with you long after you’ve finished playing. That’s exactly what NieR Replicant does.
In addition to context, multiple playthroughs unlock backstories for your comrades and even some enemies. You don’t actually see these backstories, as almost all of them are purely text-based. However, that’s not a knock on the game at all. The stories you read are beautiful and vivid. It helped me get to know these characters on a deeper level and appreciate them even more. That’s actually one of my biggest takeaways from NieR Replicant. Sometimes it’s better to read people’s stories like a memory rather than experience them firsthand. For whatever reason, reading about them was more impactful for me.
Overall, the story of NieR Replicant is something I’ve been thinking about ever since I finished it. It wasn’t just the twists that got me. It was the emotional story, the depth of characters, and the incredible music that captured every moment.
Brilliant Gameplay With Several Homages to Iconic Games
The NieR series has a history of excellent gameplay, as well as storytelling. One of the biggest draws of the game that follows NieR Replicant, NieR: Automata was its fast-paced, unique combat styles. While NieR Replicant isn’t as fast-paced or even really as unique, the combat mechanics are still impactful and fun.
NieR Replicant has 3 different weapon types, one-handed swords, two-handed weapons, and spears. In addition to these, there are several unique spells that Grimoire Weiss employs like Dark Blast, Lance, Hand, Spiral, and more. Each weapon type and spell can be switched mid-combat, but it’s not as seamless as it is in NieR: Automata. Instead, it takes you to a full-on menu screen, which took me out of the game in high-pressure moments. That said, the unique weapon types and spells lend themselves to creating unique combat experiences.
The combat itself is very easy to learn but takes time to master. It’s easy to come into NieR Replicant and just hack and slash your way to the end, but there are even more powerful moves hidden behind patience and finesse. So, you have the freedom to go all soldier of fortune, but you also have a capability to counter and spellcast your way through every encounter.
One of the other highlights of NieR Replicant is how it pays homage to different elements from various iconic games through history. There are elements like locked cameras in Resident Evil, overhead camera angles like in Metal Gear Solid, bullet hell firefights, and throwbacks to Drakengard. One game that I think Nier Replicant takes a lot from, though, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
For starters, you start out as a young protagonist who goes out into the world in an effort to save a damsel in distress, visiting several locations and meeting unique characters, including a Navi-type character in Grimoire Weiss. You even have a pretty big time jump which takes you to adulthood, where you again have to visit multiple places to find the artifacts to gain entry to the main antagonists’ castle, the Shadowlord. In many ways, NieR Replicant is like a dark, adult version of Ocarina of Time.
Mind-numbing Side Quests and a Prolonged Story
While I loved the story and the combat of NieR Replicant, I found both the main and side quests to be a bit unnecessarily long, at times. The majority of quests in NieR Replicant are fetch quests, which require you to go somewhere and either get, deliver, or hunt something. That’s nothing too terrible, in fact it’s quite common in games. However, these quests usually require you to trek long distances, incur more load times, and sometimes make several trips. What makes it even more frustrating is that fast travel options don’t unlock until Act 2 and even that gets taken out for some time.
These prolonged expeditions and missions with a lack of fast travel is by design, though. It’s evident from the exchange that the protagonist and Grimoire Weiss have when they discuss fast travels. At one point, the protagonist says he wishes there was some way to warp to different locations. Grimoire Weiss explains that Warp spells are dangerous because you could find yourself warping into a wall or something of that nature. It’s a funny exchange, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating and tedious.
When it comes to side quests, you have the option to do them or not. However, in NieR Replicant, it feels as if you don’t really have much of a choice. In order to experience multiple endings, you have to have all the weapons. That means you either need to do side quests to earn the weapons or get the money from side quests to purchase them. Plus, there’s a break in the main quest to figure out why the fast travel system is unusable. While that quest leads to some epic moments, it takes away from the overall mission.
Should You Play It?
Despite the issues with quests and the less-than-seamless weapon switching, NieR Replicant is a beautiful game that stuck with me long after I finished playing each ending. Each ending was so satisfying and meaningful, including Ending E that was added specifically for this game. In fact, I found myself mulling over each moment, each ending, and all of the impactful storytelling this game provided.
So, if you’re a JRPG fan or even someone who enjoyed their time with the prequel game, Drakengard, or the sequel game, NieR: Automata, NieR Replicant is well worth a playthrough. The visuals are stunning, the gameplay is so much fun, and the storytelling is extraordinary. It’s well worth the long treks and cross-country running to experience a masterclass in storytelling like this.