The end is NIER

If this image is familiar to you, it likely means that you’ve played and completed NIER. Hats off to you, friend. If you haven’t, I recommend that you head out to your local used games store and get your bad self a copy of this gem. I just wish my phone could take a better picture of the TV screen, because the title is super blurry and there’s supposed to be a flower in that spotlight.

NIER, for the uninitiated, is an action RPG released way, way back in 2010. And it is magnificent. It’s not a long game, but I’ve now spent roughly 60 hours with it, and a good many of those were well spent. I’ve done everything there is to do in the game, and only have a single achievement left to earn, which is for beating it in under 15 hours. Should be a piece of cake, since I can do the entire second half of it in under two.

Anyway, what makes NIER such a great game is not necessarily the gameplay, but everything that is wrapped around it. The basic story is that of a father searching for a cure for his daughter’s mortal illness. Right there you’ve got a story that I care to see through to the end. But there are many twists and turns along the way. There are no less than half a dozen story events that will leave you stunned, staring slack-jawed at the screen wondering if what you saw really just happened. It’s the only game in recent memory where events in a cutscene have made me sit up straight and shout in disbelief and/or terror.

I won’t mince words, NIER isn’t afraid to be cruel. The main characters are pretty great and have terrific voice actors, and you will grow to like them. Which adds so much more emotional weight when awful things start to happen to them.  And that may shy you away, but think about how many video games elicit a true emotional response from you. How many have actually made you hurt for their characters? Not many, I’m guessing. It gets downright depressing, but it’s absolutely a story worth seeing through. You can go read a plot summary if you’re lazy, but nothing even compares to witnessing the events play out firsthand.

What’s really great is that there are four endings to the game, and unlike most games with alternate endings, each one builds onto the last, giving more details and slightly changing the final outcome. There are also a ton of additional little scenes added throughout the game once you’ve gotten ending A which will shatter every preconception you’ve had about what’s going on in its world. When you boot up NIER, you’re starting down one of the absolute best video game stories that you’ll ever experience.

That’s not to say that the gameplay should be overlooked! By all means, it’s a pretty competent game. NIER was developed by Cavia Inc, who have a reputation for filling their games with bullcrap and trollign players to no end, but an average playthrough of NIER is kind enough to the player. It’s only when you go off the rails and decide to earn 100% that it gets to the point of unbearable garbage. So much so, in fact, that I learned how to hack Xbox 360 game saves just to save myself hours days of grinding for rare drops.

If you just play through to experience to core game though, it’s pretty delightful. It’s a third-person action game, and feels a little like a looser Zelda with no Z-targeting system. And then there are a few rather dramatic gameplay shifts here and there just to throw you off. One early part of the quest requires you to play the fishing mini-game, which is actually pretty fun, and another portion is presented entirely as a… well, I don’t really want to spoil too much. It’s not as refined as it could be, but I certainly had no complaints about the actual playing part of the game.

My introduction to Nier was a Let’s Play, and I quit reading less than a third of the way through because I knew that I needed to experience the rest for myself. It was definitely the right thing to do. While my time with NIER is almost over, it’s been a great run and now my job is to get other people to play it and see the light for themsleves. This is one that’s going to stay in my collection and most likely see frequent replays.

Oh, and the soundtrack is The Balls. I bought it on iTunes, but feel bad because it’s so great that I feel like I should have a physical copy.

Another note, NIER doesn’t stop with mature subject matter in the story. There is so much blood, and also constant cussing from a certain character who walks around in some very skimpy lingerie. So, maybe keep it away from the kids. If that’s an issue for you.

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