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NieR Replicant Review – A Name Too Long For This Page

nier replicant score card

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, because of course that’s what it’s called, is a remaster of a 2010 game. I won’t be saying the full name again in any of this. Technically, I think it’s a remaster of a game that was only released in Japan. This was part of a set of 2 games, where only the other game came to the west.

Nier Gestalt and Nier Replicant were the Japanese games and only Gestalt came over here. Both games are nearly identical except for the protagonist. In NieR Gestalt, you play as Papa NieR and are looking after your daughter. NieR Replicant, on the other hand, has Brother NieR, looking after his sister.


Nier, Gestalt and Replicant, are both basically sequels to another franchise called Drakengard. Except, that it’s only a sequel of one of the endings of that series, which I’m not sure is canonical

If you’re already a little bit lost after just this intro, then I don’t blame you. That’s about the sweet spot for these games. So hold on to that.

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Gameplay? 7/10 – This is probably the weakest part of NieR Replicant. Not because of the combat or variations but the side questing and travelling. It’s just not good.

Combat

The main part of NieR Replicant is the combat, as might be expected. It’s a third person action RPG, which basically means button mashing and lots of enemies. I’m fine with both of those.

Apart from the different weapons and magic that I’ll mention in a bit, there’s a decent amount of variation. With two sets of combo buttons, both of which have a press and a charged attack, you can combo quite well between all buttons and charges, making for some pretty garish scenes. Mostly with the destruction of everything around you.

Your main enemies are the Shades. These are strange humanoid monsters that prowl the world, constantly attacking settlements and people on the road. There are also some animals like giant boars and wolves.

There are many variations of regular enemies and some more elaborate bosses. With the bosses you basically enact some stylish finishing moves using magic hands. That’s not a euphemism, you literally create giant magic hands that punch monsters. It’s awesome.

nier replicant kaine

Weapons

The weapon selection starts off pretty stark. Only having a few one handed swords. This changes later in the game where you can start using spears and two handed swords. The two-handers are my personal favourite, being slower than the other 2 but being heavier and doing more damage. 

Spears are fast and have high hot combos, along with a wide arc, making them really good for mobs of enemies. You can change which type of weapon that you use with a simple holding of a button. Meaning that you can combo around, change tactics etc, very easily. I really like this, quite a lot actually.

Each weapon has the obvious damage stat but they can also have a modifier for your magic, as well the weapons weight, which affects the initial swing speed. I only noticed the difference once and that was with two-handed swords. The thing is, they’re already a lot slower than the other weapons types so it seems to matter little.

Magic

Magic is probably my favourite area of Nier Replicant. Thanks to Grimoire Weiss that accompanies you, you can make use of a selection of magic. Not all magic is made equal but each spell is quite unique.

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We have basically a quick firing magic gun. Then there’s a penetrating magic spear, which is my favourite spell. You can even get a shield that is actually kind of overpowered honestly.

A nice touch for each spell is the charged variant. You can press the button once and it will just cast, or you can charge it for a different effect. The shield, when charged, gets bigger until fully charged where it covers you in a bubble shield. The spears, when charging, just increase in number and it frankly looks amazing.

You can set up your bumpers and triggers with any martial art or spell. So you can dodge roll, block, or you can just have 4 spells equipped. It adds a lot of variety and you can really tailor to your style.

I personally liked to be able to roll, thanks Dark Souls. Then I had the 3 spells I mentioned above which, when mixed, gave me crazy offence and mad defense.

Upgrades

There are two main upgrades in NieR Replicant, weapon levels and words. First the weapon levels, this is pretty self explanatory. When you get to the correct area you can start upgrading your weapons. By using money and a bunch of resources you can upgrade each weapon, adding massive damage, weight, and magic to each. 

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I like this, because effectively any weapon can be used all the time if you upgrade it. I do like me some fashion in my games.

The second are the words, which are effectively what other games might call runes or mods. By defeating enemies and things, you will receive words just like an item drop. You can then equip up to two words to anything. Two on your spells, on your weapons, and on any martial arts like rolling.

Depending on what you attach them to, they can change the effect and there are a lot of them. You can up your physical damage, the experience you receive, and add a poison effect as just some examples. A good way to do it is to mix up the effects to help in combat.

For example, I had armour piercing and poison on my spear, and then physical damage and experience up on my two-hander. So I’d take out a group of enemies armour, then finish ’em quickly with my sword. It was really quite satisfying and made every encounter go much more smoothly.

Side quests

I’m gonna moan for a little bit. I’m sorry if you like the side quests in NieR Replicant but you’re plain wrong; they’re not good. They’re so dated that it hurts me. Hurts my damn soul.

Pretty much every quest is this:

  1. Talk to this person and run for 10 minutes. 
  2. Kill this thing or pick up this thing. 
  3. Run out of the area, then back in to try again, and again. 
  4. Run 10 minutes back and get a tiny reward. 

It’s not fun, it takes too long, and it needed fixing. You basically spend twice as much time just running back and forth than you do progressing or anything else. It’s abhorrent and has no place in 2021 gaming.

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The only exceptions are some of the questlines that have recurring characters. The quests themselves aren’t great but the story they tell is sometimes rewarding.

Travelling 

Travelling is the other main area this game really struggles. Running back and forth a hundred times between towns is not a good experience. There’s multiple loading screens, long distances, and way too many enemies.

You do eventually get a sort of fast travel system, but even that isn’t well implemented either. Instead of just traveling to each town for example, you have to get a boat to each of the open areas. The boat is in a specific spot and isn’t, say, right outside a city gate. So even though it speeds things up a little, there’s still way too much running back and forth regardless. Again, not acceptable in 2021. 

Visuals? 9/10 – The visuals in this remaster are fair and a way better than the original release. There are some scene that are truly breathtaking

NieR Replicant looks good. There is almost no comparison to the original in this sense. Characters have had some redesigning and remodeling, textures and scenes too. Lighting effects have also been enhanced, looking cleaner and much less blinding.

The environment and the vistas can be genuinely gorgeous. With your first step outside your house actually surprising me with how good it looked. There’s also plenty of variation in the areas you visit, with all of them looking fantastic. From deserts, to ocean towns, and rolling hills.

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Character designs were always pretty good, even in the originals. However in NieR Replicant they went the extra mile. The designs for ya main boy are really good. Not to spoil too much but there is a time skip. The reason I mention this is because his young adult design is a bit of a heartthrob, if I do say so myself. Papa Nier also makes a cheeky appearance too.

There aren’t too many but the full cutscenes look unbelievably good as well. So, so good. With lighting, particle effects, animations, and character models that look brilliant. 

Here’s the one failure and it’s not exclusive to NieR Replicant. As is basically just customary at this point, a Japanese game cannot get the lip sync working. Maybe it’s just with the English voice acting but it’s really bad here. It’s not even close, nor serviceable. It’s just awful.

Audio? 10/10 – NieR Replicant is a masterclass is audio direction and OSTs. There are no bad things to say about it.

One of the main things the NieR series is known for is the soundtrack. NieR Replicant is no different in this regard. Now I’ve not played the original NieR but I have played Automata. So I cannot comment on it’s faithfulness to the original but I can to Automata. In this regard it’s like two great symphonic peas in an action RPG pod. The two, when I think about them together, marry pretty perfectly.

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Pretty much every area in NieR Replicant has its own theme tune to travel or fight to. Although there is quite some variation between some of the tracks, some really stick out, like the softer ones with some harrowing female vocals. In almost any other scene or genre, these would not be my cup of tea which makes it even more impressive that I like it so much.

Some other good points are the background dialogue around the towns and villages. Mostly it repeats as you’d expect however, in your own village specifically, it still works. My favourite is that a lot of the villagers talk about Yonah, your sister. Saying things like they hope she’s doing well and simple natter like that. The market you run to and fro through seems much more alive and lived in. It’s a really nice touch that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Then there’s the combat, it already feels good and responsive but it also sounds good. Clashing against armour with your spear for example gives a meaty clang. Breaking boxes or landing from on high, booms. The overall direction, re-direction, or re-mixing is really quite impressive in NieR Replicant and should be praised.

I have literally zero complaints with the audio at all.

Story? 8/10 – A “nicely” woven story with plenty of engaging characters and a pretty satisfying pay-off.

The story is pretty good in Nier Replicant, with some twists, good characters, some sweet moments, and the like. The main driving force in the game is also an understandable and relatable one.

The main points are you are a young swordsman living in a dilapidated village with your sister. Your sister is sick with something called the black scrawl, a disease where black writing appears on the victim’s body. This always ends in death but some of the symptoms and pain can be treated. The protagonist, like the good brother he is, takes odd jobs around town to pay for the treatment. One day, the sister Yonah leaves the village in search of a special flower to help her brother with money. This as you might expect does not go well and Brother Dearest must go save her.

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By doing so he finds Grimoire Weiss, a sentient book with magical abilities. Your new best friend that floats around you all the time being grumpy. I love Weissy. Anyway, with Grimoire Wiess in tow, the pair learn that Weiss’ destiny is to stop Grimoire Noir. Basically the Uka-Uka to his Aku-Aku. Defeating Noir, in an old legend, is said to save the world and free it from the Black Scrawl. Thus saving Yonah. So the 2 of them set out to get all of the Sealed Verses, which power up Weiss, and defeat Grimoire Noir.

There’s a lot more that happens, even though this is an older game, but that’s all spoilers. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed the story and the characters. The few twists and weirdness aren’t too telegraphed and are right up my alley. Feeling like a somewhat open book missing a few pages, you can make your own conclusions.

What don’t I like?

So what do I not really like about the story then I guess is the next question. 

To start, I like the main cast, the main motivations, and the conclusions. I also really like that you can replay part/most of the game again to get different endings. Including extending the original ending with some interesting implications. If this sounds like pretty much everything then you’d be right. Then why did I take away two points for this section? 

Put simply, there are a few too many conveniences and points of inaction. I really don’t want to spoil anything as these make up some pretty driving scenes. So I’ll do this tactfully. Basically, there’s a death at some point, but everyone is standing around and lets it happen. The motivation of the side characters to fight and the team to join them, then becomes this death. A death that is entirely preventable, if only someone had a sword and swung it once.

nier replicant emile

Suffice it to say that plot holes in games, like just standing still, is not ok with me. Even if the revenge arc is a good one, it cheapens the whole experience. It’s this cheapness that comes up a few times in NieR Replicant that I can’t stand. Not just here but in almost every game.

Acting? 9/10 – Surprisingly good English voice acting for a Japanese made game. Far less cringe and some genuinely good performances

I mentioned this before in a review or two but the English voice acting in Japanese games is often bad. Like really bad. That goes for Anime too. I’m looking at you Joey Wheeler! Jokes aside, they really do not get this right very often. With just god awful cockney accents and the like. Somehow, despite being a remaster of a 2010, NieR Replicant doesn’t fall prey to this.

All of the voice acting in NieR Replicant is actually really quite good. I don’t think it has a single ridiculous voice honestly. There are a couple of standouts though, that of Grimoire Weiss and Kaine.

Weissy is deep, old, grumpy, and caring. For a floating book that follows you around, without a moving face, he displays a lot of emotion. Mostly the emotion is grumpiness, but it works! He’s always condescending and abrasive but he does it well. It’s surprisingly believable and enjoyable to hear him moan. To hear him complain about his name being shortened for the 50th time. It never gets old.

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Then there’s Kaine. Kaine is best… Well Best Everything. Kaine has one of the most foul mouthed characters from a JRPG that I can think of. Constantly shouting and swearing, whilst wielding two quite large serrated blades. With some very imaginative places to put things thrown into her repertoire, Kaine literally never gets boring or old either. Always an absolute delight.

Writing? 9/10 – The enigmatic style is just what I like. Some of the side characters are made very empathetic and interesting. Not too mention the world that has been built.

I think the underpinning writing is slightly better than the story itself. It doesn’t go as far but it reminds me a lot of the Souls series, of which I am a fanboy. It has that air of confusion and mystery that makes you want to know more. Not everything is just handed to you, there’s a little bit of work to get all the information. Reading documents and reports, quest lines, reading other theories, and all the rest. 

Then, the other thing that I really like about NieR Replicant is how kind of nuts it is. Whilst telling an emotional and serious story, it constantly does weird things. This is to be expected from anything directed by one Yoko Taro. The clinically insane brother to my favourite director Hidetaka Miyazaki, in spirit anyway.

NieR games, much like my other favourite franchises, are really hard to explain why I like the writing so much. Partly because there are purposeful gaps in everything. It’s hard to prove a negative, so if there’s a gap for you to fill in, how can I explain it? Explain it’s absence? I don’t know, I’m too old and tired to think about this anymore!

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The most important part to focus on is that ingrained in every action, or diversion is substance. You might meet a mean old lighthouse woman, or a strange postman. Maybe you’ll come across an apple loving couple fighting. You are pretty quickly endeared to a lot of these characters and interested in their stories.

It takes a lot to get me invested in any NPCs but a few games do manage it. NieR Replicant is one of those and it’s purely due to the efforts of the writers and how these characters are presented.

Performance? 10/10 – A literally perfect experience on the Xbox Series X.

Now, I did play on an Xbox Series X, so this could easily be used as the explanation of why it went well. That being said, I don’t care.

Of all the games I’ve played recently, I don’t think another game has played so perfectly. Played so perfectly and has looked this good. I really can’t pinpoint a single point in all of my playtime where anything happened. Anything went wrong, or a frame dropped, a load took too long, or a crash. It just worked.

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This was honestly such a breath of fresh air after some recent releases. I loved Outriders, as did Zack, it’s one of the very few games that I’ve unlocked all achievements on. That being said it still doesn’t perform perfectly. NieR Replicant is the exact opposite to this and I love it.

Fun Factor? 8/10 – An absolutely great time was had, except for pretty much all side activities and travel.

I really wanted to give NieR Replicant a 10 in this section, I really did. Having such a good time overall but there are some dropping points. Really, I can’t stress how little I liked the side quests and the travelling. 

I know it seems like a small part of a story driven JRPG but it’s really bad. I have played many bad or boring games and played and replayed boring sections. I’ve played every quest, sidequest, planetary exploration, and all Mako sections in the Mass Effect Trilogy. I have done this every time.

I got bored and had to stop doing side quests anymore. It got that bad.

That being said, everything surrounding the side quests, like the story, characters, combat, and everything else, was so good. Combining crazy spells with flourished weapon combos, and a lot of shoving things in certain places. It really is a great time. 

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Value? 10/10 – A cheaper entry with perfect performance, great art, music, and story to follow. Multiple endings with great characters. A must buy for JRPG fans.

I feel like I haven’t done this in a little while. I could be wrong but few games have felt like a 10/10 in Value. Normally, there’s something that makes me want to lose points here. I almost did here because of the sidequests mostly. Almost. So why didn’t I?

Simple, there’s so much to love that it doesn’t matter. The combat is fantastic, the vista are gorgeous, the voice acting is surprisingly good, and the soundtrack is enchanting. There is just so much in this package that is just outta this world.

Then there’s the price, it set me back £50. Now, for some, this is still quite a lot, especially for a remaster. But so many subpar or broken games come out these days at £60 or £70. For a game that looks this great, plays this well, and performs perfectly, £50 is nothing. I really mean that. In the current climate, just getting a working game is a boon at this point.

If you liked NieR Gestalt or NieR Replicant, like NieR Automata, or the Drakengard series, this is a must buy.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 8/10 – Pretty much the same as the Fun Factor. A great game all roundm seriously let down by the actual side quest activities and the some of the worst travel and fast travel systems.

Listen, NieR Replicant is a great game. It’s definitely a JRPG, there’s no doubt, but it’s also very subtle. Both with its world building and the overall storytelling. Luckily, I do completely love this kind of story telling. My go to comparison in these cases is Dark Souls because of course it is. NieR Replicant is Dark Souls, if Dark Souls got addicted to meth but was also partial to some LSD too. I’m into it.

The few issues that I brought up in the gameplay sections are about the only negatives. It’s not a perfect game by any means, it’s just a really good one. All of the goodness is just marred by just how bad and boring the side quests are, combined with how dreadful the traveling and fast travelling is. I ended up getting through around 50% of the side quests, after which point I wanted to drill through my eyes. So I barely did a single one after that, I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

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Luckily, for the most part, the combat and the story really saves the day. I really enjoyed the whole combat system. From the different weapons, the words as upgrades, and the combos between them all. It especially becomes even better in the later areas, when you get more weapons types. It becomes really satisfying to go between an armour piercing spear, to a massive two-handed sword that minces everything. Then following up with some big old Soul Spears to impale everything.

The actual gameplay, as well as the environments, is some of the most delightful 3rd person action sets around. I’ll continue to play this for a while, it’s that good.

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