The original has been around for over 10 years. “Nier Replicant” is neither a remaster nor a full remake of “Nier”, but the gameplay is still fresh and original today. For the new edition, Square Enix has re-recorded the soundtrack and dialogues and given the game some additional content.
The story takes place over 1000 years in the future: Shadow demons roam the country and push the few surviving people back into small towns and villages. Meanwhile, the nameless hero is on the lookout for a cure for his sick sister Yonah, who is afflicted with a deadly disease.
At first glance, this story might seem like just another Japanese hero saga, but it remains enigmatic from the start. It already starts in the prologue and after around ten hours it is presented as a turn of the story that other games would use for the grand finale. All of this is characterized by a deep melancholy that runs through all the subplots.
Original genre mix
The game itself cares little about convention. At its core, it is an action role-playing game in the style of “Zelda: Breath of the Wild”, in which the hero explores his world from the shoulder perspective, solves tasks and slowly rises through levels of experience. But “Nier” often breaks these expectations: sometimes the adventurer hops around like in a jump’n ‘run, kills the monsters from an isometric bird’s-eye view like in “Diablo” or moves boxes like in the puzzle hit “Sokoban”. Once he also solves the task like in a text adventure from the times of “Zork”. Due to this varied mix of genres, the constant backtracking is not that important.
The real highlights, however, are the varied final fights. Huge slimy scorpions and tentacle monsters strike at the hero and attack with energy balls like in a “Bullet Hell” shooter. Each of these monsters needs different tactics: Sometimes a few melee attacks are enough, but often powerful magic attacks like a giant fist or spears sprouting out of the ground are the recipe for success. Later on, a few companions support the hero, but they can only be controlled with simple commands such as “attack” or “defend”. Although the action scenes play more smoothly than in the original thanks to the new animations, confusing camera positions are still annoying. It is not always possible to tell from which direction the attacks are coming. Newbies shouldn’t be put off by this successful action role-playing game adventure.
“Nier Replicant” takes time to get started. But once the players have put the first few hours behind them with many uneventful walks through the visually dreary landscape, things really start. Then the game enchants with varied battles against huge monsters, original level design and an exciting and melancholy story. If you play through the game several times, you will even reveal secrets that are initially hidden. Even 10 years after it was first published, “Nier Replicant” shows that good gameplay and the unusual story are timeless. The new edition finally brings the cult hit the attention it has always deserved.
“Nier Replicant” will be released on April 23rd for Windows, PS4, Xbox One. It costs around € 60. USK from 16. We played the Windows version for a few hours for our test.