Genre: Action RPG, Hack and Slash
Developed by: Cavia
Published by: Square Enix
Platforms: PS3, 360, Xbox One, PC
Feeling Like: Honestly, I have no idea.
Nier might be the strangest game I’ve ever played. You are Nier, a middle-aged warrior who is trying to cure his daughter from a lethal illness. You journey across fields, through towns and dungeons, meeting allies and swinging swords. Benign video game fare, but you also start 1,312 years in the past. As the same character, somehow. One of your companions is a talking book. There are four endings, each building on each other, revealing more information about the world and your role in it. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Nier is a spectacle. It has the guts of a video game, but the soul of a circus. The oddities mask any attempt to label Nier as a single genre. At first, it seems like a typical action-adventure game, but then there are fighting sections that remind me of a hyper-action game like God of War. Then there’s the dungeon that’s an obvious homage to Legend of Zelda.
Then there’s a basement that changes the camera angle to make it look oh-so like Diablo. One boss fires so many projectiles your way, you feel like you’ve been thrown into a bullet-hell shooter (where the primary objective is to survive the impossible onslaught of enemy fire). Believe it or not, there’s even a text-based dungeon that requires you to read a large amount of information and answer questions correctly to move on. Aside from Visual Novel games, I’ve never seen this before or since. The eagerness to completely switch it up depending on the level is such a bold, creative choice that it’s almost irrelevant if they work or not. It got my attention and I knew there was potential for weirdness around every corner.
I felt like my opinion of Nier changed by the hour. Sub-par graphics? Bad. Beautiful, original, haunting music? Good. Constant backtracking through the same areas? Bad. Switching up the camera angles and gameplay styles? Good. Wholly original characters? Good. Awful fetch quests and lame townspeople? Bad. Customizable stat bonuses? Good. Mindless combat against low-level enemies? Bad. Crazy twists in the storyline? Good. Ridiculous jump animation? Bad. Here is a game that is the definition of a mixed bag.
Square Enix obviously strove to be different. Considering the cost of game development, it’s a huge risk to try something new. Particularly when you consider the success of cookie cutter sequels or rip-offs in the industry. Do we, as gamers, prefer instances like Nier or do we prefer something comfortable and familiar? They wanted to make more than just a typical action-RPG, and it shows. It’s ambitious and strange, but it sticks. Is that the end goal for developers? Beyond making a game that sells well, don’t they want it to be remembered?
Honestly, this is one of those games that I’ll never be certain of its placement. I received a text from my friend Jeremy a few days ago.
“The Legend of Zelda is #364??!! Friends off. You’d better give Wonder Boy in Monster Land a good ranking or I’ll never forgive you.”
I mean, he’s right! Not about Monster Boy, I’ve never played it. But it’s totally ridiculous. How can a game that’s one of the most influential of all time be so far down the list, and some wacky ass JRPG experiment is almost 100 spots higher? I should have my gamer card revoked.
Truth is, I played The Legend of Zelda both too early, and too late to fully appreciate it. Six year old Henry didn’t get it, 28 year old Henry had played other Zelda games that were far superior. Timing is everything.
So why is Nier up so high?
My memory isn’t what it was in my 20s. Appointments require a note in my calendar, otherwise there’s no hope I’ll remember. Events that I thought happened a few years ago happened much longer ago.
I thought, and I really mean this, I thought Fuzz and I played through Nier together.
This wouldn’t be a unique occurrence. I played a lot of games with Fuzz – in Bigelow, at King St. and when he’d come to visit Victoria. When you live in the same building as somebody for five years with ample down time, video games happen. I think we also studied together, but who can be sure?
Well, I graduated in 2007 and Nier came out in 2012. So, not only is it not possible we played this together, it’s not even close. Did he recommend it to me? He must’ve. This is totally up his alley. Fuzz was never afraid to attempt the strange. I’m more keen to follow the road most travelled, but his recommendations always spark my interest. And I’m not totally devoid of curiosity.
What does this have to do with Nier being up at 275? Well, I feel like Fuzz was by my side the entire time: helping me with obtuse puzzles, grinding away when he felt like I needed a break, telling me something he read about the game online, pushing me forward when I needed a morale boost. That kind of connection holds a lot of weight on the 500.
Even if it is fabricated. Weird.
There’s a ton of dumb, but also a ton that I liked. Like how the camera moves to a different perspective when you enter certain buildings. Or how masterful the soundtrack is. Or how interesting the character’s visual designs are. I never knew what laid around the next corner and I just couldn’t help getting through the entire mess.