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Playstation 3, XBox 360

Reviewed on: Playstation 3

Cavia Inc.
Publisher: Square Enix
Rated: "M" for Mature

CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
CHEATfactor: 6

To the naked eye, Square Enix’s hack and slash dungeon crawler Nier is just a game – but to those who look deeper; it’s something more. A mix of J-RPG fundamentals and western influences, Nier is the latest title to show that the Japanese game industry is in a bit of an identity crisis. Just take the game’s main character for example; in the original Japanese version Nier was a younger, effeminate type hero, a strong departure from the western version’s gruff and grizzled hero who looks like he could bench-press a cow.

Nier is the product of a Japanese game industry that is eager to appeal to a fast growing western market, but in the process of this attempt – they’ve delivered a mess of a game. The developers throw a lot of ideas here, like classic game nods and formula changes that completely change the game’s genre, but there’s no real reason for these changes and you’ll often be left scratching your head.

"...a traditional RPG, with hard to believe characters."


You play as Nier Gestalt, a world worn, scarred and potty-mouthed anti-hero who is everything we western gamers love – right? Nier’s daughter is infected with a mysterious disease known as the “The Black Scrawl,” that’s killed many people in his homeland, and it’s up to Nier to find the cure. From the get-go, Nier sets itself up to be a traditional RPG, with hard to believe characters (in this case a smug talking book that you’ll want to punch in the face), and you’ll soon assemble a party but if you’re looking for an RPG, you’re bound to be disappointed. Nier plays more like a Zelda-esque RPG than anything else.

Please be aware though that the comparison to the Zelda series is in theory, not practice. While it does feature some of the same mechanics as Miyamoto’s classic, it doesn’t feature the same heart or simplicity. Much of the combat revolves around swordplay, combos and blocking but these actions, along with a few more are all mapped to the same button so you’ll often get frustrated trying to do one thing while your character continually does another.

You’ll start Nier’s journey in his home village which acts as a hub world, connecting you to the other worlds you’re going to encounter. The only problem with this is that the worlds you’re going to encounter are so boring and bland you’ll question whether or not you they’re worth traveling to. Part of the appeal of these types of games is the ability to see far off interesting worlds – it’s another reason games like Zelda have stood the test of time. Here, not so much, it’s a sad thing when I’m happy to see a tree.

"...random genre changes and ideas that seem to go nowhere."


I’ve come to the realization that much of Nier’s development revolved around a dart-board, there’s really no other explanation for the random genre changes and ideas that seem to go nowhere. Midway into the game, the developers decided that Nier should be a side-scrolling game in the vein of Contra, and zooms the camera out so our titular character can do his best run and gun impression.  You’ll also be treated to a look back at top-down RPG titles of past during certain dungeon levels (again, in a not so slight nod to the Zelda series). Yes, these mechanics offer variety and they work – in games like No More Heroes where we’re taking a sarcastic look back at our favorite medium, but here, where the developers are attempting to craft a serious tale, they serve only to take you out of the gameplay and wonder what just happened.

What really set Nier back in my mind? The constant need to back track and return to areas you thought you’ve already completed – one of my biggest pet peeves. All too often you’ll be told that something you need to finish your quest lies in a village you’ve already completed, and then when you get there and get it; you’ll have to go right back to where you were given the quest. I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I’d really rather have a movie sequence than all this backtracking.

While Nier isn’t the prettiest girl at the dance, in fact, it’s pretty ugly, the soundtrack is rather impressive. Composed by Keiichi Okabe (Tekken), the music feels perfect for what this game wants to be, an epic story with an intricate plot. The voice acting isn’t too shabby either, a nice change of pace for a Japanese game for western gamers.

Nier has a lot of good ideas in place; they’re just not executed well. Rather than create a unique and interesting original game, the developers were merely happy giving a more than slight nod to their favorite games of the past. What results is a game that’s not sure what it wants to be, let alone who should play it. 



CHEATS USED: Achievements List, Trophies List

As of this writing, I could find no cheats for either the original Japanese version of Nier, or its western counterpart. The most needed cheat is by far an unlimited magic cheat, as some of the spells are quite cool, but there’s a very limited amount of MP at your disposal. Figures, I like part of the combat and it’s limited.

I’d also like a super speed cheat so the annoying backtracking missions don’t take nearly as long.



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