Year of Release:1949
This batshit crazy Japanese manga-esque RPG explore-and-destroyer has been a game that’s broken through into the mainstream of gaming, selling millions of units worldwide and spawning an -ahem – active fan subculture around its characters and stories. We’ll return to that later. A sequel to the 2010 game Nier, N:A is set in a post-apocalyptic earth in which humans have retreated to space stations in orbit and the earth is ruled by clanky robots. Humanity sends super-smooth androids to earth to support the scattered resistance fighters left behind, and this is where the story starts. And how different the gameplay is from modern games. There’s no autosaves. The game starts with a near-half-hour section of sideways scrolling 90s retro arcade action. Die during that and it is back to the start. Rock-hard boss battles, wave after wave of enemies, sudden shifts of camera position: one day son, all games were like this.
You play 2B, a severe female droid at the start of the game who goes through the entire game with a blindfold on, dressed as a sexy teenage dominatrix. Your sidekick is a somewhat wimpy boydroid called 9S. Combat is mainly super-sophisticated hack and slash, but you can fire lasers from a floating pod that mercifully does not try to talk to you (looking at you Destiny). Combat and movement are quickly learned and become instinctive. The scenario is beautifully quirky, taking you around a Ballard-esque ruined city, a desert, and a forest outside. What lends this game its unique atmosphere is your opponents. The robots are so likeable and sympathetic that destroying them feels bad. There’s a pacifist robot, an existentialist robot, and a fully-fledged robot religion.
It’s a world away from the AAA predictability and easy morals of Battlefield, Destiny or COD. How you feel about the characters and the story will shift from moment to moment, and by no means is 2B the hero you always wanted to be. One particularly hard scene sees you massacre robot midwives in a mechanoid nursery.
Final boss done, credits roll. That’s it yes? No, you’ve barely scratched the surface. There are 26 different endings, varying from jokes to revelations that will change your understanding of everything you’ve gone through before. You play the game again as the boydroid 9S, and minor characters from the first playthrough become central on rewinds. A game that at first feels over all-too-quickly over has epic depths.
Now to that subculture. It’s not exactly news that Japanese visual culture can be a bit wierd. And so it is here. Google 2B Nier and look at the images: it’s a riot of the downright pervy and creepy, including lots of cosplay. Again, not the first game to do this. I would urge you to not let this overshadow the bittersweet brilliance of a game that provides lots to admire and enjoy and is an antidote to the bland predictability of the big franchises.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Daughter played all the endings after the first one. And had to help me out with the difficult bosses.
Might suit people who like:
Some real flavour in their gaming. Manga.
Time Thief Rating:Three months In and still going strong