Top critical review
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I was genuinely shocked by how much I liked Nier
on 13 June 2010
This is one of those games that is so easy to dismiss as more Square-Enix RPG lite shovelware of the kind they have become so adept at producing, and in a lot of ways that is precisely what it is. However, if you take the time to really scratch the surface with this one, you'll find that it actually hides a pretty enjoyable action title underneath it's flawed exterior.
Basically, you play the usual "Nameless" protagonist who is struggling to look after his sick daughter in a post apocalyptic fantasy world overrun by misshapen monsters called 'Shades' who terrorise the dwindling human population. The game sees you working as a 'handyman' for the villagers who have taken you in for most of the opening hours of gameplay as a seemingly fairly typical JRPG plot brews in the background, taking in all the usual cliches with some interestingly fresh takes on usual Japanese character types(eg. The token 'pretty magic user girl' of the game is a foul mouthed, violent psychopath who literally spends the entire game in her underwear) and as it goes on, the plot actual has some surprisingly unexpected twists that I honestly would never have seen coming. It's a good story overall, but does take time to get going.
The gameplay is pretty much identical to Square-Enix's big name Kingdom Hearts titles, with a fast, action based game structure capped with enormous bosses and sadly fairly linear and unimaginative dungeons working very well for the most part. The infrequent mini-games are pretty poor though, and it does get quite repetitive after a while, but honestly? There's nothing I'd outright call bad here, but your mileage may vary.
The game's biggest weakness though is definitely it's technical aspects. The visuals here are terrible. Honestly looking like something from the PS2 era, with bland, blocky texture work, below average character models and a distinct lack of variety in it's locations make this a pretty ugly game to look at if you've gotten used to some of the prettier RPGs of this generation, but if nothing else, the game does perform very smoothly for the most part, which is something of a plus I suppose.
Soundwise, the game has superb voice acting. With the main cast all being highly entertainingly done, with the deadpan Weiss and swearing heavy Kaine proving particularly noteworthy performances... However, where this game TRULY excels is in it's absolutely beautiful soundtrack. Seriously, this game has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard in game, with hauntingly emotive, outright gorgeous at times, themes playing throughout and often elevating seemingly pedestrian scenes of emotion to truly gut wrenching levels. Whoever put together this game's soundtrack SERIOUSLY overdelivered on their work here. The game sounds incredible.
So there you go, a visually lacking, ultra violent, decent playing action RPG title with one of the best soundtracks you will ever hear is pretty much this game in a nutshell. If you've seen videos that have put you off the game, I urge you to go against your instincts and give it a go if you can, as you might just find you like this game a lot more than you ever believed possible.
A 3, yes, but a hard one.