Nier Xbox 360 Review

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Publisher: Square Enix  Developer: Cavia  Genre: Action, RPG  Players: 1  Age Rating: 15+

Other console/handheld formats: PS3

In Japan there are two versions of Nier. Both are the same game, with the only difference being an aesthetically different lead character. The PS3 version has a traditional Japanese and weedy looking, teenage hero, whilst the 360 gets a muscle bound, old and grizzled protagonist. It’s the latter one that we westerners get for both consoles, as most of us prefer taking charge of big, hard looking guys apparently.

Nier takes place 1300 years in the future, though from a technological sense, it’s not quite all the lasers, flying cars and cyborgs that you would expect it to be. Due to the black scrawl plague, technology has actually regressed considerably, resulting in the world once again becoming relatively primitive. The titular beefy Nier is taking on all manner of tasks from his fellow villagers in order to make ends meet and give his black scrawl stricken daughter, Yonah, the best life he possibly can offer in this harsh world.

Early on, you’ll face killer sheep.

It’s obviously a very dark story, but once Grimoire Weiss, a talking, floating book joins you, the mood brightens considerably and the banter between him, Nier and the rest of the oddball party is consistently entertaining throughout. From a narrative standpoint, Nier feels mature in all the right ways, too, and the near nakedness and profanity of heroine Kaine are even given some sort of context.

Nier has the benefit of a strong localization, of which has done wonders for the game, allowing the sense of humour to really shine through, whilst also enhancing the games’ many poignant moments with great writing and excellent voice acting. Special mention must go to the rare, Lost Odyssey inspired storybook sequences, which are similarly well written and as emotive as Mistwalker’s game, and just as good as anything you could read in a book.

Combat takes place in real time; it’s all hacking and slashing, so obviously, in terms of cerebral strategy, it’s hardly going to match Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy XIII, but makes up for it with sheer enjoyment. Nier’s attacks have a real sense of weight behind them and the almost comical spilling of blood really compounds this, as well as, at the same time, making it more satisfying to play. Additional attack options come with a handful of magical spells that you’ll learn during the course of the game. Some of these are a bit over powered and a further problem is the fact that you can never shortcut more than two at a time.

The boss encounters in Nier are often a highlight; they’re at times epic and require you to make liberal use of magical spells that you may largely have ignored, and have the advantage of requiring a little more in the way of strategy than the regular enemies.

In regards to character growth, you’ll earn exp with every felled enemy, eventually levelling you up in the traditional fashion. On top of this, you’re also able to upgrade your weapons, with loot, though you’ll often have to have to go out of your way to find the materials to do so. There are also words that you can equip, of which grant various bonuses to Nier, for example allowing you to gain 20% additional exp with each defeated enemy or allowing your attacks to hit 15% harder.

The world of Nier is relatively small; there are only a handful of towns, though each one is fairly well designed. Dungeons are few in number too, but most are sizeable and have some light puzzle solving that, if nothing else, gives you something else to do other than whacking enemies. All these towns and dungeons, though, are interconnected by relatively small areas, which makes the world considerably larger than it otherwise would have been if you had simply travelled from place to place via a menu.


You don’t know Jack!

Scattered around this world are a wealth of optional quests, of which unfortunately don’t offer the wealth of variety that their volume may suggest. Most are fetch quests and even the most tolerant of people will eventually tire of going backwards and forwards through the small world – taking items to people and being rewarded with needless money again and again, even the entertaining exchanges of dialogue between the party does little to liven these bland, tedious quests up.

This problem is further exacerbated with the length of the main adventure – being only ten or so hours, it’s less than half the length of your average RPG. Obviously the side-quests were implemented to give the illusion of a more substantial game than this and indeed if you have the stomach for them all, Nier is comparable in size to other games in the genre.

There are also multiple endings to go after and repeat plays will reveal further portions of the story, making certain points clearer. It’s worth additional play throughs to see the story in its entirety, but there’s no getting away from the fact that to see it all, you’ll have to replay large chunks of the game, and many simply won’t have the desire to do so. It would have been preferable to see this additional narrative within a larger game that didn’t have to rely on dull side quests to pad things out.

Visually, Nier does little to strain the innards of the 360 and PS3. The textures are low in quality and the character models, whilst solid enough, are not much better than something you’d find in a PS2 game. From a technical standpoint, it’s the appealing Ico esque art style that is the saviour and, just as long as you aren’t seeking monstrously high polygon counts, advanced lighting effects and all the other potential technical capabilities of today’s consoles, you might even find yourself impressed.

There is plenty to like in Nier: the narrative is a compelling driving point, the small cast of characters are memorable and the combat is reasonably enjoyable, so at least the ten hours that the story lasts is largely time well spent. Even with its various issues, Nier is on the verge of being something special and, as a result, it’s certainly worthy of attention.