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Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... has the best narrative I've ever experienced in a video game. That may come across as a bold claim, but I can assure you I write these words in a calm, considered state. A remake of 2010's Japan-only Nier Replicant, Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... may not be an entirely new experience, but that doesn't make its impact any less amazing. This is a game that intrigues, excites and emotionally overwhelms you, before delivering revelations that are as well executed as they are heartbreaking.
As I mentioned in my preview, the intricate number in the game's title, while cool to look at, is a nuisance to repeat. It's also a random figure according to game creator Yoko Taro, so we'll go ahead and shorten the title to Nier Replicant for the rest of this review. It does signify one thing, though, and that is how this game is neither a remaster or remake, but an upgraded version of the original. So, how well does this upgrade hold up?
Very well. In fact, it feels like a brand new game in many ways. There are times where the lack of a constant fast-travel mechanic feels like a missed opportunity, especially when compared to Nier: Automata (this game's sequel, and one of GAMINGbible's greatest games of all time). However, the in-game world is populated with plenty of enemies to fight, items to gather and side quests to do, so what can be seen as backtracking can just as much feel like renewed exploration.
The combat in Nier Replicant is as satisfying as in any modern action RPG. Not to overly compare it to its sequel, but the fluid hack-and-slash ballet of Nier: Automata feels alive and well in this upgraded prequel. You can wield a choice of swords - both one and two-handed - and spears, and with 33 weapons available in-game, you're going to want to experiment before deciding on a favourite. Each weapon can also be upgraded for more damage output. Then you have your companion, Grimoire Weiss, a magical book that floats by your side, serving as a support weapon. Weiss offers a variety of abilities from ranged missiles to a shield, with you controlling these moves as an extension of your protagonist.
Speaking of characters, this is where Nier Replicant begins to make itself unique. You name your main character (canonically called Nier), and you can pick and choose how they deal with many situations throughout the game, but this role has fixed relationships with the supporting cast. There's younger sister Yonah, who is living with an illness that means she stays home often. This ailment, known as the Black Scrawl, drives our protagonist on a grand adventure to find a cure. As you journey forth, you'll meet Kainé, a woman with a penchant for swear words and violence. There's Emil, a young boy whose eyes can turn what they gaze on to stone. Kainé, Emil and Weiss form your core party for much of the game, and the more you play, the more backstory is uncovered for them.
Backstory is a huge part of the narrative brilliance of Nier Replicant. I won't spoil anything because I want you to play this game more than anything else in the world, but I will say that there are layers within this tale that will amaze and confound you. However, I must warn you that if you get properly invested then you're in for some serious pain and anguish, emotionally speaking. There were moments that hit me harder than any piece of media has managed. One scene in particular made me cry, and I mean one of those desperate, traumatic, gasping-for-air cries. If you can handle that then don't miss out because this is a narrative that has to be played to be fully appreciated, and that includes every available ending the game has to offer (yes, there are multiple).
In addition to its seminal story, Nier Replicant deserves praise for the way it expertly plays with other genres. It transcends the conventional boundaries of action, adventure and role-playing games by incorporating text-based adventure segments, isometric dungeon-crawling, and even throws in an excellently worked Resident Evil-inspired sequence. There's something for everyone here and it's all genius, especially the level of writing. Each different genre includes the downsides you would associate with them, including a lot of optional fetch quests, but this is never really an issue thanks to the sublime pace the game moves at.
On the topic of sublime, I have to make special mention of the music. Composed by Keiichi Okabe, each track serenades you, perfectly creating and adding to the different atmospheres throughout Nier Replicant, from enemy-infested ruins to serene seaside vistas. One particularly outstanding piece is 'Song of the Ancients', with lyrics written and performed by Emi Evans, who blended multiple languages to create a staggering, mysterious song that I could listen to for hours. Genuinely, the whole soundtrack is one of the finest a video game has ever had.
In truth, I'll never be able to explain the sheer level of brilliance within Nier Replicant, partly because of spoilers. What we have here is a story that will last the ages, contained within a game full of remarkable characters, beautiful-yet-haunting environments, satisfying gameplay and music that will be forever recorded in your heart. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... is perfect.
Pros: Transcends genre, timeless narrative, incredible OST
Cons: Fast travel could be better, a lot of fetch quests (optional)
For fans of: Nier: Automata, Shadow of the Colossus, The Legend of Zelda series
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using code provided by Square Enix. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139... releases April 23 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Read a guide to our review scores here.
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