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Please Rate This Review: Nier Third Opinion
Music To My Niers
By Stephen Maxwell
HIGH The big action sequence halfway through the game.
LOW The side quests are boring and distracting, even for completionists.
WTF What did Emil do to deserve any of this?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Nier is the best game that graced my console in 2010. While it certainly had its good points (like the way its gameplay jumped from one genre to the next) and bad points (like its less than stellar graphics and tedious fetch quests), there are a few elements of this crazy experiment that are absolutely knocked out of the park, with a level of success many games never come close to achieving. You’ve presumably read what Nier is about, but I want to tell you why it works so well.
(But first, right now, go to You Tube and search for “nier music” and play anything that comes up, because it’s all fantastic.)
The musical score for Nier is the dominant force behind everything. In many of the reviews I have read, the soundtrack is given minimal attention, which is baffling since it’s so integral to the success of the whole. Nier’s music works in an operatic fashion, successfully determining which emotions you will feel and when. Strong musical themes are returned to again and again, carrying the emotional weight that snowballs with each subsequent play, and the lyrics are sung in the style of a newly created language (which is an excellent literal interpretation of this game’s world, one in which modern society has died off and civilization has effectively started over from scratch).
The score is even dynamic, and used as a device to draw you in and participate with the world you inhabit. Without spoiling by way of specifics, in one example a song is used as a representation of beauty and trust, but later that same song elicits feelings of resentment and desperation, and it completely transitions without the piece itself changing in any notable way. In another encounter, what has been built up into a powerfully familiar theme is stripped away layer by layer to represent success over your opposition. It is a wonderfully aggressive way of using the score to communicate what is happening on screen in a very specific way, while strengthening the emotional punch.
Honestly, and this is just my humble opinion, Nier has the most powerfully moving video game score since Final Fantasy VI, and I do not make that claim lightly. Music can be used in an exhaustive amount of ways, but in this game the music tells the tale as much as any character, any piece of text or any plot development, and it's the blood that courses through Nier’s veins.
The best description for Nier's characters I have read came from Game Critics own Trent Fingland, when he wrote as his “High” in his review, "Seeing a group of friends actually behaving like an honest-to-goodness group of friends for maybe the first time ever in a video game." I don't think I'll ever be able to express it better, and I don’t believe his statement to be an over exaggeration in the slightest; these characters are all believable, fallible, complicated characters, and by the end, I believe anyone would happily grab at the opportunity to be friends with every single one of them.
Much of this success can be attributed to their voice actors. They are all convincing, diverse and surprisingly funny. Much like the film Evil Dead 2 and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, the game’s ability to walk the line between genuinely funny and intensely dramatic is executed masterfully. At times, the exchanges between the main character Nier and his floating book Grimoire Weiss will have you giggling quite a bit; other times, listening to Emil’s selflessness and compassion will break your heart in two (and then stomp it to death and walk it dry repeatedly).
And this game’s tale can be quite the buzzkill (in a good way). While victim to unanswered questions and some plot-related vagueness, the story here is also strikingly fresh, and built around personal journeys that each carry their own significant weight, while simultaneously existing to strengthen the greater narrative. If you suspend your beliefs and don’t pick too hard at the details, the plot is damn interesting, with some awesome twists, and is an excuse for a very odd game world.
Much of the talk of Nier has been focused on its graphics, and while rightfully so, it’s missing the forest for the trees. Better graphics could have worked wonders for this game, but the ideas at work still speak volumes. The developers don’t include obvious “end of the world” type objects, like broken Coca-Cola machines, televisions and automobiles, but rather use simple yet effective evidence detailing the end of modern civilization and the rebirth of rural countryside, like the remains of contemporary bridges seen in the distance, jutting out and towering over the ocean, or the lone library in a medieval town that houses numerous old books, a scarce relic of what once was. Arguably, this simplicity may have been born out of a tight budget, but it works, and it also makes everything from the past feel haunting and sparse.
What’s most impressive though, is the way the game tells the same story from a much different perspective during the New Game +. Much in the way films like Fight Club or The Sixth Sense are wildly different the second time around, Nier shifts one central belief about the world and its inhabitants that will have you reevaluating every inch of its story thereafter. Never has there been a better reason to replay a game of this nature, and it even acknowledges the chore of doing so by starting you up more than halfway through the game.
I can’t stress enough that when you are immersed in this game, there comes a point in which all of the stars align and its flaws become negligible. Everything is woven together with skill, the greatest part being that you don’t have to slog through an awful game to experience it. To dismiss it because of its arduous side quests, or its annoying fishing mechanic (which are all largely optional) would be a horrible shame, because the gameplay here is good, and the diamonds in the rough are impeccable. Nier is a game you should experience first, and play second. It’s cliché but also literally true when I say, “I laughed, I cried.” You will too.
10 out of 10
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 50 hours of play were devoted to single-player modes, and the game was completed 4 times.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, partial nudity, strong language, suggestive themes, and violence. In other words, do not buy for little Timmy. The female lead displays her butt for the entire game while cursing her face off and killing everything. Enough said.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You can read subtitles for all spoken dialogue, but unfortunately you will miss out on the music and voice acting, which are half the experience.