Nier: Automata arrived on the scene in 2017 and became an instant cult classic. Square Enix have as a result, seen fit to put some spit ‘n’ polish on the original Japanese version of Nier: Replicant, released in Japan in 2010. Neir: Replicant ver.1.22474487139 … is a “Version Upgrade” bringing Replicant up to 60fps, adding a full voice cast and importantly modernised combat, akin to the brilliant Automata.
As commendable as this is, the fact Square have called this a “Version Upgrade” as opposed to a remake or remaster, perhaps hints to the trajectory of this spit-shine. Replicant certainly benefits from an upgrade to 60fps, some new content and the addition of a full voice cast. But the underlying 2010 design choices still remain, and at times scream that Nier: Replicant is still a 10+ year old game under the hood.
The long and winding road
Replicant tells a story of a brother seeking a cure for his sister, who is afflicted with a mysterious illness. Their post-apocalyptic world is over-run by ‘shades’, which are essentially demons. The overarching tale boils down to a battle between good and evil magic. There are some interesting characters, in particular Weiss the animate, floating Grimoire, who is beautifully voiced. Generally though, they world is full of inane conversations and quest givers to plough through. The much touted, major story beats that drop 30hrs in, have alluded me so far. To be honest, I can’t see myself struggling through another few long sessions to even get there. So perhaps, still consider this a review in progress. I leave that to you, dear reader.
I loved Nier: Automata instantly, I cannot say the same about Replicant. In the first hour or so of playing, I had to endure 25+ loading screens; as I entered buildings, had cut scenes and changed map areas. Even with the silky 60fps and almost Platinum-esque combat, the flat graphical textures, stilted dialogue, back-tracking and quest design quickly ripped me away from the fun. Seriously, in 2021, I can only “go and collect 3 herbs” so many times before rolling my eyes. I had to remind myself that 10 years ago, “busy work” was just a part of all RPGS.
All the cogs and wheels of the Nier universe
Looking past all that though to the important dungeons and boss fights, Replicant finds its stride. The variable mechanics, bullet-hell scenarios and changeable perspectives, were ahead of its time in 2010 and are fun today. Not to mention the staple of the Nier universe games; multiple game endings are available. (which I admit, I never actually made it too) So, to be clear, it’s not all bad. The original vision of Replicant was unusual and blurred the lines of what a traditional Action-RPG can be, both in story and gameplay mechanics.
The issue is…. PlatinumGames 2017 Automata, did it better in every way. Neir: Replicant ver.1.22474487139 …is a love letter to true fans of the series and to those who love quirky Japanese action RPGs. However lacks the overall “upgrade” a 10 year old game needs, especially considering its high price-point. Frankly, it’s far from impressive when placed against the design and graphical prowess of current day open world RPGs. These gripes aside, for those core gamers who are already invested in the Nier Universe, it’s still a must play.