|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cavia Inc.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
January 12, 2010 - Square Enix has been branching out significantly over the past two years. The Japanese developer/publisher has pinpointed the Western market as its target to fuel company growth in the future. Of course, Western tastes are distinct from the Japanese market the company is used to serving. While everyone digs a bit of Final Fantasy Tactics, there are a lot of hits in Japan that simply don't translate into commercial success in the rest of the world. The remedy: make use of experienced third-party developers (through acquisition or one-off contracts) to bring games that are better suited to gamers outside East Asia.
Nier has had an interesting development journey. Development studio Cavia, responsible for work on a number of Naruto and Dragon Ball Z titles, the recent Resident Evil rail shooters for Wii, KORG DS-10, SEGA Bass Fishing, Bullet Witch, Drakengard 1 & 2, and many more has been tapped by Square Enix to do just that for Nier - an edgy, post-apocalyptic adventure for PS3 and Xbox 360. Though none of their titles have found massive commercial success in the West, they've made lots of quality games in disparate genres on practically every relevant gaming platform for worldwide consumption. This wealth of experience is being coalesced into Nier.
Interestingly, Nier is a real chameleon of a title. Initially, Nier Replicant was announced by Square Enix as a PS3 exclusive. This game will feature the titular hero, Nier, as a youngster. However, young heroes typically don't play as well with Western audiences. As such, Square Enix decided to take the framework for that title and have Cavia make a more mature Nier in a darker setting for Western consumption. Consequently, Nier Replicant will not find its way outside of Japan. Only Nier (or Nier Gestalt as the game's known outside of North America) will be available for worldwide release.
In this evolved version, players will take on the role of Nier, an unwavering hero (hence the 'Gestalt' add-on in the title for non-North American regions). Nier lives in a world that has fallen to the Black Scrawl virus. The once idyllic, lively cities have succumbed to shadowy evil and fallen into utter ruin. Nier's daughter has also been afflicted with the disease, which sets Nier on a quest to find a cure and exact revenge. Other tidbits we know at this time are that Nier will make his way through endless hordes of minions and under-bosses on his way to confront the Shadow Lord - a mysterious figure that uses magic and persuasion to secure his deadly ends. It has also been hinted that a blood-soaked destiny and a personified book will play important roles in the tale that's being told. Finally, a cryptic statement that "Nothing is as it seems" has piqued our interest, leaving us wondering how this will all come together. Few other details are known about the narrative being contrived by Cavia and Square Enix, but the two companies promise that storytelling will be every bit as intriguing as the fast-paced action gameplay.
One way they are doing this is through the implementation of integrated cinematics. Rather than stopping play for extended cutscenes, players will be treated to short segments of story interspersed throughout fights. This will help to keep pacing up, something that many core Western gamers demand. As far as gameplay is concerned, expect virtually unending waves of foes testing players' action-combo skills. Nier will have various weapons at his disposal. Most of these are edged weapons taken from the Japanese tradition, each with their own characteristics players will have to master. The use of magic abilities will also be available. From gameplay demos we've seen, these magical attacks are visually beautiful and extremely powerful. In order to get through the enemy-laden stages efficiently, players will need to chain together attacks for the best results. Taking into account Cavia's previous experience, we're sure the action gameplay that will be offered will be both accessible and intricate.
The visual style of the game is reminiscent of other popular action titles such as the Devil May Cry series, at least within stages. On a macro-level, environments are far more elegant, like something you'd expect from a Square Enix epic tale. Enemy designs seem varied, with an emphasis on smoke and shadowy figures. The hero Nier is an atypical protagonist for Square Enix, however. Whereas most Japanese heroes are ethereally beautiful, Nier is decidedly rough-looking - even ugly. His white hair and rippling muscles may seem anime-like from behind, but his lined face and wicked expressions suggest this is a hard hero that only knows suffering. This mature central character is definitely a departure from what we're used to from Square Enix, hinting at an edgier future for the publisher.
Nier will bring the world an action-adventure title unlike any other ever made by Square Enix. The dark, foreboding environments, the somber story, and the relentless, dire hero should make for an interesting ride. We're especially excited by the prospect of the action-packed, chained-attack gameplay that promises seriously fast-paced and skilled fun. Nier is essentially finished, but another five months of development should have this game honed to a razor's edge. Look for Nier to drop a little whoop-ass in May.
CCC Editor / News Director