by Todd Keffer II
On June 16, 2015, Japanese video game director Taro Yoko appeared at the Square Enix E3 press conference wearing a mask resembling one of his characters. He then announced his next game, Nier: Automata. An indirect sequel to the cult classic Nier, the announcement excited fans and shocked everyone else. It had been five years since the first game and it was announced critically-acclaimed developers Platinum Games (Bayonetta 1& 2, Vanquish, The Wonderful 101) would be taking charge of the combat. On March 7th, 2017, Neir: Automata was released to North American audiences. From word-of-mouth, Nier: Automata slowly became a must-play for everyone interested in story-heavy video games.
The story of Nier: Automata follows two androids, 2B and 9S, on their quest to eradicate the rogue robots and aliens threatening Earth, so the last of the human race can leave the moon and live on Earth again. From the destroyed city overtaken by wildlife, to the forgotten castle with a baby king, to the amusement park ran by the robots, 2B and 9S revisit an Earth once made by humans and now being replicated by robots. What follows is a series of events turning the world around them upside down until the truth becomes clear.
The game requires you to play through it twice in order to reach the true final conclusion. You first take control of 2B, a female android, and go along with the narrative as presented. The second play through is done as 9S, a male android with the ability to hack into robots and computers. You play through all the same events, but thanks to his hacking abilities, 9s opens the game world, revealing its true characteristics and lore. Nier: Automata has much to offer a gamer, from the story pacing, moments of discovery, vagueness of dialogue and memorable cast of characters. Each element helps to shape a world with a bleak future, one that encourages the player to dig deeply to ponder over the themes presented.
The music will grab you, as you make your way through this game. The soundtrack is distinctive, and you’ll want to listen for the dynamic transformation of the soundtrack to 8-bit melodies whenever 9S hacks into anything. You’ll also notice how subtle transitions between the different music pieces represents each of the areas in the world. The game does an amazing job holding the player’s attention for the almost 50-hour journey and doesn’t let go ’til the absolute end.
Nier may not be Platinum’s tightest game, when compared to its previous works. Graphics-wise, it isn’t as impressive as others like Horizon: Zero Dawn. Unlike Uncharted, GTA, and Halo, which try to mimic Hollywood’s brand of storytelling, Nier: Automata accepts the fact that it’s a video game and works well within that framework to tell its tale. Some series, such as The Witcher, Persona, and Zero Escape, invoke a feeling of thick, hardcover novels with their dialogue-heavy narrative. Unlike cinema or literature, Tora Yoko’s game experience can’t be replicated fully by other media. Other games may tell the general story beats, but things like personal choice and sacrifice, the freedom to research further into the world, and the sense of control in an immersive game world makes Neir: Automata very unique in this day and age.