The following is Part 4 of my journey through Nier: Automata, marking the start of my second playthrough. I’ll be tackling through the end of the carnival area as 9s. Part 1 is here, 2 is here, and 3 is here. Read and play along. Agree or disagree? Have a different perspective? Let me know in the comments!
I “finished” Nier: Automata over the weekend, essentially uncovering a fifth of the story. I met Anemone, Pascal, Adam and Eve. I went from wiping out as many machines as I could to befriending and sympathizing with them. I witnessed their efforts toward civilization, toward love. The messiness of sifting through the difficulties of a true relationship with another person. The heights and depths of religion and philosophy, what they can drive one too. I fought some big machines and what appeared to be some even bigger egos.
If Nier had stopped after my initial playthrough, I’d said it was worth it. Worth it, but still flawed. Shooting for the stars, but not quite able to reach its target. Then I started my second playthrough. Whereas my initial playthrough tasked me as 2b, my second tasks me as her partner, 9s. I am playing the same scenes, only from his perspective. The curious thing about this is the way in which you play as 9s.
2b is a fighter, and my primary way of vanquishing my enemies was through combat, as fast as it was vicious. 9s has a sword, but he’s an intel gatherer. This presents itself in his unique offensive technique: hacking. Hacking is displayed as a twin stick shooter minigame, not dissimilar to a game of Asteroids. Hacking is shown as blowing up all the black objects. Some enemies require one round, others require several. It presents a unique, simplistic, yet ever evolving mechanic that breathes new life into the world you interact with.
This is perhaps best seen in the boss found deep within the carnival, Simone.
Not too long into Nier Automata, you are tasked with fighting Simone. A machine of beauty and grace, she takes the role of a singer, and wants nothing but to kill androids. As 2b, I fought her, killed her, was thanked, and moved on.
As 9s, the story is a little different. I fight her yes, but my method is hacking, not hand to hand combat. What I didn’t know is that hacking also allows me to see into the memories of my subjects.
I learn of Simone’s past.
Simone is a woman who desires the affection and attention of a man. She observes what the object of her affection finds attraction in and concludes it is fine clothes, adornment. She sets her sights on the flashiest attire, attaines it and still does not attract the man.
“Perhaps, I don’t look attractive enough,” she thinks. Setting her path on greater and greater beauty, she uses her fellow machines to adorn her self. She breaks them and reshapes them into decoration for herself. She uses any means necessary to draw the attention of her beloved.
“Androids can be used,” she thought. She lures them in, battling and battling. She dresses herself in their most luxurious parts, “An earring or a necklace will surely attract my beloved.”
She thought changing her appearance and deciphering what would attract her beloved would bring her the love and affection she so wanted. In the process of chasing a man, only desiring him and his love above all, she changed not only her appearance but her very soul.
She is lonely, she is destroyed, she is stuck in a never ending cycle of destruction. She gave up her beauty, the beauty she possessed naturally, for the image someone else beautified.
And in the end, nothing.
This playthrough gave me something my first playthrough did not: compassion for Simone, understanding for her current position.
I am astonished at the compassion I have for my enemies. Enemy I am trained to hate and vanquish without mercy. The beauty of Nier is the beauty of perspective. It teaches through the simple notion of perspective that there are two sides to every coin. Our side is the easier of the two. Its forever present; its our experience after all. But their side is the more difficult. It’s out of reach, its runs through our grasp like smoke. Nier shows the beauty of seeing the other side, of gaining compassion through understanding.