Nier: Automata was a game nobody expected. It follows on one of the endings of Nier, known as Nier Gestalt in Japan, which received lukewarm reviews here out west.
Before I get into Automata, I’ll talk about my experience with OG Nier.
From my years playing games like Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VIII-XII, I had the impression that Square Enix was a developer I could trust to deliver those experiences I enjoyed - gripping stories, beautiful music, relatable characters. So when I walked into the local game store and picked up a pre-played copy of Nier, I was a little alarmed at the clerk’s reaction.
“Are you sure you want this game?” he asked.
“Why not?” was my response, and he told me that the game was really, really bad. He even went so far as to say that I’d be returning it the next day.
I decided to take it anyway, it was roughly $5 or something . It couldn’t be that bad, I reasoned. Square Enix doesn’t publish bad games!
I found out that Square Enix does, however, publish weird games. I had never played any of the Drakengard games, and was unfamiliar with this dude known as Yoko Taro.
My feelings regarding Nier - It’s a depressing game. It’s got a somewhat sombre atmosphere. Trekking across the map was a real slog at times. The combat was cool, but I found the camera controls dated and frustrating. The graphics weren’t that great. However, what compelled me to play the game was the interesting setting, the beautiful soundtrack, as well as the weirdness of it all. The voice acting was fantastic, from what I remember, and some parts of the game were quite fun!
I did not finish the game. It had potential, but was frustrating in many ways.
When I heard about Automata, I was intrigued - Nier was getting a sequel? But, why? When I learned of Platinum’s involvement, I grew even more interested, having played a few of their games. One that came to mind was Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a game I enjoyed particularly for the combat.
Having finally played Automata, I have a few things to say about it.
The combat is absolutely fantastic- as one would expect from Platinum. It’s an absolute pleasure to move around and fight the machines, the controls are responsive and the camera just works so well.
The story and characters are weird, as one would expect from the mind of Yoko Taro. This is a good thing, especially combined with the fluid and satisfying combat and movement. It becomes that much more immersive when things like janky camera controls aren’t getting in the way. It definitely feels like a Nier game
And then, there’s the Shmup segments. These are fun! On several occasions throughout the game, I was treated to the good old-fashioned top down bullet hell-style of gameplay which works well in context. Your android protags suit up in these mech/fighter jet type “Flight Units”, which not only look badass, they immediately reminded me of an old Macross game I played as a kid.
I love Shmups, but to be very honest, I have not indulged in one in.. a long time!
Thank you, Nier: Automata, for reminding me how much I enjoy this kind of game.