NieR: Orchestra Concert 12024 [the end of data] is an experience like no other
One thing I appreciate that Square Enix has continued to support, is commemorating their games and their music through concerts. So when we were offered the chance to attend the company's latest iteration of the concept in NieR: Orchestra Concert 12024 [the end of data] I was excited to see exactly what they had in store for us. Distant Worlds continues to be an incredible celebration of Final Fantasy's history, much in the same way that Eorzean Symphony does for Final Fantasy XIV. Both of those are great orchestras, and well worth attending as a fan of those games; but, man, is [the end of data] an entirely different experience, and something that any fan of Yoko Taro's world should make the effort to see.
Unlike Square Enix's other orchestras, [the end of data] is something more than just a traditional concert. The much-touted "new scenario" penned by Yoko Taro for the orchestra is a brand-new, full blown epilogue for Ending E from Nier: Automata, following 2B and 9S after awaking from the events of the game. The entire show is framed around this narrative, too. Beyond introducing the orchestra and Keiichi Okabe, not a single word was spoken outside of either the music, or the pre-recorded narration from Kira Buckland and Kyle McCarley.
In other words; the concert was a collection of music from NieR: Replicant and Automata, but the music itself was merely narration for the Visual Novel style story being told through the text overlayed over visuals. It wouldn't be hard to imagine such a sequence being present in an actual NieR game, considering the VN segments in both. Despite not being a game, it's striking just how successful [the end of data] was at recreating the feelings of those much-beloved sections from the games.
Obviously, it goes without saying that these sorts of productions are inherently meant for fans of a franchise - as any concert would be. Yet, there's something utterly unique - utterly NieR - with the show that Yoko Taro and Eric Roth have devised. Much how NieR as a franchise has always aimed to be subversive in the medium of videogames, so too is its most recent concert in the medium of music.
This all wouldn't have landed nearly as well if the performances were subpar, of course; but the orchestra, the choir and both Emi Evans and J'nique Nicole were all on their A-game. The arrangements of fan-favorite tracks from the series, as intended, were the glue that held the experience together; making this self-described "multimedia production" what its collaborators clearly envisioned that it could be.
In many ways, music is the soul of an RPG; and never has that felt more true than seeing the interactive art that was NieR: Orchestra Concert 12024 [the end of data]. Without going into spoilers, the narrative that was weaved - more directly tying together the events of both NieR entries - would've never landed without the music of the orchestra backing up those pivotal moments. The sounds reminding us of the events that have solidified our love for the series, and offering a direct throughline to show how integrally linked these two adventures truly were.
All of this is wrapped together in a story which truly pushes the franchise forward, and answers the question of what happened to the two androids following the events of NieR: Automata in a respectful manner, while hinting at a potential follow-up in the future. Yoko Taro himself even took the stage at the end of the show, with a fake-out of an announcement; with the implication that while we might not see a NieR 3 quite yet, it's certainly in the back of his mind, and 9S and 2B would very likely return whenever one eventually happens.
At the end of the night, I felt fulfilled by what I had experienced even more than when I stepped out of my first Distant Worlds; even more than a celebration of NieR's history through its music, [the end of data] engages with the series on its own level, and ended up a far better experience for it - elevating it from "merely" a commendable video game concert, to a notable chapter in the NieR universe in its own right.
I'm immensely grateful for the opportunity that I had to experience this chapter for myself, and as a longtime fan of the series it's simply incredible to see firsthand just how far the series has come. It's the type of show that makes you realize the power of both video games and music alike, and really recontextualizes the sort of relationship that both of these mediums can have. I can't recommend it enough.