NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139... Review
It has been bizarre watching the NieR series become a tentpole franchise within Square Enix over the last couple of years. Surpassing 5.5 million sales as of February, NieR: Automata has absolutely shattered sales expectations beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Witnessing Yoko Taro’s claim to fame exponentially increase has been a sight to behold. My purchase of the first Drakengard ages ago was simply by chance as a tremendous Dynasty Warriors 3 fan, and I’ve followed his career ever since then, for some reason.
The original release of NieR has a special place in my heart. It was not a looker, even in 2010, but it is one of the most memorable games I’ve ever experienced. I was so enamored with NieR Gestalt, the only version that received a western release at the time, that I went through the hassle of importing the other version, NieR Replicant. The situation surrounding two identical releases of the same game simultaneously, just with the alteration of whether the main character was a dad or older brother, fascinated me.
Whether it be the Replicant or Gestalt version, NieR was a true diamond in the rough. Its visuals were often marred by a muddy tone and harsh, overblown lighting due to extensive bloom. Combat was disappointingly basic, albeit serviceable, in a year when flashy action titles like Bayonetta, Darksiders, and God of War III made their debut prior to NieR’s launch. Another blight that plagued NieR was its consistently inconsistent technical performance; it struggled to maintain 30fps and would occasionally dip into far lower frame-rates during busy scenes. Despite its flaws, I still cherish the original NieR as one of the ugliest games I love.
Let’s be honest. A lot of modern NieR fans were introduced to the series thanks to the excellent NieR: Automata, and it’s admittedly difficult to go back and play its predecessor these days for many, either due to a lack of hardware accessibility and/or the game’s dated presentation.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is a fantastic second chance to showcase this special game once more to series fans, new and old.
I think Replicant ver.1.22 strikes a fine balance between remaking the rougher aspects of the original release, while leaving most of the game’s content practically untouched. Frankly, I was hesitant at first to see if the developers at Toylogic would go too far in changing the core experience of NieR, but thankfully, the decisions behind what was changed, what was added, and what was left the same were carefully thought out and smartly implemented.
The first thing players will notice is the huge upgrade to its visuals from the get-go. Replicant ver.1.22 exhibits a much cleaner look from top to bottom; everything is simply prettier. The vastly overhauled lighting engine brings an astounding amount of visual clarity to Replicant ver.1.22 compared to the original. There is certainly an argument to be made in how the original NieR’s dirtiness and griminess added another layer to the game’s underlying themes, though, and that aspect is something that Replicant ver.1.22 leaves behind in favor of greater graphical fidelity.
From the Northern Plains, Facade, Seafront, the Lost Shrine, and even the Junk Heap, every single environment got a significant facelift in Replicant ver.1.22. Even though they’re gorgeous now, all of the stage layouts have been faithfully re-created and are astoundingly identical to how they were before, from crate locations, enemy placements, and sound effects. I cannot stress enough that much of Replicant ver.1.22 will feel very familiar to previous players and I am very glad that is the case.
Another big change present in Replicant ver.1.22 is, of course, that all the significant characters in NieR have new character models. The younger version of Nier himself, the player character, no longer has stiff spikes of death protruding from his head; instead, his hair flows more naturally and is gentler to gaze upon. Popola and Devola are somewhat closer to their Automata designs now, though they’re a bit livelier and perkier visually in Replicant ver.1.22. Emil, Yonah, and the rest are all prettified in their own way.
Kainé is the one redesign in Replicant ver.1.22 that took me the longest to get accustomed to, since I’m so used to her old model in the original NieR. She has a much more refined appearance in this new release that lines up closer to her concept art. I grew to like it over time, though there was definitely an adjustment period for me. Worry not, she still kicks ass.
One enhancement that caught me off-guard in Replicant ver.1.22 is how much of this game is now fully voice-acted. Almost every single piece of dialogue in the game is fully-voiced, including all the NPCs players that randomly chit-chat with as they stroll around. The only intentional omissions are a key character that primarily communicates with players via sign language and the text adventure segments players come across.
The stellar voice cast from both the English and Japanese audio tracks make their return. Obviously, NieR Replicant never received a release in the west originally, so the older brother version of the protagonist is newly voiced in English, and he fits right in delightfully with the rest of the crew.
Many western fans only ever played NieR Gestalt and are fond of the old, gruff dad as the main character. Unfortunately, Replicant ver.1.22 does not allow players to use him for the main adventure - but, everyone’s favorite dad is indeed playable thanks to the original NieR’s 15 Nightmares DLC now included with Replicant ver.1.22. This DLC had always allowed players to play the “other” version of the titular character, so Gestalt could play as the older brother and Replicant could play as the dad. The caveat was that it wasn’t voiced… until now. Fans of Papa Nier may not be able to venture with him much, but he isn’t totally lost to time.
Replicant ver.1.22 is going to be a lot of players’ first time seeing how the story and character interactions unfold with Nier as an older brother. Of course, everyone will have their own preferred protagonist at the end of the day, and I’ve always thought that the brother version of the protagonist worked better overall. Dad makes for a powerful, heartfelt first impression as he looks after Yonah desperately in the first half of NieR Gestalt, but I still believe that brother Nier meshed with the game’s overall themes more gracefully. There isn’t a right answer, and both have their inherent strengths and weaknesses narratively.
The combat system in Replicant ver.1.22 is the single aspect that is most inspired by Automata, but it tweaks just enough that the feel of Replicant ver.1.22 doesn’t feel overwhelmingly consumed by the foundation that PlatinumGames established in its sequel. Toylogic worked with PlatinumGames’s Takahisa Taura to provide a surprisingly nice middle ground that preserves the weightiness of the original NieR’s weapon impacts with slicker, snappier movement animations. Much of the attack strings are now flashier and flow more fluidly, yet they manage to keep the satisfying weighty cadence of melee combat. Rest assured, NieR Replicant has not drastically transformed wholeheartedly into a PlatinumGames action game; the influences are sprinkled on with enough restraint.
Since the whole game runs at a consistent 60fps now, battles feel better than ever. A few minor systems were added to flesh out Replicant ver.1.22’s combat even further too, including the ability to deflect attacks with a carefully timed block that leaves enemies open to a powerful counterattack blow, as well as now being able to instantly switch weapons mid-combat. The magic arsenal by the trusty Grimoire Weiss remains intact and untouched. Players will still be able to bind Weiss’s magical spells on each trigger if they’re willing to sacrifice being able to defend or evade, just like in the original.
If players don’t want to concern themselves with combat at all, an auto-attack option menu opens up on the easiest difficulty. It lets players toggle some options on whether they want all aspects of combat to be done for them automatically, or simply have magic, recovery items, and defense mechanics be done for them instead as they concentrate their efforts elsewhere manually.
Another peculiar feature that caught my eye in Replicant ver.1.22 is the extensive control scheme options it provides. On top of the default control scheme and the option to set up a custom one, Replicant ver.1.22 also provides a total of six different controller configurations for one-handed players; three for left-handed only and three for right-handed only. This, along with the auto-battle feature, is a big win for accessibility features in this updated re-release.
As I mentioned earlier, this is almost a 1:1 recreation of the original NieR in terms of content. Weapon stories, all of the (sometimes tedious) sidequests, gardening, fishing, and the Words mechanic that adds stat-boosting prefixes to weapons and spells - they are all there, untouched. The handful of homages to other genres that play around with perspective shifts in several areas all remain unsullied. Every cutscene, and their transparent letterboxing, plays out exactly the same shot-for-shot.
As many Yoko Taro fans know, he has an affinity for multiple endings in his works. NieR delved into this concept in a unique fashion back then, as the second and third New Game+ playthroughs had players revisit the latter-half of the game with new scenes and dialogue that provided additional perspectives to the main narrative. It added vital context to the background of what players had witnessed before. These additional endings, and the ways to get them, are all still in Replicant ver.1.22; the only minor inclusion on this end is that this new re-release does a better job communicating to players on how to obtain them with a brief message at the end of each playthrough.
Once again though, almost a 1:1 recreation.
Those who fear that no new content has been added at all in Replicant ver.1.22 can cast their worries aside. A new, additional side-story has been seamlessly integrated into the main narrative without taking anything away from it. I was quite impressed with how elegantly it was slotted in. Much like NieR’s latter-half content, this is further examined in future playthroughs providing new scenes and context to what players are initially exposed to. This new story isn’t the only thing added to Replicant ver.1.22 though, but that’s for me to know and for you to find out.
Also, the entire soundtrack of NieR has been remastered and rearranged in Replicant ver.1.22. To a handful of players, NieR’s soundtrack ranks highly as one of the best video game soundtracks of all-time. It is an exceptional, masterful work of art that elevates the entire game to another level. In Replicant ver.1.22, the rearranged tracks opt for a more orchestral approach with live instruments, and this new release employs dynamic transitions into them naturally; it's breathtaking. I would say it is fairly comparable, by and large, to the original NieR’s soundtrack. It still stirred me with its serene, haunting nature that no other game can quite match. There are a handful of brand-new tracks that are simply brilliant as well.
I prefer the original NieR’s score though, because I’ve personally been listening to it for years now, but Replicant ver.1.22’s rearranged tracks are still very amazing overall. I am a bit bummed that Replicant ver.1.22 doesn’t give players the option to switch back to the original soundtrack. It fooled me into thinking it would, though. After completing the game once, the ‘Change Music’ feature is added to the options menu. I was excited for a hot second thinking it would let me use the original NieR’s tunes only to find out that… it was to switch it to NieR: Automata tracks only. Devastating, I know.
Last but not least, I played the entirety of Replicant ver.1.22 on PC. It doesn’t seem to exhibit the same problems that Automata suffered from what I can tell. Cutscenes ran smoothly, though there are a few cinematic movies that don’t run on the in-game engine, so they obviously do not run at 60fps. My only issue is that some of the environmental assets, like rolling through an abundance of grass, can cause the image quality to get noisy or grainy at times. I’m not entirely sure if that is an inherent part of the game through its anti-aliasing solution or a problem on my end; it isn’t that big of a deal for me, all things considered. There weren’t any noticeable stutters either. Of course, everyone’s mileage may vary on this front.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is one of the most carefully constructed re-releases in recent memory. I was delighted to see just how much of the original experience remained intact, with the bulk of alterations focused on its visuals and combat. While I am happy that NieR: Automata remains a resounding success, its influence over this updated release of NieR hasn’t robbed it of its unique identity; this is, by and large, the NieR that I fell in love with. I think all the new content that has been added to Replicant ver.1.22 is all worth seeing. Looking back at my journey once more with Nier, Kainé, and Emil, I am so happy that one of the most underappreciated games gets another chance to show why it is so special again.