Playing: Nier (PS3) (XBOX 360)

Nier_Cover

With the upcoming international release of Drakengard 3, I wanted to review the equally emotionally-confusing spin-off game of the Drakengard series, Nier. While Cavia (rest in peace) has been known for their strange and often complex games, Nier stands to be yet another quirky entry to their list. Sporting two different versions, wherein the titular protagonist is a teenage brother and a middle aged father in Replicant and Gestalt respectively, the game provides players with an intricate, if not captivating story.

Set on Earth in a distant future, Nier’s almost unrecognisable world is the product of the fifth hidden ending of Drankengard. Nier, whose sister/daughter Yonah is stricken with the “Black Scrawl”, dreams of finding a cure for her illness. Upon teaming up with the magical tome Grimoire Weiss, the foulmouthed Kainè and the ever mellow Emil during his search, Yonah is inexplicably kidnapped by the Shadowlord – the master of the enemies known only as Shades. With an army of these enemies in his path, Nier and his team must travel ruined landscapes and the remnants of lost civilisations to find the missing Yonah.

Nier is definitely one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played. Completely finishing the game is no easy task, and players will often find that the game is considerably more frustrating than it needs to be. This is most evident in the arduous task of finding materials for weapon upgrades, which sounds easy. But if you’ve ever played a Cavia game, you’d understand that the most simple task can take hours. Another interesting point is that completely finishing the game… also completely erases it. Upon taking the fourth ending route, the player’s save file is completely erased, along with other copies on the HDD (You have been warned). The game itself has also has a heap of extra missions to complete, so expect Nier to take quite awhile.

It’s primarily an action, hack and slash game that possesses role playing elements. It also, interestingly, has a variety of other game types interjected in sections of the story, such as platform, shooter and even text adventure. There are three weapon types (spears, one-handed swords and two-handed swords) that can be used and magic is also available, creating a solid, but average, combat experience. Both can have “words” attached to them, which augment and strengthen the power or abilities of equips. Defeating enemies results in gathering loot, words and experience, all of which are extremely useful towards the second half of the game. Nier also gains companions on his journey (typical of the JRPG genre) and attack on their own with competent attacks. Finally, finishing the game one opens of the New Game+ option, which allows players to experience the story again, but with twists and bigger revelations to the events of the story.

While Nier’s story is entertaining and sometimes actually touching, the graphics of the game weigh it down. While I praised the graphics of Bayonetta, I must say – Nier’s visuals are remarkably disappointing. It seems as though they would be rather suited to the graphic capabilities of the PS2. It does, though, have a few pleasant instances; such as the Resident Evil style graphics in Emil’s manor and the distant towers on the horizon of the port town in the game. Although the visuals of the game are about as mediocre as they can be, I cannot express just how much the soundtrack adds to the overall value of the game. I wrote about it before here, but briefly, it is beyond belief just how amazing the game’s music compels the audience to actually feel and pay attention. If Nier was ever to be completely forgotten, I guarantee  its OST would remain.

Even though Nier doesn’t shape up to be one of the better entries to the JRPG genre (or any genre for that matter), it’s overall cohesiveness,  story and soundtrack make it a worthwhile experience to enjoy. It is no way Nier (heh) the quality of other games released around the same time, but its effort in creating an emotional and captivating story redeems it (at least for me) from the more… displeasing aspects of the game. If you’d rather play a game more fixed on its story and appreciate a good soundtrack, give Nier a go – and just experience the mind-blowing story it has to offer.

Bry Rating: 3/5
Recommended? Definitely, for a compelling, and addictive story.
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Cavia

 

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Playing: The World Ends With You (DS)

The_World_Ends_With_You_ Cover

Very rarely does a game surpass my expectations of it, yet The World Ends With You proved to be one of those few. With an deep plot, interesting game mechanics and a superb soundtrack, TWEWY will surely exceed your expectations too.

The story takes an interesting spin on purgatory – those who die in the RG (Realground) are given the chance to return to life in the UG (Underground). Neku, after waking up in the middle of the scramble crossing in Shibuya, is forced to flee after being attacked by beings later called “Noise”. He meets with Shiki, a fellow “Player”, who explains the basic idea of the world they find themselves in and how to survive. Players meet the bad guys, meet some new friends and go forth into battle (Typical of Square Enix titles, no?)

The playable characters (And a handful of NPCs) themselves are highly relatable, each with their own agendas, dreams and regrets. Whilst it’s arguable that some characters are overrated or cliché, its interesting to note that they raise a variety of modernist ideas. In a sense, the characters are used to acknowledge modern social issues, ranging from depression, ideas of beauty, perfection and even familial disorder. The best part? These are all aimed towards young adults.

The art style of the game is, in my opinion, addictive, original and exciting. The characters themselves are detailed sprites in both the over-world and battle screens. The story art and backgrounds are extremely stimulating –  almost as if hip hop was translated into 2D art (Which isn’t surprising when listening to the music of the game). Song tracks in the game are a reflection of typical “teen” interests, with most of them being upbeat and highly rhythmic (It’s one of them cool hits, Yo).

Most of the game is controlled via the touch screen of the DS, with certain functions and the story being in the upper screen. The weapons and items of the game are also “modernised” – traditional Square Enix swords, magics and potions are transformed into “Pins” that are controlled by the mind. Armour gets a makeover too – shields, chest plates and helmets become dresses, accessories and clothes that augment the user’s abilities.

“Psych” Pins can be levelled up and evolved through three different methods and there’s even a mini-game that details the in-game popularity of the Pins. Players can also scan the area they are in with a special Pin, allowing them to see surrounding noise and the inner thoughts of RG inhabitants. Battle gameplay is slightly awkward and complex as the game allows players to control Neku (with swipes, taps and holds) whilst also controlling his partner on the upper screen (with the D-pad). Overall, the mechanics of the game are overwhelming and understandably difficult to follow for both the inexperienced and the more seasoned gamer alike.

Yet despite these faults, the game is intoxicating to play. With a plethora of secrets, collectibles and side-quests (Apparently, style is very important – as is befriending all those cute storekeepers), TWEWY is a refreshing change to traditional RPGs within the world of hand-held gaming. Despite being one of the lesser known games of Square Enix, this interesting mix of pop culture and gaming makes it one of the more memorable titles of video games.

Bry Rating: 4.8/5
Recommended? Yes
Country Of Origin: Japan
Developer: Square Enix ; Jupiter