Within a few weeks, fans of Nier: Automata will be able to rediscover the origin of their longing on current hardware.
The first Nier celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, and to mark that occasion, Square Enix announced a remaster clearly designed to meet the obvious demand millions of players felt after finishing Nier: Automata. The Japanese development studio Toylogic will ensure that we can re-experience the not so well-known predecessor on modern systems in a few weeks. Creative Director Yoko Taro and Lead Producer Yosuke Saito from the original's developer team Cavia oversee the production.
In contrast to the international retail version of Nier from 2010, Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 will be based on the Japanese PS3 version. This means we don't get to play a grim father who is looking to cure his daughter from an incurable illness, but a young teenager who worries about his sister. This different point of view demands distinct changes within the narrative context throughout the whole story, but apart from the motivation and the dialogues, the two games offer pretty much the same content.
The transformation of the remaster is not limited to porting the original game experience, because the action game wasn't exactly technically advanced when it first released in 2010. In addition to increasing the resolution and frame rate, each individual area was also visually revamped so that it does not clash with today's standards. HD textures, additional particle effects and a few quality-of-life improvements round off this work from a superficial point of view.
The original OST by composer Keiichi Okabe was able to win over many fans with its dramatic use of chorus and the very melodic singing by the English singer Emi Evans. In Nier Replicant the soundtrack has been rearranged by various artists, but honestly, I wasn't able to notice new compositions in the three scenes we're focusing on in this preview. What is noticeable, however, is that the background music has been brought to the forefront a little more clearly in all areas compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3 game.
Another thing to notice is the revamped combat system that will no doubt make it easier for the many fans that come from Nier: Automata to appreciate and actually play their way through the game's story. Different forms of magic, like rotating blades, wielding fists and sharp pillars that break out of the ground to impale our enemies, can hardly be compared with their old counterparts. Our physical attacks have also been improved, for example, the way charged attacks work is now more in line with modern gamers' habits. This also includes being able to centre the camera on opponents and sidestepping in the back of your enemy in the blink of an eye.
All of this enhances the remaster's experience, but it doesn't change the core game fundamentally. The big Northern Plains look a little livelier than before due to the higher density of details, the draw distance and last but not least thanks to the larger number of enemies that are cramping the area. Overall, however, the level design is outdated and archaic by today's standards. That is also noticeable in the loading times between the areas, for example.
On the other hand (and just like Nier: Automata), Nier is fairly good at hiding this. To give you an idea, let's take a look at the Junk Heap deep within the mountains in North. In this robotic factory, the game refuses to stick to any particular perspective. Within the individual floors, the camera suddenly switches from the third-person perspective to that of a top-down shooter. Another section I am allowed to talk about changes the camera to classic 2D so you are playing a sidescroller for a moment. In most of these scenes our movement options remains the same, because the purpose of this camera work is solely to surprise the players and offer them different challenges.
Boss fights follow this design principal, too, as we often switch fluidly between the hack-and-slash spiral and shoot 'em up gameplay. Between our attack phases we usually have to dodge enemy projectiles and area effects in a platforming style. While none of this has the style and finesse Nier: Automata presented several years later, the influences have always been there. With their work, Toylogic is helping to emphasize the origins more clearly, in case fans should decide to go on this modern journey through time on April 23. Just keep in mind, that Nier was never a game that is meant to be played because it is so fun...