I have played a preview of Kidney Replicant ver.1.22474487139, the upcoming remaster of Nier from 2010, and I’m excited to report that this upgraded reissue handles my absolute biggest complaint about the original, while I smartly stop for major changes that risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The main complaint, as described in my eleven year old review of the original release, was with the pictures. Nines was a very boring game. It was not that it lacked flair in its artistic design, but rather that it was simply painfully adapted to a time in video game history when far too many games just looked like muddy mess. Kidneys were among the worst; in the screenshot database of RPG Site, it is difficult to get your hands on screenshots of the original that are not just smeared in a kind of unpleasant tan.
This new version of Nier Replicant solves it with a complete visual overhaul that brings the game̵
In addition to new textures that are not afraid to use a little more color for definition, there are new character models and several adjusted character designers, with Automata art lead Akihiko Yoshida coming on board to help reshape the game’s identity. The world geometry itself seems largely unchanged, the mind, and still has more basic layouts from the 2010 era that are sometimes even a little confusingly unclear to navigate.
Although I have only played a small part of Nier Replicant and can talk about even less at this preview stage, it seems to be the theme of this remaster. Those who expect significant overhaul to really make this game feel like it’s a much-loved sequel will not fully understand it; it’s pretty much the same game under the hood.
Fighting, for example, is not ‘PlatinumGames’ close, with the original Nier coming from a studio that definitely did not have that much of a pedigree. What you get instead is a bit sloppy – back in 2010 I compared it to Dynasty Warriors, but with magic and RPG abilities, and while I read it back, it feels a bit reductive, it also feels close enough to refer here.
The battle is mildly improved, but it’s through minor adjustments, plus the significant overall benefit of this new presentation on today’s hardware where the action runs smoothly and with a higher frame rate. As a result, it feels much better, but it still will not hold a light for Automata – it is systemic, baked deep into the game itself. Only a complete remake could change that.
And you know what? I’m not sure I want the complete remake even if it was offered to me. There’s a lot I really like about the original Nier, and there’s more about it which, although wrong, forms a very important part of the identity of the series. The slot machine could only exist because this game was the way it was – and that includes the bumpy elements of the trip.
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Those who missed this originally, but played Automata, will find much that is known to love, but also a completely different type of game at the same time. This Nier is willing to offer downtime more often to his successor, and owes quite a bit to The Legend of Zelda both in terms of the presentation and design of some of his dungeon-like locations and boss meetings.
The score I gave the original back in 2010 still feels fair – it was a deeply wrong game that exploded with potential above average which was later realized in 10/10 slot machines. However, this Remaster seems to make enough changes in enough places to let the lighter elements of the Nier Replicant shine through. The roughest edges have been sanded off, which gives a much more pleasant experience that the approximately five million more who bought Automata over the original, will probably enjoy without too much frustration.
At the heart of all this is, of course, and barely mentioned in this preview, the story of Nier Replicants. This version of the story, with a younger man as the main character, was not published in the West last. Instead, we got the version of the story where you play as a rough, older father figure. This is the originally conceived version of the story, but available in the West for the first time. This means that we have a completely new location with both returnees and new cast members, and it is just as excellent – if not better – than the first time.
I will not say much else, as this is a story that should be experienced in real rather than via proxy; but I want to say that I actually have enough of a soft spot for the original Kidney narrative that I somehow prefer it over Automata – which is actually very loud.
Anyway – there is a lot more that can be said about Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 – but for that I have to play the full version in more detail. For now, you can let this preview understand that this remaster more than does justice to the original – which was a cult classic, but a mistake. It’s definitely a better game this time around – and hopefully it means more people can experience their amazing story in its entirety.
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 Screenshots and artwork