I played the original Nier back in 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the main character being a hideous troll of an old man. Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, with the handsome younger hero originally exclusive to Japan, looks, plays, and feels better overall, save the unfortunate inclusion of an achievement for players who peek at the underwear of an intersex supporting character.
The original Nier was released as two different games in Japan. PlayStation 3 players got Nier Replicant, starring a traditional anime-style teen hero questing to save his little sister from a mysterious disease in an intriguing post-apocalyptic setting. Due to some nonsense about trying to appeal to Western gamers, Xbox 360 owners got Nier Gestalt, exactly the same game, only instead of an easy-on-the-eyes hero saving his sister, it stars an ugly older fellow saving his daughter. In North America everybody got Gestalt, renamed to simply Nier.
I reviewed Nier for Kotaku back in 2010. I enjoyed the story, with all its very depressing twists. I loved the characters, save daddy Nier, who felt out-of-place in a world filled with generic anime NPCs. The combat is clunky but enjoyable, a pleasing mix of stabbing, slashing, and over-the-top magic. Perhaps my favourite part of the game, in retrospect, is the incredibly impressive screen-filling boss battles. One minute you’re wandering acrossing a peaceful grassy plain, minding your own business, and the next you’re chasing a massive tentacle monster back the other way. Nier is peppered with breathtaking battles like that.
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, out this week of PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, includes all of those things, except for ugly dad. The drama of the plot doesn’t hit quite the same way when you’re in control of spritely young brother Nier, but his youth is an energising factor. Playing the original game gave me serious old man vibes. If not for his daughter’s illness, daddy Nier would probably settle into a life of fishing, farming, and napping. He felt weary and tired.
Brother Nier feels like he possesses boundless energy, complementing the urgency of his quest. You really feel the difference later in the game, when the story time-skips five years into the future. Young Nier matures from waifish teen to buff young man. He gains the ability to use two-handed weapons. His voice changes from Zach Aguilar to Ray Chase. That’s much more fun than having an already old man become five years older. I speak from experience.
Young Nier’s sprightliness might also be an effect of the revamped combat. Overseen by Takashi Taura of PlatinumGames, the developer of Nier Automata, the remaster’s combat feels much more natural and fluid than the original game. In the new version players can lock-on to enemies, swap weapons on the fly, use magic while jumping, and charge magic while running about and attacking. Parrying and evading is much easier to pull off in the new game. It’s not quite Nier and not quite Nier Automata, but rather a lovely amalgamation of the two.
Unfortunately, Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… borrows something much less savoury from Nier Automata. There’s an achievement in Nier Automata for attempting to peek up the skirt of main character 2B. Possibly inspired by that feat, the Nier Replicant remaster has a trophy called “Daredevil,” awarded for players who “risked life and limb 10 times to discover someone’s secret.” The someone being referred to is Nier’s scantily-clad companion Kainé, and the secret is the well-documented fact that she is intersex, born with a body that doesn’t fit the traditional definition of male or female.
Though I’ve not gotten the achievement myself, I confirmed how to earn it with George Yang, who reviewed the new game for GameSkinny and was the first person to earn the platinum trophy for the PS4 version. It indeed involves using the camera to try to peek at Kainé’s undergarments. Peek 10 times and Kainé will kill the player character, causing a “Game Over” and unlocking the achievement. It’s new to this version of the game, as it’s only achievable during the newly-added playthrough E.
I shouldn’t have to point out how bad this is. Turning one of my favourite characters, with a mouth as foul as her heart is big, into an object to gawk at in order to score invisible video game points is childish and offensive. The fact that Kainé is intersex makes the situation even worse. She’s not an oddity with a “secret” to discover. The fact that she murders anyone who earns the achievement does not help. Do better.
And so, while I do love the positive changes that make Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… so much better than the original, this one, majorly negative addition leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.