NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…. Review

April 29, 2021

Yoko Taro weaves a weird kind of sticky magic. Wait, let me explain: his narratives, and his games tend to stick with you quite a while after you put down the controller for the last time (or think you have, at least). There’s something about them, whether it’s the playful way Taro treats genre, or the strange and unsettling themes he deals with, which have informed a wave of similarly self-aware and mature projects since, like Undertale. It seems the reception of NieR Automata, Taro’s most widely successful title, has given the creative director an opportunity to revisit and remake the original game, NieR, a cult classic spinoff of the Drakengard series of action-RPGs from the PS3 and Xbox 360 that suffered from a somewhat confused Western release. Released as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…. on PS4 and Xbox One, with a slew of upgrades and additions to bring NieR on par with its more modern sequel, its a superb chance for a larger audience to see just what was so sticky about the 2010 original.

However, for returning fans it might not be quite as you remember it. Confusingly, the original Japanese NieR was created with a young protagonist, protecting his sister, while the Western version was redesigned around an older father character protecting his daughter. NieR Replicant restores the original Japanese version, albeit with a touched-up translation and re-recorded English voice acting with the original actors. The basic premise is that the user-named protagonist lives 1,000 years in the future after an apocalyptic event collapsed modern society. Now living in a semi-medieval era, the protagonist fights ethereal ‘Shades’ which have been becoming more intelligent and aggressive towards humanity, while searching for a cure to a mysterious affliction that has left his sister bedridden. Of course, things are nowhere near as simple as they seem, although the game is more than willing to allow you to believe they are for at least one playthrough.

On the first playthrough, NieR Replicant‘s story is charming thanks to its memorable party of main characters, including the foul-mouthed warrior-in-lingerie Kaine, the wide-eyed and plucky Emil, and the sentient spellbook Grimoire Weiss. Together they settle into a comfortable rhythm of entertaining banter and humour, which pushes you along an adventure which at first appears straightforward, but becomes increasingly tragic and twisted as you progress. On subsequent playthroughs, situations are given new context which reveal further unsettling layers to your actions, and to the inescapable situation all the characters find themselves in. It’s wonderfully dark, thought-provoking and depressingly bleak the further you dig in. If you’ve played NieR Automata, you’ll know what to expect, and in my opinion much of what’s attempted here is executed much better in Automata, especially as there are many elements here that invite further explanation that can only really be found going to supplemental materials or wikis.

NieR Replicant adds further story content to the original as well, including a new mission that blends in seamlessly with the original story, concerning a shipwreck and little girl, and an additional unlockable ending, which provides a bit of extra detail about one of the game’s mysteries, as well as some closure, and also adding about another hour or so of gameplay with a new player character. There’s even a great little Easter egg – a gauntlet mode of various combat situations with the original Westernised daddy protagonist, to throw fans of his a bone.

NieR Replicant plays somewhat like a familiar Japanese Action-RPG, with the protagonist having access to an array of swords and spears for light and heavy attacks, but adds several interesting twists to its design. Enemies don’t simply engage in hand-to-hand combat, but also fire volleys of bullet-hell magic orbs, which require precise footwork to dodge. You also have access to a range of magical attacks thanks to Grimoire Weiss, which can be totally configured on your shoulder buttons – which also share functions with abilities like dodging and blocking. In a pretty cool idea, this means you can sacrifice abilities for more magic powers on-hand, or vice versa, depending on how you choose to deck out your protagonist, and this can all be changed on the fly. Weapons and magic spells can also be customised with combinations of magic words from Grimoire Weiss, boosting certain stats when in use or adding different effects. Each weapon even comes with its own unlockable story as you upgrade them with materials, which read like strange poems or mood pieces. Every aspect just has a little strange touch to it, putting a little distinctive twist on the familiar.

While that core gameplay is maintained more or less throughout the entire adventure, NieR Replicant also takes small detours in genre to play with your expectations. At times the camera will move overhead, encouraging you to play a section more as a bullet-hell shooter, or suddenly set itself to fixed points, as the game emulates some of the elements of a survival horror title. Some sections even take the form of a basic platformer or text adventure, and while none of these are very deep representations of each genre, together they form a game that’s cheeky and self-aware about its own nature, and willing to experiment.

The upgrade that NieR has received in this humorously titled ver.1.22474487139…. is substantial. While the original game was criticised at the time for sub-par graphics, the re-mastering has brought NieR Replicant up easily to the level of its sequel, NieR Automata, running at a smooth 60fps at 4K, with improved models, textures and details, from the intricate fabric on Emil’s cloak to the gooey moistness of the Shades’ skin. The music, too, has been re-orchestrated, with track upon track of stellar choral work which runs the gamut from exciting to deeply disturbing, perfectly fitting the tone that NieR Replicant strives to achieve.

Like AutomataNieR Replicant is hard to pin down. It’s a wonderfully weird and creative experience, that plays fast and loose with what you think you know in the hopes of subverting tropes and surprising you. I have to admit, while playing there were times where I could see where the narrative was going, and the tricks it was using to garner sympathy for certain characters, but that’s probably largely due to my previous exposure to Taro’s work in NieR Automata, and doesn’t necessarily diminish what’s presented here, which is still intriguing material that lingers in your thoughts long after you think you’ve finished. NieR Replicant now is somewhat less unique in the “weird self-aware” game space, as it has influenced many games since in the decade it’s been out. However, it now looks and plays better than ever before, with a bunch of well-executed extra content that adds a few new surprises even for old fans, which feels on brand for a game so invested in twisting your expectations. NieR Replicant is a sticky one, alright.


-Audaciously mixes genres and storytelling methods, creating a truly unique experience that's hard to define
-New content fleshes out the game, as well as bringing it to the same visual level as its sequel
-You get to ride a wild boar


-Some side quests are dull, as is grinding for weapons to achieve various endings

Overall Score: