Okay, so I’m going to have to cheat a little for this one.
I didn’t actually play Nier today. Truth be told, it’s been years since I have, but seeing more footage of the sequel (that I’m still amazed is happening) has prompted me to revisit those memories of the original. It was clunky, monotonous, and often nonsensical, yet, by the time I was finished with the game, I’d declared it the best thing Square Enix had put out in over a decade.
I still feel that way today, my assumption that it would only live on as a forgotten gem perhaps doubling those feelings over the years. I tend to buckle down when defending the underdog, but in the case of Nier, it’s worthy of that admiration. It was a reintroduction for me to the tone and feel of a Japanese RPG, even if it didn’t exactly play like one. Probably for the best since my initial fatigue with the genre was from how complacent it had become. Nier was something different, an action game mixed with a bullet hell shooter mixed with text adventure, brought altogether into one beautiful flawed package. It featured a ton of tedious side quests that I gladly did, despite having no patience for them in other titles. I even played with the internal clock on my 360 so I could harvest a flower in the game that would have otherwise taken several real life days to get. This flower did nothing, for the record.
Why did this game grab me in such a way, drive me towards completion when so many others didn’t? I suppose a big part of it was the knowledge that I’d only have one opportunity to do so. The ending of Nier, well, the true ending, results in your entire save getting erased. I wanted to see everything the game had to offer before then, whether good, bad, or indifferent, and by the time all was said and done, I’d put nearly 70 hours into it, much of that time spent doing the same tasks over and over, getting the first few bad endings before I could go back and progress a little further. To get said true ending requires you to beat Nier four times and at the end, I had nothing to show for it but an achievement.
But still, I don’t regret that time spent in the least. I applauded the very real consequence that the game offered to what was supposed to be a heavy decision within the narrative. The world that was crafted offered a mix of fantasy and steampunk and Eastern mythology the likes of which I’d never encountered before. I spent so much time in that world because part of me never wanted to leave it. Everything was a little off. Nothing quite fit together. Maybe it says an upsetting number of things about me, but I felt at home there.
So that’s why I didn’t play Nier today. As the saying goes, you can never go home again. It wouldn’t be the same. It’s also why I’m both terrified and excited to see what the sequel ends up being, finding myself perhaps falling into the trappings of personal ownership and entitlement that come with being a fan of an obscure work.
I just hope Kainé is okay.