Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Nier do well

I really don't like puns. That is, I don't like them because I'm so revoltingly bad at them and Nier is actually a game I've having a rather wonderful time with. After many weeks of barely gaming at all and even less writing it's been nice to ease back into a game that isn't flashy or particularly gorgeous but still manages to give me an experience that feels... worthwhile. If I had my enthusiast gamer hat on then the list of concerns would be long and boring but none of them get in the way of the setting and characters.

Unlike Darksiders (which I did not like at all) Nier feels much more coherent and meaningful to me. The cornerstone of the entire game is the protagonist's driven desire to cure his daughter's fatal illness. The nature of this and the history of the post-apocalyptic future is yet to be fully explained even after seven hours but instead of feeling directionless, it helps Nier to brings its characters forward.

The main guy himself is immensely likable, and comes across as a gentle father who will do everything to save his daughter and help others along the way. He never feels like a wishy-washy Paragon Jedi and the gruff voice acting is a perfect foil for the generous acts and gentles dialogue he can deliver. In the process of saving your daughter from an early threat the game introduces Grimoire Veiss (sounding like a camp Alan Rickman, if that's possible) - a talking book that gives you the magic powers that make combat vaguely more interesting than just slashing your sword.

Inanimate objects always need strong personalities to bring them to life and Weiss is wonderfully sardonic, pithy, arrogant and yet also shows more humanity than many other videogame characters you'll likely to comes across. There's a great rapport between these two characters and it’s a testament to the translation team's talent that they make a relationship between a human and a book feel remotely believable and funny.

The only character that stands out for the wrong reasons is Raine. Not for her dialogue, which is brash and offensive in all the right ways, but the fact that her voice simply doesn't match the visual character model. It's the same problem I had with Splinter Cell: Conviction and it makes a striking difference to how legitimate she feels as a character.

Objectifying women isn’t the exclusive domain of Japanese developed games but Nier’s Eastern origins are pretty obvious with Raine dress-sense. The game even draws attention to this issue with a few disparaging comment from Veiss about Raine wandering around in her underwear. I often wonder if this gratuitous self-awareness is put in as an excuse for putting some young girls butt-crack on display, or whether they’re just taking the piss out of their own audience.

Regardless, I’m enjoying Nier far more than I thought I would considering my rocky past with most action-RPGs. It’s moments where the gameplay changes from a typical sword & sorcery setup into a twin-stick shooter or bullethell level seamlessly makes me believe this could be something special.

With bad things happened to good people within the story I have a feeling that Nier has a lot more depth hidden away during its latter parts. I can only hope my pun-generator can get produce something of mediocre value the next time I write about it or I’ll Nier hear the last of it. Ugh.

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