Thursday, 3 June 2010

More Nier, less Mario

I'm hoping my review for Nier will be up very soon on GamePeople and in many ways I've enjoyed that game as much as, say, Mass Effect 2. It has nowhere near that level of polish but in many respects it felt a far more intimate experience simply because it hasn't been a popular title.

There's a real danger of overstating and over-praising a game like Nier because of the erratic reviews it's received from major publications - and there's always the temptation to criticise universally received titles just to get attention. However cool it might be to act the contrarian you've always got to back up your opinion with some form of evidence or reason. With Nier I feel the positive emotional experience far outweighed the technical issues and the awkward dialogue moments it had.

This leads me on to Super Mario Galaxy 2. A game I wasn't expecting to write about under the Soulful Gamer banner until I was asked to. I had, coincidentally been playing the first Galaxy with my son for the past few months and really enjoying most aspects of it. It's been a perfect 30 minute filler before dinner time and the one aspect that I've really enjoyed is the hub-world and all the Rosalina story-time parts.

It's probably a very odd thing to say but the whole narrative of the first Galaxy was enchanting and full of personality and character that gave all that awesome platforming a point other than the exceptional gameplay. I can't say the same about Galaxy 2 and everything that made the first one special feels like its been thrown out to just add more levels. It feels more like an utterly awesome expansion pack that unfortunately contains none of the charm outside of those levels the first game had.

Before I return to Nier I also want to clarify the Alan Wake review that's currently on the Soulful Gamer section on Gamepeople. Being a website that has some diverse sections rather than specific writers it means that there's a generous amount of guest/ghost writing across sections. Which means that the Canabalt and Alan Wake reviews were both penned by other reviewers. I'm not saying this 'cos I believe the reviews to be crap or anything, far from it, I just want to be clear that those views on Alan Wake aren't mine. Why I'm sounding all snotty and trite about it is because I've just started the game and really don't feel it's up to snuff... yet. By the gods, I just love being the contrarian at the moment eh? God-damn opinions.

But back to Nier and I really wanted to highlight a couple of points I never had the room to put into my review. Firstly, the music is exception. It's full of highly produced songs and themes that give each character and place a distinct sound. Some of the tracks, especially those for Emil or Yonah, melt the heart with their beautiful melodies. Some of the tracks are a little chant-heavy that work well within the game but sound excessively odd when I listen with headphones. Maybe I'm just not LARPing well enough for those but the rest of the tracks make up one of the best soundtracks I've heard for a while. And yes, I am a videogame music nerd. Go on, point and laugh if you must.

Finally, I have to flag up a negative about the game in order to not sound like the religious fanatic that would see me deported. I recently began a new game + which puts you back into the game about halfway through the plot. It seems the four endings you can get require four playthroughs, which is fine, and each of them focuses on the main characters in turn, which is more than fine. However, the second playthrough seems to be conveying the backstory of Kaine with page after page of text rather than offering any gameplay differences or alternative cut-scenes. It's disappointing that they have to resort to a wall of prose rather than offering something a little more compelling, but I guess if you're as invested in the game as I've been then you're probably going to lap up the hermaphrodites backstory with glee. Lap up, urgh.


  1. It's interesting (so jealous!) to hear your thoughts on SMG2. I wonder if you might be placing extra scrutiny on the game having played it so close to the original. But I do agree with you, SMG had an enchanting story that it told beautifully. And I'll be honest, A SMG expansion pack is fine by me.
    I'm about to play Nier myself, will be sure to go back and read your review once I'm done.

  2. I'm probably doing SMG2 a great disservice by marking it down for narrative as that's never been the reason why those games are so great. I love the levels and the new power-ups (the Yoshi stuff is adorable) but that enchanting hub-world has been replaced by some annoying purple star dude. I hate purple star dudes!