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NieR: Automata (PlayStation 4) artwork

NieR: Automata (PlayStation 4) review

"Please buy this one."

In 2010, I obtained a game called NieR from my local GameStopís bargain bin. I thought itíd be a fun little jaunt to pass the summer with. Instead, what I found can only describe as life changing. Itís rare to have an experience that dramatically shifts what you expect from a medium, but Yoko Taroís cult hit did just that. Despite low sales, he was amazingly allowed to make a sequel in NieR: Automata, but can it really surpass the original?

NieR: Automata, set thousands of years after its predecessor, tells the story of androids 2B and 9S. These androids, working on behalf of the YoRHa organization, are tasked with taking back Earth from Alien-born machines that have driven humanity to the moon. As one can expect from a Yoko Taro joint, not everything it as it seems, and the narrative takes some shocking twists and turns over the course of its five endings.

NieR: Automata (PlayStation 4) image

Itís natural to be hesitant to play a sequel without having played the original. But although Automata references the events of the original NieR in many ways, no preexisting knowledge is necessary. Automata stands on its own, and familiarity with the original will only enhance a portion of the experience. The most incredible parts of Automataís narrative are wholly its own, and must be experienced.

Besides its central story, NieR: Automata is chock full of side quests that never feel like fluff. Every one of them has a tiny yet fully fleshed out story that runs the gamut from funny to incredibly tragic. For example, one multi-tiered quest has you fetching parts for a robot so it can literally build itself up to be a black belt in karate. I found myself compelled to try to complete every quest I came across, just to see what the game would throw at me next.

NieR was known for constantly shifting genres, as it would be an action game one moment and then suddenly become a shmup or a survival horror game. Automata retains this particular aspect of the original, but gives each play style more time to really shine. For the action combat, the experts at Platinum Games have crafted combat reminiscent of Bayonetta, with two weapons and the slow-mo dodge the latter pioneered. Itís not as technical as Bayonetta, but itís incredibly responsive and easily the most fun Iíve had playing a Yoko Taro game. As in the first game, 2B has access to a side arm of sorts that acts as a ranged attack with special functions you can customize to add a little extra firepower to her arsenal.

NieR: Automata (PlayStation 4) image

Another major aspect of Automataís gameplay sees it doubling down on the shmup. Such sections were relegated to just a few areas in the original. Here, numerous sections see 2B jumping into a flight unit that transforms the game into a fully featured shmup. It would seem that Platinum is incredibly proficient in this play style, as well, since these sections are not only fun, but expertly designed in their bullet patterns. Itís kind of mind-blowing to think that one of the best shmups in years is contained within an action RPG, but here we are.

Automata does play around with some of the more esoteric genres seen in the original like the text adventure, but it also adds entirely new elements of its own. In subsequent playthroughs, the game introduces an entirely new way to play the game that seamlessly flows with the third-person action system already in place. I donít want to spoil it, but it serves to make every encounter even more exciting.

NieR Automata requires multiple playthroughs in order for the player to reach the true ending. It may sound laborious, but each playthrough changes so much that it never really feels like youíre playing the same game again. If it helps, itís easier to think of it like a game with multiple chapters that just happens to play the credits after you complete each one. It also retains side quest completion, so it never feels like youíre losing something. Even better, itís far more approachable than past games in that it no longer requires you to collect and fully upgrade every weapon in the game to unlock the final ending. There was something nice about being rewarded for all that hard work, but itís an acceptable trade-off if more people can witness Automataís incredible conclusion without much frustration.

NieR: Automata (PlayStation 4) image

While I adore Yoko Taroís games, they are generally technical nightmares. NieR had weird jank all over the place and Drakengard 3 is best left not mentioned. With Platinum behind the wheel on Automata, however, Taro finally has a team that can realize his insane ambition without sacrificing performance. The game runs at a mostly steady 60FPS, with only mild dips when the game is loading in new areas. I never once felt like I was fighting against the game as was often the case in past titles.

Of course, NieR wouldnít be quite as well known as it is if it werenít for its music, composed by Keiichi Okabe. Okabe is back for Automata, and heís absolutely outdone himself not only with his compositions, but their implementation in the game. Songs are constantly shifted around, depending on the context of the scene. There is a full blown vocal rendition of a track playing as you explore the main grounds of a rundown theme park, with a more subdued version that kicks ins as you enter its dimly lit back alleys. There are more clever uses of dynamic music in the game, as well, but to share those experiences would ruin their magic.

NieR: Automata is superior in every way to the original. I would advise those who have not played the first game to track down a copy and play it before jumping into the sequel, but thatís not essential. What is essential is that you play NieR Automata. Itís not only the best game Yoko Taro has ever made, itís simply one of the best games ever created. By the end of my time with the game, I was shaken to my core by what I had experienced. There is so much about Automata that I want to tell you, but to do so would be a grave disservice to you and the game. It must be experienced to be believed.

Please play NieR: Automata. You wonít regret it.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Freelance review by Zachary Walton (March 13, 2017)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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