For the Glory of Mankind

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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The end of the world began in 2003, when the Grotesquerie Queen appeared in the skies of Shinjuku, quickly followed by the warrior known as Caim and the red dragon Angelus. After a grueling battle, the Queen was vanquished, its remains dissolving all over the city, and Caim and Angelus were blasted out of the air by JSDF fighter jets. Turns out that a giant being from another dimension made up of magical salt does not quite mingle well with normal, non-magical humans. As a result, the disease called White Chlorination Syndrome began to slowly spread across the world over the course of decades, eventually bringing humans as we know them to extinction. It was through Project Gestalt that humanity managed to survive in their new forms, hoping to regain their physical being through the Replicant system, even if it meant forcibly taking their new bodies from the now sentient Replicant people. This came to an end in 3361, when the Replicant known as Nier, out to save his daughter from the clutches of the Shadowlord, the Gestalt of Nier himself and thus the original, inadvertently doomed the rest of mankind when he slew his Gestalt, the only person keeping the remnants of humanity, Shades, from relapsing into feral beasts. With the production of Replicants halted and the Shades not bonded with their respective Replicant now fated to go insane, the final age and generation of the human race began. The year is now 11945. Androids of the YoRHa project now face against mechanical lifeforms that have taken over the Earth for their alien masters, forcing whatever remained of humanity to travel to the moon in hopes of survival, where they created the YoRHa combat androids. Continuing the fight in a millennia-long war, two androids find new developments that throw their entire purpose and existence into question. YoRHa’s motto is “Glory to Mankind”, but with the last living Replicant having passed away in 4198, what does it mean to be “human” when mankind has ceased to exist?

Developed by Platinum Games and directed by series creator Taro Yoko, NieR: Automata is the sequel to 2010’s cult classic NieR, having been released on March 7, 2017. In a move no one saw coming, Square Enix approached Platinum for a new game, to which the latter, huge fans of the original game, immediately whipped out a proposal for a sequel. Taking place thousands of years after the events of NieR, this game follows a couple of the YoRHa combat androids tasked with taking Earth back from the machine lifeforms that have overrun the planet. While Taro’s previous games suffered from sub-par gameplay and various other issues, the story was always their strongest part. Here, his signature style in storytelling is finally accompanied by great, solid gameplay courtesy of Platinum, creating a game that is a joy to experience and to play.

The character takes control of YoRHa No. 2 Type B (or 2B for short), a stoic and focused combat android that is sent to Earth to aid the android Resistance in their efforts to defeat the machine lifeforms. 2B is not one for messing around and is very serious about doing her job, but beneath the cold exterior hides a gentle and compassionate android that is tired of fighting and simply wants to be at peace with the people she loves. She is joined by 9S, a nice and curious android built for scanning and reconnaissance. Although he does not possess much combat prowess, 9S is still a brave and loyal soul that will do everything to help 2B. During their mission, they come across numerous other characters that will aid them, including the members of the Resistance, a peaceful and pacifistic machine named Pascal, and the other androids of YoRHa. Interestingly, there are a couple of characters that actually return from the first NieR in the forms of Devola, Popola, and Emil. While not the same units met in the first game, this Devola and Popola feel responsible for what their sister units did and wish to absolve their names by helping the androids in the war. Even after 8584 years, Emil STILL has not gotten himself a new body to walk around in, but he gets around that by traveling in a high speed tuk tuk as a merchant. While he cannot remember much about the past, Emil has not changed a bit and is still the same kind, cheerful boy he was when Nier, Kainé, and Weiss (GRIMOIRE Weiss) were around, though the sight of a certain flower may jog his memory. Finally, 2B and 9S meet the rogue YoRHa android known as A2, who is at the top of their termination list for some unknown reason. Continuing the trend of violent, scantily-clad, white haired women, A2’s motives are a complete mystery and not much is known about her, though by the time of the third route, it all becomes much more clear…

The main antagonists of the game are the machine lifeforms created by alien invaders that attacked the planet in the early 5000s. While their alien masters are nowhere to be found, their creations continue to operate autonomously, though years of fighting have changed many of them. Many have begun to try and emulate human behavior, but are not able to fully understand the numerous concepts associated. While some, like Pascal and his village, have disconnected themselves from the network and are a peaceful bunch, others still follow their original programming and will continue to attack the androids. In charge of the machine network are the brothers Adam and Eve. Created by the machines in an effort to try and make something in the form of a human, these two quickly adapt and start to learn about the different “mechanics” of humanity. While Eve would prefer to simply analyze books as opposed to reading them and does not see the point in wearing clothes if they have no need for them, he absolutely adores his older brother and really only puts up with it so that they can go back to playing together. Adam, on the other hand, is completely obsessed with humanity and wishes to become as human as possible by bartering with 2B and 9S to bring them the Council of Humanity. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that the “core” of mankind is hatred and becomes as cruel as a person can be.

The gameplay brings back familiar mechanics from the first game while combining the fast-paced combat of Platinum’s action titles. The world is an open map with several different zones and locations to explore, enemies to defeat, and items to harvest and discover, much like the first NieR. On the combat side of things, the mechanics have been completely revamped, using Platinum’s signature style to create a much better experience in that area. The player can equip 2B with two weapons at a time and perform various combos with the numerous weapons find throughout the world. Most can be bought from weapon shops and further upgraded while others can be found out in the different zones. Furthermore, 2B herself can be upgraded with various Plug-In Chips to provide different abilities that can make her run faster, slow down time to avoid projectiles, or auto-heal whenever damaged. To summarize, the game is best described as a Taro Yoko game with Platinum gameplay, which is FAR from a bad thing.

In true tradition, Taro’s signature storytelling elements return, going back to the quirky yet somber atmosphere that made the first game iconic. There are a total of five main endings this time around, but now there are 21 joke endings that trigger after doing certain actions throughout the story, each one corresponding with a letter in the alphabet. As this does take place thousands of years into the future, one does not necessarily have to play the first game to enjoy this one, but veterans will understand a lot of the subtle hints and nods that call back to the original. It does help that a series of documents detailing Project Gestalt can be found in-game, which helps summarize the events that lead up to NieR and its story. Of course, it would not be a Drakengard-based game without some elements of horror, which it does deliver in some of the late-game events and the returning weapon stories. At this point, someone just needs to destroy Iron Will to give the poor weapon some peace.

The music is still gorgeous and top-notch, courtesy of Keiichi Okabe and his team at MONACA. The score captures the silent mystery of a planet devoid of humans and ramps up when facing off against the various bosses. Considerable attention has to be given to the opera machine featured in the gameplay trailer, where its actions are still in time with the music and creates an encounter unlike any other. A number of tunes from the first game do make a return in both their original composition or as remixes. For example, Emil’s tearjerker of a theme does return when visiting his home underground, but a more upbeat, peppy march is used as his shop theme whenever he is driving around the main hub, cheerfully humming or singing along. The soundtrack is due for release later towards the end of March and, much like the first game’s, is one that is a must-have.

NieR: Automata is everything that fans of the original wanted and more. The story and music is still as strong as ever, but now the gameplay is actually fun and challenging. For fans of Platinum Games however, they should not go in expecting an explosive and adrenaline-rushing experience the likes of Metal Gear Rising or Bayonetta. This title is a Taro Yoko game first, where the story is the most important aspect. Going in to experience a wonderful story while knowing that good gameplay is to be had will help the experience. In the end, NieR: Automata is already one of the best games of the year and is a must have for PS4 and PC players, with solid action, a compelling story, and beautiful music to go along with it. Moreover, Taro Yoko finally has a successful game on his hands and deserves all of the praise and recognition after so much hard work over the years.

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