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The following article contains spoilers for the events of Nier: Automata. Please proceed with caution.
Until 2017’s Nier: Automata was released, the Nier franchise was otherwise considered underrated among the gaming community. But it was definitely ahead of its time, as the common tropes in otherwise “normal” video games were deconstructed into messages that would stay with players long-term. Thanks to the hard work and study of morals that were placed in Nier: Automata’s gameplay and storyline, the franchise became a massive hit. Even a remake of the original Nier was released in 2021.
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Yoko Taro doesn’t only succeed in terms of interactivity and storytelling, but he manages to incorporate real-life issues and critique the morals of humanity. What does it mean to be human? Is the right thing, actually the right thing? Those are only a few themes that are explored in his games, and Nier: Automata is a significant example.
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Gameplay and Story
As with most video games, the experience comes from the gameplay. Immersing players in a world that you create by giving them the first-hand ability to explore it, is arguably what attracts people to games as a whole. Nier Automata takes that and turns it on its head. Each decision the player makes affects the outcome of the game, and even the ones that don’t, force the character to make choices already predetermined for them. At one point the player meets a machine colony in the form of organized religion. The leader warns the other machines of the dangers of the world and the importance of sticking together. The intention is to protect them, but instead, it instills fear, and the outcome is a tragic one.
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The player can do nothing but watch, and carry the knowledge with them that they couldn’t save them. This is an example of the gameplay being integrated into the story. Yoko Taro stated that the anime will undergo some changes, so the viewer won’t feel like they’re watching a playthrough. However, the first-person experience will be difficult to match – given that’s what Nier Automata is known for. So it will have big shoes to fill if it wants to live up to its success. But gameplay isn’t everything, and one of the largest praises the game has is its narrative. No one said that the story has to only follow the events of Nier: Automata, it is part of an anthology after all. Additionally, so far the animation and soundtrack are absolutely stunning.
The Told and The Untold
Given that the original Nier game led up to the events of Nier Automata, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume there may be some callbacks to how the world became the way it is. For example, we were never shown the full extinction of humanity and how Nier lived the remainder of his life. Additionally, there’s also a manga adaptation, YoRHa: Pearl Harbor Descent, that tells the story of A2 and how she became so jaded. It also shows another side of YoRHa – it isn’t as noble as it makes itself out to be. And there is a much more prominent gothic lolita aesthetic for female viewers, fashionistas, and even cosplayers to enjoy. There also exists a stage play and backstories within the game that aren’t as delved into either.
Yoko Taro never fails to deliver, and given the other stories he’s told through manga alone, shows that he knows what he’s doing. After all, he is the man behind the plan and famous legend in itself.
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