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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Soulful Gamer (PS3)
Perpetual Gamer (PS3)
Intimate Gamer (PS3)
Dressup Gamer (PS3)
Microcosm Gamer (PS3)
Tired Gamer (PS3)
Nier PS3 is a flawed masterpiece which left me deep in thought. It may not be perfect, but I wish there were more games like it.
I'm boarding a bus to Oxford Circus. The tube would be quicker, but I sometimes use the bus simply because it's less crowded. On the bus, I have the space and time to get lost in my thoughts.
Today I'm on the bus because I want to sit back and think about a game called Nier. Actually, it's because I can't stop thinking about it. Two weeks back though, and Nier was making me angry.
It seemed full of flaws, all of them typical to its genre, the Japanese role-playing games. The tutorials were complicated and hidden in some obscure part of the menu. The side quests were classic Role Play Gaming filler like killing ten sheep and delivering a parcel. The story, despite starting off well, was beginning to turn in on itself already.
Friends told me to stick with Nier though - that it would get better. I decided to take their word, even though secretly I thought they were wrong.
The bus rounds Portobello Road and we pass crowds gathering round the stalls, I let out a beaten sigh. This one time, everyone else was right. I'm grateful, mind you. After all, Nier rewarded me with the most wonderfully confounding experience of my gaming year.
Friends told me to stick with Nier, saying that it would get better.
The tide turned during a mission to salvage some equipment from a factory overrun with deviant robots. Up until then, the fighting had been hack-and-slash with a little magic here and there. Then, out of nowhere, the camera shifted perspective to top down. Robots attacked from all corners and I fought back with what magic I had - all directed with the right stick whilst dodging attacks with the left.
Then it dawned on me; the game had transformed from a hack-and-slash to a twin-stick shooter. This was just the beginning. Nier became a 2D platformer, then a Diablo-style dungeon crawler, then a Zelda-like puzzler, then a text-based adventure. This quiet little game had become a monster.
As we approach the hullabaloo of Marble Arch, the top deck begins to fill. Even with the noise of tourists and teenagers, I am oblivious to the world, lost trying to decipher the enigma of Nier.
I try to pin down how the game's versatility and flair relates to its story. I want to understand what its designers were trying to say. On surface it's a father trying to cure his sick daughter, but underneath there's philosophy, sociology, and anthropology. It's a complicated game that masks the more mature themes locked inside.
This quiet little game had become a monster.
Nier is not a standard tale of good and bad. It says that honourable intentions can clash with honourable intentions. It says that fierce enemies can mirror each other. It says that one man's weapon is defence against another man's weapon, and at some point it doesn't matter who built his or her weapon first.
It asks if people submit to society too easily. It talks about the acceptance of religion, the loyalty people place in their leaders, and what humanity is prepared to sacrifice for a cause.
Nier may hide this all in Japanese Role Play (J-RPG) tropes, silly quests, and superficially simple missions, but in reality it is powerful and heavyweight.
Nier is something very different. I want to sit down with everyone's that played it and discuss exactly what they got from it. I want to know what other people think it's trying to say, and if I'm reading too much into it - or maybe not enough. I want to know what I've missed. I want to share what I've seen.
I want to sit down with everyone's that played it and discuss exactly what they got from it.
As the bus approaches the bustle of Oxford Circus, I'm still deep in thought. Nier pushes the boundaries of gaming and that makes me want to play it endlessly. That's how it would have been before I came back to games. But both video games and I have changed since then. We're on the same page now and I want the same things from games that the developers of Nier want from them.
I get off the bus, look around, and realize that what I really want is more games like Nier. It might not be perfect, but it's going to get me taking the long route a few more times yet.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: