they ran over the seals
More Replicant playthrough observations and general nonsense under the cut.
For reference, up to the keystone quest; completed the Forest of Myth and Junk Heap.
This fucking game I swear to god.
A vaguely coherent ramble about sidequests
An observation about sidequests in general in this game -- and I don't recall if I ever voiced this somewhere public or it was just a personal observation from my time with the original -- is that the quests in the first half of the game are all relatively easy to complete. There's that one asshat who wants 10 goat hides, but other than him, most of the sidequests are either very much based on finding characters, or gathering a sensible number of items that are either relatively common, purchasable, or given a guaranteed spawn for the duration of that quest.
The sidequests everybody remembers having to do are in the second half, where everybody is demanding and awful and I'm sorry ten MACHINE OILS do you know how goddamn rare those are? They're goddamn rare.
(We'll not discuss Life in the Sands.)
This is generally agreed to, in the technical vernacular, 'suck'. And it's always funny that the most interesting sidequests are the ones with very minimal requirements (Yonah's cooking, getting Popola drunk, the Lighthouse Ladoh my god everything's gone blurry I'm not crying you're crying who am I kidding we're both crying). That particular aspect of the design also feels intentional, not really gating your ability to progress the really meaningful or funny sidequests behind an unreasonable number of rare items. The other aspect of the design is that these quests are not meant to be completed in a single playthrough; most of them are single-stage and just absolutely unreasonable, but if you're going through the game four times you have a... reasonable chance of getting everything you need more or less naturally.
Nobody does that but I think that was the intended design. I think it's a good idea, although the execution of expectation is flawed so I don't really blame people for saying those sidequests suck. (Although I will in turn blame people for saying the sidequests suck as a blanket statement. Yeah getting that guy who burned his kitchen down a billion Broken Motors is aggravating but did you not find that old man's dog? Speak to Ursula on her death bed? Solve a murder? Then again I think tracking down that rotten son who's trying to get away from The Family Business only to learn his father is a con-artist and get literally no reward is the height of comedy so maybe I'm not the greatest point of reference.)
But that asshole in Facade can get bent.
I can't exploit my garden properly, jackass! I am no longer a god of time.
(I kid, of course.)
(This guys sucks even when you can fix your clock.)
Forest of Myth
It didn't even occur to me to wonder how they would incorporate the comprehensive voice acting into the Forest of Myth. I like how it plays out, although I wish the voices maybe had a fade as you went deeper into the dream instead of just cutting out at some point, especially for the lines where the characters are being ascribed actions by the narrator that they themselves aren't doing near the start of the Deathdream.
But it's just delightful to go back to it. The second half of the game really sticks in your mind both for emotional reasons and because you play it at least three times per full playthrough of the game, but the first half is just so much fun.
Protip: Talk to everybody after you've finished the dream sidequest. Weiss tries to dissuade you. Don't let him dissuade you. I'm still delighted by the Mayor; "We're building a statue of you, made of solid gold. I know you don't own a horse, but we're going to put you on a horse."
I forgot about Yonah being a disaster chef
Papa Nier's reaction to the stew is better. Brother is still funny but Papa Nier just expecting to die is comedy gold.
For anybody curious, the joke about the cakes is that Yonah made 'fruit cake' using some of the worst possible fruits for cake-making. If only she'd thrown a tomato into the mix, too.
what the fuck is a canal
I'm aware of the addition of the new-old content but it didn't occur to me until Popola suddenly starts nattering on about fixing the canal when I'm expecting Yonah to talk about a penpal that oh, yeah, I guess Seafront would have had something going on the first half that would play into the second half?
(I assume it does. Be weird to introduce these characters just to have groundwork for an added sidequest. ...but it was a cute sidequest.)
But look Popola my boy is supposed to be in the next area I visit could we-- I mean he's on the way could we just-- no-- fiiiiiiiiiine.
(It was short and sweet, though, and I appreciate that the couple's love is exemplified by them both calling Weiss a floating magazine in tandem.)
On a related note but was I the only person suddenly concerned when the sidequest completion maxed out at 50% and not 51%? I had to double-check with a guide just to make sure, since I've spent the last decade telling people to make sure you hit 51% before going on to Part II.
I love that nowadays, Emil is everybody's son.
But I really wish I could go find somebody only familiar with Automata and just watch their reaction. (I'm guessing there are streams out there that fulfill this but man I'd love to get it in-person.) If you're only familiar with him from Automata this has to be a mindfuck.
Personal anecdote, but I've had the privilege of playing NIER with somebody else almost every time I've gone through it. I had a wonderful experience of doing a replay some years back with somebody who had experienced it with me before but didn't have the most solid memory of the beginning (and had actually missed the entire weapon's lab the first time through). I get to the boy at the piano introducing himself and the 'Wait, what?' was a thing of beauty.
This was a welcome mindfuck for me; finding Sebastian and having him 'reactivate' in such an unnatural, mechanical way. I don't recall if it was ever officially confirmed that Sebastian is an android (I know that it's just understood that this is the case but I'm not I can't recall a specific one) but the little flair they added to his animation caught me completely off guard. I liked it!
Destroying the food source
A lot of people will cite a major inciting incident for the game as being when the protagonist heading back into the village and killing the child Shades just outside the entrance. This moment is such a great bit of subtle foreshadowing that's so easy to miss... but kind of joining that, just before the Knave of Hearts attacks, I realized that the Shades out on the Northern Plains are clearly ramping up for an assault of their own by murdering the sheep.
The sheep population at this point is decimated (which is great when you realize you haven't gotten the Sheepslayer trophy and you're about to enter Part II and you don't know if the boar drifting minigame got carried forward with the inclusion of 15 Nightmares). You go out onto the Plains and you will find not only small clusters of sheep left behind instead of the vast, terrifying herds from the start of the game, but until you get their attention the Shades are prioritizing killing the sheep. (Also annoying because that doesn't count toward my sheep murder number.)
The Shades will be out there also killing sheep earlier on, but since the whole map is in Overcast mode after talking to Yonah it's especially prevalent to go out to the Northern Plains and seeing the slaughter. And I realized-- they're cutting the Village off from a primary food source. Shades don't eat and they don't have any beef with the local ungulates (at least, no more so than anybody else does), so why are they hunting down the sheep? To deprive their enemies of resources. Sheep are extinct by the timeskip. It's actually really clever of them, and a really clever indication of their sentience and intelligence before it's fully verified.
"Let's get these shit-hogs!"
Everything about the way Kaine and Emil interact across the entire game is perfect I will brook no argument this is objective fact.
I wrote an essay about this before but it really bears repeating that the job the original animators did with this scene is just phenomenal. The way Weiss drifts, flits, flips, fans his pages, drunkenly swerves, shoots around the room in defiance...
He's a goddamn rectangle, but there is so much emotion and personality in this scene just based on the movements conveyed through a what is effectively just a box. Ten years later and triple-A titles with full facial capture don't have this much seething personality.
I really have to give props to the cavia animators, wherever they wound up. That studio could really put some subtle love and care into their titles, utterly unnecessary and easy to miss but you can tell that whoever was working on it was giving it their all. The books are probably the exemplification of this, but every time I go into Seafront and visit the seals I can tell that the guy on seal duty was having just the best day.
They made Emil so pretty
There's an FMV cutscene right smack in the middle of the original game after the battle against Noir. I understand why it was a necessity on a technical level, but it always looked pretty out of place and a little uncanny valley compared to the rest of the graphical fidelity.
That's no longer a necessity so this cutscene is rendered in-engine. I admit I was actually curious to see it redone this way and it looks fantastic. I single out Emil since he is the focal point of cutscene and because his particular high-poly model had some pretty weird difference from his in-engine model, but he and Kaine both look great.
But, like, it's almost mean how pretty he is.
They made Brother Nier so pretty
Yeah okay you got me he's kind of hot. Kaine's expression when she wakes up and looks him over is... significantly easier to read now.
Good voice, too. (Ancient rumors tell that one of the issues with international releases of RepliCant was that they couldn't find an English VA with a voice that 'fit' Brother Nier. He sounded good out the gate but hearing him growl "Let's go TAKE CARE of those KIDS" during the thief sidequest-- I got chills. It sounds so silly but there's a kind of percolating fury to that delivery. Papa Nier was like frustrated but mostly disappointed dad; I felt like Brother was going to take care of those kids, and nobody was going to find the bodies.
Younger Brother Nier just never stops looking goofy to me but Older Brother just looks great in motion, between the alterations they made to the movement and just the entire weaponry system.
The distinction between the two halves of the game was always a little odd in the Gestalt version-- not odd enough to really raise eyebrows if you didn't know about RepliCant, but of course you can tell that this age gape between the optimistic doe-eyed dogooder and a man largely ruled by his fury and calloused by tragedy is what the timeskip was going for. Swab me down and call me Ishmael, it works.
Younger Brother wasn't quite clicking with me-- not because of any writing or voicework issues, but I've got Papa Nier on the back of my mind and it's impossible not to compare and contrast the delivery and dialogue between the two. I know that this is intentional, too; Younger Brother is supposed to be that happy-go-lucky video game protagonist, always doing the right thing and helping people, in order to contrast against the man he becomes. Even just edging into Part II the effect is dramatic and it recontextualizes Younger Brother into a much more effective overall character.
And let me reiterate, I enjoyed my time with Younger Brother just fine, I have no issues with him. But he's up against Well Meaning Big Dummy Part I Papa Nier. No contest. And I'm excited to see where Older Brother goes from here.
Speaking of voices
I mentioned this before but the delivery on the character's lines is different. The entire game was re-recorded and quite a few lines are still pretty similar to the original, but there are some that are... definitely different.
Part of this is a difference in the relationship between characters based on their life experience and ages-- Weiss is much more of an ass to Younger Brother but has a much more even respect for Older Brother (neither of which are like the rapport he established with Father). Some of Kaine's lines feel more aloof, dismissive, and almost tired in the front half of the game. I haven't really gotten to a point to dig into Emil's rapport with the other characters, but the delivery feels more hesitant and uncertain (which I think is more in line with his Japanese VO, but I'm prefacing that on an untrained ear and a presumption rather than recent memory).
It's been interesting to see not just where hey adjusted dialogue (and how-- there are some lines that didn't need to be rewritten), but also how they adjust tone and delivery. Dealing with Younger Brother is one thing, but as I said, I'm very excited to see what's different in the second half, especially being much more familiar with that part of the game.
Speaking of Voices!
Halua got dialogue!
I... preferred when it was inferred (and the implications of "I'll always be watching over you" are borderline malicious given the results of their fusion dance, yeah THANK YOU HALUA this is GREAT). Halua's delivery also felt a little too innocent and upbeat both for the situation and when compared to her narrative voice in The Stone Flower, where she comes across as much more cynical and cold.
But given what she's been through and the nightmare she's finally escaping I guess she's allowed express happiness. She's certainly earned the right to having a spoken line.
No matter what.
Every fuckin' time.
"Here we go."
This was always a great line to kind of ease in to the officially-official start of Part II-- every time you start up a New Game+ you're greeted with Emil musing about his conflation of Halua to Kaine, and then the phrase "Here we go".
There's a lot in that one line. On a personal level he's grounding his thoughts in the moment and steeling himself for what comes next and pushing through his pain and sadness and fear. Whatever Nier told him in the facility he's still terrified, desperately terrified, that Kaine -- who was the one who told him his life had meaning -- is going to reject him. And why wouldn't she? Ultimately they don't know each other, not really. He understands at that moment that his relationship with Kaine is based on confused memories of his sister, that maybe the bond he thought they established isn't actually real.
As soon as he frees Kaine he's going to have to confront her, like this, and how could she ever-- she won't-- but he can't just leave her. Whatever happens next. Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter.
(God it matters.)
"Here we go."
On a meta level, that's our introduction into the second half of the game. The first half is all prologue. This is where we'll be spending the rest of our time, even to the point that 'New Game+' skips straight ahead to this moment. Now that we've finished the establishment, this is where it all builds and where it all matters. Here we go, audience. The ride starts now.
You get up to this point now in Replicant. You get the same lead-in. My dumb ass even whispered "Here we go", because I can't help myself. And he says, of course he says--!
What the hell kind of line is that? "Here's some deeply personal musings that are also an indication of my own discomfort as I babble to myself just to fill the void so I can stave off thinking for just a few more seconds. ANYWAY."
What a... bizarre decision. Just bizarre.
Upgraded melee combat
The introduction to the armored Shades always feel kind of rough-- the defenses on those Shades are significantly higher than anything you've faced and the new weapons you're given to combat them just aren't that good. (If you got lucky you could have a fully-upgraded Faith by now, which is nearly three times as powerful as the 'heavy' two-handed sword you're given; if you downloaded the 4 YoRHa pack for Replicant you've probably been able to upgrade one of those weapons once, which are also a really nice strength boost that leaves the freebie heavy swords and spears in the dust). As an introduction to the new weapon types it always feels like rough going.
But then you get a chance to get decent weapons and the combat system truly opens up, and compared to the first game you really feel it.
At this juncture I would always just bustle off to Facade and grab the Phoenix Spear and never look back-- the raw power compared to the rest of your arsenal coupled with the triangle dash is basically the bread and butter of the rest of the game. It's not exciting, but it's effective.
No more triangle dashing, which was deeply disappointing... but both weapons definitely feel good. I am also somewhat ashamed to admit that it wasn't until now that I realized attacks weren't just about rhythmic input-- you can hold the attacks down to do different charged hits and combos depending on when you execute them in your combo, similar to Automata.
I, uh... I felt a bit dumb.
But hey, wow, it's a welcome adjustment and it makes all of the weapon types feel equally valuable for different purposes. I never liked using the heavy blades in the original release because they just felt too slow for the damage output they did, even if their 'point' was mostly to sheer off armor (and they definitely felt too slow for use in crowd control). Now they're still heavy and slower, but not to the point that you're basically leaving yourself open just trying to attack. Spears now do crazy sweeping combos and multi-hits. Both of these properties were borrowed from Automata and I find myself prioritizing melee combat and almost forgetting I have magic because honestly it just feels intuitive and fun.
I feel like Kaine and Emil might have gotten a power boost as well? Not that I can really confirm this but going into some of the Junk Heap rooms I'd focus on killing a few robots in the corner and then turn around and just see a field of item drops and no more robots. Don't take my word on that, of course, but they felt a little more effective, and a placebo effect is still an effect.
"You're staging a protest? That's fun!"
Emil. Rebel without a cause. Will not hesitate to kill you if you trespass on his property.
(Might explain the statues in the courtyard, actually.)
I'll have to double-check this dialogue because I definitely remember more of a melancholia before we get to roasting marshmallows. I think Papa Nier actually offers to talk to/implicitly threaten the villagers to let them in the Village whereas Brother offers to sleep outside with them... which is actually kind of funny. In the former it comes off as Emil and Kaine maybe kinda-sorta not wanting to be allowed in the Village for their own reasons (they're not happy reasons but they're reasons nonetheless) and reassuring Father that no, it's okay, it's fun!
The latter is almost telling Brother to stay inside because he'll ruin their sleepover.
(They're absolutely having giggly girl talk about him outside the gates, 100%.)
they ran over the seals
All I want in Seafront is to enjoy the music and run out to the big beach and hang out with the last living seals and they put a fucking pirate ship on top of them.
Oh, wow. Gideon. Wow.
OG Nier featured a Gideon that tried to keep himself together and then had fits of mania. You'd be concerned about him during some of the dialogue but generally speaking he came across as... functional.
The delivery on all of his lines is now so insanely murder bonkers, like every line he's addressing you like you're already chained to the wall of his serial killer dungeon and it's glorious.
I don't know if the distinction between the games is deliberate (in that Gideon in Gestalt was just more even-keeled between his 'rip 'em apart' snarlings and was always just totally nutso in RepliCant) but I do appreciate it. It's a good mirror to Brother Nier's own anger, which only ever seems to be mollified when he's talking to his friends (even kindly accepting sidequests there's a pretty consistent -- not universal, but consistent -- air of barely-bridled frustration). The other characters that Brother encounters are various reflections of himself if things had just been a little different-- Gideon was a representation of the kind of obsessive madness that would have eaten Brother alive if he hadn't had his network of support.
Gideon's constant fury and bloodlust even bleeds into him just saying "What can I do for you?" He has no anchor to keep himself sane, nobody to stay human for; he's all mania, all anger, and he only takes any real interest in Brother on his return because he sees an opportunity to act out his vengeance. After defeating Beepy and Kalil he even goes so far as to not only blame Beepy for killing Jakob, but for also killing their mother, which is patently insane but really speaks to how far his justifications and fury have taken him.
Papa Nier responds to his anger toward Beepy by basically backing away slowly and saying "Oookay then". Brother, however, actually commiserates; "That's enough. [...] We get it. We really do."
This is definitely one of those moments where Brother's context works better than Father's; he absolutely sees himself in Gideon. He completely understands him and sympathizes. He recognizes the madness of his own quest, he sees where it could take him, and there's a resignation when he speaks to Weiss: "Revenge is a fool's errand." "...yeah." Papa Nier has a similar delivery and similarly implies that he understands how terrible his quest is, but there's something decidedly haunting in Brother's sympathy.
Also just verifying something on the wiki and this bit of 'Trivia' really jumped at me:
Gideon is the only character to only cause the deaths of other characters. In his case, he caused a platform to crush Jakob and ordered the deaths of P-33 and Kalil, with P-33 surviving.
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