Progress Report: Nier (PS3)

It’s been pretty slow-going with Nier. I’ve been on a platforming and oldschool tear lately with Shovel Knight, Electronic Super Joy, DuckTales, and the NES Remix games all occupying most of my time. Despite all that, I find myself thinking about this game a lot, and have become quite addicted to it as I’ve gotten back into it this week.


It’s not a looker, though. Full of weird visual glitches like the one above, the overall image quality looks like an up-resolutioned PlayStation 2 game.

The world of Nier is designed well, however, with large, sprawling towns that feel alive. NPCs have interesting things to say more often than not. I like that quest givers are clearly highlighted throughout each area, which makes them easy to find when you’re focusing on that aspect of the game. What I don’t like is that once you’ve taken on a quest, finding that NPC again can be more difficult than it needs to be since they’re no longer marked. You have to refer back to your quest log for hints on who assigned them. For me, at least, they’re easy to forget.


I really like the loading screens. They’re simplistic, but are full of character, and I look forward to seeing all the different ones that Cavia put in the game, including the journal entries from Yonah.


While I haven’t discovered any methods of fast travel yet — I’m still early, heading to the Junk Heap — I like that I can roll around Nier‘s overworld like Link in the Zelda games, making the long back-and-forth journeys less boring.

These outdoor areas between towns can be huge, and the draw distance is impressive. Again, they might not be the most detailed, but they are still pretty good and support the somber tone of the narrative. They also give you lots of space to plan out and execute attacks on individuals and mobs.

I don’t like that digging up items and harvesting materials from fallen creatures require a slow animation cycle to play every time, though. Maybe this is a given in titles like this, and I know it’s more realistic, but it gets a little old when there are so many things in the world to gather. Ladders and pushing/pulling blocks also have an overly slow feel to them.


You can (and have to at least once) fish in Nier, and while the mechanics are almost insultingly simple, it’s not implemented very well. It’s annoyingly easy to lose bait and fish even when you think you’re doing everything correctly. Most recently, I enjoyed the fishing mini-game in Persona 4 Golden. It had a good visual feedback system, but Nier‘s is vague. As a result, I’ve lost a good number of lures on what should have been simple catches, and above all else, it comes across as wasted time.

One area of Nier that I can’t fault at all is its audio. It contains some very good voice acting, and the soundtrack in particular is of the highest quality. One listen to “Song of the Ancients (Devola)” is enough to seal the deal. Nier‘s compositions get mentioned quite often when Favorite Soundtrack lists are discussed, and for good reason. It’s one of the most beautifully consistent, stirring, and memorable ones I’ve heard in quite some time.


I’m also digging the gameplay. At first I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. Combat felt repetitive and not very clear, but I’ve gotten comfortable with it, and I’m also gaining a sixth sense on what to avoid this early on in my adventure. Those one-hit deaths will make you a fast learner!

I haven’t really gone too deep with some of the customization systems, like the word-related one. I just do the auto-equip for now, but I’m sure later as I amass a good collection of them, I’ll be scouring the internet to find the best and most effective combos. The metagame was one of my favorite aspects of 2010’s Dragon Quest IX on the Nintendo DS, and I get the feeling I’ll be enjoying those same qualities in Nier as well.

So despite the various nags and quibbles I have with this game, it’s one where I feel the whole is going to be greater than the sum of its parts. I’m very much enjoying Nier so far, and I’m glad my friend encouraged me to start playing it.


Rediscovering LittleBigPlanet

My apologies in advance; today’s update is a short one since I’ll be out of town most of the day.


So, Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet (LBP). Yes, the first one from 2008. After finishing Tearaway last week, I thought back on LBP, and how it never did click with me. I distinctly remember calling the controls imprecise garbage. At the time, I had most recently finished Super Mario Galaxy, which along with its 2010 sequel, were among my top games of that generation, and without question my favorites on the Wii. Going from Nintendo-quality platforming to LBP was a shock in the worst possible way.

I shelved LBP without giving it much of a chance, but it must have affected me on some subconscious level. I ended up buying the 2011 sequel — in Collector’s Edition form, even — and have yet to play that one. I grabbed the PSP version after 2011’s infamous PlayStation Network outage, and so there I was with 3 installments of the series, virtually unplayed.

Which leads me to this week. Absence may very well make the heart grow fonder, because even though the controls feel just as loose and the physics model seems to have a mind of its own sometimes, I’m really enjoying it. Time away from it has given me a new appreciation for what Media Molecule was able to do on the PS3 8 years ago. 8! For its age, it still looks fantastic, the soundtrack is infectiously catchy, and the whimsical, slightly off-kilter atmosphere of its world is refreshing.

Media Molecule might as well be called Material Masters. The look and feel of the game is so pleasant and convincing. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!