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The creators of Nier Replicant on the little changes that make a big difference

‘I’ve been informed that there are not a small number of father Nier fans in the world’

Kaine has some words with a Shade in Nier Replicant. Image: Toylogic/Square Enix

The success of Nier: Automata catapulted the Nier series into the mainstream. Players were enamored with its story and memorable characters, as well as the tight action gameplay from Platinum Games. The game was a sequel to cult-classic Nier that was released back in 2010 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. With the series larger than ever, now is the perfect time for a remake of the original entry. And according to the creators, more Nier games and content will once again depend on the success of the latest project.

We had the opportunity to speak with Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… producer Yosuke Saito, creative director Yoko Taro, and development director Saki Ito of Toylogic on the eve of the game’s release about introducing the game’s teenage protagonist to a new audience, reimagining the combat, and the new extra content added to the release.

Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is an upgraded version of Nier that’s now available for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One with new gameplay and content.

In Japan, the original Nier had two versions: Nier Gestalt and Nier Replicant. In that region, Gestalt was exclusive to Xbox 360 and had a middle-aged protagonist, while Replicant was exclusive to PlayStation 3 and had a teenage protagonist. When it came to localizing the game overseas, Gestalt was used as the basis for the international versions outside of Japan. According to a previous interview, Gestalt was chosen because, at that time, it was thought that the middle-aged protagonist would be more appealing to a global audience. With Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139, the team was able to keep its own vision in what went into the release.

Nier Replicant 7 tips for beginners Image: Toylogic/Square Enix

Producer Yosuke Saito told Polygon that the release of Nier: Automata taught him an important lesson. “After releasing Automata, I understood that we’re fine to do what we most wanted to do, and people would still accept [Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139] as it is,” he explained. Saito notes that there were certainly still fans from 10 years ago who would have also accepted Japanese games as they were, so his overall impression of the audience hasn’t changed too drastically.

With the rise of social media platforms, Saito said that players are now actively exchanging information on what they’ve enjoyed. The development team is able to see words of encouragement directly, and that in turn boosts confidence.

Nier: Automata went on to sell over 5 million copies, and Saito said that the success of the title had an immeasurable impact on the development of Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139. Hideki Kamiya of PlatinumGames previously mentioned that the success of Automata saved the studio.

Developer Toylogic is handling this version of the game. When trying to decide which aspects of the original Nier to keep, or which ones to change to be more like Automata’s, Toylogic development director Saki Ito mentioned that he tried to focus on recreating the experiences that he had from playing the original game. He then “beautified” the experience, based on what he remembered. He uses the protagonist’s floating book companion, Grimoire Weiss, as an example.

Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… guides Image: Toylogic/Square Enix via Polygon

“In the original game, in my mind, I had pictured Weiss constantly floating by the protagonist’s side and watching over him. The protagonist would be interweaving his weapon and magic attacks while stylishly hopping around,” Ito explained.

In Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139, Ito’s vision is fully realized through the refined combat, which is much more in line with Automata’s. In the original game, the player had access to both their melee attacks and Weiss’ magic. However, the player could only do one or the other, and not both at the same time. For example, if they wanted to conduct a magic attack, Dark Lance, then they would have to sit in place and cast it while aiming.

However, in this new version of the game, the player can now fire off magic attacks and execute combos with their weapon simultaneously, resulting in the game’s combat being much more fluid than the original’s. Additionally, they no longer have to stand still when charging Weiss’ magic spells, so they can stylishly hop around, just like Ito envisioned.

Some additional aesthetic details that were added to the new version of the game may go unnoticed. In the original Nier, Weiss only appeared during gameplay whenever the player wielded magic attacks. Now, Weiss can be seen always accompanying Nier wherever he goes.

Ito mentioned that he was happy someone caught that detail regarding Weiss, saying, “I’m so glad you touched upon how Grimoire Weiss can be seen constantly. While it was unexpectedly hard to implement, no one seemed to notice it until now.”

Ito said that the original Nier has many elements such as the visual presentation and the cutscenes, that are still attractive even if you look at them now: “By incorporating those elements as they were in the original, I feel we were able to give this title a nostalgic appeal.”

Nier Replicant guide: Achievements and trophies Image: Toylogic/Square Enix via Polygon

There’s also the Grimoire Nier, which was a book published exclusively in Japan that has extra content on the original game. When asked about whether any of its content would be added, Saito encouraged everyone who played the original game to play the new one themselves. He’s actually referring to the new Mermaid episode involving a wrecked ship and a little girl. This episode is adapted from “The Little Mermaid” short story in Grimoire Nier. Having finished the entirety of the game, I can confirm there’s more to find that I won’t spoil here.

Another aspect that carried over to Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 was Weapon Stories, which was in Nier: Automata and the Drakengard series. As players level up weapons in the game, backstories about them progressively unlock. In a previous stream, creative director Yoko Taro said that he didn’t add Weapon Stories in the original Nier because the game had a lot of side quests, so he didn’t think the stories were necessary. However, he did bring them back for the new version of the game.

When asked about the inspiration behind some of the weapon stories, Taro simply said, “I feel like we copied over text that was in a strategy guide for the original Replicant...but I don’t recall very clearly.”

In an anniversary livestream, Square Enix jokingly stated that if Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 sold at least 2.5 million copies, which is half as much as Nier: Automata did, then they would consider adding in the middle-aged protagonist from the original as extra content.

“I’ve been informed that there are not a small number of father Nier fans in the world,” Saito said.

He mentioned the “15 Nightmares’’ content in the new game, where the protagonist faces off against a series of challenging enemies and dungeons. Also known as “The World of Recycled Vessel” in the original game, this was a separate paid add-on at the time. In this DLC, the player assumed the role of the teenage protagonist. In Replicant, it’s flipped the other way around, and players will become the middle-aged protagonist. Saito hopes that the game does reach the 2.5 million sales milestone, and in order to achieve that, the “15 Nightmares” content was made as part of the base game this time around.

Now that the series has a brand-new audience that joined through playing Automata, the team hopes that the same crowd shows up for the new game which can serve as an entry point for newcomers and veterans alike. Saito sounded optimistic, saying, “Of course, if sales prove to be successful, the possibility of delivering a new entry in the Nier universe is sure to go up! Your support will definitely be appreciated.”