Title: NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: October 6, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action JRPG
I’m sure everyone has expressed their absolute shock at NieR:Automata receiving a native Nintendo Switch port, especially with how inconsistent the game’s performance was on console and PC. The sheer ridiculousness of this news couldn’t be overstated, and fans worldwide have anxiously awaited this port with bated breath. And, somehow, someway, the Virtuos team has managed to create a genuinely stellar Switch port of NieR:Automata that deserves as much acclaim as possible.
NieR:Automata is an action JRPG that initially launched in 2017 for PlayStation 4, with Xbox and PC ports arriving later. The title starts with protagonist 2B, an Android, and a member of the YoRHa organization. This group of artificial lifeforms has the seemingly sole purpose of battling machines on Earth for the benefit of humans. 2B comes off as cold and perhaps even emotionless from the outset, simply aiming to perform her duties to the letter. However, on this journey of perpetual life and death, she eventually teams up with the scanner unit 9S, a talkative and far friendlier Android who gets her to open up gradually. Together, they continue to follow their YoRHa directives while uncovering profound truths.
Discussing any Yoko Taro game narrative at length without mentioning spoiler-related content is a fruitless endeavor, really. If you’re even vaguely aware of NieR, you’ll know that its stories are the most integral facets of the experiences. Hence, they unquestionably need to be played as blind as possible to fully appreciate. And while NieR:Automata contains thought-provoking lore and worldbuilding, I’d say its rawest strengths lie in its emotive character growth and relationships.
There is a reason its cultural staying power is so prominent years later, after all. Personally, I find the writing to be too heavy-handed and overt at points, sometimes mitigating impact. Still, I can’t deny that this title’s storytelling is immensely captivating and memorable because it boldly tackles the broad, overwhelming concepts of existentialism, identity, and death in digestible ways. Further, the magnificent English dub only serves to enhance the cores of the narrative and characters, truly letting the heart of this project beat relentlessly. There are several twists and turns here that cleverly use this compact cast to its advantage. It is also worth noting that Automata does have connective tissue to its prequel, NieR Replicant, and the Drakengard series, but you can still enjoy the story present here even if you haven’t played those.
The gameplay is primarily action-based, with intuitive controls comprising light and heavy attacks, jumps, and an evasive dash. Additionally, the player has a support pod by their side that provides manual backup fire via standard shots and special skills. Further, 2B can be customized with chips that are equipped onto a vertical block, where each chip takes more space depending on its efficacy. The limited incorporation is minor, but it effectively encourages individualism regarding builds.
Still, there are plenty of shakeups to take note of, with the most notable being the shmup and hacking segments. The former only occurs in particular setpieces, while the latter can be manually triggered later in the game. While these shifts in gameplay may seem offputting, this variance works to Automata’s benefit since the main combat itself doesn’t boast all that much depth to begin with. Movesets and skills are limited, and the dodge windows are quite generous. Summatively, the combat is flashy and gets the job done, but it’s nowhere near the level of intricacy of PlatinumGames’ other titles, like Bayonetta. The side gimmicks also embrace this general design philosophy, where variety is provided over complexity.
Though there is one particular facet of the combat design I grew to love: the angle changes. During many set pieces, such as boss battles or specific event sequences, the camera will drastically shift, inherently altering the approach and perception players will have in fights. It’s a clever way to help make encounters feel more momentous and diverse since movement is directly impacted as a result. Sidequests are also present, which paint the world in more vivid shades of gray. Automata and Taro’s other works, by extension, are never shy about depicting humanity in situations of tragedy and despair, and the side content usually elevates those intentions alongside the game’s overall messaging.
The soundtrack of NieR:Automata likely needs no introduction, but its unbridled brilliance deserves emphasis. From exceptional and tense battle scenarios to the melodically enchanting field themes, Automata demonstrates masterful tonal depiction. The soundtrack is always inextricably tied to any story-heavy game’s identity, and that holds doubly true for this title. One final point that needs to be highlighted is how this game performs on Nintendo Switch. And as stated at the start of this review, the Virtuos staff made this port of Automata its best launch version to date, with a consistently smooth frame rate and a solid graphical presentation, even if the latter does have texture downgrades. Even when playing in handheld mode, performance still manages to remain well. You’ll likely notice some foliage pop in here and there, but that’s an immensely meager compromise that I doubt would genuinely bother anybody, especially considering this game’s prior outings.
NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition is undeniably the definitive way to play this beloved modern classic. I distinctly remember playing the original release on PlayStation 4 and noticing constant performance issues, so seeing this game thrive on the Switch of all platforms is certainly a shock, yet a wholehearted welcome one. The addition of new costumes and the inclusion of the Coliseum DLC only serve to amplify this package’s shining quality.
If you’ve never played NieR:Automata or intend to replay it, I highly recommend picking up this release above all others. The game itself is certainly not perfect, what with its sometimes shallow combat and instances of heavy-handed messaging, but it usually illustrates its intentions splendidly. Plus, the former is made up for with sheer variety and eye-catching animation. You need to have an open mind and accept unconventional pacing to truly appreciate NieR:Automata, and once you do, you’ll never be off Yoko Taro’s wild ride, nor would you want to.
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