Q&A: Square Enix’s Nier Combines Fighting, Farming
What’s up with Square Enix’s Nier, anyway?
We’re a little over a month away from the release of this Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game, yet we don’t know a whole heck of a lot about it. It’s an action role-playing game developed by the hit-or-miss folks at Cavia (Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, but also Bullet Witch). Square Enix insists it’s heavy on the RPG side of the seesaw: “This is not a God of War clone. This is not an action game. This is not an adventure game.”
In fact, besides monster slashing, it also features fishing and farming.
In an emailed interview with Wired.com, a Square Enix representative filled in some of the details of Nier, including why the game is being released in two separate versions in Japan but not anywhere else, and what the deal is with that hermaphrodite character.
Wired.com: So I think there’s a bit of confusion out there on just what kind of game Nier is. Can you talk about the battle system and what separates the game from other hack-and-slash titles?
Square Enix: Let’s make a clear separation right off the bat — Nier is an action RPG. This is not a God of War clone. This is not an action game. This is not an adventure game. Nier absolutely has its share of hack-and-slash gameplay and it’s a lot of fun, as it always is to swing huge swords, do acrobatic martial arts moves and crush enemies under the weight of your ever-expanding abilities.
However, Nier also has magic spells. Nier can upgrade, alter and enhance his abilities, magic spells, weapons and martial arts using a system that is similar to a “rune” archetype. The game revolves around one of the most intricate and surprising stories of any game, filled with unusual characters and shocking cliffhangers. And the game’s non-linear progression includes world exploration, countless side quests, additional villages and NPCs, fishing, cultivation and more — allowing the player to choose how they play and the pace at which they wish to progress through the main story.
In short — it’s an RPG and that’s what separates Nier from hack-and-slash titles.
The battle system seamlessly integrates the swordplay and acrobatics with the magical attacks. And the best part is that this is all customizable. By using “Words” found throughout the world, the player can change the characteristics of their favorite swords and spells to better fit their play style or the immediacy of the encounter they are engaged in. If you are the type of player that likes to stomp in and crush enemies with your sword, you can add strength or health upgrades to your sword and equip some AoE magic spells for close combat. If, however, you want to battle from a distance, you can select a set of ranged spells and add additional magical power enhancements to your weapon for extra buffs. It’s up to the player at all times and the player can continually adjust to find what works best for them, personally.
Wired.com: Does the game leave room for exploration or do players go from one room of monsters to the next in a linear fashion?
Square Enix: Nier leaves the pace of the game to the player. As the game is an action-RPG, there is a lot of exploration of the world that players can undertake. In addition, there are quite a few side quests that can be found at Nier’s village and at other locations throughout the world. These side quests will help Nier gain experience faster while at the same time will provide him with a source of income which can then be spent on new weapons or upgrades to current weapons. It’s not right to call this an “open-world” — because people will think of Grand Theft Auto — but essentially, you are standing inside a world and you have the freedom to go where you would like. Just like other RPGs, it wouldn’t be wise to wander off into high level areas without progressing through the game a bit first, but you have the freedom to explore at your own pace and design.
Wired.com: Why did you decide to release two separate versions of the game in Japan, but only one in the U.S.?
Square Enix: Nier was designed with a very strong adult male character as its lead character. We realized as we built the game that this is not what has been the “usual” RPG experience for gamers in Japan. For that reason, we decided to make changes to the game, only in Japan and only on the PlayStation 3 version. In that version of the game, the role of Nier is played by a younger, more traditional Japanese RPG hero figure. In order to make this work, the PS3 Japan-only version features a brother saving his sister, while all other versions (including the game here in North America) Nier is a father saving his daughter.
Wired.com: Do the stories of Gestalt and Replicant intersect with one another at some point or are they completely self-contained experiences?
Square Enix:The two games are, for the most part, the same. The only difference between Japan’s Nier Gestalt and Japan’s Nier Replicant is that in Replicant, Nier is a younger boy saving his sister, instead of an adult man saving his daughter. Otherwise the story, gameplay and experience are the same (aside from small changes to the script to make the brother storyline fit). Here in North America, we only have one game called Nier, which is the same game as Nier Gestalt.
Wired.com: Nier features a character who happens to be a hermaphrodite, which was something that got a lot of media attention for obvious reasons. How did the idea for this character come about? What is the story purpose behind the character?
Square Enix: The character you are referring to is Kaine, one of Nier’s companions who fights alongside him during part of the game. It’s true, she is a hermaphrodite and you’re right, a surprising amount of media attention came out of this tidbit of information.
To be honest, the fact that Kaine is a hermaphrodite was never meant to be a salacious detail that would be talked about on message boards the world over. It is a core part of who she is but it is not a major point within the game story. Kaine’s history is one of conflict and suffering. She has had a hard life, full of pain, and the fact that she is a hermaphrodite is only a small part of that overall story. Sure, it helps to explain some of her personality and actions, and all of that is explained quite naturally through the story of the game.
Images courtesy Square Enix