When I first played NieR: Automata on PlayStation 4 in 2017, I was amazed by the smoothness of its combat, especially compared to the original NieR. Platinum Games did a fantastic job making Automata’s minute-to-minute gameplay feel exciting and responsive.
Now comes NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139…, a remaster/remake of NieR Replicant, which is the “alternate version” of NieR only released in Japan, featuring a different set of main characters and a few other minor tweaks.
Ahead of the game’s release on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on April 23, I was able to go hands-on with an early build of Replicant. And for this preview, I brought out my PlayStation 3 and the original NieR to directly compare some of the early game areas.
A Mix of Old and New
For the most part, the combat in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… feels much more in line with Automata’s gameplay. While it keeps most everything else relatively the same from the original game, there are a few quality of life enhancements to be found here.
In battle, Nier can now simultaneously use and charge magic attacks while executing regular physical attacks, which, for example, lets you rapidly fire Dark Blasts at enemies while also slicing and dicing them with your sword. Think something similar to Automata’s pod machinegun fire.
Another change comes in the form of heavy attacks. Previously, players could only perform a shoulder tackle that would stun enemies and inflict minimal damage. In Replicant, that function is now a stronger sword combo, another carryover from NieR: Automata that is a welcome addition.
Though those mechanics have changed, there are some that have stayed the same in this remake/remaster. The magic meter returns, indicated by a blue bar at the top right of the screen. With it’s inclusion, there’s no spamming attacks like in Automata.
Nier’s running speed still slows down whenever you use magical attacks, like Dark Lance, as well, giving you a better chance to line up the crosshairs and hit the appropriate target.
The Lock-On System Shines
Speaking of selecting targets, the best new feature is the lock-on function. Just by pressing in the right thumbstick, you can aim at a particular enemy or a boss’ weak point. In the original, pressing the right thumbstick would reset the camera behind Nier, which isn’t exactly helpful for keeping track of any target, much less fast ones.
Luckily, if pressing the thumbstick isn’t comfortable, you can remap all of the controls in ver. 1.22474487139, allowing you to set this new feature to another area of your controller.
This feature particularly shines in the Junk Heap and The Aeries, the two dungeons I was able to play during the preview. These two areas are practically identical to their original counterparts, complete with the same top-down and side-scrolling sections and bosses. The main difference is being able to lock-on to the bosses.
After dealing a set amount of damage in these battles, a timer appears on a boss’ body part, and you must deal more damage to it before the timer runs out. If you’re successful, the battle moves on to its next phase. If not, then the boss recovers a bit of HP, and you have to repeat the process. In the original game, I had a much harder time beating that timer, but in Replicant, I’m able to easily aim using the lock-on function and finish off bosses without any trouble.
As for some of the game’s aesthetic changes, your book buddy, Grimoire Weiss, now floats around Nier at all times. In the original NieR, Weiss would only appear during gameplay when Nier conducted magic attacks, so it’s nice to have them tag along everywhere this go around.
There’s a lot more to cover about NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… but that will come in our full review later in April. Right now, the game is shaping up to be a great experience. Developer ToyLogic has managed to keep the spirit of the original game intact while incorporating the refined gameplay mechanics that NieR: Automata introduced.
Having spent a few hours in the game so far, it feels fantastic. Be sure to check back for more soon.