Nier, the recently announced action role-playing game from Square Enix, isn't playable on the E3 2009 show floor, but we did have a chance to check out a brief presentation behind closed doors. Unfortunately, the game's still in the early parts of its development cycle, so we didn't see too much, but we got a general idea of where Square Enix is going with the game.
The presentation started with Nier, the game's titular character, inside a building, talking to one of the game's non-playable characters. What's interesting about this first scene is that it's framed in a 2D perspective. We were told that the game will occasionally switch perspective for certain types of events. After exiting the scene, Nier made his way outdoors into an absolutely massive environment with rolling hills and trees sprinkled off in the distance. It's here that we were told that Nier will feature a full day and night cycle and that there will be some weather effects, such as wind gently blowing through the leaves on the trees. It's clear at this point that Nier will have much more in common with Western-style RPGs in that it seemingly has a greater emphasis on exploration than most typical Japanese RPGs. In fact, we're even told that Nier himself has been designed to appeal more to a Western audience.
After venturing through some parts of the environment, Nier made his way indoors, where we had our first glimpse of some combat. The first enemies that appear onscreen are tiny, shadowlike creatures that Nier dispatched rather quickly with a few swipes of his sword and a special attack that he had to charge to execute. Interestingly, while fighting a second wave of these creatures, a magic book--that appeared to the side of Nier--started firing fireballs at the enemy, which showed how Nier will be capable of using some magic attacks later in the game. For the most part, the action seems pretty fast-paced and more in line with something like Devil May Cry than most other action RPGs.
It's still way too early to make any formal assessment of what's going on in Nier and what it attempts to do, but we'll see more of the game before its 2010 release.