New Nier Will Stay Weird, But This Time With Platinum's Combat

Nier, far, wherever you are.

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Nier is a weird game. It's an odd spin-off of an already strange series, the brooding Drakengard franchise.

Drakengard tends to skew older in terms of target audience, but those who would enjoy Nier aren't just limited by the "grown-up" nature of its language and themes, but by the frequently bizarre twists the game takes. Its idiosyncratic nature works for it, however, which makes it one of the best "weird" RPGs to come out of Japan in the last decade.

It is, nevertheless, surprising that Square Enix would green-light a sequel. According to producer Yosuke Saito, and director Yoko Taro, it's not just about revisiting a world the developers loved--it's about giving the world a second chance to love it as well. The two felt that bringing Platinum Games on board will help give New Nier a better reception that its predecessor.

"With Platinum Games on board, we felt that we could really deliver on this experience we always wanted to get," Saito said. "As soon as the collaboration was decided, I felt, it's a done deal, we're gold."

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"Platinum Games is a great company, so as far as I'm concerned, my job is sort of done as well," added Taro.

In addition to bringing on Platinum Games, developers revealed that the original composer for Nier, Keiichi Okabe, and FInal Fantasy XII and Bravely Default designer Akihiko Yoshida, are both working on the new Nier project.

Nier was originally released in Japan with two versions, one for PlayStation 3 and another for Xbox 360. The PS3 version featured a younger, teenaged protagonist while the Xbox version had a middle-aged man as the main character. In the version localised for the west, only the middle-aged man version could be played.

The two original character designs were geared towards different markets, based on feedback from Square Enix's North American and European counterparts. The new Nier will not take this dual-release approach, as the developers believe the time has passed for treating the western and Japanese markets so differently.

Taro did explain that the new Nier would feature three playable characters, two of which we have seen already; the white-haired girl who featured prominently in the trailer, and a small boy shown in a brief trailer shot standing on top of a building. The final character has yet to be revealed.

"For this new Nier, we kept an action RPG mindset and thought, this time we want to hit out a great, high-level JRPG, so we're going to stick to one character design," Saito added.

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"Platinum is great at creating action games, and we've asked them to make things a little more simplified, slightly. At first I thought it was going to be a battle-heavy action game, but luckily for us, a lot of Platinum Games' staff members really respect Nier and took it to heart, and understand the project.

"We're really fortunate in that they essentially took the battle system and the game design of the original Nier and added Platinum Games-type elements on top of it to make this hybrid if you will. It's not like it's a completely new game, they really have respect for the previous game."

The new Nier currently doesn't have a release date, though Saito suggested that it may be PlayStation 4 only.

"Please play on PlayStation 4," he said in response to a question about what Xbox players can expect.

Taro and Saito explained that the new Nier project is more focused on creating an original story within the game world, and won't follow the narrative of the original. However, we can expect several Nier characters to make cameos. There will be these kind of connections, but Taro emphasized that newcomers won't feel alienated if they come to the new game without playing the original. Returning players, however, will enjoy a lot of nods and easter eggs from its predecessor.

Another feature that made Nier unique was how it treated player choice at the end of it the game and incentivized repeat playthroughs. There are five possible endings in Nier, all of which encourage you to go back into the game and try your hand at saving things again.

In one particular ending, you're asked to either sacrifice yourself to save someone or let them die. If you sacrifice yourself, the game wipes your save file--effectively deleting all traces of your adventure. To add insult to injury, it won't let you use the same file name you did on your previous playthrough, as if the game itself was telling you to move on. It's a bold move for a game, one that unfortunately (fortunately?) won't be repeated.

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"We are going to maintain that multiple playthrough idea for the new project, but in terms of the save file deletion thing, we probably won't do it, since we did it in the original one and want to do new things," Taro explained. "But we will have multiple playthroughs involved. But you know... we're still in early phases of development. Maybe we will delete you save files."

The original Nier's level design was a mash of different genres; Players spent most of the time controlling Nier as you would in a typical third-person action game, but for select fights, the camera would swing up to a top-down perspective. On other occasions, it would switch to a side-on platformer, with some sequences more closely following conventions of shoot-em-up. This worked for some players, but not all, but the constant switching ensured that gameplay rarely got stale. The new game likely won't follow this pattern, however.

"Members of the media told me the original Nier is like a puppy someone threw out."

director Yoko Taro

The new Nier will, however, retain the tone of the original game and the Drakengard series. It will keep its mature subject matter and approach to dialogue and presentation, not shying away from hyper-violence and sexualization.

"Drakengard was my first game as director, and we were actually told a lot by our advisory board to do retakes and make changes and honestly, I said, screw this, I'm not making another one," Taro said.

"I thought, with Nier, I'm going to make a normal game. That's what I tried to make, a normal game, though people think it's very dark and somber. But for me, that's normal."

He added: "The way I look at original Nier is like your mom's home cooking: it may not be the best, but it's okay, you're comfortable with it. Members of the media told me the original Nier is like a puppy someone threw out. It's cute in a way, but there's something wrong in a sense, and you can't help but love it even though there's something missing and you can't put your finger on it.

"But now we're working with Platinum games, and with Yoshida and Okabe, and we feel we have these great ingredients now. Is it going to be too perfect? We have all these great chefs, if you will, working together, and now, is it going to be missing that thing that made it so endearing to our fans? But after thinking about it, we think, we're just going to try it and see how it goes."

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+

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