There are already articles out there which you can easily find that talk about the game in depth, so instead of talking about the game itself, I’ll instead focus on the legendary OST, how hauntingly amazing it is, and how one song alone made me buy the game and cause me to go experience even the older titles in the franchise.
Some friends and I were having a little get together a few years ago at a festival and somehow got into a discussion about sad and depressing songs. To increase our sociability, openness, angled thought, and cognitive performance, we were all on a specific substance stack (consists of nootropics and LEGAL substances like Phenylpiracetam, Noopept, etc.). One of them suggested, of course, “To Zanarkand”, and many of you probably know that song. A few more emotional pieces were thrown around, such as “Kiss The Rain” – by Yiruma, “At The Bottom Of The Night” from Chrono Trigger, Ever17’s “Karma”, and of course “Dearly Beloved II” from Kingdom Hearts, until a certain someone (you all know him) decided to step in and say, “trust me, ya’ll haven’t heard anything yet” and proceeded to go on Youtube to show us the song. Needless to say he was REALLY high from MDMA at the time.
At first a few of us couldn’t understand what was so “dark and depressing” about it other than what was obvious so he decided to go through the lyrics and break it down as the song played. Meticulously, he made sure to pause the song after every line and explain both the direct and the poetic/metaphorical differences. It was funny because by the time he was done, all of us had these expressions on our faces that was a mix between a cringe and being impressed. Impressed in a “what the fuck, that’s really fuckin’ tragic” way, and the cringe was from how agonizingly dark his interpretations were.
As everyone was gathering their emotions, I was already on Amazon.com clicking order on the game, NieR, for the Playstation 3. It was the most impulsive buy I’ve ever done for a console game.
He told us he never actually played the game and that a close friend of his raved about the game and it’s stellar soundtrack to him back in 2010. He said he knew nothing about the game, not even the basic premise or plot, just that he would listen to the OST on and off for the last few years, and yet he would later end up being super accurate about what happens in the game’s story after we all play through the game a few days later. He readily admits since he’s not good at dissecting “poetic and artsy stuff” that his accuracy was purely a testament to how much of a genius the composer of the soundtrack for NieR really is.
It’s important to note that the rest of the songs in the OST are sung in a made up language. Composer Keiichi Okabe asked the singer, Emi Evans, to come up with her own lyrics in futuristic languages. She tried to imagine what current languages would sound like 1000 years into the future.
Maybe it was whatever we were on, but we all came up with the same basic thoughts after playing the game and revisiting the OST on another gathering one night: That the songs (especially the one titled “Grandma”) told a story or narrative, despite being sung in a made up language. That it expressed the thoughts of one of the characters in the game, yet proposed a dark philosophical paradox concerning the duality of human behavior, all through a made up language using specific syllable and tone usage to evoke these lines of thought via the subconscious.
If you ask me, I don’t think this is too far from the truth of what was actually intended, especially since Ashes of Dreams up there is the same exact way except it’s actually written in English. Many fan theories are out there on the internet explaining that “Ashes of Dreams” is actually a poetic chronological summary of the events leading up to NieR. I’m not good at these things so if I decide to share that breakdown in the future I’ll have some friends share their thoughts on it and I’ll post it here.
The song that really stands out for me, and for everyone else in my tightly knit circle of friends, is “Grandma”. To quote an excerpt from wikipedia:
For “Grandma”, she sang in a French style, trying to “put in as much anguish and melancholy” as possible; she created the song in a single recording, and it is “one of the most memorable songs” that she has sung.
Listening to that may evoke certain thoughts and emotions, but if you listen to it again after playing through the game, it becomes a whole new experience. In the words of one of my friends, “During the years I listened to this soundtrack I knew it was nothing short of amazing, but after playing the game, I just cringe now from how painfully beautiful it is every time I play it so I try to avoid it unless I’m with you guys.”
Another friend has said, “I think most people continue to believe that the pinnacle of music hasn’t been met since the classical era, but “Grandma” is proof that there are pieces of work out there that may not be popular but are breaking a crack through that metaphorical ceiling”.
NieR as a story is a superb masterpiece in any way you look at it and should not be overlooked by anyone. On top of its story, it has some of the most unforgettable characters out there. I recommend playing it (Gestalt or Replicant version, it doesn’t matter) or watching a complete playthrough on Youtube (complete with cutscenes and full gameplay because the characters in Yoko Taro games usually are fleshed out through their random dialogue throughout the game). It’s not a perfect game. If you search around, you’ll find that the game reviews for it typically criticize it for it’s sub-par graphics which looked like a glorified PS2 game (it was a PS3 game), extreme framerate drops, and clunky fight engine while praising it’s story, characters, and soundtrack. I’ve never been one to let bad graphics or even gameplay stop me from experiencing a game that might be amazing story-wise but everyone is different.
This new upcoming sequel, NieR Automata, is technically a dream project. The previous game (and the universe it spun off of, the Drakengard series) was not widely successful but gained somewhat of a cult following, mainly in Japan and a few circles in the west. The fact we’re getting a sequel at all is luck, especially during a time a couple years ago when the game was announced (from what I read anyway) that Square Enix, the publisher, had to make sure it’s next titles did well or they would go bankrupt. They were relying on Final Fantasy XV to do well but somehow someone at Square believed in Yoko Taro’s “weird and niche” title enough to green light development.
Yoko Taro has collaborated with Platinum Games (developers of Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, etc) and so far the demo shows they have directly addressed the main flaws of the previous game (and Drakengard 3): graphics, framerate, and combat system. Marketing has put heavy emphasis on NieR Automata’s ability to maintain 60 FPS on both the PS4 and PS4 Pro. The graphics seem to be beautiful, even just from the demo, and aliasing improvements between the PS4 and PS4 Pro shows one of, if not the, biggest jumps in graphics.
As I’ve said over and over on stream, social media, and my Youtube channel, I have and will continue to aggressively advertise for this game. Any little help I can offer to boost sales, even if I made only 10 more people buy it that otherwise wouldn’t have, I’d be happy. Some of my plans include cosplaying the three most popular and unforgettable characters in the Drakengard/NieR universe: Kaine, Zero, and now 2B, the main protagonist of the upcoming game.
Thanks to all of your support, over 70% of my 2B cosplay fund has already been reached. I have already initiated the commission, given my measurments, paid for the first half of the project and the cosplay creator is working on it. I will be looking for another creator to commission my Zero and Kaine costume as well as their weapons. Expect me to cosplay these three within the next 3 months before the game comes out on March 7 for North America :).
One of the main reasons I want to help this game, besides out of love, is because Square Enix has supposedly expressed desire to expand the franchise if it does well and a fleshed out Drakengard would be one of the greatest things in life for my friends and I. I think a lot of Drakengard fans out there are dying for some kind of a return from Zero (protagonist of Drakengard 3) and some sort of closure from the first NieR. I have already pre-ordered the Black Box version. I did so the first hour it came up on the Square Enix NA store :p. So did my friend, and the other one pre-ordered the Day One Edition.
I’m thinking of doing some sort of promotion raffle for the game to create more incentive for my own fans to buy it. I haven’t thought it all through yet but maybe something like: fans show me a picture of their receipt of the game and they enter into a raffle. As for what prize the raffle would be, I do not know yet. If you guys have any ideas, leave them in the comments below or on my Twitter.