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Played Out - Nier

For those of you more interested in another entry of the Hottie Count than my opinions on the meso-obscure Nier, here's a picture of the game's Kainé, a female character lovingly covered by shreds of trashy steampunk wear.
I'm not sure whether to admire Japanese character artists or shun them for their blatant disregard of female pragmatism, but, you know, who's to say fighting monsters in lingerie isn't the best strategy? The Greeks used to wrestle naked, and I'm not just talking about fraternity row holla at my Deltasssssssssssss!!!

Nier is a game with an uncertain identity. Whether or not the developers planned this uncertainty is difficult to tell, as big and small budget sensibilities criss-cross all over the screen. Much of the world is certifiably bland by today's graphical and creative standards, as the settings stay very much to the standard role-playing tropes (country village, seaside town, desert town...), yet the strangeness of the story and characters imply aspirations for something different. Similarly, a fairly straightforward sword-and-magic (S&M) battle system is frequently mixed up or completely taken away to facilitate sections imitating twin-stick shooters, text adventures, and farming simulation. If it weren't so normal, it would be experimental; and if it weren't so experimental, it would be completely normal.
Now, I'm not objecting to any of this. I've found my time with Nier so far enjoyably relaxing, and while this may partly be due to my conscious effort to enjoy games more and stop biting myself, I attribute a lot of credit to the above. It's like remixed comfort food. Even though I know my main quests will typically involve going to a standard location and fighting standard monsters, I'm excited by the possibility that the story or play style will throw me for a loop. I don't know if those loops are going to lead to anything more meaningful than a bearded lady sideshow, but I'm not sure that they have to. Sometimes something different is a holistic experience all on its own.

At its core, Nier is always an action role-playing game that requires an ability to sustain some amount of tedium and some amount of passion/tolerance for crazy Japanese storytelling to appreciate. For all of you reading this without that ability (sic all of you), here are three vicarious takeaways.

- Unique travel companions. Kainé aka that scantily-clad girl whose butt you can always see is actually a great character, if only for her constant, R-rated berating of friend and foe alike. She's like the Colonel Tigh of Nier. A young boy named Emil who whines about how his eyes turn people to stone (get over it) also tags along, but your patience is rewarded when he transforms into a hideously cool flying scarecrow.

- Dots. One town consist of residents who, when you agree to listen to their self-involved stories, simply drag on with page after page of literal ellipses. I mean the whole screen is covered by dots. It doesn't sound that exciting, and it isn't, yet it's a clever method of giving that village a distinct identity which promises to stick in my memory. When you play as many games as I do, memorability, for any reason at all, becomes a most important promise.

- Emi Evans. I feel like Tim Robbins' character from High Fidelity saying this, but my first inclination to play Nier came after hearing its Gaelic-inspired "Escape" theme on a video game music podcast. Turns out much of the environmental score was composed by a British expat in Japan whose non-national, constructed language rises beautifully against the game's retro-future pastoral backgrounds. Evans' outside music sounds a bit like Zero 7 (both good and bad) stuffed with thistle and shamrock, and her voice is enchanting regardless.

My dream is to be swept away by the siren song of a Celtic lass, beautiful or ugly, so long as she dresses like Kainé and is beautiful. Use that information as you will.

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