NieR:Automata is certainly different. I picked it up over the weekend when it was on sale on Steam. To me, it feels like a really dark anime with a relaxed tone. Yes, it’s brown. It’s also got cute androids in gothic lolita dresses. And yes it’s technically a sequel, though it doesn’t really matter. The narrative doesn’t have much to do with the first NieR, or the Drakengard series.
It’s about what it means to be human, how emotions make us all human. Or, more than that, how our flaws and specifically free-will makes us human.
Nothing says that better than the part in the game in which the player discovers an abandoned amusement park. Except, it isn’t abandoned. There’s robots there, performing the acts they were seemingly built for. Some are throwing confetti, some are blowing up balloons, etc. They even talk, in stilted and dry “Let’s have fun!” and “ToGETher!”s.
As someone who personally worked at a Disney park, this whole thing is a living nightmare. The moment in the game isn’t really played for horror, but it scared me. It presented me a vision of an amusement park without humans, without laughing children.
There’s also a moment very early in the game where you fight robots that speak as humans do, seemingly coherent. “Help, don’t hurt me!” They say. That freaked me out as well.
It feels almost like it wants to punish you for attacking the robots at all. Most agree that’s what the director, Taro Yoko, intended. He doesn’t do interviews often, but he has spoken in the past about how he thinks the violent nature of video games is a weakness.
And I think this video games serves his point, and well.
I think I read a joke on Twitter and it really stuck. “Come for the cute girls, stay for the existential crisis.”
In short, if you’re looking for a very story-focused game that’s going to make you think, look no further.
Stephanie is a gamer, otaku, and your local friend who posts on Twitter too much. From Mississippi, she spends most of her free time prepping for her next convention or getting beaten at Overwatch. Follow her on Twitter.