It was released in 2010 only on the Xbox 360 in Japan as Nier Gestalt (ニーア ゲシュタルト, Nīa Geshutaruto), styled as NieR Gestalt, and released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Europe and North America as Nier, stylized as NIER.
Another version of the game was also made exclusively for Japan on the PlayStation 3, known as NieR RepliCant. The game is based in the same world and is only different in regards to Nier's appearance, his relationship with Yonah, and the year the game takes place.
The game was released in Japan on April 24, 2010 and North America on April 27, 2010.
NieR continues off the fifth ending from the game Drakengard. An indirect sequel, titled NieR:Automata, was released on February 23, 2017 in Japan, and March 2017 worldwide. A remake of the RepliCant version of the game is currently slated for release in April 2021.
The story of NieR begins in the summer of 2049 in the ruins of an unidentified city. A prolonged snowstorm envelops the region, trapping the few survivors in a gripping cold with little shelter and minimal food. Two who have made it through the onslaught of climate change lie hunkered down in the remains of a grocery store—a man and his daughter or sister, depending on the version of the game. The girl suffers from an uncontrollable cough, while her weary father/brother weighs a fateful decision. A mysterious book lying on the ground between them taunts the man with its power to help. He only needs to hand over his soul to receive the tome's power. A number of monsters known as Shades appear and the father/brother fights them off to protect the girl with the help of the book. After defeating the Shades, the child grows sicker.
The story continues some 1,312 years in the future where a man named Nier endures a similar struggle. His only daughter/sister has succumbed to a violent cough and must remain in bed while he searches for a cure. Though much time has passed, the world in which this family resides is, in many ways, one of a simpler time. Villagers live in modest homes and work together to ensure a better life for their community. The entire village knows of young Yonah's illness, and lends their support by hiring Nier for numerous odd jobs and errands. Some would say the work is beneath a man of his caliber, but he holds his head high and does whatever he can to provide for Yonah, all the while hoping that the village's wisest member, Popola, and her twin sister Devola can discover a cure.
One day, Yonah leaves to seek out the Lunar Tear flower Nier told her about, and may have gone off in search of the Lost Shrine where Popola told Yonah the flower blossoms. Upon searching the Lost Shrine, Nier stumbles upon a talking book capable of wielding magic, calling itself Grimoire Weiss. The two team up to defeat the army of Shades and two living guardian statues to save Yonah. It is discovered that Yonah is suffering from the Black Scrawl virus, which is linked to the Shades. This partnership with Weiss allows Nier to use magic, and the two begin their quest to search the lands to collect all the Sealed Verses that Nier hopes will give Weiss the power to destroy the darkness and save Yonah. In their search they encounter the hot-tempered, foul-mouthed Kainé, who is herself part-Shade, and a young boy Emil, whose eyes petrify anyone that gazes upon them. Their quest sees many hardships, culminating in Kainé becoming petrified in order to seal a deadly Shade beneath the library, while Yonah is carried away by the master Shade, known as the Shadowlord, who carries his own book, Grimoire Noir.
Five years later, since Yonah was carried away, Nier has neither given up hope that she's alive nor doubts for one moment that he can find her again. Times have gotten hard for the villagers during these intervening years. The gates to the village remain shut at all times, and food is scarce. News from the outside world seldom makes it to the village because of the increased number of Shades in the neighboring plains—even many of the animals that used to graze in the southern and northern plains have fled the area. The other big difference is that the Shades have become far tougher to defeat, even for Nier. They are outfitted with plate armor and helms, and wield swords. The world is in turmoil, and the Shadowlord is behind it all.
Emil believes he has discovered the key to removing his curse as well as unpetrifying Kainé, and he and Nier journey to a lab below Emil's mansion, where Emil remembers his past: he and his sister Halua were the subjects of experiments into weapons research being conducted under the mansion as part of the "Gestalt Project". His sister, "Number 6", was utilized to create the "ultimate weapon", while he, "Number 7", was kept in reserve. This weapon—his sister—is a large, disfigured skeleton-like creature, and is ultimately defeated by Nier, but not before Emil has to seal away her power. This has the unfortunate side effect of transforming a devastated Emil into a similar skeleton-like body that floats above the ground. However, now he can see and wield his own form of magic. After unpetrifying Kainé, and defeating the Shade, the three set out to find the parts to a keystone that they believe will help them locate the Shadowlord and Grimoire Noir.
With the pieces in place, the team returns to the shrine where Weiss was originally found, in order to defeat the Shadowlord. They encounter the twins Popola and Devola, who reveal to them that all of the remaining humans on the planet are not in fact humans, but Replicants, or "shells", from the Gestalt Project. Faced with its own destruction over 1,300 years ago by a virus, mankind created the Gestalt Project in an attempt to extend human lives by transferring their minds into duplicate shells, free of disease. The project was initially successful, but the Replicants began to exert their own consciousness, and gradually became human entities of their own without the original human souls transferred into them. The Shades that Nier and people have been fighting are actually the remains of humans from long ago who have succumbed to the virus, their aggressiveness due to an overwhelming desire to return to a real body. The twins fight against Nier and his friends, but when Devola is killed Popola threatens to destroy everything until Emil sacrifices himself so that Nier and Kainé can continue.
Nier, Kainé and Weiss reach the Shadowlord's chamber and, after defeating Grimoire Noir, they discover that the Shadowlord is the original "Nier" as seen in the game's prologue, who was the primary test subject for the Gestalt Project, and driven by an identical desire to protect Yonah. Having taken Yonah, he has given the original human Yonah her Replicant body, but this Yonah realizes that she cannot keep it, as she hears the Replicant Yonah calling for her father/brother. She vacates the body, and Nier and the Shadowlord do battle. During the fight, Weiss loses all his strength and disappears, leaving Nier to fight the Shadowlord alone. After defeating him, Nier and Yonah are reunited. However without their souls, the Replicants are doomed to extinction.
Ending A: Call Her Back
Replicant Nier is about to kill Gestalt Nier. He gazes at the Shadowlord, now having lost all hope. Replicant Nier hesitates for a second before dealing a final blow. Afterwards, Nier goes to Yonah's side, worried when she doesn't respond to his calls. Soon Grimoire Weiss, after losing his body, uses the last of his strength to speak. He tells Nier that she will awaken when someone says the name of the one she loves the most. The player is then given a choice to write their character's name. If entered correctly, Yonah slowly opens her eyes, and observes her brother for the first time after five years. Kainé goes to leave but is stopped by Nier, asking if she wants to stay with them. She declines, saying she has "her own shit to take care of." The scene shifts over to Nier and Yonah back at the village, sitting on the hill near their house. Yonah runs up to a sitting Nier, who gives her a Lunar Tear as they both lay down on the hill. The scene shifts again, showing an adult Yonah and the Shadowlord about to take each other's hand, then the adult Yonah takes hold and hugs the Shadowlord's arm, hinting that Gestalt Nier and Yonah have reunited.
Ending B: Lingering Memories
Ending B starts the same as Ending A. After Replicant Nier defeats Gestalt Nier, the scene then changes to Gestalt Nier scrunched up, weeping to himself—alone in a white void—as he regrets all the hardships he put Yonah through. A flashback occurs, with Yonah and himself alone in the grocery store. He tells her that he isn't hungry, while Yonah tries to force him to eat something. The scene reverts back, and images of enemies that Replicant Nier killed gaze at him while he cries to himself. Gestalt Yonah, in her young form, comes to greet him and thanks him for always being there with her, and shares the cookie with him. Emil, who survived the blast, crash lands in the desert. Now just a head, he goes out to search for Nier and Kainé, bouncing and rolling into the distance.
Ending C: Thank You
- Ending C is the ending that is canon for the SINoALICE collaboration scenario.
Ending D: Something Very Special
- Ending D is the ending that is canon for NieR:Automata.
Told in the novella "The Lost World" printed in GRIMOIRE NieR, the story takes place three years after Ending D. A program to reset the entire Replicant system begins its execution in the Forest of Myth.
Kainé wakes from her sleep with tears streaming down her face more and more frequently, tormented by nightmares; however, nothing but the strong feeling of losing something precious remains upon wakening. In the search to discover what this could be, she finds her way into the depths of the Forest of Myth, which has somehow been overrun with technology and wires.
It is at the center of the forest where she meets an intelligent, artificial life-form that is in charge of that particular data terminal. The terminal creates android copies of Kainé to keep her away, but she eventually breaks through their ranks to find the one thing she had lost. The erased Nier is reconstructed with the “memories” that the tree had of his first visit to the Forest of Myth, essentially resetting him back to the first time he set foot into the forest at the age of 16.
Since this story is accompanied with a few images, it appears as though this is an off-shoot of Replicant as opposed to Gestalt. Therefore, there is little leeway to allow a Gestalt version of Nier in this scenario.
* This story is also alluded to on Kainé's character card from the arcade game, "Lord of Vermilion".
- Nier - the main character of the game, he is an older man described as being an "unyielding protagonist" who is trying to find a cure for the Black Scrawl virus which has infected his daughter, Yonah by any means. He is voiced by Jamieson Price.
- Grimoire Weiss - a hovering, magical tome, Grimoire Weiss serves as Nier's access to magical spells (known as Words in the NIER lexicon), new melee attacks and weapon upgrades. Though Nier rescues Weiss at the game's outset, his motives are suspect, a Square Enix representative commenting that "Defining Grimoire Weiss as good or evil is a difficult question, and one that the player will only truly understand after playing through NIER." He is voiced by Liam O'Brien.
- Emil - a quiet, young boy who turns anything he looks at into stone. He joins Nier after trying to find a cure for his eyes. Eventually he is transformed into a skeleton being, but retains his soul. He is voiced by Julie Ann Taylor.
The game was first teased in the Official PlayStation 3 Magazine and Official Xbox 360 Magazine, before being officially unveiled in June 2009 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009 as simply Nier for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. On September 9, 2009 Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, said that the version of Nier shown at E3 2009 was known as Nier Gestalt and would be released exclusively for the Xbox 360 version fueling speculation that the PlayStation 3 version of the game was canceled.
However on September 15, 2009, Famitsu unveiled Nier Replicant which would be a PlayStation 3 exclusive version of the game and that it would be different from Nier Gestalt only aesthetically. For now, Gestalt will be the only version of Nier to be released in Europe and North America and will be released on both the PS3 and Xbox 360. In Europe and North America, Gestalt simply went by the title NIER.
Planning took three years to complete. It took another two and a half years for Nier's gameplay to assume a finished state. The development team had an average of 20 people at any given time with 40~50 people assigned throughout its run.
Director Yoko Taro and Producer Saito Yosuke said in multiple interviews that the earliest prototype for Nier was to create "a spectacular RPG like the Final Fantasy and Star Ocean series." While working on the traditional JRPG format with turn based battles and a world map, Saito eventually said, "Let's go for an action game instead." While Yoko heard it as his colleague following trends within the industry, Saito later elaborated that he didn't want the work Cavia developers put into Drakengard to be wasted. He thought that if they cut out the flying sections of their first action game, they could concentrate on creating an extensive action game. The towns and quest NPCs in the game are remnants from their earliest prototype.
Since they had to recreate an entire engine from scratch, developers played around with various concepts through repeated trial and error. Many ideas were tried, discussed, but had to be cut due to time or graphical limitations such as a seamless camera for cutscenes, QTE sequences, a fishing town and a Mermaid Shade, or a "Diablo like game". Some concepts survived in the final game such as the side-scrolling camera which appears during specific parts of gameplay. Yoko's personal contribution (or insistence) for their long experimental process was including shooting game elements since he likes the genre. This led to the unique shape for magic in the final. The text adventure aspects was also pushed by Yoko because he wanted to showcase the charms of Japanese sound novels to Western audiences. He realized it may have been a failed gesture when he read Western players' many online "Fuck!" comments for those sections.
During the ups and downs of their experimentation, Yoko was given the task of writing the story. He juggled with the idea of creating a new fantasy world. He also wanted to do something new by making the story "like a Shonen Jump," specifically trying his hardest to capture the dazzling euphoria that is felt when the heroes are in a desperate situation and are saved by a group of trusted comrades. In retrospect, Yoko feels he failed to capture this tone because he unintentionally obsessed over the personal risks of characters' actions, which is best captured in Nier's recurring playthroughs. One of his earliest concepts included a man fighting in a world of fairy tales fighting to save a girl by finding magical books.
Another idea was having a world where children's books were real. The villains opposed the heroes with the desire to resurrect their leader. It was a world stuck in an eternal loop of the same narrative, meaning the villains were destined to fail time and time again. Some of the villains noticed this and sought scientists to help them escape their suffering. The heroes, being heroes, could not allow villains to win and killed the "evil" scientists. It then became a struggle for the villains to revive the scientists. While it has diverged greatly since then, elements of this prototype served as inspiration for the main conflict in Nier. The fairy tale names for Shades are callbacks to this early concept.
Yoko didn't land on a solid backbone for the story until he read Kino's Journey. He wanted to replicate the light novels' traits of having several mysterious encounters in a broad world except in game form. With that in mind, he wrote the story about the wolves and kept going from there. In the earliest stages of development, Sechs and Fyra were high contenders for the protagonist roles.
There was no initial plans to tie Nier to Drakengard since Saito wanted to create an independent RPG. He had hoped for a "happy ending with love." Yoko decided to tie Drakengard plot points in as he devised more of the game's scenario, mostly as a case of wondering what to do next and curious to know if the link would please Drakengard fans. Once he was committed to tying the two IPs together, Yoko made it his mission to present "a different kind of horrible" than before. When he learned of this, Saito's major request was to make it so people who weren't familiar with Drakengard could still play and enjoy Nier's story. They were both surprised when footage of Ending E was used in Nier's early promotional marketing.
Homages were included to respect other narratives set during ancient times. Certain game references were done to appeal to Western audiences. Some of these works include Mushihimesama, Zelda, Ico, and Monster Hunter. Yoko explained that the parodies were done in the spirit of games being fun. No matter how somber the story, he wants players to remember that games can be joyful and entertaining. As a side note, Yoko says the black hand's similarities to magic in Bayonetta was a pure coincidence.
The stark white aesthetic for the game and its characters was done to contrast the RPG trends at the time of Nier's creation. Yoko thought the white hair would make the main cast stick out since Western fantasy often have blond hair protagonists.
About three years before the game's release date, when the project began to take shape, Saito took pains to include the North American and UK localizers and marketing department members in the development process. His goals were to guarantee a profit with appeal to Western audiences since Drakengard had poor sales in the West.
He, Yoko, and key members of the design team had a meeting with the Western staff in Los Angeles. Western staff members expressed immediate concerns with making Nier a multi-platform for the changing next gen market and told the Japanese staff that they didn't want the same experience on both consoles. Therefore, Yoko had the daring idea to make the experience unique for each platform. This began the earliest start of the father and daughter concept.
During the same meeting, the Western staff criticized that it was "too comical" to have a skinny boy swinging around a giant sword in a serious narrative. They wanted "a realistic hero" to better appeal to adult players in the West. Saito argued that realism shouldn't apply to a fantasy narrative, and both sides argued for an entire day over the matter. Eventually, Saito relented to the Western staff's concerns. Yoko, who wasn't specialized in thinking about Western audience's preferences, complained to Saito and began to lose motivation. "You say that, but if you change the protagonist that much, we don't want to make it..." It's with this notion that Japan kept their planned brother and sister story.
Even though both Niers were made at the same time, Saito and Yoko underestimated the workload that came with the decision. A new design had to be made for Father Nier. Character dialogue, which was being written in a frenzy even as the meeting took place, had to be rewritten to include the father's persepective. Camera angles during pre-rendered cutscenes had to be altered. Developers were becoming exhausted by the end. Saito was optimistic. "We'll make the two versions somehow," while dodging his superiors' inquiries over the cost.
Before release, Saito was made aware of a key discrepancy in the UK team's claims. In England and Germany, the general consensus was in favor for Father Nier. But France was looking forward to experiencing Replicant and complained about how they were robbed of the original Japanese experience. According to him, many French players ended up importing it rather than buying Gestalt. Yoko was amused by American critics' comments about Father Nier's passiveness, though he took issue on the game's graphics being the main selling point for them.
RepliCant has the prologue take place in 2053 and a 1,412 year time skip to the main game. Gestalt (NIER), however, has the prologue set in 2049 and a 1,312 year time skip to the main game. Yoko's comment on the time differences was that Nier's world history is one that "constantly repeats itself." Within each cycle, there are multiple possibilities and fluctuations at select times. No one history is the same. In a Famitsu interview, he went on to say it also reflects our world's history in real life. We often aren't aware of the exact reasons why the world works in certain ways unless we make the effort to know; even then, there are still many unknowns. He didn't want to omit Nier's history, but the main story is in Nier's perspective and Yoko thought extensive research would be beyond the protagonist. The loading screens and written journals throughout the game were included to cater to players who wanted world building details.
Initially, an English only voice cast was planned for both titles to make the game experience easier to port overseas and to "make it cinematic." There was no recorded dialogue for the English recording directors to work with and it was difficult to imagine how characters would sound in text alone, so they requested for audio samples to build a point of reference. Yoko gathered a group of voice actor friends to record prototype dialogue for him to send. These placeholder voices were used as the reference for the English voice casting. As Gestalt's recordings were being done, the notion to go for Japanese dubbing was put into place. Developers sought for Japanese voice actors who had experience in overseas dubbing to better compliment the dialogue's pacing.
On top of these sea of changes, Yoko wanted to implement branching endings because he believes games should be "doing more" and multiple endings help create that. This time, his personal challenge was to somehow make the option screen "move people's hearts." Cavia developers whined about the decision at once.
Yoko was worried that Saito would say no and tried to keep the plan a secret. When he finally worked up the nerve to present the idea to Saito, he was surprised when the producer had approved it point blank. Saito had already heard about it from other Cavia members before Yoko came to him and thought it was an inevitable gesture for Yoko to do.
The names for the game's ending are references to an ending that wasn't made. Whatever it was, Saito deemed that it would have been too hard to implement in the game. Yoko couldn't find a way to convince Saito to include it so he left the titles as proof of what could have been.
In later interviews, Yoko would repeat his opinion that he said "too much" for Nier, which he expresses as a detriment. His desire for every title marketed under his name is to create something new and to avoid "the creator is the god of the work" image. It not only disregards other developers' contributions, but it could limit players' freedom of interpretation which he deems is the true marvel of any work of fiction. Therefore, his wish for the "canon ending" is whatever the player feels is best for them. Anything linked afterwards or before is an alternate reality, an "if world." He extends the same sort of opinion towards fan created wikis. He's impressed with fans' dedication for them, but they aren't really his thing.
The World of Recycled Vessel, known in Japan as 15 Nightmares, is the first and only downloadable content for NieR, and is available on Playstation Network and the Xbox Live Marketplace for $6.99/6.99€/￥864. It includes three battle mission packs, two new outfit sets, three new weapons, new types of Shades and new remixed tracks. Players get access to the diary of Nier's deceased wife (or mother in RepliCant), who died of the Black Scrawl. As the chapters of the diary progress, it shows how Nier's wife/mother slowly succumbed to the disease, and in turn, became insane.
- Oddly, in NieR Gestalt, the prologue takes place in 2049, and there is a 1,312 year time skip to the main game. In NieR RepliCant, however, the prologue takes place in 2053, and there is a 1,412 year time skip to the main game. It It is currently unknown why this change was made.
- In the Japanese version of NieR (NieR Gestalt), the dialogue is all in English, but the subtitles and menus are in Japanese.
- A PlayStation Vita version of the game was at point being considered by game director Taro Yoko, who wanted to open the game up to a wider audience while "...adding some kind of [new] element." However, because development studio Orca was busy working on Dragon Quest X, the Vita version of the game was ultimately scrapped.
- Coincidentally, all the main characters' voice actors/actresses were featured in the game Tales of Vesperia, among other Tales games.
- Jamieson Price (Nier) shares a voice with Duke Pantarei.
- Laura Bailey (Kainé) shares a voice with Gauche.
- Liam O'Brien (Grimoire Weiss) shares a voice with Cumore.
- Julie Ann Taylor (Emil) shares a voice with Karol Capel.
- Eden Riegel (Devola and Popola) shares a voice with Estellise Sidos Heurassein.
- Heather Hogan (Yonah) shares a voice with Colette Brunel in Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.