Two versions were released in Japan, NieR Gestalt (ニーア ゲシュタルト, Nīa Geshutaruto) for Xbox 360, and NieR Replicant (ニーア レプリカント, Nīa Repurikanto) for PlayStation 3. Both games are based in the same world and have the same premise, only different in regards to Nier's appearance, his relationship with Yonah, and the year the game takes place.
The North American and European versions are the same as Japan's NieR Gestalt, the name shortened to just NieR and released on both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The game was released in 2010; in Japan on April 22nd, Europe on April 23rd, and North America on April 27th.
NieR is a continuation of another of Taro's works, Drakengard—specifically its fifth ending. An indirect sequel, NieR: Automata, was released in February 2017 in Japan and March 2017 worldwide. A remake of the Replicant version, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139..., was released worldwide on April 23rd, 2021.
In the summer of 2049 (2053 in Replicant) a father and daughter (brother and sister in Replicant) take shelter from a prolonged snowstorm in the remains of a grocery store. Two mysterious black books lay on the ground near them, and the man, Nier, kicks it away as it taunts him about obtaining its power. The girl, Yonah, suffers from an uncontrollable cough, and the two struggle to find food.
Suddenly, the pair are attacked by strange humanoid creatures, and Nier has no choice but to accept the book's power to defeat them. After the altercation, Nier discovers that Yonah has also touched one of the books, which has a negative effect on her condition—worsening her cough and causing black markings to appear on her skin. Yonah collapses, and Nier calls for help as the camera pans away.
1,312 years later (1,412 in Replicant), a similar looking man (young boy in Replicant), also named Nier, searches for a cure for his daughter's (or sister's) illness. The world has seemingly regressed to that of a medieval age, Nier and Yonah living in a small village with modest amenities. The village knows of Yonah's disease, and lends their support by hiring Nier for numerous odd jobs and errands. While the work seems beneath him, he holds his head high and does what he can to provide for Yonah, all while hoping that the village's de facto leaders, twins Devola and Popola, can discover a cure.
One day, Yonah leaves the village to seek out a Lunar Tear, a rare flower Nier told her about that can grant wishes. Nier hurriedly heads to the Lost Shrine, where Popola had previously told Yonah they grow, dispatching strange monsters dubbed Shades along the way. Nier soon stumbles upon a talking book, calling itself Grimoire Weiss, with whom he teams up and uses its magic power to defeat two guardian statues blocking their way. It's discovered that Yonah is suffering from the Black Scrawl, a fatal disease somehow linked to the Shades.
Nier learns from Devola and Popola that Weiss is a book of legend, appearing in the Song of the Ancients, where with the Sealed Verses he fights against Grimoire Noir and restores peace to a destroyed world. Believing this to be the solution to curing Yonah, Nier and Weiss begin searching the land to collect the Sealed Verses.
The pair travel to The Aerie, meeting the hot-tempered, foul-mouthed Kainé, who is half Shade. She eventually joins the party after defeating a giant Shade, but refuses to enter villages due to her condition. The group also travels to a lonely Manor, meeting Emil, a young boy whose eyes petrify anyone that gazes upon them. Other locations visited are Seafront, a bustling port town, the Junk Heap, an abandoned factory, Facade, a desert city governed by countless rules, and the Forest of Myth, a small village afflicted with a strange illness called the Deathdream.
Eventually, Nier's village is attacked by a giant Shade. A large scale battle ensues, ending with Kainé being petrified by Emil in order to seal the Shade beneath the village library. Yonah is taken away by another Shade, known as the Shadowlord, who is accompanied by Grimoire Noir.
Five years pass, and while Nier hasn't made much progress, he is determined to save Yonah. The Shades have grown stronger, developing a resistance to sunlight and using armor and weapons, while the village suffers due to the Black Scrawl and scarce resources.
Emil sends Nier a letter informing him he may have found a solution to removing Kainé's petrification. The pair journey under Emil's manor, into a laboratory where he remembers his past: he and his twin sister Halua, also known as No. 7 and No. 6, were the subjects of cruel experiments where they were turned into living weapons. Nier and Emil find a monstrous Halua, and after defeating her, Emil fuses them together through his petrification—Emil taking on a skeletal form now able control his powers. The two return to the library and remove Kainé's petrification, defeating the sealed Shade and continuing their journey.
After a return trip to the Lost Shrine, the group finds a mysterious stone fragment, which is explained by Popola to be a piece of a cipher that may lead them to the Shadowlord. They then revisit different areas to gather the other fragments: The Aerie, Junk Heap, Facade, and Forest of Myth.
Once all the fragments are found, the group returns to the Lost Shrine and are able to enter the Shadowlord's Castle. They encounter Devola and Popola, who reluctantly fight them, revealing the truth of their existence—they are not human, but Replicants created as part of Project Gestalt, humanity's attempt to save itself from a disease called White Chlorination Syndrome (WCS) which appeared after the Giant's defeat over 1,300 years ago spread maso particles around the world. They also explain that Shades are actually Gestalts, human soul counterparts to Replicants who, after the eradication of WCS, were supposed to return to their rightful bodies. The twins are androids, overseers of Project Gestalt, and conclude that due to instability with Gestalts turning hostile and Replicants developing self-awareness, the project was failing. Devola and Popola fight the group, ending with Emil sacrificing himself after Popola threatens to destroy everything after Devola's death.
Nier, Kainé, and Weiss continue, reaching the Shadowlord's chamber. After defeating Grimoire Noir, they learn that the Shadowlord is the Nier as seen in the game's prologue who was turned into the Original Gestalt—the first to be able to go through the Gestalt process by touching Grimoire Noir and not relapse. All Gestalts created afterwards were then linked to him to keep them stabilized, making Shadowlord Nier the last bastion of humanity.
The original Yonah's sickness after touching Grimoire Noir is determined to be because of an immediate relapse, and her Gestalt was kept in hibernation to give Shadowlord Nier incentive to continue being the Original Gestalt. Due to Yonah relapsing, her Replicant would always have the Black Scrawl—a symptom of Gestalt relapse. Shadowlord Nier realized that Yonah's relapse couldn't be stopped, which is why he abducted Replicant Yonah to return her to her original body.
After Replicant Nier and the Shadowlord fight, Gestalt Yonah awakens in her Replicant body. She approaches Shadowlord Nier, recognizing him as her father, then apologizes to him saying she cannot keep Replicant Yonah's body due to her still hearing her other crying. Gestalt Yonah commits suicide by stepping into sunlight, and the Shadowlord, in his grief, puts up a final desperate fight. The Shadowlord is defeated, and Weiss loses his physical form due to using up all his magic. Replicant Nier and Yonah are reunited, however without the Original Gestalt, the remaining Replicants and Gestalts are all doomed to go extinct.
Ending A: Call Her Back
Replicant Nier hesitates for a moment before dealing the final blow to the Shadowlord. He hurries to Yonah's side, worried when she doesn't respond to him. Weiss, now with no physical form, uses the last of his strength to speak—telling Nier that she will awaken when someone says the name of the one she loves most. The player is then given a prompt to write their character's name. If entered correctly, Yonah slowly opens her eyes, and observes Nier for the first time after five years. Kainé turns 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."
Ending B: Lingering Memories
Starting the same as ending A, after Replicant Nier defeats the Shadowlord, the scene 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 she tries to force him to eat something. The scene reverts back, and images of enemies that Replicant Nier previously killed gaze at him. Gestalt Yonah, in her young form, comes to greet him—thanking him for always being there for her and offering him a cookie.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 canon ending for the SINoALICE collaboration scenario.
A continuation of endings A and B, after Nier defeats and kills the Shadowlord, Kainé begins to succumb to the Black Scrawl as she tries to leave. She then goes into her Shade form, forcing Nier to fight her. After Kainé is incapacitated, Kainé's Shade, Tyrann, explains to Nier how he can save her: either by killing her, or forgoing his entire existence for her. If the player chooses to kill her, Nier stabs Kainé as he kisses her, finally ending her pain. Tyrann tells Nier Kainé's last words, "Thank you."
Ending D: Something Very Special
Ending D is the canon ending for NieR: Automata.
Ending E: The Lost World
Ending E is also a canon ending for Nier: Automata, continuing from ending D.
Told in the novella The Lost World printed in Grimoire Nier, the story takes place three years after ending D. This ending is also included in NieR's remake, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139..., albeit slightly different from the novella version. The version of Nier in this ending is brother Nier.
A program to terminate and reset the Replicant system begins its execution in the Forest of Myth.
Kainé wakes from sleeping with tears streaming down her face, tormented by nightmares. She remembers nothing, save for the strong feeling of losing something precious. In a search to discover what it could be, she finds her way into the depths of the Forest of Myth's tree Sleeping Beauty, which has somehow been overrun with technology and wires.In the depths of the tree 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 with the help of Emil. After defeating the AI and harnessing the maso power within the tree, the erased Nier is reconstructed from the memories of his first visit to the Forest of Myth, Kainé holding him within the petals of a giant Lunar Tear.
|Nier (Father)||The main character of Japan's NieR Gestalt and North America's NieR. An older, gruff looking man trying to find a cure for his daughter's illness by any means.||[JP] Kenichiro Matsuda (Remake)
[EN] Jamieson Price
|The main character of Japan's NieR Replicant and remake NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139.... A teenager, later young adult in the game's second half, trying to find a cure for his younger sister's illness by any means.||[JP] Nobuhiko Okamoto (Young)|
|Yonah||A young girl, either Nier's daughter or sister, afflicted with a strange illness. Soft spoken and kind, Nier cares for her deeply.||[JP] Ai Nonaka
[EN] Heather Hogan
|Grimoire Weiss||A talking book Nier finds at the top of the Lost Shrine, giving him the ability to use magic. Outspoken and pompous, he demands respect despite knowing little of his own past.||[JP] Shinnosuke Ikehata
[EN] Liam O'Brien
|Kainé||A half-Shade woman that accompanies Nier. Foul-mothed, hot-tempered, and scantily clad, she is an expert at fighting and survival due to being ostracized as a child.||[JP] Atsuko Tanaka
[EN] Laura Bailey
|Emil||A young boy Nier meets while traveling with the power to turn anyone he sees into stone. Initially quiet and wary because of this curse, he opens up to Nier and Kainé and happily joins them to find a cure for his eyes.||[JP] Mai Kadowaki
[EN] Julie Ann Taylor
|Devola||One of the de facto leaders of Nier's village. A bard, often found singing at the village fountain and tavern, she is seemingly more extroverted than her sister.||[JP] Ryoko Shiraishi
[EN] Eden Riegel
|Popola||One of the de facto leaders of Nier's village. A librarian, she often helps Nier by giving him quests and clues to finding the Shadowlord. She is seemingly more introverted than her sister.||[JP] Ryoko Shiraishi
[EN] Eden Riegel
The World of Recycled Vessel, known in Japan as 15 Nightmares, is the first and only downloadable content for NieR, 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 enemies, 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 she slowly succumbed to the disease, and in turn went insane.
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 as simply NieR for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. On September 9, 2009, Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu said that the version of NieR shown at E3 was known as NieR Gestalt, and would be released exclusively for the Xbox 360, 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 different from NieR Gestalt, albeit only aesthetically. Gestalt would be the only version of NieR to be released in the West on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, going 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 Yosuke Saito stated 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 suggested they "go for an action game instead." While Taro 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 flying sections from their first action game, they could concentrate on creating an extensive action RPG. The towns and quest NPCs in the game are remnants of 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 and discussed, but had to be cut due to time or graphical limitations—such as a seamless camera for cutscenes, quick time events, a fishing town and Mermaid Shade, and a "Diablo like game." Some concepts survived to the final game, such as the side-scrolling camera which appears during specific parts of gameplay. Taro's personal contribution (or insistence) for their long experimental process was including shooting game elements since he enjoys the genre. This led to the unique orb shape for magic in the final game. The text adventure sequences were also pushed by Taro 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' generally negative comments for those sections.
During the ups and downs of their experimentation, Taro 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 Shōnen Jump manga," 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, Taro felt that he failed to capture this tone, because he unintentionally obsessed over the personal risks of characters' actions, best seen in NieR's different endings though 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 the villains to win and killed the "evil" scientists, where it then became a struggle for the villains to revive them. 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.
Taro 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 in game form. With that in mind, he wrote the story about the wolves and continued 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." Taro 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 see if the link would please Drakengard fans. Once he was committed to tying the two series together, Taro 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 Drakengard's 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, including Mushihimesama, Zelda, Ico, and Monster Hunter. Taro explained that the parodies were done in the spirit of games being fun. No matter how somber the story, he wanted players to remember that games can be joyful and entertaining. As a side note, Taro said the Black Hand's similarities to magic in Bayonetta was 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. Taro thought the white hair would make the main cast stick out since Western fantasy often had blonde haired protagonists.
About three years before the game's release, 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, Taro, 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 multiplatform for the changing next generation market, and told the Japanese staff that they didn't want the same experience on both consoles. Therefore, Taro had the 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. Taro, who wasn't specialized in thinking about Western audience's preferences, complained to Saito and began to lose motivation, saying, "if you change the protagonist that much, we don't want to make it." It's because of this that Japan kept their planned brother and sister story.
Even though both father and brother Nier were made at the same time, Saito and Taro underestimated the workload that came with the decision. A new design had to be made for father Nier and character dialogue, which was being written in a frenzy even as the meeting took place, had to be rewritten to include the father's perspective. Camera angles during pre-rendered cutscenes also had to be altered. Developers were becoming exhausted by the end, but Saito was optimistic, saying that they'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 Western 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. Taro 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's prologue takes place in 2053, with a 1,412 year time skip to the main game. Gestalt however, has the prologue set in 2049, with a 1,312 year skip. Taro commented on the difference stating that there was no real meaning to it, just that NieR's world is one that "constantly repeats itself." Within each cycle, there are multiple possibilities and fluctuations, no one history is the same. In a Famitsu interview, he went on to say it also reflects our world's history. We aren't often aware of the exact reasons why the world works unless we make the effort to know, and even then there are still many unknowns. He didn't want to omit NieR's history, but the game's narrative is in Nier's perspective and Taro 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. Taro 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 decision to do Japanese dubbing was also 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 changes, Taro wanted to implement branching endings because he believed games should be "doing more," and multiple endings help envision that. This time, his personal challenge was to somehow make the option screen "move people's hearts." Cavia developers whined about the decision immediately. Taro was worried that Saito would say no to the decision, and tried to keep it a secret. When he finally presented the idea to Saito, he was surprised when the producer approved it. Saito had already heard about the idea from other Cavia members before Taro came to him and thought it would to inevitably happen either way.
The names for the game's multiple endings are references to an ending that wasn't made, one that Saito deemed too difficult to implement in the final product. Taro 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, Taro would say 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 a "the creator is the god of the work" image. It not only disregards other developers' contributions, but it limits player freedom of interpretation which he deemed was the true marvel of any work of fiction. Therefore, he described that 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 to them, but they aren't really his thing.
- In Japan's NieR Gestalt, the dialogue is available only in English while the subtitles and menus are in Japanese.
- A PlayStation Vita version of the game was at one point being considered by game director Yoko Taro, 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 of the main characters' English voice actors are also 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.