It still seems weird to see Square-Enix's logo shimmer in the corner of games such as
Just Cause 2. It's like settling down for a
nice episode of Sir David Attenborough Presents Sitting Perfectly Still, only for it to open with the words 'Michael Bay Presents...'. Squenix's attempt to diversify themselves into a more Western-friendly company has even seen a change in their core output.
Nier is an attempt to bridge the gap between the ailing Japanese RPG subgenre and the rise of Western RPGs like Oblivion. So it's in with an older, gruffer, hair-gel free protagonist, in with a real-time hack-'n'-slash fighting system, and in with the swears. In a big, big way. We counted four before we even had a picture up on the screen...
The root cause of this toilet-mouthery is a mysterious disease that has pushed humanity to the very brink of extinction. Attempts to engineer a cure have only made things worse, creating a new malady, the Black Scrawl, which has only gone and spawned a race of murderous chaos demons known as The Shades.
After such a spectacular misfire, you couldn't blame people for giving up hope, but not our titular hero, Nier. His young daughter Yonah is dying from the disease, you see, and he's simply not having any of it. Decision: kill things.
He's accompanied on his journey by a sentient talking book (what else?) named Grimoire Weiss, who sounds a little bit like Stewie from Family Guy and has the sneering, condescending attitude to match. Thankfully(for him), Weiss is spared from a future as
Nier's emergency loo roll supply thanks to his handy ability to equip Nier with new spells as he levels up during combat.
Nier can map two spells on the bumper buttons (or four, if he's prepared to sacrifice the trigger's roll and evade moves), all of which grow in potency if the player charges up the attack, a la Fable II. One of the first moves you learn is a giant phantom fist which flies out of your head and pummels the nearest target - overkill for a standard grunt, but not so much for the screen-sized Shades you encounter later on in the game.
Waiting for an RPG with Japanese charm but Western ideals? It's Nier, and it's not so far away.