Nier Replicant Is Proof That Getting Rid Of Loading Screens Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing
Every single day without fail, Yonah writes you a letter. She tells you about how Devola and Popola come over to sing with her, how she wants to learn to cook better so she can make you nicer meals, and how, no matter how worried you might be, she genuinely feels okay most of the time. These letters appear again and again in an almost arbitrary order – May 4, September 21, July 20 – and serve as a constant reminder of why you do what you need to do: it’s all for Yonah’s sake.
When the Xbox Series X and PS5 were being marketed by Microsoft and Sony, respectively, there were a few buzzwords that seemed to be plastered over every single advertisement. “Seamless” was one, which I’ve written about before. We heard about new features like Quick Resume, Smart Delivery, and FPS Boost. But one of the most prominently discussed topics prior to the launch of current-gen consoles had to do with loading screens – specifically that they would soon become a relic of the past.
Nier Replicant is more than a remaster but not quite a remake. It adds in certain elements that were not present in the original Nier from 2010 and are designed for people who first encountered the series when Automata launched in 2017. There are even notes about Accord, something that is mentioned in Automata but actually comes from Drakengard, the series Yoko Taro worked on prior to donning his illustrious Emil helmet. These notes, like Yonah’s daily letters, appear during Replicant’s loading screens, which there are admittedly quite a lot of.
I haven’t got a PS5 yet. I have a Series X and don’t feel particularly pushed on shelling out for PlayStation’s latest toy until Deathloop launches later this year. That being said, I’ve been game sharing with one of my closest friends for almost ten years. Given that it was his turn to buy the newest major release, he bought Replicant for his PS5, meaning it was playable on my base PS4. I’m unsure how enduring the loading screens are on newer hardware, but they seem to last for an eternity while my PS4 screams like a hyper-compressed jet engine in an echo chamber.
It’s a strange feeling, heading out to the southern plains from my post-apocalyptic yet pastoral village. I’m on my way to the Seafront to get a shaman fish for Yonah, which will supposedly make her pain a small bit more bearable. Just as I leave the shopping district, one of her letters appears on the screen.
Today Popola sent me a new book about a great big tree. I really hope it has a happy ending. There’s nothing worse than a sad tree.
I look at the words and think about what Yonah means. The PS4 chugs along to a rhythm far steadier than the choppiness of startup. It’s a moment of respite before the Shades appear, space to remind myself of not just what awaits me, but why it awaits me and what will await me once I return. All in all, it’s a whole lot of waiting – but it’s a meaningful wait, one that makes sense because of how inherently intertwined it is with the context of the game it’s bridging together, not just from a technical perspective, but a purposeful one.
There’s a rule in game design famously associated with Fumito Ueda, the legendary director behind Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian. Design by subtraction is a formula that focuses on minimalism and resists conventional exposition. Stories are told not just through the words on the page or the pictures on the screen – conversely, elements that remain consciously unacknowledged hold a significant weight when it comes to delivering the core narrative and themes.
Ultimately, this is an exemplary case of using constraint to your advantage. It’s a clever means of articulating essential context via the precise limitations that could easily hold it back. Yes, the need to connect individual sections of a large overarching world together requires smoke and mirrors, apocryphal tricks of the trade that employ sleight of hand and misdirection to make the mundane look magic. But it goes far beyond that once you acknowledge the process of waiting, that momentary window where you can either permanently retain or temporarily forfeit the attention of whoever is playing. It’s a liminal space where reflection collides with anticipation, a bridge that allows the world to exist and function but also makes it that much easier to intensely inhabit.
I’m sure that Replicant performs wonderfully on current-gen hardware and that the integration of individual levels is seamless – there’s that buzzword again, “seamless.” But Nier’s loading screens aren’t just a rotating logo or a weapon description. They’re a connection to the sister you rarely see but must always remember, and, weirdly enough, I’m extremely grateful to be able to play this incredible game on my dusty old PS4, despite the fact it sounds as if it’s about to enter orbit any second now.
Next: New Pokemon Snap Proves That There Are No Bad Pokemon
- TheGamer Originals
- Square Enix
- NieR: Automata
- Xbox One
- Xbox Series X
- Nier Replicant
- Yoko Taro
Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
Source: Read Full Article