NieR: Automata – The End of YoRHA edition – Review
Follow Genre: Open world ARPG
Developer: Platinum Games, Virtuos
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

NieR: Automata – The End of YoRHA edition – Review

Site Score
9.0
Good: Surprisingly good gameplay performance
Bad: Some inevitable visual downgrades
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Five years after NieR: Automata originally blew the minds of gamers on PC and PS4, the game gets a new lease on life on the Switch. We don’t need to ask whether or not this is a good game, because we already know it’s fantastic, receiving universal acclaim when it debuted in 2017 (and its subsequent Xbox release and 2019 rerelease got high praise as well). The question is how well the Switch is able to handle Yoko Taro’s larger-than-life ARPG, as we’ve seen our fair share of bad ports on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Still, we’ve seen games like The Witcher 3 or Monster Hunter: Rise crammed onto the platform with relatively little compromise. Seeing that the game was ported by Virtuos -who also handled the Bioshock collection on the platform- certainly got our hopes up too. So how does the so-called The End of YorRHa Edition of NieR: Automata hold up?

Story

Set in a desolate future, NieR: Automata tells the story of the YoRHa, a squad of Androids tasked with defending the Earth from machines. Our initial two protagonists are 2B, a character that shouldn’t need an introduction at this point as she has arguably become one of the most recognizable video game characters of the modern age, and her companion-by-chance 9S. NieR: Automata’s overarching narrative initially seems like a very straightforward affair: Our Android heroes initially don’t know each other but they grow closer to one another as they are forced to team up and face the machine threat. If you’re familiar with Yoko Taro’s work, however, you’ll know to expect the unexpected, and NieR: Automata’s story is a shining example of this. We won’t delve into the plot too much as that would diminish its impact but what you get here is a story that pulls the rug from underneath your feet, asking philosophical questions about what it means to be human, and paradoxically reveling in how absurd and silly the premise is in the first place. With a variety of different endings, each of which shows a different piece of the complete puzzle, NieR: Automata’s story is worth the price of entry -and that’s even without getting into the fantastic gameplay.

Graphics

We never expected NieR: Automata to deliver the same graphical performance on the Switch as it would on a high-end gaming PC, and naturally, it doesn’t. Compromises between graphics and performance were a necessity, and we feel like Virtuos struck the right balance here as the game looks about as good as we’d expect it to on the platform. The game is presented here with less detailed textures and it’s capped at a stable 30 FPS. The draw distance isn’t very long but the game cleverly reduces pop-in through the use of fog, as you can see in the screenshot below. The bleak and desolate world that the game is set in never had a jaw-dropping amount of detail in the first place, but it still benefited from fantastic art direction and a less-is-more design philosophy. That approach translates wonderfully to the Switch, both in docked mode and in handheld mode, although you do get a better sense of scale when playing on a big screen of course.

Sound

While NieR: Automata had to make visual compromises, the same fortunately doesn’t apply to the audio. Everything sounds crisp and Keiichi Okabe’s fantastic OST is given plenty of room to shine. The two voice tracks -Japanese and English- are great as well, both in terms of acting performances and audio quality. This is definitely a title that we recommend playing with headphones as the soundscape is incredibly important when it comes to immersing yourself in NieR: Automata’s world.

Gameplay

Although some obvious visual compromises were made, we’re happy to say that NieR: Automata’s gameplay doesn’t suffer from the same fate: the seamless weaving of different genres, ranging from shmup to 3D platforming, that made the game feel so unique is still incredible -and fun- in this port. While for the most part an ARPG, the game constantly keeps you on your toes and manages to surprise the player through clever shake-ups that simply feel natural. The game starts with a fast-paced aerial shmup sequence before transitioning to 2B running through a 3D environment, taking on enemies in combat -and that’s just the opening stage, which acts as a tutorial more than anything else. The transitions between gameplay styles are handled so flawlessly and logically that your brain simply accepts them. Developing studio’s Platinum Games’ signature style, which we’ve come to know and love through titles like Astral Chain and Bayonetta, is clearly recognizable in the elegant battles, even with Yoko Taro as a director. The surprise effect of switching between gameplay styles is somewhat diminished on subsequent playthroughs, but the branching story actually encourages playing through the game multiple times to get the full picture. Through clever story structure and smart pacing, the game keeps you engaged and never feels repetitive, apart from some of the side quests. Returning players already know what to expect of course, and if your main worry is whether or not the game holds up on the Switch, then rest assured, it does.

In fact, The End of YoRHa Edition goes above and beyond being just a port, as new content was added to this specific release. While the exclusive new cosmetic items probably aren’t going to convince anyone that already has the game to double dip, some of the new gameplay features might. On the Switch, NieR: Automata has support for both motion controls and HD rumble. These are both completely optional of course, but being able to play the game with motion controls adds a whole new dimension to specific sections -particularly the excellent boss battles, which is where Platinum Games’ touch is probably most noticeable. The idea of being able to play NieR: Automata on the go is an attractive penchant as well, of course, even though we still feel that the game really comes into its own on a larger screen. Of note is that this edition also includes the 3C3C1D119440927 DLC, which you’ll need to download manually from the eShop -even if you bought the game digitally- which can be done free of charge.

While Nier: Automata on the Switch is a fantastic port, it’s not perfect. Granted, some of the issues we’re about to mention aren’t specific to the Switch port of the game and are part of the game’s original design but they still are worth mentioning. Side quests can feel a bit tedious because of the amount of backtracking required, even with the inclusion of fast travel. There were times when our companion blocked our path inadvertently. And despite the necessary visual downgrades, there were instances where our Switch still struggled with keeping the game’s frame rate steady during some of the more intense boss battles. Those minor shortcomings weren’t enough to deter us from having fun with the game though. Virtuous did an excellent job in bringing a fantastic game to the Switch and if you’ve been holding off from giving the game a try, now is a great time to do so if you’re a Switch owner.

Conclusion

Our initial fears that NieR: Automata would be too much for the Switch to handle were quickly quelled once we actually got to grips with the game. While The End of YoRHa Edition probably isn’t the definitive way to play Yoko Taro’s masterpiece, what you’re getting here is still an expectation-defying port of a fantastic game. In fact, in terms of third-party ports, we’d say this is probably the best one out there. It might seem a little expensive at €39.99/$39.99 for a five-year-old game, but if Todd Howard can drop a new Skyrim port on the platform for nearly double the price (which reportedly performs worse than the 2017 Skyrim port on the Switch) then we’d say you’re also getting plenty of bang for your buck here.

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NieR: Automata - The End of YoRHA edition - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


1 Comment

  1. 3rd-strike.com | Harvestella – Review
    November 23, 2022, 00:02

    […] what the studio brings to the table is consistent in terms of quality, whether it’s a fantastic Switch port of NieR or a brand new title like The Diofield Chronicle. There is the occasional exception -looking at […]

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