Let's talk about Nier's audio while not making a pun on it's name.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Japan doesn't get to play Gary Busey.
If you're one of the few people to actually play Square-Enix's Nier then you probably noticed it's fantastic sound direction. Say what you want about it the PS3/Xbox 360 game released last April but it had some fantastic music from studio MoNACA. Calling it an epic soundtrack would be cliche but I don't know how else to describe music with so much vocal work in it.
The vocals come courtesy of Emi Evans who went so far as to make up fake-future versions of different languages.
Did I mention Nier takes place in the future-past? (They are so far into the future, everything looks medieval). That might be a spoiler, although you have had 10 months to purchase the game nobody bought. Which is unfortunate that no one bought this work by the now-defunct Cavia since I would love to hear more wonderful tracks and voices like those found in Nier.
He rarely ever looks this cool in-game.
One sound aspect that blew me away in Nier was how the sound is used rather than what sound is used.
Throughout the first part of the game when you wander around a grand vocal track plays to underscore your epic journey killing boars and general shirtlessness.
In the main quest-hub/town (remarkably called "Town", can't make that up) there are two twin-sisters named Devola and Popola. At certain points Devola who is the town's lute-playing/singing minstrel will hang out at the town's fountain.
During these sections of the game the vocal track is mysteriously missing from the same music you have been hearing for a few hours now. But when you walk up to the lute-strumming Devola the vocal track comes back! It is as though Devola herself is scoring the soundtrack to your journey! In-fact that may be the case to find out during the three required playthroughs to understand the whole plot.
Don't think that sounds all that cool of a feature? Maybe I'm just a sound nerd. But from a gameplay aspect its neat-o and from a game design/implementation aspect it's effing difficult. Having to set up multiple audio tracks that sync and then have one's volume change based on your position to a single character in-game.
Oh hey, why not listen to some music yourself
All in all Nier is a rough game that needed a few more months in the oven of game development. But if you find this one in the bargain bin, or enjoy non-stop vocal soundtracks (I don't) then pick this up and give it a shot. Your ears will be pleased.
Jack Menhorn is Audio Lead at Gale Force Logic Inc. located in Raleigh, North Carolina. His other talents include Feral Spirit and Stormstrike. That's a World of Warcraft joke. You can contact Jack at [email protected]