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The original 2010 Japanese release of NieR came in two incarnations; the Replicant version featured a teenage protagonist caring for his ailing younger sister while Gestalt recast the character as a middle-aged man taking care of his young daughter, but both were essentially the same game. The latter version was deemed more marketable for western territories, so Gestalt became the sole version localized. Eleven years and a massively popular sequel later, western RPGamers finally got a chance to experience the other side of the coin.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is both a remake and a second chance, an improvement and a return to basics, a game paradoxically as much inspired by its successor as vice versa. It sports all the usual enhancements of a re-release — HD graphics, a re-recorded soundtrack, etc. — but also adds exclusive content, like expanded voice overs, a new ending, and a whole new story episode. It offers a tantalizing chance to see the inspirations that led to 2017’s NieR: Automata while also featuring an overhauled combat system, itself taking cues from the sequel. It’s equal parts past, present, and future, and all-around excellence, and for that it deserves top honors as the year’s best re-release.
The title is a mouthful, but it’s surprising to see how much Square Enix was able to pack into Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, the enhanced PlayStation 5 and PC version of one of 2020’s best titles. The graphical improvements are worth fussing over, certainly, but it is the refinement of the already taut gameplay that makes this worth the price of re-admission. Particularly noteworthy is how Yuffie’s mission seamlessly integrates her into the existing story in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned. Now if only we could get some information regarding the next installment.
Final Fantasy IV has seen many re-releases over the last thirty years. Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster is as true to its original incarnation as it has ever been, with three decades’ worth of bug fixes, translation polish, and nostalgia. The game still holds up now as well as it did when it first released and that is part of what makes its re-release in 2021 worthy of note. Final Fantasy IV was probably the biggest turning point in the series’ history for dynamic storytelling, and it still holds strong to this day.
by Pascal Tekaia, Paul Shkreli, and Robert Albright