Hidden so deep in veils of deceit Imprisoned in twisting spells Are we the plaything of fiends
Or merely the dreams That we're telling ourselves?
Nier (alternately rendered NieR or NIER) is an action/role-playing game developed by Cavia and published by Square Enix, released in 2010 for the PS3 and Xbox 360.Over 1000 years after a great calamity nearly wiped out the human race, those remaining survive as best they can, robbed of resources and technology. Yet the already dwindling population is again under threat from Black Scrawl, a disease that seems to be connected with the malevolent creatures known as Shades. One of the victims is a little girl named Yonah. This is where it gets a bit complicated...There are two versions of the game: Gestalt and Replicant, and each has a slightly different protagonist. Both are named Nier, but the former is a burly middle-aged man who is Yonah's father, whereas the latter is a slender adolescent who is Yonah's elder brother. Though everything else remains the same, the age gap between the two Niers produces a different context for the story, with the world-weary Father Nier contrasting sharply with his younger, foolishly-optimistic counterpart. However, Replicant is Japan exclusive.Nier survives by hunting Shades and relying on the charity of his village, but he is powerless to help Yonah. However, after a chance encounter with a talkingSpell Book named Grimoire Weiss, Nier discovers that there may be hope for a cure after all and immediately sets out on a quest to find it, using his newfound Black Magic to cut down anything in his way. During his travels he is also joined by a scantily-clad, foul-mouthedswordswoman named KainÚ, and Emil, a lonely young boy with terrible powers.Gameplay is a combination of traditional Hack and Slash combined with various other RPG elements thrown in. The story is closely related to Drakengard, following directly from its final ending. As with its predecessor, this game gets very depressing at points.Oh, and play it more than once. It has secrets that are revealed after the first playthrough. Many secrets.A DLC package called The World of Recycled Vessel was released May 2010 that included various bonuses. The plot revolves around the death of Nier's wife/mother and the cryptic diary entries she left behind.
Provides Examples Of:
Addressing the Player: You can call Nier whatever you like at the start of the game, so he is never referred to directly, but you will need to enter the name you gave him to advance in the ending.
Adult Fear: The whole idea of your daughter/baby sister being terminally ill and seemingly having no way to save her, when it's already hard enough to make ends meet.
Well, humans (the Shades) are trying their best to prevent it by stealing the bodies of all the Replicants.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: On the one hand, Defense System Geppetto, which has gone berserk and will kill anything that approaches. On the other, Military Defense Unit P-33, aka "Beepy", who is intelligent enough to recognize invaders that need to be killed as well as innocents who need to be protected.
Alien Sky: A very subtle example. There is constant daylight, but you cannot see the Sun anywhere in the sky. Grimoire Nier explains that the cataclysm also caused the planet's axis to tilt towards the Sun. Presumably the game takes place along the equator where the temperature is tolerable.
All Just a Dream: The entire opening battle sequence is described as being either a dream or a distant memory. Eventually, the player can learn that it did actually happen, but not with the people you've known throughout the game.
Already Undone for You: The Junkheap. Nier and Weiss go in looking for Jacob and Gideon's mother, but there's no way she could have gotten through with all those barriers and mechanisms still up. An exasperated Weiss even hangs a lampshade on this. Turns out, she had taken the back elevator which led directly from a separate room on the surface to the chamber adjacent to Defense System Gepetto's, and was killed there.
Similarly, the Barren Temple will test Nier with a new Block Puzzle in every room, and then it turns out the Prince had already made it to the innermost sanctum without incident. Perhaps the Temple resets itself for every new challenger?
Always Chaotic Evil: This is what the people of Nier's world believe Shades to be, which is why they live in fear of them and will annihilate every last one if given the chance. The truth is far more complicated than that: only severely relapsed Shades become hostile, but since they've lost all trace of sentience then it's doubtful "evil" even applies anymore.
American Kirby Is Hardcore: The younger Nier was the original concept, but the people in charge of localisation decided that he didn't fit the fighting style, so they made him older and more macho. However this version didn't test so well with its native audience, and the director was so fond of the younger design that he decided to find a way to include him, which ended with giving him his own game. See here.
It would seem that in Japan, Replicant is considered the true version of the game, since Grimoire Nier deals mainly with the younger character.
And I Must Scream: Heavily implied in Replicant Yonah's case, when Gestalt Yonah takes over her body and claims to hear another girl inside her. In Gestalt Yonah's own words, that other girl would only keep crying and calling for her dad/brother, which presumably was all she could do all during the five-year Time Skip.
Apocalyptic Log: The reports concerning the Gestalt project, the situation in Shinjuku, White Chlorination Syndrome etc. that appear in the Now Loading screens and Grimoire. Aside from the Twins, it's safe to assume the scientists who wrote them are either long dead or turned into Shades.
The diary in Recycled Vessel plays a similar role.
Artificial Human: Replicants, which cannot reproduce and thus are recreated entirely from the data of a Gestalt to serve as its future vessel. In addition, Devola and Popola straddle the line between this and Ridiculously Human Robots — both they and the in-game Project Gestalt refer to them as soulless "androids" and they can only mimic emotion, not feel it; but by the end, they can feel grief, rage, and despair, and can even cry.
Bad Powers, Good People: The whole main cast pretty much. Nier chooses to use Black Magic for a greater purpose, Emil refuses to unleash his petrification powers, and Kaine doesn't have much choice in the matter.
Baleful Polymorph: It's revealed that the Grimoire (including Weiss) were originally humans who learned magic and were turned into books by the Gestalt Project, to ensure the operation would succeed. Never mind that they were drugged and forced to fight to the death against their will...
Batman Gambit: Once the Shadowlord plays his hand Devola and Popola are forced to take action, giving Nier clues that they KNOW will cause him to fulfill their intended role for him.
Big Damn Heroes: The Masked King and his entourage at the Shadowlord's castle.
Bigger on the Inside: The Shadowlord's Castle, which is several times larger than the roof of the Lost Shrine that leads to it. The view of a metropolitan skyline, the looping gate with the garden and the Gate Guardians, and the several unrelated areas visited inside the "castle" suggest some sort of teleportation involved.
Birds of a Feather: Of a non-romantic kind. KainÚ, cast out from her village due to her condition, and Emil, who lives in total isolation due to his terrifying nature. KainÚ immediately saw a kindred soul in him and constantly encourages him to be proud of who he is.
Bishōnen: Young Nier, Emil, and the King of Facade.
Bittersweet Ending: Endings A and B. D may actually count as a Downer Ending, however, Grimoire Nier states that after Ending D, an Ending E happens, and Nier is reunited with KainÚ once more, now fully alive but transformed into a little boy. It's kind of an Earn Your Happy Ending, quite surprising, coming from Cavia.
Bizarrchitecture: The Aerie, which is comprised of many tiny, round houses dotted over a sheer cliff face, connected by huge bridges and ladders. Also Facade, which is built almost entirely of stairs and is impossible to navigate unless you take the sand boat.
Black Speech: Shades tend to murmur in some unintelligible, mixed up language when you kill them, which can be pretty discomforting. That is until you finish the game. Then you can actually understand them.
Their written text is also identical to that of the Watchers in Drakengard.
Bleak Level: The mansion on the hill. Your camera even picks up grime.
Block Puzzle: Often used so Nier can jump onto higher platforms, or to go around obstacles he can't jump over. Even in the mail room. The most epic example takes place in the Barren Temple, where he must use blocks to create safe paths across cannon-filled rooms.
Blood Knight: KainÚ particularly, thanks to Tyrann. Nier may have a similar side to him.
Nier himself is a literal blood knight by choice. At one point Weiss states that absorbing the Shades' blood is what allows him to access the forgotten Words. Nier promptly states genocide as the most logical path to saving Yonah.
Blood Magic: Of a kind. Shades, despite looking semi-corporeal, bleed quite red blood which is then absorbed by Grimoire Weiss and has a chance of granting him new spells. As he puts it, "Blood is sound, sound is words, and words are power!"
Book Ends: Ending B. At the beginning of the game, Yonah tries to share a cookie she found with Nier, insisting that he should eat. During Ending B, Gestalt Nier, alone in an endless white expanse, hallucinates about himself and Yonah hiding out in the grocery store. When he comes out of it, the real Gestalt Yonah joins him and gives him his half of the cookie.
The last thing the player does in endings A and D is type what they have called the protagonist.
Body Horror: The Black Scrawl. Black symbols appear all over your skin as your body disintegrates and you turn into a Shade.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Weiss starts acting like this when Grimoire Noir tries to remind him of their original purpose to serve the Shadowlord... at least until KainÚ's profanity snaps him out of it.
Brainwash Residue: Nier decides to save KainÚ at the cost of his own existence in the final ending. When she comes to, she finds the flower Nier gave her and starts crying because she can't figure out who it reminds her of.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Forest of Myth has a truly impressive amount of this. There's also a moment in a New Game+, when Gideon gives you the sword (which, in an NG+, you already have, causing Nier to wonder if they didn't have it already and Weiss to tell him to just go along with it since that's how things go the second time around).
Broken Bridge: A literal one. Shortly into your adventure, Popola asks you to get rid of the Shades interfering with the construction of a bridge in the Northern Plains. Doing so will give you access to the northeast half of the plains and let you advance the plot.
Bullet Hell: A rare appearance for this in a game that isn't a Shoot-em-Up, but rather a third-person sword-slinging game. Fortunately Nier is able to slash the magic bullets to destroy them and restore his own magic power as a bonus.
But Thou Must: Thou must enter a pact with Grimoire Weiss at the Lost Shrine, at the beginning of the game. Otherwise, the game will continue to spawn more and more Shades for you to fight until you either die or accept the pact.
Came Back Wrong: "Relapsed" Gestalts, the remnants of human souls that lose their memories and sentient mind and become hostile, nigh-mindless creatures that attack anything that moves.
Camera Screw: The game cannot decide if it wants to have a free camera or a fixed camera in some areas. Also, the Haunted Mansion switches to a particularly awkward Resident Evil style camera as a Shout-Out to said game.
Charged Attack: All weapons have a charged attack resulting from holding down the melee button at some point during the combo (which results in a different animation, range, and attack vector depending on the timing). Most of them coat Nier's weapon in flames, others in dark or light magic, and even others in lightning. There is no point to these visual effects other than to look cool.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Gestalt is characterised by reds and browns, and Replicant with blues and greys, to contrast the protagonists and the general theme of the game.
Good Colors, Evil Colors: All the central protagonists have white/silver hair, and their Grimoire's name also means "white". In turn, they are fighting against the Shadowlord, who has black hair and whose Grimoire's name means "black".
Convenient Questing: Everything Nier needs to complete his journey is conveniently located in the immediate area around his village. And while he supposedly travelled far and wide during the Time Skip, it's only after he comes back to the village that he picks up the clues necessary to continue the plot.
Coup de GrÔce Cutscene: Nearly every boss fight concludes with a cutscene of Nier applying an insanely over-the-top version of one of the Sealed Verse attacks to the boss in question.
Also counts as a slight case of aversion of Gameplay and Story Segregation, since the last attack you perform on the boss that leads to the cutscene also completely fills your MP.
Crapsack World: It looks nice enough on the surface, but we are repeatedly informed that humanity's days are numbered and things are just winding down in general.
Creepy Child: One of the short stories also included a Shade in Seafront who takes the form of a creepy little girl.
Cruel and Unusual Death: The boss Shades certainly tend to suffer these. Examples include getting skewered bodily on a wooden tower, ripped to shreds over and over until you can't regenerate, stabbed through the skull, half your face torn off, your throat crushed by two giant hands, and impaled from the inside-out by hundreds of spikes. Ouch.
Hell, even the fisherman who gives you the Fisherman's Gambit quests qualifies.
Darker and Edgier: The western version is normally portrayed as this in trailers, with less emphasis on the plot and more on the fighting style and gore, plus a much grittier, more ruthless protagonist.
Daylight Horror: Shades are weak to sunlight, and in the world of Nier it is always daytime, however as they grow more powerful they are merely limited to shadowy areas, and once they start wearing armour are free to roam where they wish.
Day Old Legend: Take your weapons to be upgraded and you get some backstories claiming that the weapon once caused an ancient tragedy.
Days of Future Past: Kinda justified, since civilisation essentially had to be rebuilt from scratch.
Deal with the Devil: Nier makes one with Grimoire Noir in the opening. It's what turns him into the Shadowlord.
Death Is a Sad Thing: Every single death is treated as a significant, tragic, and often pointless occurrence. Their loved ones are always shown to be deeply affected, with even nameless background characters getting a few minutes to be mourned by the main characters.
Deliberately Monochrome: In Emil's mansion, the moment you walk past the entrance gate all color fades away, aside from the characters themselves.
Depopulation Bomb: WCS — White Chlorination Syndrome. A disease originating fromthe world of Drakengard and brought over when Caim, Angelus, and the Grotesqueries Queen arrived in Tokyo. It has a near-100% mortality rate, and those who survive only exist to become Legion. Eventually, WCS annihilated all of mankind... except for the Original Gestalt, the Shadowlord.
Determinator: Past Ending A, turns out P-33, the Knave of Hearts, and Goose are all this, fully committed to their goal and they will not stop until success or death.
Deus ex Machina: Apparently shortly after the events of the game, aliens suddenly start arriving.
Didn't See That Coming: Project Gestalt was created to save humanity from the White Chlorination Syndrome, separating their souls from their bodies before these could be infected by the disease, and creating soulless Replicants to inhabit later, once the disease had vanished. They didn't foresee Replicants gaining sentience...
Does Not Like Shoes: No one in Facade wears shoes, which seems unwise considering they have nothing to protect their feet from the burning hot sand and rock. There's probably a rule against wearing them.
Downer Beginning: The moment you hear the Ethereal Choir, and see the snowy, abandoned city and the guy in the overcoat fighting to stay awake to protected a little girl from giant bloodthirsty shadow creatures, you know this is gonna be a pessimistic game.
Dual Boss: Hansel and Gretel, the golems you fight at the shrine when you find Grimoire Weiss. Also, the Twins, at the Shadowlord's Castle. Twice.
Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Since Gestalt removes all of the Ship Tease between Nier and KainÚ, making him more than twice her age and a widower to boot, the kiss in Ending C comes out of absolutely nowhere.
Dungeon Bypass: Sort of an intentional example: when you're requested to visit a dungeon on the second playthrough onwards to get some rare metal from a boss enemy, you only need to enter the said dungeon for the game to drop the said item in your inventory right at its entrance, allowing you to skip the first visit entirely.
This only works if you have the necessary item in your inventory when you enter. Otherwise you'll have to go through the dungeon again.
Dwindling Party: Depending on which option you choose, the only characters who survive until the very end are Yonah and either Nier or KainÚ. Ending B reveals Emil survives, but he's still out of your party after his Heroic Sacrifice.
Note that this doesn't just apply to the main party. The Ultimate Blacksmith is a batshit insane babbling lunatic obsessed with creating weapons of mass destruction with no regards to the consequences due to the deaths of his mother and brother. The people of the Aerie are utter Jerkasses who refuse to give any foreigner the time of day just because one of them turned out to be a half-breed. The people of Facade are locked in a Cycle of Revenge against a wolf tribe, and neither side is clearly in the right over their conflict. The people of Seafront are in on a lie perpetuated for fifty years against the lighthouse keeper, all so they can keep her from learning that her husband had died from Black Scrawl long ago as well as forcing her to keep operating the lighthouse since nobody else knows how to.
Eldritch Abomination: Most of the bosses you come across, which seem to get bigger, squishier and uglier the more you play.
Ethereal Choir: "Snow In Summer", "Cold Steel Coffin", "Gods Bound by Rules" and "Shadowlord - White". Yeah, the soundtrack likes this trope.
Exposed to the Elements: KainÚ, naturally. Also Father Nier, who wears little more than a shoulderguard and oversized bermuda shorts. The people of Facade claim that their simple, cone-shaped robes protect them from sandstorms and make it easier to move around the desert, but one has to question the truth of this when they're all barefoot and the robes fully expose their limbs.
Expy: The small, child-like Shades look very similar to the Heartless.
Face-Heel Turn: Devola and Popola, once Nier strays too far from their objectives. The game itself refers to them as "The Betrayers."
Faceless Eye: One of the Boss Shades, Wendy, resembles a giant eyeball with tentacles.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Most of Nier's world is based off Medieval Europe, however Facade seems to be influenced mainly by Mayan culture, particularly the clothing and architecture. Never mind that it's meant to be set in Japan...
Fantasy Gun Control: Justified. By the time the story proper takes place, firearms had long since been forgotten.
Fictionary: The language of the people of Facade. According to Grimoire Nier, it was created by shuffling hiragana around, which sometimes makes it sound like actual Japanese.
Fighting Your Friend: KainÚ, twice. First as a regular boss (until the battle is hijacked by a bigger threat), and then at the Lost Shrine, when her fatal wounds cause her to be momentarily taken over by her inner Shade. And then, in Endings C and D, she's completely taken over and becomes the True Final Boss. You then must make a final decision concerning her fate.
Fire-Forged Friends: KainÚ joins Nier's group after they take down Hook together, and they earn the King's friendship after rescuing him from the temple and defeating Shahriyar.
Flower from the Mountaintop: The Lunar Tear, a very rare white flower than grows in high places, like The Aerie and The Lost Shrine. Rumoured to have healing powers, though this is never confirmed in-story: however, if you spend ridiculous amounts of time to actually grow your own in the garden, you'll find out that they heal you completely. Yonah goes to find one in the hopes it will make her better, which eventually leads to Weiss joining the party.
Flunky Boss: The opening parts of the Hansel and Gretel battles, during which they fight alongside smaller Shades; Defense System Gepetto will raise elevators containing lightning-prod and magic-battery robots after its laser finger attack; Hook will hork up bomb-type Shades that just roll around and spit out magic during the second phase of the fight; Wendy will use its tentacle attack to slam down armored Shades on the platform to distract you from hitting its eye; Roc will sic his pack on you before joining the fray himself. Evidently, all of these but the first and last examples are also Mook Makers.
Also, Number 6 and Number 7 Halua and Emil do this in order to combine their power, resulting in the latter's mind ending up in the former's nigh-invulnerable body (though it loses much of its size in the process.)
Gaiden Game: An odd case, since it's based on a non-canon, semi-joke ending from Drakengard.
Gargle Blaster: Popola is too shy to sing a duet with Devola unless she's completely hammered. What sort of drink does she crave? A bizarre... concoction, which includes, among other things, mouse tails and lizard tails.
Popola: You have your own motives, your own desires...
Devola: And we have ours. I fear it really is just that simple.
Golden Ending: Inverted: The easiest ending to get is (by comparison) the best ending, the one you get simply from beating the game once. As you replay, the endings becomes more and more depressing. This culminates in Nier annihilating himself as well as your save files after 3-4 playthroughs.
Grand Theft Me: Once Replicants started developing their own sentience and consciousness (they were supposed to be empty vessels,) being "possessed" by a Shade actually meant that a Gestalt was returning to its intended shell. Which is what happens to Gestalt Yonah and Replicant Yonah, what Devola and Popola intended the Shadowlord to do to Nier, and what the overall Project Gestalt tried to accomplish by force via Grimoire Noir and Grimoire Weiss.
Griefer: After going through the Aerie segment in the Ending B path; you'll probably be wondering who'd be stupid enough to set up a trap in the Aerie, despite the fact that NONE of the Shades living there wanted Nier and co. to show up at all.
It's implied that the Shades wanted to show Nier that not all of them were crazed monsters. They probably were going to sell some things to him, wait for him to walk away a bit, then reveal their true identity. Unfortunately, one of the Shades wasn't able to keep it together upon talking to Nier and things quickly got worse.
Probably the meanest example happens before the Point of No Return. If you reach 50% sidequest completion and talk to Devola, then she'll tell you there's no more sidequests to do. Nobody in any of the towns has a sidequest bubble above their heads, either, so you're good, right? Noooo. There's one last sidequest in Seafront, found by talking to an out of the way NPC, leaving town, talking to him again, and repeating until he coughs up a Fetch Quest.
Happily Ever Before: This is technically what the A ending counts as: it cuts away from the rest of the ending right before everything goes to hell and moves onto a previously unseen flashback with Nier and Yonah lying happily in the grass before any of the game's events took place.
Haunted House: The mansion where Emil lives looks like a stereotypical version of this, being dilapidated and mostly empty with a huge Creepy Basement, disembodied screams, rooms infested with Shades, a courtyard with human-looking statues, paintings that switch places when you're not looking etc. etc. The whole stage also has a very creepy soundtrack.
Healthcare Motivation: Nier (particularly the younger version) has been through hell and back in the past to get Yonah her medicine. Even though he knows the Black Scrawl is terminal.
Heel-Face Turn: In endings C and D, Tyrann actually helps Nier in defeating KainÚ after she loses control of her body. Heck, both of the options he gives to Nier in saving KainÚ's life only screw HIM over.
The second choice also affects the PLAYER by giving a whole new meaning to Heroic Sacrifice. Make a backup if you intend to go this route, because it will delete all your save files. Seriously.
Hell Is Coming With Me: Emil comes to warn Nier at the latter's village moments before it's invaded by Shades and the Knave of Hearts. A Man of the Mask in Facade comes to warn "the wolves are coming" during the King and Fyra's wedding. Both are too late to make any difference.
Heroic Sacrifice: The Masked King. And Emil. And Weiss. Hell, even Nier and the PLAYER in one ending.
Heroes Prefer Swords: You don't get lances until after the timeskip. Aside from that, all your weapons are swords.
He Will Not Cry, so I Cry for Him: Nier for KainÚ and Emil, although he doesn't actually cry, just feels terribly guilty for their unfair treatment by the villagers and how they accept it without protest.
Hidden Elf Village: The Aerie is a town full of xenophobes who are too terrified to leave their houses for fear of either Shades or just outsiders in general.
High-Pressure Blood combined with Overdrawn At The Bloodbank: Even getting kicked by a sheep will make what appears to be half the blood in your body gush spectacularly over the surrounding area. And this is nothing compared to the rivers of blood that pour forth from any boss shades you defeat (which tend to be killed in pretty grisly ways).
Hold the Line/Last Stand: The men of Facade seal themselves in a room with the immortal Goose to prevent it from chasing Nier's party. In the post-Ending A paths, it's revealed that many sentient Shades, particularly in the Lost Shrine and the Shadowlord's Castle, were attempting this against Nier.
Hope Spot: The same infobook that reveals the below Nice Job Breaking It, Hero also says that even with that, there's still a small sliver of hope in ending D that mankind isn't completely screwed.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played with. In the Ending B path, the player discovers that not only are the "humans" mere sentient replicas of the true human beings, but that the latter have been reduced to Shades — which the Replicants have no problems slaughtering with prejudice. Taken to a vicious extreme in Kalil's backstory.
Hyperspace Arsenal: While Nier's carrying around stacks of documents and letters, a grocery store's worth of healing items, seeds, fruits, and potions, and a veritable museum of key items somewhere on his person is not too surprising, his carrying dozens of weapons larger and heavier than himself probably is. Especially with weapons like Iron Will and Fool's Lament hiding somewhere in his pockets.
Immortality: Humanity's Project Gestalt attempted The Ageless combined with Resurrective Immortality, as separating body from soul results in Gestalts who cannot die unless they are killed or "relapse" into Shades. Due to their origins and extremely long lives, it's possible Devola and Popola, as well as Number 6 and Number 7, were given The Ageless.
Roc, the wolf Shade, in an awesome moment for the King of Facade.
Again, the King of Facade when he drives his spear into the nigh-invulnerable boar Goose's skull and finally kills it.
Nier, twice in the same scene from Grimoire Noir's Blood Magic spikes, first through the shoulder from behind and then as an near-fatal attack to defend Weiss.
KainÚ, courtesy of Gretel's pike when he deflects Nier's magic and the weapon goes flying. It heals almost immediately since she's a Gestalt.
Again in Ending C, where she is impaled on Nier's sword. Though in this case it was with the best intentions.
Any Coup de GrÔce Cutscene involving Dark Lance. And, during gameplay, finishing off Shades with Dark Execution (which causes spears to shoot up from the ground) will lift the Shades off the ground and leave them hanging there from the spears until the magic fades.
Instant Runes: A primary element of the game's style. Everyone's magic has it, and the Black Scrawl even makes them appear on your skin. They're also remarkably detailed and complex; try taking in all the interlocking spinning symbols present in KainÚ's electroball attack.
Interface Spoiler: Surprisingly averted; until you get Weiss, a vast portion of the menu doesn't even exist.
Item Crafting: Nier's weapons get stronger (and sometimes their weight changes) by being reforged at the Two Brothers Weapon Shop. In the case of the Drakengard-derived weapons, their appearance also changes.
It Can Think: Shades learn to wear armor and lure you into ambushes as the plot advances. It becomes increasingly hard to deny that they are sentient beings.
Kick the Son of a Bitch: The destruction of the Aerie is nothing short of karmic. Especially as the denizens could've prevented it if they had simply allowed foreigners to help them instead of being a bunch of bitter, selfish shut-ins.
Kill 'em All: The creators pretty much admit to it in one interview, saying that everyone is going to die sooner or later, and your actions in the game were all for nothing.
Kissing Discretion Shot: When Nier kisses KainÚ in Ending C, the camera moves away just before their lips meet. Due to the situation, this makes it more emotional.
Lampshade Hanging: Weiss comments that it was a bit too easy collecting the pieces to the Keystone. Almost as if someone set them on the right path...
Loads and Loads of Rules: Facade, which has over 1,000,000 rules (and they're still coming up with more). As a result, Facade is a maze of stairs, everyone has to wear a mask at all times, one is only allowed to buy items there after seeing the entire village from a sandboat and so on. Their holy site, the Barren Temple, operates on this premise as well, with each room forbidding a specific action (such as guarding, running, using magic, using weapons, and so on.)
Loads And Loads Of Sidequests: The game can be finished in 15 hours (there's even an achievement for it) but can take over seventy if you do the sidequests, especially if you want to max out all your weapons which requires a massive amount of item farming.
Lost Forever: Many quests from the first half of the game become inaccessible after the Time Skip —which is reasonable enough, since who would wait five years for his mutton to be delivered? If you accept these quests but fail to complete them before that deadline, they will be placed in a special section of your menu for quests that can no longer be completed. And since New Game+ places you after the Time Skip, it means you'll have to start a whole new game in order to finish these quests.
Magic from Technology: Or, more accurately, Magic From Another World That Led To Countless Technological And Scientific Breakthroughs Which In Turn Use And Produce Even More Advanced Magic. Even the Junkheap's robots and security systems use the exact same magic that Grimoires and Shades and the Twins use.
Meaningful Name: KainÚ means "broken sound", and Tyrann means "tyrant". Emil is named after the younger of The Brothers Grimm, and Yonah after the biblical Jonah. Nier is a little more ambiguous, though the director mentions something about his body being "near" to his soul.
Not sure if this was done on purpose but "nier" means "to deny" in French.
Mega Corp.: The Hamelin Organisation, who try and dragoon refugees into working with them in project Gestalt against the Legion.
Mercy Kill: In one ending, Nier is forced to kill KainÚ to prevent her becoming a complete Shade. Additionally, killing the Big Bad is unintentionally this to humanity as a whole, since it was going unavoidably extinct painfully slowly, and killing the Big Bad makes it a short-term thing rather than centuries of slow decay.
Mood Dissonance: The ending credits music. While endings A and B are mostly optimistic, the lyrics that are sung for the credits song are pretty nihilistic. To paraphrase it: "things might be fine for now but it's all meaningless because of what we've already lost and the inevitable return of danger".
This was the whole point of the game, essentially. Nier fights to protect those he loves because life and family are made all the more precious due to not knowing when the world will end and you'll lose everything. You need to make the most of what you have while it lasts. Particularly since they're still doomed to extinction.
Mood Whiplash: The Stinger of Ending B, which, after the Player Punch that is seeing original (Gestalt) Nier finally die together with his Yonah, has the nerve to be pretty damn hilarious.
Mythology Gag: A good number of weapons from Drakengard, almost all of which have had their names changed, make a return. Why? Word of God says they went flying and were scattered when Caim and Angelus were hit by the missile that killed them during Drakengard's Ending E.
Nerf Arm: Nier starts off the game by taking on a huge army of Shades armed only with a metal pipe. It's just as effective as any of his low-level swords. When you replay the scene later after finishing a sidequest, you can find it in a box in the area: it turns out to be a Lethal Joke Weapon and the strongest 1-handed sword in the game.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Word of God confirms that, no matter which ending you get, your actions have doomed both Gestalts and Replicants, turning the world into an empty, rotting husk. Nice going!
Also the backstory revealed that in an attempt to wipe out the disease afflicting humanity, Tokyo and everybody in it was nuked, which only served to spread the particles further abroad.
Nigh Invulnerable: The Knave of Hearts and Goose, being made up of lots and lots of Shades. Also, Number 7, who can survive blowing up and being reduced to just a head rolling cheerfully in the desert.
No Hero Discount: In all fairness, Nier isn't out to save the world, just his daughter/sister, and he gets legitimate payment for running errands for the villagers. However, after saving the son of one particular shopkeeper, she will give Nier a lifelong discount at her store.
No Name Given: The Masked King. Interesting, since he is considered a major character in the story while several of the more minor characters are named.
Although in Grimoire Nier, the King and many minor characters not identified in-game are given names.
Not So Different: A man who will do anything, even at the cost of his own soul, and even if it means damning the world, for the sake of the person most precious to him. Now, are we talking about Original Nier aka the Shadowlord, or Replicant Nier?
Offscreen Teleportation: By the time Nier and his party make it into the Shadowlord's castle, the Twins are already there, even though he had last seen them at the village and it's a very long road to the castle. He expresses no small surprise at this, until the ensuing battle reveals they have Villain Teleportation...
Oh Crap: KainÚ spends considerable effort kicking down a door, and feels pretty good about herself when she does... until she sees that the room beyond is packed floor-to-ceiling with "bomb" infant-type Shades. She barely has time to say these words before she's bowled over and knocked unconscious.
KainÚ: "Weiss, you dumbass! Start making sense you rotten book, or you're gonna be sorry! Maybe I'll rip your pages out one-by-one, or maybe I'll put you in the Goddamn furnace! How can someone with such a big, smart brain get hypnotized like a little bitch huh?! Oh, Shadowlord! I love you Shadowlord! Come over here and give Weiss a big sloppy kiss, Shadowlord! Now pull your head out of your Goddamn ass and START FUCKING HELPING US!"
Orcus on His Throne: The Shadowlord was willing to wait for 1300 years, believing in Project Gestalt's promise that it would one day restore his Yonah to him. When he finally loses patience and does something about it, he kidnaps Replicant Yonah so that his sister/daughter's Gestalt may inhabit her... and then goes back to doing nothing, even as Nier keeps killing his guardians and comes ever closer to him.
Actually, he did exactly what he was trying to do. Spend every second he could with his daughter/sister. All in keeping with the themes of the game.
Pinball Scoring: Applies to your stats, most notably your HP: you start with 100 HP on lv 1 and end up with 400k+ HP on lv 99. Granted, it's not like you'll ever really notice it since the only place where it's shown in numerical form is the status screen and your HP bar extends very little with each level up, with the lv 99 bar only being maybe 2 or 3 times the lenght of a lv 1 bar despite the actual difference of their contents being over 4000 times larger.
Planet of Hats: Or City of Masks, anyway. The people of Facade must all wear masks, and their "hat" is that there are an incredible number of rules that govern their daily life. In Nier and Weiss' opinion, these rules often have no apparent function other than to make life frustrating; in the opinion of the people of Facade, these rules exist "so that you may know your freedoms."
The Power of Friendship: What stops Weiss from merging with Grimoire Noir. Also invoked by Gretel the second time you fight him. It doesn't go quite as well...
Proud Warrior Race Guy: One of the sidequests also deals with a runaway boy from Facade who thinks of himself as this.
Ragnarok-Proofing: Although the landscape is littered with remains of what seems to be a railroad track, the entire military facility known as "the Junkheap" operates perfectly, from the cargo lines to the defense systems to the autonomous robots to the elevators and even the lighting. Also, the Weapons Research Laboratory beneath Emil's Mansion (and the Mansion itself) is in pristine condition despite being well over 1300 years old.
Random Number God: Many of the items required for upgrading weapons and for the side quests are rare spawns and/or drops from monsters. Expect to spend much time cursing until the game finally coughs up the items you need.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: A special kind of WCS Legion known as Red Eye are not only extremely violent, but also fully sentient, allowing them to organise other Legion into armies.
The Reveal: Turns out the Shades are the real humans.
KainÚ seeks revenge on Hook, the giant lizard Shade who sadistically killed her grandmother and very nearly killed her, too.
Cycle of Revenge: The wolves and the people of Facade are locked in this, especially once the Masked Men slaughter all the pups in the den and the wolves kill Fyra in retaliation. After these events, even Weiss warns the vengeance-obsessed King not to enter a battle he can't win.
Robot Buddy: P-33 Military defense robot, also known as Beepy, with the child-like shade.
Rousseau Was Right: On your first NG+ we find out that all of the conflict stems completely from misunderstandings, as we are shown the enemies' perspective and/or background behind the situations and conflicts that arise. There are one or two times when the boss fight is only just the boss protecting themselves from your relentless bloodlust.
Recurring Riff: The theme of the Grotesqueries Queen from Drakengard returns as the underlying melody to most songs in the game.
Inuart's song from Drakengard 2, aka "Fate", is the "Song of the Ancients".
Sealed Evil in a Can: The Jack of Hearts becomes one, when Nier can't truly kill it, and they have to instead seal it in the basement of the library by having Emil petrify KainÚ in front of the only exit. Eventually, five years later, they unseal the beast when Nier is finally powerful enough to crush it.
Sequential Boss: At least half, or more, of the bosses, including the Final Boss. Special mention goes to the Defense System Geppetto, Hook, the Knave of Hearts, and Wendy.
Spell My Name with an S: Debol/Devola and Popol/Popola. Vier/Fyra, Cleo/Kalil and Curly/Kali also run into this issue.
Sphere of Destruction: The result of Emil unleashing his power as "the Ultimate Weapon." It even leaves a perfect sphere-shaped void in its wake.
Sphere of Power: Mage-type Shades will empower themselves and their allies with support magic that has this visual effect. They (and the Grimoires) can also surround themselves with spherical shields that make them impervious to magic or physical attacks.
Super Drowning Skills: Nier drowns in any water deeper than his ankles. He'll lose a bit of health (unless he's in a town) and wash up somewhere nearby for his troubles. Explained in that none of the villagers know how to swim, since they are forbidden from coming into contact with the precious water resources.
Take Your Time: While fishing for the Shaman Fish which will ease Yonah's pain, you can go do the a part of the Fisherman's Gambit quest which will put you on a boat for two months.
A Taste of Power: During the game's prologue, you make a pact with a Grimoire and slowly unleash each one of the Sealed Verses in sequence. Not only will you level up abnormally fast (typically ending up in the 30s by the time the miniboss arrives) but the charge time for your magic attacks is decreased tremendously, allowing you to use the complete forms of Dark Execution or Dark Hand after only a few seconds of charging.
Terrible Ticking: If you start hearing bells ringing in your ears, it's a sign you're going insane from WCS and will soon turn into Legion.
Dark Reprise/Boss Remix: During the endgame, the final battle with the Twins is scored with a dramatic, high-tempo version of their theme, "Song of the Ancients (Fate)". They also each have their own different version of the theme, including a down-tempo variation called "Hollow Dreams".
Leitmotif: "Ashes of Dreams" has four variations (one for each ending,) and it shows up everywhere throughout the game in the form of "Dispossession" and "Yonah" — which also have four variations each.
An orchestral version of it called "Dance of the Evanescent" also plays in the Shadowlord's Castle.
Triumphant Reprise: The wistful and melancholy "Emil (Sacrifice)" is revisited as the much more spirited "Emil (Karma)" for emotional action sequences. Likewise, "KainÚ (Salvation)", a peaceful and mostly happy theme, is made into the rousing "KainÚ / Escape" for appropriately inspiring effect.
Variable Mix: In the last part of the final battle, the layers of the boss music gradually fade out as you come closer and closer to defeating the Shadowlord, eventually leaving a simple and mellow music box version of his theme.
Some towns also have variable mixes in them; in Nier's home village, the regular village theme gets vocals added to it when you get close to Devola (who is usually singing in the bar or at the fountain).
During the last flight through the Shadowlord's Castle, the vocals fade out to leave behind the high-energy music, hurrying you to your goal.
Encounters with Shades in the Lost Shrine will add percussion to the "The Incomplete Stone" track.
The haunting music heard throughout Emil's mansion won't go into its second phase until Nier and Emil discover and go into the Weapons Research Lab beneath it.
These Questions Three: You have to answer three riddles surrounding the cause of humanity's downfall in order to enter the Shadowlord's Castle. Each answer has two options, and getting one wrong will only send you back to the entrance of the room, so there's not much at stake and their actual purpose is to clue you in on things not being what they seem due to what the correct answers are.
Thirteen Is Unlucky: The thirteen Grimoire. Only three make an appearance in the game, and only one of them is remotely benevolent.
Three Laws Compliant: While it may not seem it at first, it's played straight. The party is attacked by robots such as P-33 "Beepy" and androids like Devola and Popola. However, none of the party are actually human. Nier and KainÚ are Replicants, and Emil is a deathless skeleton. The same applies to the various automatons in the junk heap attacking people like Blue, as well.
Together in Death: The Masked King invokes this when he dies, promising to meet with Fyra again. Possibly the Shadowlord and Yonah too.
Trophy Room: And it's located across the stairs from Popola's office in the Library, filled with effigies of previously-defeated bosses. Nier and Weiss will have choice comments for each, always wondering who could have put them there.
Tutorial Failure: The in-game instructions for the fishing minigame are flat-out wrong. Interestingly, the correct method is actually a lot simpler than the awful tutorial would have you believe.
Twenty Bear Asses: The vast majority of the sidequests require you to obtain various items and fetch them for the requester. You can mess with it in some cases where you can just buy some of the items from a vendor, but in general there's not always much of a tangible reward for some of the sidequests. Certain sidequests, however, have significant rewards, like unlocking your farm (one of the only consistent sources of revenue in the game).
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Even as the people of Nier's world (and Nier himself) marvel at the thought of mankind once moving via "metal boxes on rails" (railroads,) they don't bat an eye at the highly-sophisticated robots or heavy machinery in the Junkheap. And when they finally take notice of the flying book floating right behind Nier, they take issue with his manners rather than the flying book itself. Even more befuddling, they never seem to notice that Devola and Popola never age, and have always been taking care of the village, even when the people themselves do.
Van Helsing Hate Crime: The Shades are fully sentient and were in fact once human too. This hits full force when you're able to understand what they're saying...
Videogame Caring Potential: The game does its best making you care for Yonah, from adorable little "Now Loading" animations, to letters to you telling you about her daily life, to her earnest efforts to cook a good meal, to her vulnerable, frail demeanour.
The Virus: White Chlorination Syndrome. Contrary to its name, the Black Scrawl isn't actually a virus.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Nier and Grimoire Weiss, early on, until they settle into a powerful friendship. Weiss and KainÚ, on the other hand, remain acerbic to each other throughout the whole game.
Voice of the Legion: Larger Shades and boss Shades have this, especially those that are an agglomeration of multiple Shades. Most notably, Wendy, once it sucks up all the Shades and villagers of the Aerie and they all start crying out and screaming in confusion.
What the Hell, Hero?: After the Knave of Hearts is (finally) defeated for good and KainÚ is cured of her stone curse, the villagers call Nier out for bringing "monsters" (referring to KainÚ and Emil) to their village...
When You Coming Home, Dad?: Brother!Nier and Yonah rarely saw their father, who worked in a far away city and died before returning home. Also traces of Disappeared Dad. Father!Nier spends so little time at home he becomes this towards Yonah.
Where It All Began: The game's plot kicks off when Nier retrieves a wayward Yonah from the Lost Shrine, meeting Grimoire Weiss for the first time. At the end of the game, the Shadowlord's Castle is accessed via a portal at the top of the Lost Shrine. Even Weiss himself comments that it feels strangely nostalgic.
Word of Gay: The creators confirmed that Emil is in love with Nier during interviews. When asked if it might just be platonic, they outright insisted he's gay.
Yin-Yang Bomb: Uniting Grimoire Weiss and Grimoire Noir will force all Gestalts into the bodies of Replicants.
You Are Number Six: You actually fight a boss called No. 6, who used to be Emil's sister. Also, Emil himself is actually No. 7.
You Bastard: The game had might as well change your profile name to "Asshole" for how much it uses this. For all his good intentions, Nier ends up doing some very nasty things —and while he might not be aware of them, the player definitely is.
100% Completion: Finishing the story mode, obtaining all the weapons and three of the four endings will get you the final ending which deletes your save file.