The last couple of months have just been packed with exciting new games haven’t they? You’d think that we see things slow down after getting the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Persona 5 (among many others), but nope. There’s still quite a few exciting games out in the next couple of months! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new releases, so I just wanted slow things down a bit and take a moment to look back at what’s probably my favorite game of 2017 so far: NieR: Automata.
NieR: Automata was a game that kind of came out of left field for me. I only became aware of it a few weeks before it was released, and was still a little dubious of it after playing the demo. I thought it was fun, but there wasn’t much that I was specifically excited for. I still wound up buying it though (and loving every minute of it), because the demo was fun, because the game felt different from most games I’d played before, and because this song got firmly lodged in my head.
I think it’s safe to say that this song haunted me in the weeks leading up to this game’s release. Off and on, I’d find myself trying to hum it or have it playing in my head as I went about my job. It would just come out of nowhere, and then I’d find myself overcome with the need to call it up and listen on YouTube as soon as I got home. Even now I feel as though there’s something irresistible to this piece.
Perhaps it’s because the song is a bit of an oddity. In the game, this theme first starts playing as you’re confronted with the very first enemies of the game. They’re these stubby, slow-moving, little robots that your character mows down quickly and mercilessly. The track continues on as you explore the opening location while cutting down robot after robot as if they were just so much scrap. It’s a very dissonant combination, and I think that’s what makes it stick.
In most other games, charging your way through hordes out weak enemies would be accompanied with an exciting theme meant to make the encounter feel epic, grand, or exciting. Here though, the theme is still grand, but in a way that’s slower and more contemplative. It sounds good, but it doesn’t feel right. Eventually you learn that this is intentional, as one of the themes the game plays with is “not everything is as it seems”. In the moment though, it’s more like an itch in the back of the head. It doesn’t feel right, and it makes you wonder what’s causing that feeling.
“Alien Manifestation” only appears in the game a handful of times, but somehow it has a quite a bit of staying power. By itself it would simply be a good theme. It’s got a haunting, grandiose quality to it that conjures up a sense of the old, hallowed, and ancient, but the rest of it can only be unpacked when heard in the context of its segments in NieR: Automata. It’s a layered piece that requires a bit of introspection and proper context in order to fully grasp. For me, I think I’ve gotten a good start on the introspection part of it, but I won’t have all the necessary context until I get through the rest of the games main endings. It’s been fun so far, so I can’t wait to see this song in an even newer light!
Have you ever had a game them ‘haunt’ you? What was it? Do you feel like it gave you further insight into the story or the themes the game was exploring?
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster