NieR Automata: one [R]egret
I finished NieR Automata earlier this week, and have been struggling with that fact for a few days now. Not only has it been difficult to come to terms with the fact that there’s almost nothing left for me to do in that game, but I’ve also had problems transitioning back into playing other games. That’s just how much I loved Automata. After a rocky beginning where I was leaning towards being disappointed with the game, I eventually hit a point where I knew that this game was going to be one of my all time favorites.
But I mentioned that I had “almost nothing left to do”. That’s because I left a few things unfinished, and as a result I have one, big, glaring regret about NieR Automata. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that I’ll probably never be able to erase that regret.
At some point during my 95 hours with the game, I decided that I wanted to try and 100% it. Not just get the Platinum trophy, which is a relatively simple task if you’re willing to cheat for it. But I wanted a 100% clear file. Unfortunately as I made my way to the end of the game, I realized that just wasn’t in the cards at the moment.
I finished NieR Automata with three things left unfinished. 1. The Unit Data %, I was able to get it to 96%, but was unwilling to continue to hunt for the remaining rare Enhanced Machines I needed to complete the log. 2. Similarly, my Fishing log was left at 69%, with me again unwilling to put in the time to wrestle with RNG to catch the remaining fish. And finally, 3. I didn’t fully upgrade Pod C, and in fact bought the trophy for fully upgrading all of the pods.
It was because of my unwillingness to complete these last few tasks, or maybe more accurately my unwillingness to let such trivial things go that I cheated myself out of NieR Automata’s final stroke of genius.
I’m going to start talking freely about the final moments of NieR Automata, including its final main ending, and boss fight. So fair warning for those who want to bail out now.
The true ending of NieR Automata is nothing short of incredible. I went into this without having any idea of what awaited me in the game’s final ending, Ending E: the [E]nd of yorha. I’ve included a rather lengthy video of the ending, but I implore you to seek this out for yourself in your own game if you haven’t already.
But to summarize, Pod 042 decides to stop Pod 153 from erasing everything, and goes on a suicide mission in order to reach Yoko Taro’s idea of a “happy ending.” I say that, but the final cutscene of Ending E is actually beautiful, and uplifting, without just straight up resolving everything.
The last boss fight in the game is another shooter sequence that is very similar to the hacking mini-game that 9S does throughout the entire game. However this time you’re facing off against the wall of text that is the credits for the game.
For a good long while I was able to make it through the credits without suffering any damage, however the battle gradually gets more difficult until the point where it is seemingly impossible to overcome the odds that are stacked against you.
I died over and over again, as the game taunted me for my failures. But all the while, other players, real people from around the world were cheering (or jeering in some cases) me on. After dying enough times, the game finally asks you if you would like some help. Upon answering yes, I was greeted with what might be one of my favorite moments I’ve ever had in a game.
With the aid of other players as support, you’re afforded a fighting chance against the last onslaught of bullets and credits. The whole thing is punctuated by the uplifting chorus of the trio of songstresses who sing the three variations of the game’s gorgeous ending song. And eventually I was able to defeat the wall of text.
You’re then treated to the previously mentioned ending cutscene. After that the game gives you the opportunity to leave your own motivational message for other players struggling with the final confrontation. And then, it happens…
Fans of the original NieR are probably familiar with that game’s final ending wherein you sacrifice your save data in order to attain the game’s true ending. And once again that same trick is used here. However this time it’s different. This time the game presents you with a choice that will ultimately affect other players around the world.
The Pods ask if you would be willing to sacrifice your saved data in order to help one random stranger in the world. You would have to give up everything to offer the same support you received during the final battle.
Here in lies my regret. Since I still had some unfinished business with the game, I decided to say “no”. And that was that. My data was safe, but I failed to help someone in need. And even though the game had masterfully crafted a scenario where most people would feel more than inclined to offer support, I foolishly said no, and cheated myself out of that experience.
And for what, really? A meaningless sense of accomplishment that I checked off a few more boxes in “completing” the game? I had my shot at that beautiful, poetic moment, and I said no because I wanted to say “Oh yeah, I 100%’d that game.”
It’s been days since then, and I’ve seen more and more people on Twitter get to that point. And in a lot of cases I see people who also have that one regret. I’ve seen someone who got caught up in the moment and said “yes”, who ultimately regretted he couldn’t go back into his end game save file to study A2’s animations. And I’ve seen other people who said “no” that are in the same situation as me.
Of course we could finish these remaining tasks, go through the ending again, and say “yes”. But it won’t be the same. You already know what’s coming, you already had your shot to give up everything on a whim to help someone in need. This time you’re just checking another box off the list. This time you can feel “good” about giving up your save data with “no regrets.”
But that’s not entirely true, is it? There’s still one regret.