Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: Nier Reincarnation is a beautiful game that wants to be taken seriously as a story and experience. Its moneymaking mechanics, unfortunately, hold it back.
Beautiful graphics and music
Engaging story sections featuring 2D artwork
Combat that's reasonably easy to grasp
Combat is also repetitive and dull
The gacha mechanics are omnipresent
The menu is confusing
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Nier Reincarnation is a mobile game set, if not in the Nier universe, then at least within the Nier atmosphere. It follows a mysterious, black-clad, silver-haired waif as she explores a world that looks as if it may at one point have supported life but now is mysteriously empty. The trademark Nier melancholic beauty hangs over everything, assisted by a lovely musical score.
The tiny main character does have a backstory, which is revealed slowly over the course of the game, at a pace that's just right to keep it from being too tedious or insubstantial. But when you start the game, you know nothing about her other than that she's awoken in "The Cage," an empty series of ruins. She's accompanied by a strange creature shaped like a Pac-Man ghost calling itself Mama, who certainly lives up to the name by fussing over the girl at every opportunity.
Reincarnation looks and feels like a Nier game some of the time, usually when the player is in the story segments or wandering around the Cage. However, when the game puts in the gacha elements, it starts to feel less enjoyable — the summons, the resources, the constant reminders that this game wants to make money off of you.
Nier Reincarnation: The highs
|Minimum Requirements||Android 7.0 or later|
|Game Size||95 MB|
|Launch Price||Free with microtransactions|
While in the Cage, the girl must cleanse various black weapons suspended at various points in her path. When she does, she's transported into the memories that the weapons contain, as told in monochrome 2D story sections where you control the characters within the memories. The short story segments are the best parts about Nier: Reincarnation. It feels like you're actually experiencing slices of life that have come and gone in a ruined world. They're sad, beautiful, and charming, especially for a mobile title.
The overworld story with the girl and Mama isn't exactly exciting, and there are times when Mama talks just a little bit too much in her efforts to fill the silence between them. But when it's just a matter of them roaming the world and the camera showing panoramas of the stunning, ruined world of the Cage, Nier: Reincarnation is absolutely beautiful and will look stunning on a good gaming phone.
The combat is proficient, if not especially exciting. It's an auto-battler title in which the characters will do their best to kill whatever's in front of them regardless of your impact. The animations are fairly crunchy and fun to watch, and if you're cool with the game not requiring too much of your input aside from a few button taps, then you'll probably enjoy this. As stated, the music and graphics are quite arresting, and while not on par with the likes of Nier: Automata, they are charming in their own right.
Nier Reincarnation: The lows
Nier Reincarnation is a great game when it's simple and focusing on its ephemeral, mysterious story. But because it's a free-to-play mobile game, it's practically obligated to include gacha mechanics, and that's where it feels a bit less… magical, for lack of a better term. I'm reminded that Yoko Taro once said, in response to a question about how Nier Reincarnation is linked to the rest of the Nier universe, "It is linked so that Square Enix can make money through gacha."
The first time one opens the menu, and suddenly the empty, beautiful world is completely eclipsed by several icons and words, offering you the chance to customize your loadout, enhance it, and summon more fighters while Mama holds up a sign featuring the latest crossover characters you can pay to obtain — it's like of like getting a beam of midday sunlight in one's eyes after having been inside a dark room.
As stated above, the combat is reasonably easy if you're a fan of not doing much, but if you wanted to do more than just tap the screen every few minutes to activate a special attack, then you're going to be bored out of your mind. The enhancement mechanics, in which you can spruce up your summoned fighters and weapons using various resources you can pay to attain or accrue naturally, seem very deep. Still, it doesn't seem very clear how much they actually make a difference. I built what I thought was a solid deck of characters, spent resources enhancing them, and then realized I had no clue what these extra efforts even accomplished. I went into battle and the characters seemed to be doing just as well as they were before.
The UI in the menus is also kind of confusing, if only because the text and icons are incredibly small — especially if you're playing on a relatively small screen (I was on a Pixel 4). That's not a problem in the game itself, where the UIs largely rely on hieroglyphics and numbers to get the point across, but in the menu, it's a big problem because I need to actually be able to read what's on the screen in front of me. The game also crashed several times while playing, and not consistently either. Sometimes it seemed to crash when I tried to open a particular part of the menu, while other times that worked just fine.
Nier Reincarnation: Should you play it?
2 out of 5
I wish I could recommend Nier Reincarnation because a game with artwork this beautiful is meant to be looked at. But I can't pretend that the gameplay and gacha mechanics do anything other than drag the game down. Unless you have a liking for gacha summons and the patience to level up a bunch of characters, then you'll probably lose interest in this game before it can give you the story it very clearly has.
Bottom line: Nier Reincarnation is stunning and would probably be very enjoyable if it were an episodic game or even just an exploration-based adventure game. However, it's not shy about reminding you that it would very much like to make money from you.
Rachel Kaser is an Android Central gaming contributor, who's been writing since 2013 and gaming since the age of five. She's covered everything from gaming news, reviews, and analysis -- if it exists in gaming, she knows about it. She also contributes to Future's other sites, iMore and Windows Central. If you want to hear her opinions on games, pop culture, tech, and everything in between, follow her on Twitter @rachelkaser