NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139 is a bizarre, mind-blowing game, but it certainly doesn’t go out of its way to spell out the plot. The multitude of twists and revelations within the game are dwarfed by the amount omitted. There is an entire book named Grimoire Nier that explores the lore further, along with several interviews with Yoko Taro that fill in more of the blanks. Grimoire Nier is translated here.
By dissecting all of these, I have put together a summary of everything necessary to fully understand the plot. Even this has cut significant detail, but as you’ll see – there is still plenty to digest.
Firstly, some fair warning. Obviously, this article will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS for NieR Replicant, which also covers the original Nier as well as NieR Gestalt (the Japanese-only release of Nier).
Also, if you have only seen one, two, or even three endings – DO NOT PROCEED. There are five endings to NieR Replicant, so make sure you have seen the fifth and final ending, Ending E. If you’re not there yet – leave this article immediately and view our spoiler-free endings guide to help you reach the true conclusion:
There will also be some big SPOILERS for Drakengard, but I will keep these as succinct as possible and only discuss what is relevant to NieR Replicant’s story.
Finally – there are NO SPOILERS for NieR Automata. I’m assuming many have played it before NieR Replicant anyway, but it is a distant sequel to Replicant so if you have not played it yet, I’d strongly urge you to do so.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the weird, wonderful plot of NieR Replicant. This will be in chronological order, and contains the odd bit of personal speculation.
Prior to the start of the game
Before the events of NieR Replicant, an enormous being named the Giant Queen entered our world from an alternate dimension. This is one of the many endings of Drakengard, which took place in an entirely different universe before the characters were teleported to 2003 Tokyo at the conclusion. The Giant Queen was defeated but the fact it came from a different plane of existence led to unknown particles being released into the atmosphere known as “Maso”.
The “Maso” particles caused a contagious disease called White Chlorination Syndrome to spawn in Japan, and later spread to the rest of the world. The soul of anyone who contracted this disease is effectively faced with a choice – submit to the disease and become puppets to a God who wished to destroy the world, or resist the disease and get turned into salt. Either way, their life as a human was over.
Those who did not get turned to salt instead became infected beings named Legions, who lost their free will but gained powers and enhanced strength. Slowly but surely, the disease threatened to wipe out humanity and also led to endless fatal battles between Legions and non-infected humans.
As the threat grew, experiments with Maso were conducted. These were able to accomplish incredible magical feats and conjure things from thin air (actually summoned from the alternate dimension). A further magical discovery was the ability to remove a human’s soul and store it in a vessel to protect it from the disease, before later returning it back to into the body.
To combat the fact that humans could not survive White Chlorination Syndrome, substitute bodies named Replicants were created. The aim was to preserve the souls of humans separately from their original bodies whilst they waited for the disease to die out, upon which they could be reinserted into Replicant bodies identical to their original ones. This became known as Project Gestalt. Replicants were generally given artificial ‘placeholder’ personalities, but completely non-sentient Replicants were also created to battle the growing force of Legions. These battles caused widespread destruction around the world.
Despite initial reluctance, the dire situation meant humanity eventually accepted Project Gestalt as the only solution to White Chlorination System and widespread “Gestaltisation” took place. Androids were created to oversee the Replicants and ensure the completion of the project.
Some human souls were also placed into Grimoires, including Grimoire Weiss and Grimoire Noir, which were bestowed with huge magical power. The latter was used to enact the Gestaltisation process – touching Grimoire Noir would separate body from soul, allowing the soul (ie. The Gestalt) to be stored elsewhere.
More importantly, the immense energy within these tomes led to Project Grimoire Noir being created simultaneously to Project Gestalt. This was a failsafe, whereby the combined power of Grimoire Weiss and Grimoire Noir could force all separated souls (Gestalts) to re-enter their Replicant bodies. This process was designed to be instigated when the White Chlorination Disease had died out.
Project Gestalt was not an immediate success. The separation caused humans to “relapse”, afflicting them with a new illness that took over their soul and robbed them of their consciousness. Some cases occurred faster than others, but eventually all Gestalted souls would become mindless, meaning they could not later be returned to a Replicant body and effectively died.
This takes us to around the time of NieR Replicant’s prologue. The protagonist (we’ll call him Nier) and Yonah were lured into a Support Plan for food and shelter, which was actually there to experiment on the impoverished and find a cure to the relapse illness suffered by Gestalts.
Since Grimoire Noir was used to separate body and soul, duplicate tomes were created with the aim of testing human guinea pigs until they found the key – namely, a human who was able to fully retain their consciousness after the Gestalt process and avoid relapse altogether.
Introduction – Year 2053
Nier grew suspicious of the adverse reactions others experienced and fled from the facility with Yonah, leading into NieR Replicant’s tutorial/introduction section. They ended up in the supermarket and were soon ambushed by relapsed Gestalts – these were human souls that had been separated from their bodies and had lost their consciousness.
Whilst under attack, Nier, in a desperate attempt to save Yonah, touched Grimoire Noir which instigated his own Gestaltisation. His initial reluctance was because he had seen first hand how this usually caused a relapse that drove people mad – just like the enemies attacking them.
Through sheer luck, Nier was indeed the first Gestalted human who retained his consciousness, and suddenly held the key to the entire project. He was a “stable” Gestalt and the maso granted to him by Grimoire Noir also provided the magic powers needed to stave off the attackers.
Unfortunately, the same was not true of Yonah. When Yonah touched the book in the final moments of the prologue, she succumbed to the same fate as the other humans before her. She instantly relapsed, and Nier knew she would shortly lose her mind and be driven berserk.
Nier returned to the Project Gestalt facility in search of a cure for Yonah. Since he was the first person to avoid relapse, he was able to give Project Gestalt a new, genuine hope of success. They offered to cryogenically freeze Yonah’s body for 1000 years in return for Nier’s co-operation, suggesting in this time that Yonah’s relapse illness could be healed.
Using a new “stable demonic element” within Nier, they were successfully able to separate human souls from their bodies and keep them free of sickness until the pandemic had ceased, so the souls could be reinserted into Replicant bodies when the time was right.
Now known as the “Original Gestalt”, Nier was obligated to continually disperse the stable demonic element that kept the other human souls sane whilst separated from their bodies. Without this plan, non-Gestalted humans would catch White Chlorination Syndrome, and Gestalted humans would relapse and become insane. Hence, as the key to the entire operation, he become the Shadowlord.
During the time jump
Androids such as Devola and Popola were responsible for maintaining the Replicants, who did not have any reproductive function of their own. Instead, every generation would see the batch of Replicants replaced – which was possible by drawing on the Gestalt souls being maintained by the Shadowlord’s demonic element. Essentially, when a Replicant’s body died, the androids used the Gestalt being stored to make a new one for the next generation within their area.
During the 1,412 years that followed, Replicants and androids continued to battle against Legions and eventually defeated them. They were able to purify the world of maso, sending it back to the other dimension and alleviating the threat of White Chlorination Syndrome. This happened shortly before the main events of the NieR Replicant.
However, something unexpected had happened beforehand – Replicants developed their own sentience, which superseded the basic personalities they’d been artificially given. Replicant bodies may have initially been designed to be shells lying in wait for their corresponding Gestalt souls, but ended up forming genuine relationships and building communities of their own.
When the world was purified, the Gestalt souls – who had been kept intact by the presence of the Shadowlord – began to awaken. They sought to reunite with the Replicant versions of their bodies, and became what we knew as shades. Shades were in fact the human souls not currently occupying a body, but could not communicate with Replicants and could not appear in sunlight as an unfortunate side effect of the Gestaltisation process.
As the Gestalts attempted to return to their corresponding shells, the Replicants – now thinking for themselves – resisted them which led to a battle between Replicants and Gestalts. The androids in some areas actually convinced some Replicants to give up their bodies in favour of the human Gestalts, though this wasn’t the case in the areas we inhabit in NieR Replicant.
At this point some Gestalts began to relapse, and Replicants developed a completely separate disease known as the black scrawl. These events were related – when a Gestalt relapsed, the corresponding Replicant body would also become ill with the black scrawl. In most cases this was fatal – if a Gestalt relapsed, a new Replicant body could not be created.
Yonah’s original body, of course, had already relapsed back in 2053, which is why her Replicant version was being devoured by the black scrawl when the events of the next part commenced. However, because her original body was cryogenically frozen she was in the unique position of being able to produce further Replicant versions of her body despite the relapse.
Just before the gameplay picks back up, the Shadowlord had come to the tragic realisation that no actual cure for Yonah had been developed, and there was no prospect of one. His frustration had a knock-on effect on the other Gestalts, who were relying on his stable demonic element to retain their senses. Devola and Popola started to note that more and more Gestalts (ie. shades) were relapsing, and came up with a contingency plan.
Their plan was to facilitate Project Grimoire Noir, which required Grimoire Weiss and Grimoire Noir to join together with their full powers. This would ensure the completion of Project Gestalt by forcing the Gestalts right into the Replicant bodies.
Part 1 of the main story – 1,412 years later
NieR Replicant restarts in the village of Replicants overseen by the androids Devola and Popola. The Nier now being controlled is the Replicant version of the Nier we saw in the prologue. He has now developed his own sentience and personality, as has the Replicant version of Yonah and everyone else in the village.
The Shadowlord is the Nier we controlled in the prologue. Angry and desperate, he acquired the original Grimoire Noir off-screen and intended to use its power to make a final attempt to reunite Yonah’s soul with her body. His frustration meant the demonic element he produced was not effectively protecting the shades/Gestalts anymore, who were relapsing in greater numbers.
Devola and Popola’s plan to enact Project Grimoire Noir required Grimoire Weiss to be recovered, and for his power to be fully restored with the sealed verses. They guided Replicant Nier to do this, but since he unwittingly awakened Grimoire Weiss with force, Weiss did not retain his memories and did not know of his role within Project Grimoire Noir.
Replicant Nier followed Devola and Popola’s instructions, and steadily gained the sealed verses one by one which replenished Weiss’s full power. Nier met Emil and Kainé, and also ended up journeying into the huge tree in the Forest of Myth, which will be important later.
When the Shadowlord abducted Yonah in the Library, Grimoire Noir tried to join with Grimoire Weiss which would have restored all Gestalts to their Replicant bodies, theoretically saving mankind at the expense of the Replicants’ sentience. Weiss, without his memories and without the knowledge that this was his purpose, resisted Noir due to the bonds he had forged with Nier, Kainé and Emil. This is, of course, the famous scene where Kainé launches a tirade of expletives at Weiss.
Nonetheless, the Shadowlord abducts Yonah’s replicant body, Replicant Nier is wounded, Kainé is petrified and another, shorter, time jump occurs.
Admittedly, I can’t find a firm answer of why the Shadowlord did not also abduct Replicant Nier here. His objective was to place the Gestalts of himself and Yonah inside their Replicant bodies. However, I can only surmise that he wanted Replicant Nier’s wounds to heal, and wished for Nier’s body to fully grow into adulthood.
Still, it seems a bit strange that he finally snapped after waiting over 1000 years, yet he was then happy to sit patiently for a few more years. If anybody has found the answer to this point, please comment below.
Part 2 of the main story – 5 years later
The Replicant Nier has healed, and by now become obsessed with killing shades as well as finding Yonah. He remains unaware that the shades are not evil creatures and are in fact human souls without their bodies. On route B, we learn that most of the time the shades have no desire to fight and are generally acting in the interests of self-preservation.
Emil and Nier soon manage to revive Kainé from her petrification, and the party are again guided by Devola and Popola to gain the fragments needed to unlock the Shadowlord’s castle. During this journey, Kainé learns that the shades are in fact human souls, as her pact with Tyrann allows her to understand them. Off-screen, there’s also an encounter with a shade who tries to tell Kainé about Project Gestalt. Despite knowing this, she continues to fight at Nier’s side as a repayment for his unconditional trust and acceptance of her.
At the Shadowlord’s castle, we come face to face with the twins. Their specific motivation here is based on some more speculation, but I believe they are fighting us because they do not want us to actually beat the Shadowlord. This would spell the end of Project Gestalt which relies upon his maso. Instead, they want to deliver Replicant Nier’s body to him along with Grimoire Weiss so he stops his maverick agenda and is willing to merge the Grimoires and complete Project Grimoire Noir – doing so would also satisfy his own goal of being restored to his Replicant body along with Yonah.
Unfortunately, Yonah was still doomed whatever happened. With no cure for the relapse she had already suffered, her Replicant body would always have succumbed to the black scrawl. The only way to prevent relapse would have been to reunite body and soul before it started. This has been confirmed by Yoko Taro.
As Devola and Popola state themselves, they never expected Replicant Nier to become as strong as he did. They also disparage Grimoire Weiss as a traitor, referencing the fact he chose to ally with the player’s party of Replicants rather than engage in Project Grimoire Noir. During the first battle, Weiss still doesn’t know this.
Nier and his party beats the twins, along with everyone else in the castle before facing off with them again. Grimoire Weiss has his memories restored by the Project Gestalt reports, and everyone is told they are not really human. Kainé already knew, and predictably doesn’t care anyway. In fact, the existential questions are passed over pretty quickly. Stories covering this subject matter usually dwell on what it truly means to be alive and to have feelings, but we’ve been through enough with the characters that NieR Replicant doesn’t even need to question this.
During the second battle, Devola is killed and we are shown that Devola and Popola, despite being androids and not Replicants, also gained genuine emotions over time. Popola goes into a blind rage, perhaps releasing pent-up feelings that have been restrained for hundreds of years.
Emil sacrifices himself to allow Nier and Kainé to escape. Kainé pins Nier against the wall, in what Yoko Taro described as a scene of romance. Here, Kainé realises she is in love with Nier, which causes Tyrann to question in the following battle why her heart is suddenly filled with light.
Finally, we come up against the Shadowlord. During the battle, Yonah steps forward and walks straight past Replicant Nier in favour of the Shadowlord. Yonah’s Replicant body has been reunited with her original Gestalt consciousness, but she can still sense the Replicant consciousness inside her. She chooses to leave the body behind and allow the consciousness of Replicant Yonah to occupy it again. The Gestalt Yonah, whom the Shadowlord has tried to save for over a thousand years, dies.
The battle continues, and Replicant Nier is able to overpower the Shadowlord, left confused and hurt by Yonah’s sacrifice. Weiss has his full memories at this point, yet still chooses to assist Replicant Nier in saving Yonah rather than betray him in favour of mankind.
Replicant Nier strikes down the Shadowlord, condemning humanity to death. When the Shadowlord lived, he was able to provide maso for the Gestalts to retain their consciousness. Without him, the remaining Gestalts will relapse, causing the Replicants to develop the black scrawl. The Replicants cannot reproduce without Gestalts, so the moment the last inevitable relapse occurs is the moment humanity will become extinct.
There are five main endings, which we will take one by one.
In Ending A, upon the Shadowlord’s death, Yonah’s memories as a Replicant are restored by entering the name of the player. The Replicant verisons of Nier and Yonah are reunited, and Nier invites Kainé to join them. She refuses, saying she has “some shit” to take care of.
We then view a scene with Nier and Yonah laying on the grass, looking up at the sun. Since they are both young again, this would appear to be a flashback, simply showing us a happy time they shared.
Afterwards, a brief scene shows the Shadowlord and the original Yonah being reunited in the afterlife. Despite the consequences of our actions, this ending contains a bit of happiness.
The same events play out, but this ending focuses on the Shadowlord, which is rather more tragic. We see him alone in the white void, weeping at his failure to save Yonah. Perhaps the fact that mankind itself has been doomed has something to do with it, but I doubt he even cares at this point.
There is a flashback to the time the original Nier and Yonah shared a cookie in the supermarket, before reverting back to Shadowlord Nier in the white void. This is revealed to be the afterlife, indicated by the presence in the background of some of the notable enemies we killed during the journey.
A young Yonah shows up in the white void, and shares a cookie with Gestalt Nier whilst thanking him for everything he went through to try and save her. He thanks her for the cookie, and everything disappears.
Finally, we see Emil’s head land in the desert. Thanks to the magical power he inherited from his sister, he was somehow able to survive Popola’s magic but lost his body in the process. There is a funny short story about this in Grimoire Nier, where Emil struggles his way around the world trying to restore his body with magic (translated here). He eventually succeeds, as we will later see in route E.
Everything plays out as before, but the scene continues and Kainé begins to relapse. This is a bit of a complicated one. She is being occupied by the shade Tyrann, who is the Gestalt of a different human. The Shadowlord’s demise will cause all shades/Gestalts to relapse, so it seems this happened almost immediately in Kainé and Tyrann’s case, causing the black scrawl to engulf her body.
As such, Tyrann explains to Kainé that they will both lose their memories and he can’t stop it. As Kainé loses control of her mind, Tyrann starts speaking to Nier. It’s unclear whether Tyrann was capable of communicating with other Replicants all along, but it may be that the fact he occupied Kainé’s soul as it became filled with love for Nier allowed him to communicate with Nier specifically.
Nier defeats the berserk Kainé and Tyrann explains the two choices before him – stab Kainé in the heart and put her out of her misery, or trade his life for hers and heal her from the black scrawl completely. The interesting point is that Tyrann basically admits here that he has also developed feelings towards Kainé, which is why he is giving Nier the choices.
In Ending C, Nier elects to kill Kainé. He kisses her as she dies, showing that he reciprocated her feelings. Her final message, delivered via Tyrann, is to thank Nier for ending her pain. He is left with a Lunar Tear to remember her by.
If the alternative choice is made, then Nier ceases to exist, trading his life for Kainé’s. Kainé wakes up healed, and feels like she is forgetting something. Even Yonah has lost all memories of Nier, and assumes Kainé was the one who saved her. Kainé is crying, but she doesn’t know why.
This ending results in your save file being deleted. NieR Replicant trolls you by literally showing every record you’ve accumulated vanish before your very eyes.
Honestly, I’m yet to find any real concrete explanation of how Nier was able to give up his life for Kainé’s, or the reason everyone else suddenly forgets he ever existed. Even Yoko Taro didn’t particularly try to explain this one in Grimoire Nier, he simply states it was the power of love!
There is probably some sort of plot-based explanation that can be speculated, but in reality I think he just likes creating a scenario where players face the difficult decision of whether to erase their save file.
This is where things get even crazier. After viewing Ending D, you need to play a new file under a brand new name until the battle with Hook in the Aerie. Kainé wakes from a dream, still plagued by doubts about her memories and a nagging feeling she is forgetting something. We finally get to play as Kainé, albeit only for an hour or so.
The route itself sees Kainé journey to the Divine Tree within the Forest of Myth, where robots have slaughtered the Replicants living there. Mysterious voices tell her the Divine Tree is in fact an advanced technological database built to observe and store memories of anything and everything about the world. It was developed by humans using a mixture of quantum mechanics and maso research. Humans long experimented with maso when White Chlorination Syndrome emerged, and the Divine Tree was an ultimate triumph of their research.
These voices are revealed to be those of android twins, who bear a striking resemblance to the main characters from NieR Automata. The twins are the administrators of the forest, and confirm that she has doomed Project Gestalt by killing the “Original Gestalt” a.k.a The Shadowlord, and that her actions have caused countless Replicants to die. They are referring to the Replicants killed by relapsed shades, but these Replicants will develop the black scrawl eventually anyway.
Kainé doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about, growing increasingly frustrated by their cryptic words. The chances are, the majority of this also went over most players’ heads, but it all makes more sense when the plot’s full context has been examined.
Emil reappears in the nick of time, now with four arms! He helps Kainé to defeat an army of Kainé clones produced using the memories stored within the forest. Since Project Gestalt has failed, the twins note there is no need for robots or Replicants anymore, hence they released agents to cull the remaining occupants of the world. It’s likely this is a result of programming from before Replicants and androids developed their own sentience, otherwise the execution order seems rather immoral.
However, the twins are clearly aware that the sentience and sheer will of Kainé is something of a wild card, well beyond the ambit of what was expected within Project Gestalt. They repeatedly state how they are fascinated with her, and challenge Kainé to show her full potential stating there is “much fun to be had”.
Kainé is equal to every test playfully thrown her way by the twins, and she enters the core of the Divine Tree where Emil disappears. The tree has stored all of her memories, and by defeating the nightmares of her past she gradually unlocks fragments of what was lost. One by one, she battles the shades, being taunted by the twins that these are memories of true humans who were slain at her hand.
Finally, she is faced with her worst nightmare – Hook, the giant shade who killed her Grandma. With the help of Weiss, who appears with perfect timing, he allows her to overcome the nightmare. It’s not stated whether this is actually Weiss or merely a memory, but either way his magic is pivotal to the victory. Truly awed by the potential of a mere Replicant, the twins disappear and Kainé is at last reunited with Nier.
Using the memories of Nier from the time he entered the Divine Tree in part one of the story (during the Deathdream section), a new Replicant body is reconstructed in his younger form. Kainé regains her memories, and the tree blossoms into a Lunar Tear where she holds his body and along with Emil delivers the final lines of the game.
“Our journey may have been meaningless. Our past may have been a mistake. But we’re not going back. Even if this world comes to an end. Because this… This is the world with the people we cherish”
This brings a question to mind – if the Divine Tree can construct Replicants from memory without the need for a Gestalt, why couldn’t this function be used to prolong the Replicant civilisation? My assumption this is simply because the tree was programmed before Replicants developed sentience, so it was never considered an option.
Out of context, this ending is pretty uplifting. Despite the absence of Weiss, who has disappeared again, the gang are back together after an exhilarating final battle. With the full story knowledge, it’s somewhat less positive. Nier, Kainé and Yonah have an undetermined amount of time together before they inevitably perish. Emil, on the other hand, has transcended humanity and will prevail when the others are long gone.
There we have it. The world is doomed to die out within the next generation. Replicants can’t reproduce, and without the original Gestalt no more Replicants can be made. The Gestalts that remain will all relapse sooner or later, and the Replicants will develop the black scrawl.
Speculation time: without spoiling NieR Automata’s actual story at all, I think it’s possible this ending isn’t the canon ending that leads to the events of the NieR Automata.
The overseers are young versions of the main characters from NieR Automata, 2B and 9S, and are played by the same voice actors. They state that “possible futures are blending with the time we currently inhabit” whilst disappearing. Is their disappearance a hint that their story will never be told in this timeline?
In the mind of Yoko Taro, anything is possible. After all, the Drakengard ending that led to NieR Replicant’s story was one of many, and was not considered the main ending. Perhaps Kainé, in fulfilling a Replicant’s potential, somehow unlocked a brand new future altogether. After all, she led the Divine Tree to produce a Replicant without a Gestalt, which wasn’t previously possible.
Interestingly, it’s also a slight departure to the original short story that first told Ending E within Grimoire Nier. The short story “The Lost World” only had one overseer mentioned and this is the first time Ending E has been a playable segment. For the record, I’d love the story to branch off somewhere else if it means another NieR game.
Here are a few tidbits of things I’ve seen people question, but didn’t really fit anywhere else within the plot summary.
What does the plot mean?
NieR Replicant goes to great lengths to illustrate how actions that seem virtuous to some are monstrous to others, and that it all depends on the point of view. Yoko Taro is a master at constructing these scenarios, making us feel heroic before subverting these feelings into guilt when we realise our foes aren’t evil after all. In fact, when we ponder the scenarios of each character, virtually everyone plays a part in humanity’s demise.
Nier himself never understood the full consequences of his actions, but in the second half of the game was so consumed with vengeance he had no interest in doing so anyway. Moreover, Kainé’s pact with Tyrann meant she knew the shades were original humans. She chose to withhold this information so Nier didn’t second guess his own objective and she could continue to fight with him.
Grimoire Weiss consciously elects to assist Nier in saving Yonah after regaining his memories. His true purpose was to unite with Grimoire Noir and restore the Gestalts to their Replicant shells, but he abandoned his duty rather than betray Nier, of whom he had grown so fond.
The Shadowlord, meanwhile, let personal feelings trump the greater good, prioritising his wish to be reunited with Yonah despite knowing it was all in vain, and at best would be fleeting. Devola and Popola can certainly shoulder some blame, as they tried to intervene through deception and manipulation rather than fully explaining the situation. Even Yonah, during the prologue… if only she had listened and not touched the damn book.
There is no finite right and wrong, only flawed people and the choices they make in the circumstances. The fact that just about everyone is guilty of something perhaps reflects that really, everyone is capable of sin if they are placed in certain situations.
Why is so much of the plot unexplained in the game itself?
This is a deliberate decision of Yoko Taro who wanted the emotional focus of the story to simply be a brother trying to save his sister. This also means the ignorance of the wider plot extends to the player, making us question ourselves. We are likely rooting for Nier during route A before feeling shame and remorse in route B. Taro wanted to depict something realistic (yes, really) – that people are very rarely abreast of all angles, and all conflicts have multiple sides who genuinely believe they are doing the right thing.
Choices are simply a product of the information available, which is often contaminated in itself. The more we learn during the repeated playthroughs, the more we second-guess ourselves – not so much the actions, which are dictated by the game, but our feelings about them. The full facts aren’t always a luxury we have when we make decisions, and sometimes not even in hindsight. It’s pretty dark really.
Ending E in particular drives this home. It’s such an incredible, emotional, and uplifting finale that it’s hard to interpret as anything other than positive. Maybe the fact that we feel so good about the characters reuniting despite dooming the world makes us later realise we’re just as flawed as them.
What exactly happened to Kainé?
As we know, Kainé was possessed by a shade named Tyrann. He is the Gestalt of another human, making this an unusual pact whereby a Gestalt occupies the body of a Replicant that didn’t match its original body. This created a conflict of personalities, and Tyrann intended to take over her body completely if she stopped resisting him (this briefly happened in the Lost Shrine in part 2).
Tyrann was not actually a relapsed Gestalt. He was the soul of a human who simply had a twisted, sadistic personality. However, by the end of the game he changed. The development of Kainé’s soul, in finding love for Nier and sympathy for the other shades, rubbed off on him. He ended up genuinely growing to care for Kainé, hence his efforts to assist Nier in endings C and D.
Also, if anyone was wondering why Kainé was bullied, and regularly referenced having something different about her body… Kainé is intersex. The in-story explanation for this was a technical error when her Replicant body was produced. Outside of the story, the developers were constantly looking for ways to subvert the norms and deliver something unexpected in a heroine.
What is Emil’s backstory?
In brief – Emil was part of the extensive experiments that took place after the maso particles were released into the world. He, along with a bunch of other children, were initially meant to be weapons in the fight against Legions (ie. those who survived White Chlorination Syndrome and lost their minds). Interestingly, the initial human form of Tyrann helped facilitate these experiments and cruelly subjected the children to abuse. Emil was earmarked as “No. 6” – the sixth child they attempted to convert into the ultimate weapon. However, his twin sister Halua volunteered to protect him. She became a mighty weapon but her fury at being manipulated led to an unstoppable rampage that killed several people.
As such, Emil became “No. 7” and was given the eyes of petrification to seal her away. Halua was actually able to stop the petrificiton, but the short story “The Stone Flower” confirms she voluntarily allowed it to happen to prevent herself running wild again. Emil’s experimental powers also gave him immortality, but he was never able to fully control them and ended up petrifying everyone in the facility. When Nier and Emil later face Halua within the factory, he absorbed her powers at the expense of his normal human body.
If anyone is interested – Emil is gay. This is hinted during the game, particularly at the King of Facade’s wedding, but has also been confirmed in an interview with Yoko Taro. Emil is in love with Nier.
A final, funny tidbit about Emil is that Yoko Taro routinely wears an Emil helmet to conduct interviews and press commitments. Despite his eccentric nature, Taro is a notoriously shy person and wearing Emil’s face helps him deal with this.
This is a lot to take in, and believe it or not I’ve actually condensed things down (!) – especially the events before and during the large time jump. If there are any other questions you’d like answered, please comment below and I’ll add anything relevant to the article.