MAJOR Spoiler Warning for Nier Automata. Usually I wouldn’t do this, but this is an incredible game that everyone should play themselves if possible. Please only read if you’ve beaten the game or don’t care.
Nier:Automata has a lot of things going for it. It has excellent gameplay, great themes, fun characters, and it manages to merge all of those elements well. People might dislike some of those, but one thing everyone agrees on is that it uses sound excellently. Not only is the soundtrack itself one of the best I’ve ever heard in a game — something it shares with the first game — but the actual way the songs are used is excellent as well.
The entire soundtrack is dynamic, changing as it needs to in order to fit a tone or mood. Each scene will adjust the use of vocals or the noise of the soundtrack in order to match what’s going on, and that’s something which makes it incredibly charming to listen to for hours on end. I’m going to be going to some of the songs that are great in this game, and what makes them that way.
Fortress of Lies is one of the earliest songs, showing up in the Bunker. It’s a quiet song, fitting with the desolate and bleak atmosphere that the Bunker gives off. The vocals in here are much like whispers, reflecting the idea stated by the title that the Bunker is a place of lies.
Machine Village/Pascal is a song which creates a very soothing atmosphere. Pascal’s village is a peaceful, safe space for machines and androids alike, and the song reflects that with the cheerful vocals and higher notes, along with the somewhat fast speed of the song. Something I really like about it is that the vocals don’t come in for a few minutes in-game, leading to the idea that as you get used to the village, it becomes a livelier place.
The Copied City is a very striking song. It first plays when you come upon the eponymous city, and this song works together with the pure-white environment you find yourself in to leave a lasting impression. The fast-paced piano contrasts with the slower-pacing of the other instruments in this song to create a sense of dissonance, which embodies the clear sense of wrongness coming from the surrounding environment.
Emil (Despair) is a great remix of a classic song from the first game. This song has always shown the tragedy within Emil, but this version is truly excellent at doing that while adjusting the song to fit a boss fight. The song is much louder than it was previously, while the vocals sink slightly into the background, while still carrying the overwhelming sense of sadness that they need to.
A Beautiful Song plays in what is likely the game’s best boss fight. The vocals from Emi Evans are just great here, and the louder background vocals feel booming and opera-esque, fitting Simone’s portrayal here. At the same time it’s a very fast, hype song here, doing a great job at making you pumped to fight her.
Song of the Ancients (Atonement) is truly excellent. A remix of the original’s best song, it stands out in particular due to how it is used. The instrumental version is used throughout the whole game, and while it is still recognizable as the same song from the first game, it has a much heavier, more industrial feeling, reflecting the current setting. It particularly stands out for its use when Devola and Popola join in order to save you though, when it plays again, but this time with the added vocals. This callback to the fight against them in the first game, set to Song of the Ancients (Fate) is excellent, and stands in my mind as one of the game’s best moments.
Weight of the World is the game’s main theme, playing in the credits after each ending, first in English, then in Japanese, and finally in the Chaos Language. This is a calming song, fitting after hours of fighting through each route. The lyrics are great as well, making it clear that there is hope past each ending.
Lastly we have The End of YoRHa. This medley of all 4 versions of Weight of the World: the 3 I described earlier and an 8-bit version plays in Ending E, and it does an excellent fitting job here. The entire time it helps empower you in the fight against the game’s credits, but it particularly stands out for one major addition: the use of the chorus. As you’re joined by other players in order to break the chains of fate, choral vocals kick in, making it clear that you’re not fighting alone. This is a big part of what makes Ending E so powerful, though it isn’t the only thing.