in Pop Culture, Video Games

Nier: Automata – Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story

Full spoilers for Nier: Automata follow.

The least attractive quality a woman can have is being in to me. Too much interest is going to make me bored. Also, being attracted to me is an obvious indication something is wrong with you because clearly you need to raise your standards. I should always be the reacher in a relationship.

This is why I am attracted to girls with a bipolar personality. I want someone in my life who can be the kindest person one moment and then say psychologically damaging words immediately afterwards. Love and hate should always be intertwined1)This is not healthy..

And that is the reason I love Nier: Automata.

From the moment I first heard of Yoko Taro’s masterpiece, I knew I would love it. A bullet-hell RPG game with an attractive female protagonist and deep, philosophical themes seems like the perfect fit for me. I expected to be satisfied with Nier: Automata, and it lived up to those expectations.

However, the most interesting part of Nier was how it subverted my expectations. Going in, I expected an intimate relationship between 9S and 2B to develop. 9S would be a lovable goofball, and 2B would be the stoic warrior who eventually accepts her feelings for her comrade.

And that is exactly what happens. 9S’s attraction to 2B is most clearly laid out in a conversation with Adam during the second playthrough; Adam tells 9S, “You’re thinking about how much you want to **** 2B, aren’t you?” Presumably the censored word is “fuck”.

But by the time the player reaches Ending E, we also discover there is an element of hate to 9S and 2B’s relationship. In the final showdown between 9S and A2, 2B’s true purpose is revealed by A2:

2B hated to keep killing you. It caused her so much pain. The 9S type is a high-end model. They knew you’d discover the truth eventually. But the model designation “2B” was just a cover. The official designation…is 2E. Number 2. Type E. They were a special class of members designed to execute YoRHa units.

However, the most shocking revelation comes with A2’s next line:

But you knew that…Right, 9S?

9S had already figured out that 2B had killed him countless times before. This is why he can so easily pour out his anger on the 2B copies in the tower.

This revelation also casts doubt on “fuck” being the aforementioned censored word. Adam treasures hate, not love, and that is what his conversation with 9S is really about. The true censored word is actually “kill”.

Yet, 9S’s hatred for 2B is only a small part of their relationship. 9S still clearly loves his comrade as it is what drives him to seek revenge against A2.

Nier: Automata is an insane game. Its outfits are ridiculous. Its combat is over-the-top. The plot is borderline nonsensical. But it has an incredibly realistic portrayal of love. So many relationships have an element of hate to them. People find themselves returning their abusive ex’s frequently. But the most common way hatred seeps into relationships is how we casually say cruel things to one another from time to time. Regardless of the specifics, hatred is not the opposite of love. Both of them are on the side of passion.

And so Nier: Automata is a pretty standard love story. But it is also a tale about a man being haunted by his own killer. Every love story is a ghost story.


Morality systems in video games are frequently bullshit. Take for example Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Most of the ethical decisions boil down to either save the helpless victim or steal his money. Most of the time, players know what the right decision is; they just choose to ignore it.

On the other hand, Nier: Automata contains a decision that I agonized over. I am still unsure if I made the correct choice. Near the end of the game, the children of Pascal’s village commit mass suicide. Pascal then asks the player to either kill him or delete his memories.

And I froze, unsure of what to do. In the end, I chose to walk away from Pascal. Part of me thinks I should have killed him. After I left, Pascal probably jumped off a cliff anyway. The mercy of death or the cruelty of life, that was a truly difficult ethical decision.

The one option I gave little consideration to was deleting Pascal’s memories. After beating the game, I went back to see what would have happened if I had chosen that route. I was glad I did not choose that path. Pascal becomes a lobotomized version of his former self, unknowingly selling the parts of his former villagers to anyone who visits. The game makes the point that memories are the most valuable treasures we have.

However, Nier: Automata also argues memories cannot be so easily destroyed. The best evidence of this comes at the end of the Soul Box section when 9S’s memories are erased. Reddit user Kutya7701 explains:

Throughout the game we learn that 9S has been killed by 2E several times in the past, and each time his memories were wiped, which in turn would ”kill” that 9S. However I have reason to believe that despite having his memory wiped several times, 9S somehow manages to remember, vaguely if not fully, his past selves, and retains his memories.

My biggest piece of evidence that points towards this can be found during the soul box sequence, shortly before the fight. As we approach the arena, 9S mentions that those are his memories, and as the cutscene starts, we get a closer look at some of those memories. Notice something out of place? The memory where 2B is trying to help a wounded 9S atop Engels, it’s not supposed to be there. During their conversation on the Bunker, 9S states that his memories are only intact up to the point just before they met up.

To some extent, 9S retains his memories when he should not. This explains why 9S has already figured out 2B’s purpose of killing him before A2 tells him.

Deletion on a computer is not a true wipe. All information on a computer is stored as 1’s and 0’s, and large files have a staggering amount of them. A 1GB file would have 8 billion binary digits. So rather than changing all 8 billion digits back to 0, a computer would only delete the much smaller references to that file and free up the space to be used by other programs. However until something actually overwrites the content of the deleted file, most of it is still in memory. This is why data recovery is even possible. It would be expected that an android’s mind would work under similar computing principles, so 9S is able to retain at least portions of his memories of 2B no matter how many times she kills him.

The player undergoes a similar experience. In Ending E, the player can choose to delete his save data to help another anonymous player somewhere in the world.

Nier: Automata asks a big sacrifice of the player. You lose your plug-in chips, weapons, experience, and every other tangible record of your progress in the game. Your data is deleted, and you can no longer recall the events of the game through chapter select.

But it is not all gone. You still have your hazy memories of the game, and you can recall how you felt during the game’s greatest moments. Your memories may not be immediately accessible through a game save, but they are still a part of you. The player is just like 9S, and not just because you want to **** 2B.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This is not healthy.

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