When NieR: Automata was released, a culmination of strengths came together to bolster its popularity. There was the relatively small but ravenous fanbase for the original NieR clamoring to get their hands on a sequel. There were the people who were friends or acquaintances of said fanbase, not willing to venture back to the old game, but who had “heard enough good things” about NieR that they were willing to try out the sequel. There was the fact that Platinum Games had signed on to create the game’s core combat and exploration mechanics, which delighted pretty much everyone.
Oh, and then there was that whole music thing. You know, the thing? With Emi Evans inventing a language to sing in and the sales figures for all the soundtracks rivaling that of the actual game sales when you tally OST, piano arrange, “echo,” and a few other albums? That had its own impact. Square Enix was not blind — or deaf, as the case may be — to this reality. As such, they helped to finance a concert series featuring music from NieR, as well as a few songs from what was then the upcoming NieR: Automata. The concert series did so well in its initial limited tour that it was later expanded upon, with additional music from NieR: Automata added to the mix.
But that very first concert, at EX THEATER ROPPONGI in Tokyo, was filmed and produced into a Blu-ray. That Blu-ray can be purchased as a retail item. But what if you just want an audio CD?
Find a friend who bought the NieR: Automata Limited Edition game, and see if they’re willing to break said LE into pieces.
No, seriously. While Square Enix was happy to sell the Blu-ray video of the concert, an audio-only adaptation was made available exclusively for people who purchased the $200-ish Limited “Black Box” Edition of NieR: Automata. This was true for the US and Japanese releases. Both LEs had virtually the same contents, including this wonderful audio disc. This disc takes the Blu-ray, chops out talking and clapping (some clapping remains, but about 90% is cut), as well as some unnecessary silence, and the end product is a 68 minute CD with all the good stuff intact.
The tracklist and audio samples tell most of the story. Emi Evans and Nami Nakagawa are there to provide great vocals from NieR, and J’Nique Nicole also appears to debut the English ending theme for Automata, “Weight of the World.” MONACA team composer Keigo Hoashi mans the piano, while Takanori Goto plays some very intricate guitar parts on songs like “Hills of Radiant Wind” and “Repose.” A string quartet is on hand to perform alongside most of the vocal pieces, most notably on “Emil” and “Song of the Ancients / Fate.”
These live performances do what all good live albums do: they bring a new energy to the music. The tempo can shift slightly, a stray note may be added or an expected note may go missing; a performer may intentionally add a surprise frill, or maybe they’ll plan to block a solid 32 measures for solo instrumental work (I’m talking to you, “Repose”). These small changes, and the knowledge that it was all done in a single take with the pressure of the live audience’s gaze, transforms the musical experience into something new and wonderful. This is more noticeable when you have the visuals from the Blu-ray, but even with the audio CD on its own, the change from studio recording to live performance is palpable.
My personal recommendation, since it is easier to find and probably less expensive, is to import the Blu-ray video of the concert. If you insist on having this CD, your only choice is to find an entire NieR: Automata LE to unpack for yourself, or find the odd fan who is willing to part with a portion of their LE set. As for me? I actually managed to pull off the latter, having found a Japanese seller on Yahoo! Japan Auctions selling the CD separately from the LE packaging for 5500 yen (approximately $50 at the time). Mind you, this was after months of searching with no prior luck. However you obtain this music, though, I do implore you to obtain it. It is the perfect item to complete the NieR music set. Now as for NieR: Automata’s music? Those arranged albums, including an already-announced Blu-ray concert disc, are only now beginning to bubble to the surface of existence…