Note: Due to the nature of this review, all samples in the tracklist will lead to their video counterparts on our YouTube channel.
As I stumbled through the gigantic mixed bag that is the NieR Orchestral Arrangement Special Box Edition, I was left with so many questions. Why did the arrangements feel so vanilla, so uninspired? Why use choirs in place of Emi, J’Nique, or Marina? And most importantly, why is that bonus disc so much more enjoyable than the full orchestral work?
The answers to all of these questions are in NieR: Orchestra Concert 12018. At the end of my Orchestral Box review, I correctly surmised that the arrangements were prepared for a live concert series. Well, 12018 is that concert series. And somehow, the context changed everything for me.
For example, consider the Blu-ray video options. While the video samples provided here only show the concert performance form, the entire concert can also be viewed showing only the prepared game footage that was projected on the screen behind the orchestra. These prepared videos explain why the orchestral work was so tight in terms of tempo. The orchestra had to play on-tempo, likely to a click track, to ensure the synchronization of audio and video. The visual components make the orchestral work so much more interesting. It is a truncated tour through both NieR titles. It doesn’t just work: it hits all the right emotional buttons. This effect is only enhanced by the narration from the voice actors for Emil (NieR) and 2B (NieR: Automata). Yes, the narration is in Japanese, but this Blu-ray disc comes with full English subtitles, so those who never had the opportunity to learn Japanese won’t miss out on the meaning and feeling of each spoken word performance!
Also, remember my complaint about the Orchestral Box not having the solo vocalists? Well, they’re here. And the great news, in my opinion, is that Emi Evans does not perform “Ashes of Dreams.” Rather, Emil’s final monologue leads into an emotional cry, calling out for the missing member of the crew, Kainé. And so, Emi goes into Kainé’s theme with gusto, performing both the slow “Salvation” and fast “Escape” versions in one medley. In a few minutes, my mind sublimates into the sorrow and wonder of it all.
The two-hour concert is fantastic; however, those two vocal tracks that were missing on the Orchestral Box CDs? We now have studio versions, tracks 22 and 23, which appear as mp3 files directly on the Blu-ray disc. Collection complete!
Now, with 12018 done, it is my sincere hope that Square Enix gets the message from fans: this has been an awesome ride, but it’s time to slow down. Until there is actual new content in the NieR franchise, let’s take a break from the arrangements. Three Blu-ray concerts, two piano collections, a host of other arranged albums, not to mention all the licensed material out there, and it’s safe to say that even the most ardent NieR/Automata fan (namely, me) has reached a point of saturation.