But does a “beat the game” code cheapen the message of Yoko Taro’s video game masterpiece?

Nier: Automata is a profound game. Sure, the lovingly detailed character artwork, flashy fight mechanics, and mind-bending boss battles are all plenty impressive, but it’s the game’s ruminations on birth, death, and the struggle to find meaning in between that has people still thinking about Nier: Automata almost four years after its release.

Nier: Automata

As it turns out, though, it’s not just Nier: Automata’s thematic elements that are deep, but the secrets hidden in its code too. Ordinarily, reaching the very final sequence of the game’s ultimate ending requires playing through it multiple times, taking on the role of different characters and experiencing the world’s reality from their individual perspectives. But if you want to jump straight to the end of the journey, you can do it before even finishing the prologue, as YouTuber/Twitter user Lance McDonald (@manfightdragon) has just discovered.

While you can’t use this trick to skip the entire game, you can input it after protagonist 2B defeats the prologue’s giant Marx robot, essentially the first boss in the game. 2B’s victory is followed by a conversation with partner android 9S, and once 9S flies off, all you have to do is position 2B between two clusters of barrels in the post-boss fight area, enter a code, and voila, you’ve beaten the game!

▼ McDonald shows how/where to input the code here.

What really makes this trick special, aside from the fact that it took so long for anyone to figure it out, is that it’s not a glitch. McDonald’s lengthy examination of Nier: Automata’s programming code, which is how he found/reverse-engineered the input, shows that it’s something the developers purposely left in.

Once McDonald shared his discovery, fans of the franchise began wondering if this was the “undiscovered secret” that Nier: Automata director Yoko Taro had hinted at in an interview from two years ago (which would still have been two years after the game’s release). Sure enough, just a few hour after McDonald’s tweet, Yoko Taro himself posted “3 years 10 months,” marking the end-time of the code’s secret status.

Nier: Automata designer Takahisa Taura also reacted with “Ah, someone found it…”

…and both the English and Japanese official Twitter accounts for the Nier franchise offered congratulations/confirmation.

▼ “It appears the last secret of Nier: Automata has been found. It’s got a bit of a spoiler, so those of you who haven’t played the game yet be careful when using social media.”

Speaking of spoilers for a four-year-old game, one could argue that the inclusion of a “beat the game” code for Nier: Automata undermines the most dramatic moment of a game filled with moments of emotional impact. Under normal circumstances, completing the game requires clearing an extremely difficult final action sequence, one which is almost impossible to do without enlisting the help of save files uploaded to the game’s server by other people who’ve beaten the game. Once you finally do reach the end, you’re given the option to upload your own file, which also requires erasing it from your own hard drive and losing any extra game modes such as chapter select, that you’ve unlocked.

In addition to jumping you to the game’s final ending, though, the code unlocks chapter select and debug mode. Using the code even lets you upload that current save file as one in which the game has been cleared, and since it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the position where the code can be input, it arguably cheapens the sacrifice being made for the sake of other players compared to clearing the game by normal means, which ordinarily takes 20 or more hours.

On the other hand, while Nier: Automata’s final action sequence can be beaten without using other players’ save files, the difficulty is so high that the designers clearly intended for them to feel like a necessity. Four years since its release, it’s only natural that there are fewer and fewer active players, and eventually the supply of uploaded save files will dry up completely. With the code having been hidden so well as to not give gamers an easy way out when Nier: Automata was new, it’s already let the game achieve its goal of forming an emotional bond and chain of kindness between fellow fans, and now can serve as an accommodating way to let late-to-the-party players with less-then-god-like reflexes see the very end of the story.

Source: Twitter/@manfightdragon via Jin
Images: YouTube/PlayStation
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he hopes his Nier: Automata save file helped someone else finish the game.