PlatinumGame’s action expertise may have brought players into Nier: Automata, but it’s not what they left with after the final set of credits rolled. 3C3C1D119440927—I paradoxically can and cannot believe they called it that—puts combat front and center and leaves the crippling existentialism and surreal aberrations off to the side.
(I usually don’t do spoiler warnings but this text will reference and ruin critical plot elements of Nier: Automata. Don’t read this if you haven’t finished through Ending E. Really.)
3C3C1D119440927 presents three different combat arenas and the opportunity to earn new cosmetic items by conquering the challenges inside of them. Each of Automata’s playable characters—2B, 9S, and A2—have their own distinct coliseums. Remember those three barren metal doors guarded by indifferent machines? The one in the desert, the one in the flooded area, and the one in the forest? Those are the entry points for each different character. Maybe.
Like any piece of post-game content trying to become mid-game content, there’s the perplexing matter of time and place. 3C3C1D119440927 is activated by an anonymous email displaying obtuse coordinates. When you can receive this email isn’t made clear so let me save you some time; pick chapter 7 with either 9S or 2B and chapter 14 with A2. This would happen organically on a natural play-through but it’s clumsy if you’re trying to dive back in. You have to look it up on the internet.
There’s also the matter of whether or not your save file still exists. Ending E of Automata, if you weren’t some kind of monster, wipes out your save file and deletes your existence. The absence of a game-complete save, post Ending C, would make it awfully difficult to access this content with any sort of haste. Finishing 3C3C1D119440927, by the way, has a recommended level of above 90. All of this seems like something Automata director Yoko Taro would find hilarious; make something no one passionate about the game would be able to play, and then try to sell it. This is insane and frustrating, but I can appreciate the commitment.
(Disclaimer: I knew there would be downloadable content for Automata and that I would end up reviewing it. Because of this, I frequently copied my original save file to a flash drive because I already played the original Nier and knew that my save game may get destroyed. I gave it up, but I also kept it. I’m sorry.)
Here’s what you will find if you can actually play 3C3C1D119440927. Each coliseum contains seven rounds of non-consecutive trials. Use of items are not allowed. 2B must fight off waves of enemies with certain restrictions in place, like not dodging, always keeping a light on (read: her pod firing), or not touching the ground. 9S gets to possess a handful of machines and use their terrible mechanics against waves of much stronger machines. A2’s, as best as I can tell, is just traditional wave-based fighting. Each progressive challenge raises the recommended level, from mid-40’s all the way up to 90.
The ironic thing about 3C3C1D119440927; only A2’s fights make use of the combat mechanics that made Automata so much fun. Restrictions on 2B’s abilities aren’t an interesting way to play the game, especially when you’re already unable to use items. Jumping on a handful of platforms in order to not touch the ground is unfairly difficult. Automata wasn’t designed for this, and the camera placement can wreck the most well-managed attempt. Similarly, controlling machines with 9S worked in a pinch, but it’s thoroughly unsuited for challenging arenas of madcap machines. It’s a refocused way to play the game, sure, but it’s boring at best and annoying at worst.
It all seems to come down to your character level, anyway. 2B and A2 will waste anything below their present level and struggle with a foe more than 20 levels higher. In 2B’s case, proficiency in Automata’s combat engine won’t be enough to save you. Your choices are either repeating monotonous boring actions that can guarantee a victory, or attempting risky maneuvers that either get you killed or fail out of the trial. 3C3C1D119440927 seems to be aware that 9S’ trials are bullshit because it gives the player the best reward (Nier’s outfit from the Japanese-only Nier Replicant) after the first trial. It actually says that the rest are too arduous to complete. Thanks?
The remaining unlocks are fun diversions. Myriad different color hair options, like light purple and electric blue, neatly wash out Automata’s penchant for dullness. Older Nier’s outfit and Kainé’s costume (both also from Nier, obviously) can be earned by completing each coliseum in full. Again, I didn’t have much use for any of these, but they’re neat throwbacks for fans of the original game.
Absent is much of the post-humanity weirdness that pulsed (vibrated?) through Automata’s mechanical heart. The machines operating the coliseums act as another fragment of AI in search of existential meaning. Like peaceful robots of Pascal’s village or the forest king cult, they’re defining their own truth from the cultural artifacts abandoned by humanity. It’s not much beyond that and, aside from a fantastic Resident Evil 4 reference, kind of hollow.
This is corrected by an interactive non sequitur that is one of the most out-of-control sequences I have witnessed in a videogame. The final bosses of A2 and 2B’s coliseums are the CEO’s of PlatinumGames and Square-Enix. Yosuke Matsuda and Kenichi Sato, respectively, in full business suits and as real people. They hover down from the sky, deliver some dialogue, and proceed to wreck your shit. Their projectiles are also their faces, meaning dozens of their laughing skulls fill the screen in the middle of the battle. This is wonderful.
Bringing really powerful real people into this fake videogame is one of the most Nier things Automata has accomplished. It even warns you that it’s about to break immersion. If Hideo Kojima reaches through the fourth wall to fiendishly tickle your senses, Yoko Taro breaks through to punch you in the forehead. Automata’s twenty-one unique joke (ish) endings competed against an emotionally resonant story and simultaneously asked Important Questions of its characters and the player. And it also has time and self-assurance to do this. I can’t imagine a more compelling and/or provoking duality in a single videogame.
It’s a shame the “game” in 3C3C1D119440927 can’t keep up. Nier: Automata did not succeed because of its combat, and yet the preposterously named 3C3C1D119440927 is pure combat served with gimmicky restrictions. In remains, however, fabulously weird, and while player’s takeaway won’t reach Automata’s profundity, it’s still without a conscious equal in its medium.