There’s a solid reason why NieR:Automata is such a ride-or-die game for many fans. The hidden meanings behind things, the infamous Black Boxes and blindfolds are such unique additions that you’ll be pressed hard to find in other games. I mean, in hindsight, they might feel like stylistic choices or technical ones, but if we’ve learned one thing about this game, is to take nothing at face value. There’s always a darker side. And so, what even is a BlackBox in NieR:Automata?
A Black Box, in simple words, is just an item that powers the Androids in the game, including 2B, our protagonist. Think of it as the heart of the unit, quite literally acting as the life force for any Android. In this case, it’s specifically YoRHa. But there’s something very strange in how they work in the game. It isn’t like any other ‘life’ item we’ve seen in gaming so far. Because NieR:Automata, if an Android dies or their Black Box detonates, you don’t respawn back. No, for all effects and purposes, you stay dead.
Because here’s the kicker: You can actually break the game if you remove the Black Box from 2B’s arsenal. Like, no joke. There are a lot of weird things about NieR:Automata that you don’t expect, but are pretty classic when it comes to Yoko Taro. He is known for adding layers of nuance to his works, and this game is no different. Even if you feel like something is pretty standard for a game, like aesthetic design choices or regular power-up items, chances are that they might be hiding a secondary use or meaning.
One that doesn’t end up making sense until much, much later. But it’s that nuance that makes a game like NieR:Automata so interesting. It’s these hidden-in-plain-sight secrets that add to the mysterious and larger-than-life feel of the game. And it’s why we will be doing a deep dive into the curious case of the Black Boxes, the life essence of Androids, in today’s Lore Analysis!
What Is A Black Box In The First Place?
Think of a Black Box as a supercharged CPU and RAM combined. It is the very foundation of a YoRHa unit’s agency. Hell, I’d even go as far as say it’s their very consciousness. After all, Androids like 2B and 9S are technically machine components. They aren’t biological lifeforms that have brains or hearts.
And that’s what a Black Box is in NieR:Automata. It’s what they use to record information, everything that they experience throughout their journey as agents of YoRHa deployed for missions. And in case something happens to them while they are carrying out their superior’s commands, the Black Box can be used to trace what went wrong. It’s actually a concept that’s used in real life, like in airplanes. When an airplane crashes, it’s the Black Box that stays on and sends out signals until it is retrieved.
From there, the information on the Black Box determines what went down in the last moments, as it houses all the data. Similarly, if a Black Box starts malfunctioning, it can change how the YoRHa agent functions. There have been reports of malfunctioning agents acting hostile when this happens.
Its Significance In the Game:
However, the most curious thing about the Black Box is its origins. We all know about the Alien Invaders that have arrived on Earth to take it for themselves in humanity’s absence. Well, it’s rumored that the Black Box was actually created by their cores.
What is a Black Box in NieR:Automata? Sadly, it’s pretty murky. It could be Alien tech, but it also could be something from the Machine Network set up by the humans beforehand. Because that would explain why the Androids have such humane appearances and even emotions at times.
The Black Box itself functions almost like a Fusion Reactor, so if it’s overloaded it can actually detonate the body it is housed in. And once you’re dead, well, that’s it. This is the first time where you don’t go back to your old body like nothing ever happened. Instead, you have to utilize whatever information the Black Box had originally saved and clone it into the next Android.
So, whenever you die in the game? It’s pretty much permanent. Pretty bleak for a video game, but I wonder how that’ll translate into the anime? Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to find out how everything like the Black Boxes works, because NieR:Automata Ver1.1a is coming out in Winter 2023!