Do note that since this story cutscene only happens at the end of the game’s hard mode and is the literal last scene, everything from here on out will be spoilers for both NieR: Automata as well as Outer Automata, the NIKKE crossover story.
The ending for the NieR NIKKE story is a reference to a chapter from Route C of Automata, in which Pascal and A2 team up to fight off infected Machines and protect the children of the Android village. Having been taught the concept of fear, the scared children all kill themselves during the fight, seeing it as a preferable alternative to potentially being turned berserk by the virus.
Pascal, distraught that his teachings led to the children’s demise, gives A2 a choice: reset his memories so he doesn’t have to remember this whole tragedy, or kill him. What really takes the scene to be one of gaming’s best decisions is the secret third alternative- you have full control of A2 during this scene, and she can walk away.
In Outer Automata, the exact same choice is presented to you via the Product 12-model C-1002. Having been locked in the factory for a week, watching girls who look just like her die to raptures only for new ones to be produced, made friends with other Product 12 models and watch one of them turn into a Rapture herself, she’s done. She can’t go back to the Ark, not after what she’s seen.
So the Commander is presented with, once again, a similar choice: Wipe her memories, kill her, or do nothing and let her run away. Each of these options gets you a different ending for C-1002- you can’t actually opt to kill her, so the Commander will instead tell her to keep pushing on with here life… and she gets killed on suspicion of being an Irregular. Similarly, walking away will also net a grisly fate for C-1002, as her body will be found dead on the surface.
It’s not unlike the Pascal choice in Automata either- regardless of your choice, there’s no happy ending for Pascal. NieR Automata makes a whole point of your existence being the sum total of your experiences, and both of the first options are tantamount to killing Pascal, since the reset machine just starts selling the children’s parts as weapons.
For both Pascal and C-1002, the most human option is just walking away. For one, humans don’t get that choice of just resetting who they are. For the other, the player, as a human, would probably feel squeamish even considering either option on another living being. Sure, you essentially sentence them to living with their guilt, but I’d wager the point of this exercise was to highlight that, at the end of the day, everyone’s carrying their own dead robot babies in some form.
It’s an incredibly on-brand ending for both NIKKE and NieR- NIKKE loves occasionally taking a break from bunny girl threesomes and dog shelters to address the biomechanical horror of the NIKKE condition. Similarly, the entire debacle with the Product 12s sparks a whole discussion with the Counters Squad about what they really are- and the fear that their human brains don’t really exist and they’re actually just mindless killing machines.
Considering how much NieR Automata is mainly remembered for its fanservice, it’s really nice to see such an authentic story displayed for this event. Sure, fans might complain that 2B, 9S and A2 were barely in it. But the fact that the event story is so thematically NieR already puts it up there as one of the game’s best event stories, and I say that as someone who genuinely enjoyed the silliness of the bunny girl threesome.
I do hope NIKKE doesn’t rush into its next crossover too soon. The NieR event took a while between announcement and launch and we got what was easily one of the best stories the game’s ever seen. If they can bring this caliber of writing to more of the in-universe events, I think that would genuinely be a net positive for fans, and NIKKE may yet outgrow its reputation as just being the booty shooter.
It can also be the booty shooter with the existential storyline.