, this blew my mind utterly. Long post, but bear with me:
These days lots of games will invent alphabets and other written characters for their worlds. Usually they're based on the Latin alphabet, but not always (the GC Zelda games, and more recently El Shaddai, use the Japanese syllabary). I'm a huge fan of this stuff and always try to figure them out.
In the opening scenes in Nier, some orange letters that look like Hebrew appear in the background, and they're used all over the game.
Trying to read them as Hebrew was pretty confusing at first, because some of the letters are weird (and you have to read it from left to right), but it eventually transpired that they just borrowed the font wholesale from Heinrich Agrippa's 16th-century Angelic alphabet which you can read about here: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/angelic.htm .
Using this, you can tell that
the two lines of text in the opening video say HOROBIRU SEKAI and HITO SAIGO; the first one means 'a world collapsing' and the second one is not quite grammatical but means something like 'a person's end'.
That's not the mind-blowing fact, though. The mind-blowing fact is this:
Most of the text you see in the game is gibberish, including the text on the big round seal on the game's cover:
The letters used in the icons above the villagers' heads indicating that they have something to say to you are also gibberish.
Almost everything in the game looks like gibberish, but if you look carefully, you'll notice that both the round clock-like indicator used at the end of boss battles, and the Black Scrawl itself, seen here:
...only use four different letters, despite the font having many more than that.
Which four letters are they? Well, test out that font here and see for yourself. Type in A, T, G, and C (in any order you like, just be sure to use capitals) and you'll see that those letters are the Black Scrawl.
These are the initial letters of adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, the four bases that make up human DNA.
When I figured this out, close to the end of the game, I was thinking, "But why would they go out of their way to make the Black Scrawl correspond to human DNA while people's speech and the rest of the text is meaningless garbage?"
Oh. So that's what this "disease" is.
And at that point I knew what the real story was, who the Shadowlord was, and what was going on with the Shades. I didn't see Devola and Popola
What a fantastic thing to hide right in plain sight! Is Nier a great game, or what?