Xenogears

Well, this is it, boys and girls. I just finished Xenogears, a gem of a game, after more than 83 hours and two Disks of gameplay.

   Xenogears is a game about emotion, the psyche, war and love, hatred and ravageness, the inevitability of mortality and the despair of a loveless life, machines, philosophy, theology and religion, physics and metaphysics, the power of personality and the passion that courses through all humans.

XenogearsLogoGameScreenwas developed and published by Squaresoft for beloved PlayStation X in 1998 and is the spiritual predeccessor to Xenosaga, a similar but different RPG for the PS2. It was never officialy released for PAL territories and is considered one of the best video games ever made. There’s also the amazingly detailed print Xenogears Perfect Works that explains and expands a lot of the story of the game and links Gears with Saga, along with some more merch.

Of notable mention are the director Tetsuya Takahashi (who later went on to co-found Monolith Soft.) the one behind almost every Xeno game, and Yasunori Mitsuda whose amazing music has accompanied so many wonderfull games (with Chrono Cross’ music being my favorite).

I played Xenosaga before Xenogears and it was the one game that touched me deeper than any other, ever. So, I was more than excited when I finally started playing Xenogears -on my PS Vita so that I’d always get to have it handy ^_^

 

In a nutshell, Gears is a game with an enormous amount of work, dedication and imagination poured through it. You don’t get to see any more of these games now that too many of them are getting so streamlined for the mass consumption. Its story is enormous, spanning a critical era of the planet we play on, while interlinked with the history of the planet and its species of more than 50.000 years ~ a history we get to learn slowly throughout the two disks. Fei (the protagonist) and company get to be central figures in the evolution of their world from a well-concieled Oligarchy to people-friendly kingdoms to total anarchy and almost complete destruction and rebirth (maybe. will you win the final battle?). Along with their world, we witness every person involved to grow and evolve too, with people’s relationships being the main driving force  unfolding the story.
That being said, it suffers from the same curse that Xenosaga was struck with: it  remained half finished. Literally, the second disk, that would have equal if not more content to the first one, is filled only with a minimal amount of areas plus the final area of the game. The dev team managed to sum up almost every element of exploration and exposition in leading actors’ monologues while a huge screen behind them shows relevant images. So, yeah, the experience is severely ruined and crippled once we get to Disk 2. I wouldn’t consider it bad form asking for your maney back when you got to that point – it’s that bad. It only hurts more when the player realizes that what they are missing is a story so rich and deep that could fill books!

Let’s talk about the graphics. They are amazing. The whole team did a very good job with the characters, the environments, the atmospheres, the colours. Every person in the game, clothed matchingly with its background and country, fits naturally into the carefully crafted scenes and places of the game and every area of the game is reminiscent of something of Earth’s. The machinery is quite cool too, with Gears stealing the show with their awesomeness and stylish exteriors. Xenogears is a game full of colour and atmosphere.

 

The auditory part is excellent. From the music themes to sound effects and voices, this game has it all and mr Yasunori has spared no effort in its 44 tracks: you get the full movie experience with this one. Two songs by Joanne Hogg frame the game’s feelings of nostalgia (the omitted opening theme and the ending one). I only wish we got to hear more of the cast’s voices in dialogue (I only heard Citan talking at the Speed minigame).

 

Gameplay wise, it’s your typical RPG. No surprises here, the turn-based battles are conducted in seperate screens sporting the usual choices of physical moves, magic (called Ether), items, defending and escape. These change slightly when in Gears to match the robots’ functions. What’s new is the ability to chain physical blows (light-medium-heavy) to specific combinations resulting in a Deathblow or chain Deathblows together by use of AP that fill up the less you blow in battle. Ethers add to the characters individuality and you may ride your Gears on the map where it is allowed. Grinding (ugh) will help you but can not replace the need for strategy – you will die if you don’t know what you’re doing.

 

This game has a lot of bad things going on: a translation bad to the point of spoiling the experience, a couple of terminal glitches (I had my game halted in the past because I was pincered by one without a prior save), an empty second disk, lack of any important choice…

For those that stay with it to the end, however, there is a lot of hopefull feeling involved until the satisfaction of the final catharsis (if you choose to view it so). And that’s exactly where this game wins in the end: it warms your heart so much.

Tl;dr: Don’t feel obligated to buy it, play it up to the 2nd disk ~ it deserves it and you’ll get much of the game’s flavor so. BUY it if you’re an RPG/Squaresoft aficionado.

Silly facts:

  • Xenogear’s ending theme is the first one with sung lyrics to ever appear in a game developed by Square.
  • Director Tetsuya Takahashi went on to co-found Monolith_Soft_logo. He is the driving force behind almost every Xeno game and has worked on the astounding ChronoTriggerLogo.
  • Xenogears is mysteriously reffered to as Xenogears Ep 5 in the end credits. This is explained on the Xenogear Perfect Works.
  • XenogearsPerfectWorks is an amazing 300-page library of rich illustrations and tons of info ~ there’s a fan translation of the humongous original Japanese one.
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