Xenogears
By Zach Patterson Friday, 18 Mar 2005

I’ll be upfront in this review, it’s been awhile since I played this. I had a overwhelmingly flattering (and poorly written) review of it way back before Good-Evil existed, but I need to re-review it simply because this is a complex, wonderful game, and playing Chrono Trigger recently has sparked good memories of Xenogears.

Xenogears is made from the same creators of SNES hits like Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger, and their legacy shows in what might be their longest and most ambitious game. This game easily can take 70-80 hours to finish, and those not looking for a serious commitment should look elsewhere. The game has one of the best stories told in a video game, dealing with a lot of issues most games would not touch. There is a lot of God and questioning his motives, a lot of philosophy, and much more that I will not go into. You play as Fei, a similar character to Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud, a man who does not remember his past, but is nevertheless haunted by it. He is also split, his mind a mess, and it turns into an issue that will come to be a problem in the long run. Soon he meets Elly and begins to realize that their connection is a lot closer than either of them could have imagined.

Enough story though. The gameplay is pretty solid, and still has one of my favorite fighting systems today. It holds a unique combo system that Xenosaga sort of adopted, but seemed to give you many more options and allowed for Deathblows and other hidden secrets later on. The addition of Gears was also a great change of pace in battle and were also used a lot more here than in Xenosaga. They themselves continue to evolve through the game until you have these all-powerful machines at the end.

The game controls pretty well too with the exception of some occasional platforming parts that become annoying. Yes, Xenogears thankfully allows your character to jump, but with that comes some issues jumping across platforms that will really test your patience. You are also allowed to control the camera in any direction, but this is an issue too because it is often a pain to make jumps when you aren’t facing exactly the right way and fall down to a lower level of a dungeon due to the camera perspective. The 3D free look camera is often times very helpful however, and I can’t complain too much about it.

The graphics….are not so hot. I love the game and came to like the style of the graphics, but some of the 3D environments, character sprites, and so on, are just kinda ugly. Lots of pixelization and muddy, ugly colors plague an otherwise excellent game. The game also has a few moments of CG rendered scenes which are brief but excellent. It also splits that with some well animated anime that I only wish there was a bit more of.

The music is truly excellent, with some well orchestrated scores with some occasional guitar rock (see the end theme over the credits). It fits the mood perfectly, and has some of the best town themes I have heard.

The game also has some really fun mini-games, such as the fighting arena where the game changes pace and turns the mechs into a free-roaming 3D fighting game which is surprisingly well thought out. There is also a pretty fun card game that you can play throughout the game. Though it’s not amazingly fun or anything, it is addictive and much better than the one in Final Fantasy VIII.

Now I won’t lie, the game is not perfect. The text moves too slowly sometimes(that is an understatement, it’s a fucking snail at some points), there are a lot more random battles than I would like, there are still some subplots that I really don’t get (and take up a significant amount of in-game cinemas), and the second disc seems abbreviated possibly due to the creators running out of time and money. There is also a very rough difficulty level that the game imposes on some bosses that require a lot of thought to defeat. But regardless, the game really left an impact on me. The characters are all memorable and well rounded. Billy, for example was for all intents a minor character. But yet he has an intriguing story which also fit into the main story. The same goes for Citan, Rico, Esmerelda, and the rest of the cast. Even minor players were particularly memorable such as Dan, Sigurd, Ramsus, and many others. The love story is believable in this game and handled about as maturely as it could be. Compared to Xenosaga where characters seemed very underdeveloped, and the story seemed to go nowhere (not to mention the boring fighting, but that is another issue), this is where the Xenogears really succeeds.

The feel and emotion of the game overwhelms its weaker points, and makes this a classic, the likes of which almost every other role-playing game will be judged for me.


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