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Traditional RPG
  • 20 October, 1998
  • 11 February, 1998
A 75 total ratings
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A Xenogears review Author: Steve Ragnone Published: December 09, 1999
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The bridge of a gigantic spacecraft reflects the turmoil throughout the ship. Lights and displays flash an enigmatic prophecy, while a strange fetal organism grows, looming. An order is given to evacuate. The captain looks at the picture of his wife and daughter, and says goodbye. The ship self-destructs and crashes over a blue planet. And a purple-haired woman emerges from the wreckage and stares into the sunrise. The anime intro to this game is a spectacular precursor to the epic proportions of the storyline to come. Xenogears is nothing short of the chronicle of a civilization.
If you play RPGs for the storyline, then you definitely cannot miss Xenogears. This game is presented in such a fashion that one really believes they are playing through an interactive movie. That's not to say that the game does not contain its own innovative battle systems, mini-games, and involving sidequests. Most of the time spent playing Xenogears, though, is spent watching text roll by. Preachy, intellectual, self-important text, some might say, but it still makes a rather good basis for a video game. If only the text were secondary to the game. The entire second disc is narrated to the player, leaving precious little freedom to do what one pleases.
The world of Xenogears is beautiful, fascinating, and expansive. The world of Fei Fong Wong, however, is quite small. Fei lives in the tiny hamlet of Lahan, living out an idyllic life, blissfully ignorant of who he once was, and what goes on outside the village. This all changes rather quickly, however, when a group of giant humanoid robots, known as Gears, come to attack the village. The story picks up from there very quickly. Pirates, gladiators, salesmen, soldiers, doctors, everyone plays their part to help Fei discover who he is, and why it was he forgot.
The battle systems of Xenogears, while requiring a slight learning curve, are quite impressive in their elegance. On foot (outside of your Gears), each party member is allocated a certain amount of AP per turn. You are given your basic attack, magic, item, defend, and escape options. When given the command to attack, a dialog shows up with Triangle (1), Square (2), and X (3). Pressing these buttons utilize weak, medium, and strong attacks, using 1, 2, and 3 AP each. The more powerful the attack, the lower the hit rate. Pressing the buttons in certain orders will execute Deathblows, or special moves. You can also choose to cancel midway through your attack by pressing Circle, which will save the remaining AP (up to 28) in your meter. AP saved this way can be expended all at once using the Combo option, which will allow you to use several Deathblows in a single turn. Inside your Gear, smaller monsters don't stand a chance. In some areas, you will be forced to fight using your Gears, and in other places your Gears will not be available at all. Your characters can still use magic, through their Gear's Ether Machine. Instead of using AP to execute Triangle, Square, and X attacks, you consume Fuel, which can only be restored at certain locations. After an attack is made, the Gear's attack level increases by 1. Depending on how many Deathblows you have learned outside of your Gear, some special Gear-specific attack moves become available. Defend is replaced by Charge, which not only reduces damage but restores a small amount of Fuel.
The party is drawn in sprites, while the backgrounds are handled using textured polygons. Sometimes the sprites are blocky, but they do a much better job expressing each character's feelings and actions at the time than polygon characters would have done, at least at the time this game was published (shortly after Final Fantasy VII). The game's graphics can seem blocky, and there is a tad of pop-up when in some of the more involved Gear fights, but considering the graphical standards of the time, this is acceptable. The splendid soundtrack, by Chrono Trigger composer Yasunori Mitsuda, is always fitting for the scenario, and each character's distinct theme captures the emotion of that individual. Moving around outside of battle can be a little tricky, though. The camera, which is focused on the party, can be rotated 45 degrees to either side with the L1 and R1 buttons. Of course, with many third-person perspective 3-D games, camera angles eventually become a hindrance in one area or another, although the option to rotate the camera does alleviate matters most of the time. In towns and dungeons, you are allowed to run around and jump on things, which can be amusing at times. Unfortunately, one of the most frustrating aspects of this game is trying to jump around the dungeon areas, and in the middle of a jump, a random encounter ensues; immediately after the battle ends, you almost always miss your jump and must start from the beginning.
Xenogears is far from being a perfect RPG, but if you're willing to accept its various quirks, you shouldn't be disappointed by the payout. The superb storyline, realistic characters you can sympathize with, true three-dimensional areas, and enthralling combat, all make Xenogears a title everyone should look into at least once.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "The superb storyline, realistic characters you can sympathize with, true three-dimensional areas, and enthralling combat, all make Xenogears a title everyone should look into at least once."
A dotted line Average Reader Score (Based on 75 ratings) | Rate it Now
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