Review by Gbness
"How original! -- a gift to gaming from the gods."
Xenogears was one of those gems that Squaresoft was going nuts producing, in their golden age of the late 1990s. It is one of the few games in which manages to pull it off -- where the storyline fits into the game perfectly, gives it life, and makes it an experience that you'll want to play through. Without any room for doubt, the first thing that one will notice within the game is the beautiful music -- cheery themes fitting from within the hometown, quiet tunes with emotion thrown into the sad music, etc.
The game starts out with a scene as Fei fights with a large robot and loses, and then continues in a beautiful hometown by the name of Lahan. Eventually, machines very much like the one in the first scene appear, and start attacking Lahan. Eventually, Lahan is completely destroyed, and Fei is thrown into several's struggles, until all of them become a much larger one. Although Fei may appear to be a loner, to be selfish, and occasionally a somewhat mean person at times, he does make a very good hero, seeing as how you can always feel the emotion from him.
Xenogears also has to have one of the greatest casts of characters ever seen in a Squaresoft RPG. You have Fei, who in my opinion manages to make you feel like you are in his world, walking in his shoes; there is Elly, a girl who frequently ends up in danger, but nonetheless is the main heroine of Xenogears; there's Citan, a doctor who constantly has to watch out for Fei; Bart, a pirate who appears to have a brash mouth but is really searching for a friend; Chu-Chu, a small pink creature who appears to be a stuffed animal and really doesn't have much to do with the story, and the rest of the characters I would rather not spoil. You will grow to love them, though.
One strike on Xenogears's part is the control. Xenogears is long as hell, so eventually you'll get tired of holding down the D-Pad buttons, since the game doesn't have analog control. Another thing is that you use the freaking Square button to the bring up the menu; that is not exactly an infamous thing in Squaresoft's RPGs. Those are the only bad parts though; O is used to cancel or jump, and X is used in battle to choose a command, or to talk to someone on the world map itself.
Although it would seem to be a bad point at first, Xenogears also has jumping, again something you don't really see in your everyday PlayStation RPG. Surprisingly, it's one of the more enjoyable things in the game, jumping up ledges and platform jumping is. To add to that, the fully 3D environments can be rotated. Because of the pixelated graphics, things can be hard to see, which is why L1 and R1 can be used to turn the camera. Another incredibly nice feature.
For starters to it, Xenogears has a very neat battle system. All of the characters can attack, use their own special abilities, or once they level up themselves enough, use combos. When attacking, there are three choices: weak attacks, strong attacks, and fierce attacks, used by Triangle, Square, and X respectively. Once the characters level themselves up a bit, they gain combos, which can be pulled off with a certain selection of buttons. Combos, to put it in a few words, are devastating. The character skills, however, usually suck at first sight. Although one could feel a desire for more from the battle system, it all works perfectly.
Things change when the story progresses and a character can ride inside a Gear. Gears simply have far more power than the regular characters do. They inherit the rider's normal skills, except with far more power mixed into them. Once they reach attack levels, they can also use a character's deathblows, with extreme power. Gears, however, use fuel to attack. The stronger their attack, the more fuel it costs.
At the beginning, Xenogears is pretty damn easy. All enemies can be taken down in just a couple hits and once you level up once or twice, they can hardly touch you. Bosses also start off as pussycats, and can be taken out very quickly, as most of them are fought inside Gears. However, as it progresses some of the really long dungeons can be incredibly difficult, and there are even some very challenging bosses, seeing as how Gears can have quite a severe lack of Fuel in some cases. Overall it makes a very balanced difficulty level. Nothing you'll ever particularly have to struggle with.
So far next to everything has been good. Xenogears isn't the perfect game, for the following reasons: first of all, Xenogears has hundreds of scenes you'll have to watch, so sometimes you'll feel like you're watching anime. There is also tons and TONS of dialogue, most of it being rather uninteresting, to make you feel like you're reading a book. And the plot is extremely deep, and at times can be very hard to understand, making it feel like you are in science class. So in general, those are pretty much the only flaws, and the reason the game didn't get a 10/10.
Xenogears definitely isn't the game to please freaks for graphics, although the game wasn't meant with the intention of pleasing those unworthy souls. True, the graphics aren't perfect. Xenogears is a tad bit pixelated, something that people could get tired of quickly, and uses 2D sprites on 3D environments. Normally I am not a fan of this, but it works incredibly nicely here, since the lush environments are incredibly colorful, and even the characters are moderately detailed. Xenogears also manages to impress with beautiful animated scenes.
Probably one of the single best things about the entire game would be its soundtrack. Simply put, you will never hear anything quite like it. The game has an awesome battle theme, one of the few you're unlikely to ever get tired of. The boss theme is a perfect mix of great music, along with deep and dark voices to combine with it, although you'll have to struggle trying to hear what they're saying. A lot of scenes in the game are made to come real with this awesome music, because it's just so damn emotional it can even bring a tear to your eye at times.
Although not really anything special and not on par with the amazing soundtrack, the sound is also something that doesn't fail to impress. Xenogears is one of the few RPGs of its kind to use occasional voice acting, most of it taking place during the cinematics. All of the voices are fairly well done, although they're no Elvis Presley. Besides the voice acting, the regular sound is great; Fei's punching and a Gear smashing down on an enemy all seems fairly real, as do guns or machines firing bullets, or the like.
Xenogears, when you're in the gameplay itself, is extremely fun. It has some flaws, but nothing so major that it'll deter away from all the game's entertainment value. It isn't, however, for everyone. If you feel that you don't want to go through tons and tons of dialogue, or you're not too fond of great emphasis placed on the plot, then you may wish to pass it up. Still, even to people who have those problems it's definitely worth a try, and it's a great way to spend 70 hours or so (not kidding).
Oh, and may the gods bless you with luck in finding the game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/10/04
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