Review by Ofisil

"Heaven & Hell"

Xenogears is a RPG developed by SquareSoft. “The greatest RPG of all time”, “Square's Masterpiece”, “Absolutely wonderful plot and excellent characters”, “A MUST HAVE”. I've seen stuff similar to these before… I've sometimes played that which was supposed to be perfect, I didn't like it but I could “understand” why others loved it. Xenogears on the other hand is a mystery to me, I couldn't find a single thing that could make a gamer love it. I belong to that small portion, (10%), of gamers that actually HATE this game… yes hate! I'll try to explain why, as clearly as possible…

Story: 10/10
Presentation: 0/10

Xenogears plot is a great lesson for the developers. While it is one of the best stories I've ever seen in all of gaming history, (yes, I'm not kidding), the overall presentation absolutely destroys the game. The game starts with a great anime video that shows an enormous spaceship flying around. Suddenly something happens and something dangerous is destroying everything in the ship. People in it try to flee while the spaceship crashes in a nearby planet… then a naked woman with long purple hair emerges from the ruins. Thus starts the actual game, so I won't tell you what's going on from there on, but what generally happens in the game is this: Something bad happens and your character leaves his village, for about 5 hours you do various stuff without any real meaning, meeting various characters along the way and you realize that you don't know anything about the plot so far. All you see in the game are various codenames in some cutscenes, codenames that most of them are a mystery and are explained only in the second disc. After some long hours of gameplay, something else happens, but it is just another set of cutscenes and dialogues that leave you with a question mark above your head!

Characters although play an important part in the game I just can't seem to like them, like I absolutely loved the Final Fantasy 7 ones. That's is a very important thing for me, especially for a game with such a good plot Xenogears has very bad characters that lack depth and at the same time are the deepest characters of all RPG games. It's kind of hard to explain actually you got to see it for yourself… I may be a bit hard towards the game but you know Xenogears isn't even a game! It is an interactive novel, a titanic set of dialogues and cutscens with small pieces of actual gameplay between them, so when I say that the plot, (its presentation to be more precise), of Xenogeras sucks big time, its as if I'm saying that Xenogears gameplay sucks. The first disc, (about 25 hours of gameplay I think), gives you almost nothing but unanswered questions and ok, we all love a bit of mystery but mystery that unfolds little by little and having absolutely nothing is something completely different!

After disc one, the second one, (which is actually a very big cutscene), the game tries to explain everything, but by the time you reach that part of the game, you'll feel bored, lost and not interested, you'll just want to end with this game as quickly as possible. On the good side the plot is great, delves into psychology, especially terms like ego, superego and ID for those who are familiar with the terms, philosophies about religion, especially the Judeo-Christian one's, (the reason it had problems in the US), and many more… but unfortunately, as I've said presentation is everything

Gameplay: -5/10
Replay Value: 0/10

As I've said in the story section Xenogears is all about the plot… 45 of gameplay are actually 30 hours of reading and watching cutscenes and 15 hours of actual gaming!!! If the story was presented in a better way there wouldn't be a problem but this game is very bad in the presentation field and if that is not enough the gaming part of Xenogears sucks too! First of all let me talk about the few, very few gaming parts of the game. The battle system is a new one that is supposed to be great and all. I liked it at first but after some time I saw that it was another failed experiment, (Chrono Cross also comes to mind). What you mainly do is use weak, medium and strong attacks at different combinations so that after some time you'll gain some sort of skills that you can use on battle, again by making some hit combinations. Until you meet a boss you can just press the X button and get over with the fight… yes THAT exciting!!!

Oh, but wait! The game has Mechs!!! Oh, gee, let me bring my power rangers too and we'll have lots of fun. I can understand some people… I've seen reviews that go like, “The game has Mechs! So it is great!”, and I just wonder about the sanity of some people… ok I like ninjas, I someone says to me, “This game has Ninjas!!!”, will I buy it? Would you buy it??? I'm complaining so much because Mechs don't really add to the game, in fact battles with them are quite boring, I actually prefer the normal ones.

The boss battles where quite interesting and surprisingly challenging but the where parts of the game, (almost all the time), where I would get kind of stuck because I couldn't go back and strengthen my character and that annoyed me too much to forget… One of the worst parts of the game are the areas where you must do some sort of platforming. Controlling your characters\mechs is a bit hard when it comes to platforming and you must do some quite hard jumps in areas where it is easy to fall down again and have to start all over again! Is it fun? No, no it isn't… Finally forget about exploration. You won't wander around the world doing side quests, searching for items or any of that stuff, it reminds me of a phrase that Barret was saying in Final Fantasy 7, “There ain't no gettin' offa this train we're on!”. The game is linear as hell and doesn't freaking let you to play the damn thing!!!

The rest of the game is all about dialogue and cutscenes… you read, read, read and it doesn't seem to end and not only that but the plot just won't make you interested! I was like, “Lets rush to the end and find out what's going on with the game, the result: 40 hours of boredom and 5 hours, (in the end), that where good. Finally Xenogears looks like a rushed product. The first disc is 50% gameplay and 50% story, although you'll feel that it is actually 90% story… now in the second disc, I don't know what happened! Square decided that the game was ok that way or they run out of money for that project? I don't know… all I know is that the second disc is just a big and long array of dialogues, sometimes interesting but also quite boring… what I'm trying to say is that if I wanted a big book with a great plot I would have bought Dune and not this!!!

Graphics: 7.5/10
Design: 7.2/10

The graphics of Xenogears are quite unique… instead of 3D models it has 2D Sprites that move in a three dimensional areas. The spites get very pixilated when seen from a great or small distance but I must say that they look wonderful, with lots of details and excellent battle animation. The rest of the game looks good with nice special effects, well designed and animated cutscenes and a nice variety of areas, although most of the various places you'll se have nothing “special” and are just a bunch of different areas…

Sound: 6.5/10
Music: 7/10

Generally speaking Xenogears have good sound effects and music. Some people say that the OST of Xenogears is magnificent, I didn't think so but then again music has to do with taste and although I didn't actually loved it the music of Xenogears is well arranged, no irritating and with a nice variety, although I just have to say that some themes annoyed me because there where the only themes I could hear for a long time, (the Yggdrasil is an area that comes to my mind).

Positives:
-Excellent plot
-Good graphics

Negatives:
-The, (excellent), plot unfolds slowly and very badly
-The Mechs are boring
-TOO many and TOO long dialogues
-Linear as hell
-The platforming parts

Also Play:
Chrono Cross (Playstation)
Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Final Fantasy 6 (SNES)
Final Fantasy 7 (Playstation)

Overall: 4.1/10

I feel sad when I think of this game… we have an excellent plot, but we also have bad gameplay, boring characters, awful presentation and a rushed and incomplete product. SHAME ON YOU SQUARE!!! You may now flame me with e-mails…


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/25/09

Game Release: Xenogears (US, 10/20/98)


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