Review by Psycho Penguin
"Maybe Square Soft should have decided to make a game instead of a book..."
When asked to name my favorite video game companies out there, Square Soft would be on the very top of that list, as it would be on the top of many other people's lists. Simply put, they have remained my favorite video game company of all time ever since I first played Final Fantasy for the NES, and for good reason, too. They have always provided outstanding gaming experiences, ranging from fighting games like Tobal No. 1 and Ehreigz to their most recognized (as well as being most popular) gaming genre, the role playing game genre. They have definitely made a lot of great role playing games.
However, they have also made a few mistakes over the years, as well. I did not really like Tobal No. 1, and a lot of people were disappointed with the short game length of Parasite Eve. The biggest mistake that they have made, in my opinion, is releasing the piece of trash known as SaGa Frontier to the gaming world in 1997 or so, for the Sony Playstation video game console. I did not like that game much at all, but I was kind of expecting not to like it, because after all I had read a lot of bad things about the game, so I was expecting it to be a bit of a disappointment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of expectation, there is Xenogears. Being disappointed by the game did not seem like a highly likely possibility, after all everyone seemed to love the game, and for good reason. They said it had a revolutionary story line, killer battle system, all of the elements needed to make a classic role playing game. They said it was the greatest role playing game of all time, or one of the greatest role playing games of all time. So, I was highly expecting this game to be simply awesome and revolutionary.
But after playing the game for ten hours or so, I started to realize something. After finally finishing it after fourty five hours of game time, my earlier suspicions were confirmed. They were wrong. All of those people that loved the game, found it to be the most awesome role playing game of all time or whatever, they were all wrong. This is not the greatest role playing game of all time, it is not even in the top twenty. What it is is an extreme disappointment, and I do not have a clue as to what Square Soft was thinking when they decided to make this ''game'', as it is not really a video game in any sense of the word.
What do I mean when I say that this is not a video game in any sense of the word? Well, in most video games you are actually in control of somebody and something at all times, not just sitting there staring at yet another scene. Sadly, Square Soft got the scenes part done right but forgot to include actual game play along the way. A majority of the game has you just watching scene after scene without doing anything. It is a true shame, too, because the game could have been a lot more fun had it not been for the simple fact that you rarely get a chance to do anything productive.
Because Xenogears had a lot going for it on paper. The graphics are wonderful, the music soundtrack is one of the best to ever be featured in a role playing game, the sound effects are awesome even though there is barely any voice acting, and the battle system is incredible. I really liked the battle system in the game, and the fact that you could control mechs and robots during battle was simply awesome. If Square Soft would have made better usage of these good points, instead of just dragging the ''game player'' back to another boring scene time after time again, then maybe the game would have been fun.
However, Square Soft decided not to make the game as fun as it could have been. Imagine my delight to see a boring old half hour scene immediately after going through a fun boss battle. You are all pumped and energized after completing a certain task, you expect to capaitalize on it, all of a sudden you are hit by The Xenogears Bug, which is a long ass story scene, I will mention The Xenogears Bug a lot. So if I mention it, it means that you are hit with a long ass story scene suddenly.
I might as well talk about the story line in the game now. It is fairly interesting, although it got boring really quickly. Why did it get boring pretty quickly? Call it The Xenogears Bug. I felt the story line was good, but how many 20-30 minute story scenes can you handle before you just pass out from total boredom? Oh look, it's a religious story line. Well, that is all fine and dandy, I have no problems with religious overtones in role playing game story lines, so why would I have a problem with the religious overtones in this game? It appears Square Soft just wanted another thing to add to the hyper machine, I guess.
The game's story line was interesting at first but soon went downhill. I liked it early on in the game, like really early, before The Xenogears Bug kicks in. Actually, it kicks in right from the start, but I like the whole deal about your friend getting married, but once you get outside it all goes downhill from there. There is a lot of religious overtones about this game, and it is also a sci fi thriller, so if you do not like sci fi movies you will probably not like the story line, with said The Xenogears Bug, much at all.
One of the best thing about the game is the amazing graphics featured in the game. The graphics have a nice blend of 2D sprites with 3D backgrounds, and polygon characters also. Now, some of you may be asking me, how in the heck can there be 2D sprites and polygon characters in the same game? Well, the answer is quite simple. See, the main character designs in the game are 2D sprites, therefore they walk around on the world map like 2D sprites. I will talk more about this in a little bit. Once you get into the gears, then you will see the various polygonal characters. The mechs are polygons, and the actual characters are sprites.
The backgrounds in the game are nicely designed, although there is no such thing as the perfect backgrounds. The backgrounds in the various towns and stuff are pretty good, but the other background designs in the game are surprisingly and sadly disappointing, because most of them are actually pretty blurry. Yeah, especially the backgrounds like the forests and the caves. The caves do not look that bad but the forests in the game look simply horrible. I mean, come on, they are so blurry, and overall very terrible. However, I still liked most of the backgrounds in the game. Just not all of them, that's all.
The thing I hated most about the graphics in this game is the fact that the world map graphics are just awful. The camera runs around at a terrible angle which makes the frame rate seem horrible. The camera will bend around the mountains and stuff, which gives everything a really muddy look. Actually, the graphics just look muddy, and the camera will give everything like mountains a paper thin look. The result is one of the most horrible looking world maps I have ever seen in a role playing game, and I have seen some horribly designed ones before!
The thing I liked best about the game is the incredible music featured in it. Yasunori Mitsuda (yeah, I don't know who he is, either) did an awesome job with the music in the game, as most of it sounds like it came straight out of Chrono Trigger. And for those of you that know me, I love the music in Chrono Trigger. So of course, I loved the music in the game. The music in the game can get very emotional and add a lot of emotions to a certain scene - it can build up a feeling of peace or suspense a lot quicker than most other role playing games.
One of the best themes featured in the game, in my opinion, is the simply awesome battle theme. I really enjoyed listening to the battle theme in the game, and as some of you may know, I have always considered the battle theme to be the most important musical theme of any role playing game. Why do I consider this to be true? Well, because I know that you will have to listen to the battle theme a lot in the game. And if you do not like it, chances are you will not stick around to listen to it all the time, and will end up playing a different role playing game. The good news here is the battle theme will not make you want to quit playing the game. The bad news is the actual game itself will make you want to quit playing the game.
The other themes in the game are okay but not that impressive. The early boss theme is okay, but I really liked the voices that were in that theme, even if I didn't have a damn clue as to what they were saying. The world map theme is okay, although not as good as I would have hoped for. It did get kind of annoying to listen to after a while, because it never really became either cheery or melodramatic, it just kind of stayed the same for a while. This was pretty disappointing, but I did like the world map theme to a certain extent, anyway. Overall, except for a select few themes, I really liked the music in the game.
The sound effects in the game are great, as well. One of the things I have always stressed about when it comes to sound effects in role playing games is voice acting. And Xenogears features awesome voice acting. I am definitely a big fan of this aspect of the game. The voice actors did their job perfectly, and the voices really did fit the feeling of the scenes and the characters perfectly. There is also something very funny about the voice acting in the game. The mouth movements are fitted for the Japanese version, not the English version. Therefore, sometimes the character's mouth will keep moving even after they are done talking. It is pretty funny.
The other sound effects in the game are pretty good, also, although I did not like them as much as I liked the voice acting in the game. Of course, this is to be expected, because I have always been like that when it comes to sound effects in role playing games. The sound effect I liked most occured during battle, whenever your character got ready to attack, he or she would make a battle cry that sounded really cool. There are plenty of other sound effects during battle, as well. The sounds of the gears punching and attacking each other sounded incredibly realistic, it sounded just like two pieces of metal slamming into one another.
I am not going to go into a huge discussion about the control in the game, but I will say that I was pretty disappointed about it. First off, you press the Square button to bring up the menu. This is incredibly flawed and stupid, because I am not used to pushing the Square button to bring up the menu. Half the time during the game, while in dungeons and stuff, I would think that the Square button was used to run, as it was in a lot of other role playing games, so I would push it thinking I would run and instead got the menu screen to pop up. It got incredibly annoying after a while.
The other controls in the game are okay, but nothing revolutionary. Perhaps the best thing I could say about the other controls of the game is the fact that they were not as annoying as the menu button in the game. In the menu, you press the X Button to select and the Circle Button to cancel. You can press L1 and R1 to rotate the camera. It was fairly simple to rotate the camera around, because of the placement of the buttons. I felt that Square did a really good job with the controls in the game, and if they would have thought twice about a certain placement of a button (the Square Button for choosing the menu) then the control would have been a lot better.
The thing that disappointed me most about in this game is the fact that it had so much stuff going for it in terms of game play, and sadly never really seemed to get on track. Let me count off the number of ways in which this game is special. The battle system in the game is incredible, and I really liked the characters in the game. The fact that there were robots and mechs just added to the game, because I, like a lot of other people out there, am fascinated by robots and mechs, so I thought it was cool that Square Soft decided to include them in this game. This game seemed to have all of the makings of a classic role playing game, and I seriously thought I was going to like playing it.
However, once I started playing through the game, about fifteen hours in, I realized I was not going to like playing through the game that much, at all. It was a shame too, because when I first started playing through the game I loved it. It was simply awesome learning about all of the combos and stuff in the game, and the battle system was very deep and involving, almost like a strategy game in terms of the amount of options you have at your disposal during battle. It was really starting to seem like I was going to love this game, and that it was going to become one of my all time favorite role playing games, if not one of my all time favorite video games.
However, I could not enjoy all of the stuff featured in the game as much as I expected to. Why is this? Well, it is because of the damn Xenogears bug. The story scenes in the game were way too numerous. It almost made the game feel like a book instead of an actual game. Every time you turned around you were thrust into another scene which usually meant nothing by the time you finished the game. After almost ever boss you would have to sit through a long scene. There is nothing worse than being pumped up by a difficult boss fight then having to sit through a twenty minute scene. Also, if you have to leave and say ''I will just complete the boss fight then save'', you usually can't do that either, which means you would have to go through the boss fight again.
The thing I liked most about this game is the incredible battle system featured in the game. I will go on record as saying this is my favorite battle system to ever be featured in any role playing game, ever. It is simply awesome, as there are so many options at your command at any one time. There is also basically two types of battles in this game, one with your human characters, and one with your Gears. The Gars battles are very fun, as are the battles with the human characters. You do get a bit more options with the Gears, and you can string off some really awesome combos with them, as well.
When you select ''Attack'', you can choose to perform either a Light, Normal, or Fierce Attack. A Light attack takes 1 AP, Normal takes 2, and Fierce takes 3. Your character starts out with a max of 3 AP that he can use each turn. So, in essence, you could do 3 Lights (1+1+1), 1 Light and 1 Normal (1+2), or 1 Fierce (3). You could just keep pummeling your enemies with Fierce hits, but then you wouldn't learn any ''Death Blows'', or, special combos that cause major damage to the enemy. This is what I was referring to when I said there is a lot of strategy involved in the battle system of the game, because you would want to conserve AP, but also do strong attacks.
The key to this is knowing what each enemy is capable of, and then striking it down with the appoporiate attack. You have to conserve AP for one reason and one reason only: the combos. Needless to say, this was the coolest element of the Xenogears battle system. There is an option in the battle system called ''Combo''. When you reserve enough AP for two or more Death Blows, you can choose this option. Let's say you want to do a Combo which costs 16 AP. You can find two Death Blows which cost 8 AP each, then string them together in the combo option to do two of those Death Blows at one time. It really is an awesome thing.
Like I said before, the battle system really had a lot going for it, it is too bad that there is a lot more reading going on than fighting. Because I really liked the battle system of the game, it is one of the coolest I have ever played in a role playing game, and definitely my favorite. The sheer amount of options you get in the battle system leads to a lot of strategy, as you will often want to conserve AP for strong combo attacks, but you will also need to use AP to defeat certain enemies, like bosses, etc. I liked a lot of the other elements of this game in terms of game play, too, especially stuff like going though dungeons, and the Gears, but there is too much story and not enough action for my liking.
The replay value in the game seems to be simple enough: the game is fun, the battle system rules, so the replay value rocks. Sadly, that is not the case in the game. Some of you may see it a different way, but I just did not like reading through all of the story scenes in the game. Some of you may enjoy that, but I was really hoping for a lot more action, because the battle system is so awesome. You will probably want to play through the whole game (just like I wanted to play through the whole game) but chances are you will not want to play it again after completing it, because it is just plain old boring in certain aspects.
I expected this game to be an insane challenge, and Square Soft certainly did not disappoint me in this area. (Finally, they did not disappoint me in an area about this game!) The game really is pretty challenging, not only because of the fact it is a challenge just to sit through the various scenes of the game, but it is also a challenge to go through a lot of the dungeons in the game. Some of the bosses in the game are quite a challenge, as well, especially some of the bosses featured later in the game. It will also take you a little bit of time to get used to the battle system in the game, which will increase the challenge right there. It is not the most challenging role playing game of all time but it is certainly right up there on the list.
Overall, I was expecting an incredible game, and got an average game instead. What's up with that? This game seemed to have all of the elements of an incredible role playing game. Hell, I bought this game thinking it was going to be an incredible game. I mean, the role playing game genre is my favorite genre, and the list of awesome elements in this game read like a Final Fantasy 6 review. Let me count off the number of ways in which this game is special. The battle system in the game is incredible, and I really liked the characters in the game.
The fact that there were robots and mechs just added to the game, because I, like a lot of other people out there, am fascinated by robots and mechs, so I thought it was cool that Square Soft decided to include them in this game. This game seemed to have all of the makings of a classic role playing game, and I seriously thought I was going to like playing it. However, I did not like playing it nearly as much as I expected to, which really disappointed me. I would play through this game once, because a lot of people loved it, I just did not stand for the reading of the game, too many story scenes bogged down the actual game play in the end.
-The music and sound effects in the game are just awesome.
-The battle system is complex, fun, and very addicting.
-The challenge level is definitely up to par with what I expected.
-The story line in the game is definitely deep and involving.
-I liked the graphics in the game a lot.
Not So Good Points
-The world map graphics are annoyingly disappointing.
-The story scenes bogged down the game play completely.
-Some people may not like the battle system.
-Square Soft could have done a better job with the robots.
-The story line may be too deep and involving.
I Run Down the Ratings... Da Ladies Man Style!
Story Line - 7.2/10
Graphics - 9.1/10
Music - 9.8/10
Sound Effects - 9.6/10
Control - 9.1/10
Battle System - 10/10 PERFECTION!
Game Play - 4.8/10 Story scenes...
Replay Value - A Little Above Average
Challenge - Way Above Average
Is this game worth a purchase? - Rental, just to see if you will like it.
Overall - 5.2/10
The Last Line
This game seemed to have all of the elements of an incredible role playing game. Hell, I bought this game thinking it was going to be an incredible game. It ended up being only average, because of the damn story scenes bogging down the fun game play.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 11/20/00, Updated 07/16/01
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