Review by Cyril
"My fave game...But Xenogears is not for everyone"
I love it. I admit this. I am a Xenogears fangirl. Xenogears just excels at everything it does, and that is not a bad thing. But as I said in my ''punch line'' the game itself is not for everyone. Its really a shame, because this game just kicks so much ass and deserves attention.
First off, good luck finding it. This game has become exceedingly rare in the last few years, and it is still 50 bucks or more at any store you go to. That is an automatic mistake Square. a PSX game at full price, even now at the end of the PSX's days. I don't know many people who will like that. Strike one.
Xenogears is a game meant for plot. For those of you who love plot twists, and who love a game filled with mystery until the very end, then you will love Xenogears. The plot is deep, and everything feeds off everything else in it. Even characters who seem minor, have a part in the deeper areas of the game. At the end, minor characters become major characters, and major characters become minor characters. And of course, each character is well developed, with their own personality, and reasons for doing what they do. Sadly, some characters aren't developed too well. A few of your own party members just seem to be there, not really doing anything until certain pivotal points of the story.
The game itself starts out differently then most games. The game starts out with a ship flying through space. In a beautifully animated movie (there are CG's in the movie to, but the scenes with humans are animated), you watch the ship, which is not named at this point, fly. Soon, the camera pans in, and you see the main area of the ship. Here, it shows the ship in utter chaos. the ship itself is being destroyed internally, by what seems like a virus or something of the sort. Every main computer is shutting down, and the screens are filled with the words ''Ye shall be as Gods''. The Captain of the orders a complete evacuation. As the people of the ship evacuate, the ship only becomes more problematic. The Captain then sits down, and looks at the picture of his family; he knows this will be the last day he will live. The ship is then shown crashing into the planet, and the only survivor is a woman. This violet haired woman is naked, and walks out of the remains of the ship and watches as the sun sets.
This prologue opens up one of the many mysteries of Xenogears. Xenogears' main story revolves around a young man named Fei, who has no memory of his past. He only knows of his time in the small town of Lohan village. Fei's adventure gets extremely complex as he learns more about himself, and his memories. He meets a cast of other character, each with their own deep, emotional turmoil.
Xenogears is a host to two battle systems. One system is a system where you fight with the normal party members, and the other system is based on huge machines called ''gears''. These ''gears'' are very powerful tools for battle, but, unlike about every other game that has something like this, they are limited in their usage. I will get into that in a minute.
Character battles are the base for everything else in the game. In a battle, there are a few choices. Mainly, attack, defend, ether (AKA magic), and Item. There are also sub commands: escape, combo, and gear. Each of these commands has their own uses. Attack obviously attacks, but the attack isn't like any normal FF, or RPG type game. Each character is given a certain amount ot AP, or attack points to work with. As the character level up, he attains more of these AP, to a maximum of 6. At the end of the game, you will have 7. But with these 6 (or less) AP, you can do different strengths of attacks. Triangle is the weakest attack, Square is a medium strength attack, and the X button is a strong attack. The weaker the attack, the less AP the attack costs. Triangle is 1 AP, Square is 2 AP, and X is 3 AP. And with these buttons, you can make attack. You can do two strong attacks with a high hit rate, or 3 medium attacks with a moderate hit rate, or 6 weak attacks that will almost always hit. Of course, you will want to mix the button presses up, because if you do, you can learn ''combos''. These combos are powerful normal attacks that do a lot more damage then just randomly pressing buttons. You learn combos by pressing different buttons attacking normally. Each time you learn a combo, you also power up your gear, which I will get to in a moment. And there is another thing you can do with AP. You can save your AP up (say, by using only 1 AP in an attack), and then canceling the attack. If you save AP up, you can do an awesome attack with multiple combos. These combos are awesome, as at a max AP bar you can do 5 times as much damage then with a single combo. You have to decide if you want to attack normally, or go for an all out attack with combos. Sadly, the magic system doesnt really have any new elements, like the physical attack system does.
Now for gear battles. Gear battles are probably the highlight of the Xenogears game. In a ''Gear'', you have 3 commands that are different then the normal battles: Attack Level, Charge, and Booster. These each have a totally different use, and are imperative to beating the later stages of the game. The most important factor in Gear battles is Fuel. Like any machine, gears take fuel to run. And it depends on the engine on how much fuel a gear can hole. Like normal character battles, Triangle gives a weak attack, and 10 fuel, Square gives a medium attack, and 20 fuel, and X gives a strong attack, and 30 fuel. Everything you do in a gear, except Ether attacks costs fuel. Attack Levels are done when you attack normally once. Each time you attack, not using a combo in a gear, you gain an attack level. These attack levels usually go up to three. As attack Levels go up, so does the fuel consumption of the combo, and so does the attack power. Booster allows faster attacks, so you can attack more often, but also uses more fuel each turn. And charge restores 30 fuel. Also, you can not restore gear HP without the usage of fuel, so you really need to plan ahead on your fuel consumption.
Xenogears has a more adventurous type of gameplay. In dungeons and towns, you are allowed to jump around, and search everywhere. Usually dungeons are huge (and I mean HUGE) labyrinths filled with twists and turns that will leave your head boggling. I remember I got stuck in one of the dungeons at the end of the first disk for more then 2 hours once. It is not a good thing, so for those of you who are not patient, you may want to use a strategy guide.
The graphics in Xenogears are a love it or hate it. There is no pre-rendered backgrounds, they are all 3D. The camera is fully rotatable, meaning there are usually rather good camera angels. The worst part of the camera is that some jumps that are required in dungeons are hell, and you can barely see. This leads to a lot of annoying problems in the long run. Strike two, Square. But, if you are a graphics freak, you can have some luck. If you play Xenogears on the PS2, you can have some beautiful graphics. While the game will save different, and may be a bit messed up, the rest of the game will look like a game for the DC (Dreamcast). So even this game can be good for graphics freaks. Other then that, the graphics are well detailed, even if they are a bit pixeled.
Xenogears has, simply put, the single most beautiful soundtrack you will ever hear. This soundtrack made me fall in love with video game music. Each song is filled with intense emotion, or power when needed. The songs also tend to fit the areas they are placed. Like a song for the desert has chants, and a city in the sky seems to be lowing with the wind, it is amazing how everything is so perfect. Sadly, the voices arent nearly as good. The voices are just pathetic, especially on some characters. While the main characters' voices are not bad, the minor characters' are. Most of them are far too low, especially for the age of the character range. And to make matters worse, Square doesn't seem to have any idea what translation is, because the voices do not fit the movement of the mouths in the animated scenes.
There are a few factors of Xenogears players may not like. There is quite a bit of random encounters in the game, so be wary of that. And some dungeons are huge, and you can spend hours trying to get out of them once you get in. And if you don't like the quasi-futuristic era, you won't like the game either. One last thing I have heard, is that people can not stand the story. Xenogears' story is filled with a lot of literal, and technical mental problems. We are talking real to life problems. It is also about a lot of advanced science. if you don't like either of those things, you probably wont like Xenogears.
What many consider the very worst aspect of Xenogears is the entire second disk. Xenogears' second disk is pure story. There are 3 dungeons, and maybe 10-15 boss battles. The rest of the 10-20 hours is all watching movies. If you have played Xenosaga, then you know what I am talking about.
There is my run-down. Xenogears is an awesome game, and it deserves a try, even if you hate what I said before. There are minor problems, but always give it a chance. Its a beautiful game, that really makes you think. And hey, we're gamers, we really need to do that more.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 06/23/03, Updated 06/23/03
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