Xenogears - Retroview

Probably The Most Overrated Game I've ever played

By: Robust Stu

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 5
   Plot 8
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

65-80 Hours



   Xenogears is one of those games you either love or you hate. On the one hand, it's a long game with a very involved, interesting story, an original battle system, and giant robots. On the other hand, it's a LONG game that handles more like an interactive movie in some parts than a game. But regardless, Xenogears has somewhat of a cult following, and that popularity has been reflected by the fact that the entire Xenosaga series will be released starting this year. So what better time to take a look at the original and give my slant on it?

   You play Fei, a youth who lives in the village of Lahan, having been brought there bloodied, beaten, and with no memory of your past. Years later, two opposing groups of gears, giant battle robots, decide to have a battle in your hometown. In an attempt to stop the carnage, you get in one of the abandoned gears, and inadvertently destroy the village yourself. You are then banished from the village, and forced to go it on your own. From there you embark on a fascinating journey that is too long for me to attempt to summarize here, but I assure you, it's a very interesting, engrossing, and (at times) hard to follow story.

   The battle system is probably the most complicated of any RPG I've played. Rather than the standard Square Active Time Battle system, this plays slightly more like a fighting game, in that you can use either a weak, medium, or strong attack on your enemies. If you hit the right combination of moves, you can perform a combo which, as you might imagine, is a very powerful attack. The only downside to this is that some combos take a very long time to learn, and having to sit there and keep doing a combo until you master it can be a very tedious and time consuming process. That's just the hand to hand combat. The other half of the battle system is Gear combat. When you're in your Gear, it's basically the same, except that you have a limited amount of fuel, and after your allotment runs out, your Gear becomes useless until you let it charge up enough to be able to do something useful. In both battle systems, if you don't use up all the attacks you can use in a single turn, you can build up power to do a more powerful and deadly series of combos, which will often result in the annihilation of the enemy.

Damn you to hell!
Damn you to hell!  

   The graphics, while not at the level of a Final Fantasy game, were very good and used the PlayStation hardware well. The backgrounds were colorful and well detailed, making it obvious that the artists put a lot of time and effort into them. The characters and enemies, while not quite as detailed, were superbly animated, perhaps better than any other RPG on the system. I also quite enjoyed the ability to rotate the camera. That aspect really added a lot of character to the game.

   The music was good too, and had a very distinctive sound to it such that you could hear somebody drive by on the street blasting it and say "Hey, that song was from Xenogears." There was a good variety of tunes, most of which fit the locations they accompanied very well. The sound attacks were good too, with a lot of karate grunts accompanying the attacks by your characters, and the punches and kicks sounded great.

   The translation was good and conveyed the story clearly, but sounded very stiff in a lot of places. I understood what message was trying to be conveyed, but I thought they could have given people a lot more personality in a lot of places. The story was hard to understand quite often, but I don't know if that's the translation's fault or if it was just a difficult read to begin with, so I won't beat it up too much.

   I'll be honest, this was an interesting game, but it is very long and there is very little in the way of diversions and side quests. Consequently, I beat Xenogears three years ago and haven't picked it up since. A lot of people think this game is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I didn't think it was that great. Not bad at all, just not extremely good. Play this once and you'll probably want to shelve it for quite awhile yourself without wanting to play through it again.

Bart can kick some butt
Bart can kick some butt  

   As far as I know, this is the first game to combine the fighting and RPG genres to create the Xenogears battle system. I also can't think of too many games with such heavy religious overtones, so I'm going to say that this game broke the mold in a few ways. Not the most original game in the world, but it had its moments.

As a lot of people know, this is quite a long game, and if you really beef everybody up really well, combined with the long cutscenes, you're looking at anywhere from 65 to 80 hours. This is another reason I feel you might not want to give this game a second play through, as the story scenes were long and quite boring in a lot of places.

A lot of people will swear by this game, but I personally feel it's an average game at best. It had a good, but long and hard to understand story. The battle system was unique, but took FOREVER to master the combos. It was long, but boring. I really didn't see what was so great about it. If you see it on a discount rack, get in to see if you'll enjoy it, but if you abhor long, boring games that require a lot of character building, skip it.

Mild Recommendation to Avoid.

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