Xenogears - Review

Stand Tall and Shake Your Playstation

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 10
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

60-80 hours



   Considered by many to be the epitome of plot perfection, the little gem known simply as Xenogears came to market October 21st of 1998. Boasted as having both a deep sci-fi plot and heavy religious overtones, it was said that Xenogears almost did not make the cut to come to America. Luckily Square changed its mind and decided that US gamers deserved such an amazing game. It became a cult classic almost overnight.

   The second mode of battle is when the characters pilot their Gears, giant walking battle tanks. In this mode AP is replaced by fuel, which steadily decreases as you perform attacks against your foes. In Gear mode you also have the option of 'boosting' your Gear. That option enables Gears' ATB meter to fill at nearly twice the rate as normal, at a cost of extra fuel each turn. A small amount of Fuel can be replenished during battles but comes at the expense of not attacking. The deathblows remain the same in your giant form however, so it is wise to spend time learning them for the later tough Gear battles. Also noteworthy is that you can use your gears to cast more powerful versions of your regular magic spells, but they too pale in comparison to normal Gear attacks.

   Outside of the battles, your sprite characters roam around in huge 3D environments that can be rotated in any direction. With the added ability to jump, this combines to form an impressive array of dungeons and towns that actually feel like they have depth to them. Moving on, the menus themselves are a tad slow when loading but nothing to get really frustrated with. Your characters and Gears are relatively easy to maintain with their own various screens. The most notable flaw which many people comment about is the lack of control concerning the speed of text within the game. A minor detail in most RPGs, Xenogears takes it to a new level with its mountains of text at just about every event during the game. While I honestly was more interested in what the text was saying, some people seem to not have the patience for its slow pace.

You won't see this kind of stuff in any Final Fantasy.
You won't see this kind of stuff in any Final Fantasy.  

   The music for this game on the other hand was superb. As with all games made by Square the musical score was epic in nature, yet still captured the emotion of the events in which one was hearing it. Some truly great songs will be had during the course of this adventure and I'd recommend the soundtrack to anyone. The sound effects too were fairly accurate and precise.

   Xenogears borrowed some the best features from the Final Fantasy line of games, and they invented a few of their own. The attack system with its three different power values, the wide range of deathblows you can learn, and the ability to store AP to use toward a long string of deathblows are all fairly unique. I also have never seen two battle modes used quite the same way, with Gears and regular battles fought throughout. And of course you can't say 'Xenogears' without mentioning its big and complex plot. Very original stuff.

   After arguably the coolest video game intro of all time, you are immediately transported into the world of Fei, whose life at the beginning at the game lies in stark contrast to the futuristic anime introduction that you've just finish watching. Truth be told, you will definitely spend half this game being confused, the pace of plot and character development being very swift. All the confusion just adds to the experience and fun, without leaving you too intimidated or left in the dark for long. Xenogears actually plays much like a good science-fiction mystery novel (in more ways than one), for every answer you receive you also come up with two more questions, and hopefully a deeper drive to understand the story. The plot itself is very refreshing and large in scope, definitely this game's biggest asset.

   Many people feel that localization is an area Xenogears lacks in. For the most part, they might be right. You'll come to many points in game where characters (mostly Fei) will seem to ramble on for several minutes, and in the end you might not know what he was talking about. Some of the dialogue might seem tedious and easier conveyed in one or two quick sentences. I however did not find this as distracting as others seemed to have. Besides that minor fault, I don't recall any glaring grammar or spelling mistakes.

Fei proving that he indeed has Mad Skillz.
Fei proving that he indeed has Mad Skillz.  

   There are quite a few reasons why you'd want to sit down with Xenogears a second time. There are a few secrets which can be discovered, as there can be some interesting dialogue with NPCs you may have skipped. You also might want to play it again so that you'll know exactly what most of the characters are talking about from the beginning, instead of finding out much later in the game. I myself took the journey of Fei once again to fully understand the plot, which to this day many people can be confused with. All are very valid reasons to play this game again.

   Visuals were for the most part very pleasing to the eye. The graphics being sprites imposed on a completely 3D polygon field was a nice touch. For the first time when you enter a new town, you actually feel like you're there exploring it. There are some very beautiful scenes within the game that were well presented. The only fault here is that whenever you zoom in on a character, that person tends to look very blocky and pixilated. But for the most part, the graphics were good and the Gears looked great.

   Difficulty comes from the many boss characters you face. Most were easy to defeat with standard measures, but certain bosses, especially later ones, could only be defeated by certain measures and combos. Also, there is a certain vertical dungeon later in the game that caused trouble for many people as it was easy to fall all the way back down to the beginning. Besides those the game was relatively easy if you were prepared by buying the latest equipment and proper leveling up.

Despite destroying the galaxy this attack does little damage.
Despite destroying the galaxy this attack does little damage.  

   To put it simply, this game is long. Spanning two disks, this game offers at least 60 true hours of game time, most of which is spent expanding its amazing plot through dialogue. Though such a long game can intimidate some casual gamers, I honestly did not notice how the time flew while playing.

   I can sing nothing but praises for Xenogears. It has quickly become a standard to which other RPG plots are often compared to, with good reason. Despite some minor flaws, which most games have anyway, I highly suggest anyone who has the opportunity to experience this game to do so. Xenogears is definitely worth the price of admission.

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