Xenogears…a journey through time, space, and the human psyche
If you crave: a story with deep philosophical, and psychological undertones, a love that transcends the boundaries of time, and a simple yet effective battle system then Xenogears may be “your cup of tea”.
However if you despise anything with strong religious overtones, then you might want to stay away. But if you’re a true rpg fan then this is a game with an immense storyline that will keep you guessing till all the answers are truly revealed. Another Squaresoft classic in many rpg fans’ eyes.
Xenogears was introduced to the US and Japan in 1998. It was actually never released in any PAL regions (Australia, Europe, China, etc. etc.), most likely due to its strong (very strong) religious overtones. The game contained copious amounts of references to Judeo-Christian theology. So why is it still to this day, hailed as one of the best rpgs the past Squaresoft has ever done?
Well for one the storyline is truly immense. This game was actually supposed to pull a “Star Wars”, and be the 5th in a 6 episode story. Of course that never happened, at least not with the original premise of the story. For reasons unknown Square declined the ideas of making a sequel or even a prequel to Xenogears. This eventually led to the creation of Xenosaga (which I’ll be more then happy to talk about one day). This was also the very first Squaresoft game to feature voice overs with anime cutscenes. Even though some of the said english voice overs didn’t always fit the anime characters mouth movements, it was a big accomplishment for Square.
These facts are only the tip of the iceberg though, so lets delve a bit deeper into this game shall we?
Taken directly from the manual:
Thousands of years ago.
The Eldridge, a gigantic interplanetary emigrant spacecraft, suffered a sudden ship-wide systems malfunction. On the monitors that warned of the ensuing danger, a mysterious shadow flickered for but an instant. Before the spacecraft’s crew could respond, someone or something had taken over their entire ship.
As the passengers and crew attempted to evacuate, the spacecraft’s own laser cannons coldly turned and shot them down. The captain had no choice but to activate the ship’s self-destruct mechanism. In a flash of light, the spacecraft fell to a nearby planet.
Born from the fallen wreckage, ‘she’ slowly arose, her long hair blowing in the wind as her eyes reflected the dawn’s breaking light. Reflecting the day that ‘god’ and ‘humankind’ fell to earth.
Our story actually begins in the village of Lahan. When we initially enter the story we see the whole village under attack by unknown enemies. And we catch a glimpse of our hero, Fei Fong Wong (Interesting name). This attack on Fei’s home will cause him to go on adventure that will allow him to meet many new and interesting characters, find out about his troubled past, exorcise his inner demons, and experience a love that was never lost.
The story is heavily influenced by sci-fi elements such as spaceships, ancient technology, time, and big robots that can beat stuff up. It also features many mature elements such as life and death, the religious aspects, and (gasp) human reproduction!
I really do not want to give too much of the storyline away besides the beginning intro scenes. There is really so much to talk about, and it’s in your best interest if you’re actually curious to play through the adventure yourself!
Just remember that everything in the beginning of the game relates to scenes later shown in the game. I know for sure that when I was initially playing the game I was confused about a lot of the beginning ideas that were shown to me. By the end you should have an overall view of everything that happens.
One of the things you’ll notice as you’re going through the intro and the game is the pleasant graphics. Everything seems to be the right color, and all of the npcs and playable characters are done in detailed sprites similar to the better snes rpgs of old. The world and the gears however are done in full 3-d. A nice touch on Square’s part and it makes it interesting trying to spin your camera around to get to your next treasure chest or find where you can jump to.
The music in the game is noteworthy just for the fact that it was composed by none other than Yasunori Mitsuda. The same gentleman who composed music for Chrono Trigger on the snes. I myself enjoyed the music, and some of the boss BGM’s will make you feel like you’re in an epic struggle to win. Although I can point out that there are a good number of ares in the game where it’s pure silence. Some fans of the game complained about that aspect, however it just ties in with the mood of certain scenes. You don’t need background music for every conversation! :p
~Let’s do battle!~
What I’m sure you were ever so patiently waiting for me to explain…the battle system. The battle is the standard Squaresoft affair. It’s turn based, and you won’t be able to attack until you time gauge is full. You have regular attacks, and arcane/chi/ether attacks, which is this games’ version of magic.
However there are some things that are hugely different.
First off you will not be able to just press attack and target an enemy. This game actually requires that you have a little bit more interaction with enemies and choose whether you’d like to do a weak, strong, or fierce attack on your enemy. These attacks all cost 1, 2, or 3 points respectively and are carried out by your maximum amount of AP (Action/Attack Points) in battles.
You start out with a small amount of AP when your character is at low levels and of course as you rise in power you will get more. Keep in mind you don’t have to use all of your AP when you are attacking enemies you could in essence use a weak attack and cancel your combo chain, and save your AP for your next turn thus allowing you multiple attacks all in one go!
Continuously pressing button combos isn’t without it’s own rewards however, because not only do your characters look awesome performing different moves, but the more you do certain key combinations the more chance you have of learning new skills called “Deathblows”.
The good thing about Deathblows is that they only cost AP, so in essence you can keep using powerful moves as long as you have enough AP. If you’re really smart, you’ll save a lot of AP against a particularly difficult enemy and chain multiple Deathblows in succession!
The bad thing about Deathblows? They take forever to learn. You literally have to keep doing certain key combinations just to learn the next Deathblow in the list. However there are many guides on Gamefaqs that can help you learn them faster.
The second part of battling is using gears. The gears are the huge robots you see blasting stuff up in the intro and here…
The battling with gears is very similar to battling while on foot. The only big difference is that you cannot do combos! Well at least not in the beginning. After the pilot of a certain Gear has learned a special ability or deathblow, then they will be able to perform a super upgraded version of that skill in the Gear.
Unfortunately though, until you learn those skills the Gear battles are a slightly boring affair. Especially since instead of having AP, you have to worry about fuel. When your fuel runs out you have to actually recharge it in the middle of battle!
The game will allow you to customize your gears to do an innumerable amount of things including quicker recharge rate on fuel, better armor, and quicker attacks. So don’t worry you just have to stomach the bad gear fights in the beginning…although I can say for sure some of the fights in the end of the game are slightly long too. D:
- This game is like a very good book. With that said you should be prepared for some heavy, and long dialogues of text. It’s nowhere near as bad as the 40-50+ min cutscenes in Xenosaga (thank goodness), but sometimes you just wish you could make them talk faster, since in this game you cannot increase the speed of chat.
- Talk to everyone, and search everything. There are several sidequests in the game and some give no indication of their existence. Also since you leave certain areas in the beginning of the game, you won’t be able to come back so make sure you check everywhere for special items and such!
- You might need to grind a little if you want money for new items/weapons etc. The bosses aren’t too bad though once you get used to the battle system. So grinding is semi optional.
- Since the other games in the series were never completed, the devs who made this one teamed up with the now defunct Digicube and presented all of the information (with lots of art) in a Japanese only book called Xenogears Perfect Works. It’s like the Xenogears Bible. Well thanks to the efforts of Ichiban Manten, this book has been translated from Japanese to English. It tells the whole story of Xenogears including what it should have been if the other “true” 5 games were ever made. And yes I have it here.
Did you know?
If you like psychology this game will also tickle your fancy. There are certain characters who show many aspects of the Freudian school of thought, introducing you the gamer to the ideas of the Id, Ego, and the Super-Ego. Very cool they implemented that and it makes the game that much more complex, that is if you like to think.
My suggestion to you is to play the game and beat it at least once before you look at this. And now without further ado…
The Xenogears Bible: Xenogears Perfect Works in PDF form. I compressed it into a Rar since the file is so big.
Also here is the link to the original image files on Flickr: Xenogears Perfect Works translation.
So as far as finding this game just keep in mind:
This is a hard to find item, thus it’s become another collector’s item. Amazon should still have a couple of cheap copies however.
This image gallery contains art, fan art, pics & screenshots for Xenogears on the Playstation 1. Enjoy
So in conclusion, imo Xenogears is an epic rpg, that is worth my time, and I hope yours as well. So have you played it yet?