Review by xenogears06
Unbiased review... yeah right!
First, let me get the obvious out of the way: there's no such thing as an "unbiased" review, and I love Xenogears. The reviewers who say "unbiased" in the title of their reviews obvious neglect to realize that to be perfectly unbiased, they couldn't possibly have an opinion on what they're reviewing because doing so would indicate that they like or dislike the game. Having an opinion on ANYTHING is by definition a bias towards whichever side is taken. Some people might disagree with this review, and for good reason. Just look at my GameFaqs contributor name and you'll see just how much this game has already inspired me. I am a huge fan of this game, and feel that it's easily one of the best games created, without exception. However, I'm completely aware of criticisms out there about this game for people having difficulty with it for having too many things about it that just don't fit everyone's taste.
Xenogears is too long for some, too difficult, the intro is too long, the plot is too confusing-- basically, the game is too much for some to handle for various reasons. I understand where critics of the game come from, as I too disliked the game the first time through. In all honesty, the game really does take a lot of time and effort to be able to enjoy; however, it is just so good that once the time and effort is spent investing in understanding the plot and pacing, it is easy to see why this is quite possibly the best RPG out there today.
Explanation of the Scoring:
I cannot give this game a perfect on every level, as I am well aware of the flaws that exist in this game. Despite being flawed, this game deserves every point I've given to it in its final score because of the fact that it really does captivate its targeted audience and is easily considered the best RPG in my circle of friends. Therefore, I will not be attempting to hide the problems I have found in any way, and will try to be as honest as I can with the individual aspects of the game.
Easily the weakest point of the game is its graphics. These graphics would look good on the SNES, but look horrible on the PS1. This game is proof that graphics don't necessarily make games. I know good games don't always need to look amazing, but it was very obvious that Squaresoft started making this game either right after Playstation was announced or during its stay with Nintendo. The graphics aren't terrible, but they're nothing to brag about. All character and gear sprites look fine, but the backgrounds and miscellaneous items in the game could have used a good amount of polishing. Most of the areas are designed to look interesting and feel mysterious in a way, but the mediocre graphics tend to harm the look that the designers were going for. I for one would love to see a remake of the game using current technology.
Wow. I love it. Similar to the graphics, much of the sound seems to have been designed purely for the Super Nintendo; however, the songs honestly sound great and fit the mood of the plot very well. The battle music fits great, and the boss battles sound just amazing. The sad tunes are simply amazing, the happy tunes are nice, and everything else is just as good. I bought the soundtrack as soon as I could and still listen to it today. Just as good is the fact that even if you don't buy the soundtrack, there's actually an area late in the game that lets you hear every song played in the game so that you can revisit old favorites.
Game Play: 9/10
The game play of Xenogears is simplistic yet fun, and offers players many decisions throughout. Battles are random, and encounters occur as players travel the various world map and special areas of the game. When engaged in battle, players are given the standard RPG fighting commands such as fight, magic, items, and running away. True to the standard RPG formula, the game also allots certain amounts of experience and money after battles, allowing players to level up their characters so that they can become more powerful. As characters gain levels, they're also allowed to use more moves and spells.
Fighting is unique in Xenogears because players can customize combination moves to a certain extent. An innovative way to play RPGs at the time, Xenogears gives players the chance to make combos by pressing buttons in certain sequences. There are three buttons that you can press to decide how you'll use regular attacks (Triangle, Square, and Circle), and each one costs points that you have each turn to help limit each attack that you do. For example, if you have 5 points to use, you can either press Triangle five times for five weak attacks, press Triangle twice and Circle once to perform a power move, press Triangle once and Square twice to perform a weak/two-hit medium attack, or use other varieties of attacks to dish out the pain on enemies. The variety does become somewhat repetitive after a while, but being able to gain experience towards other power moves by repeating weaker variants of the combos leads to learning more powerful moves. Along with the intricate battle system, Xenogears allows players to control machines called "gears."
Gears are extremely powerful robots that are controlled by human pilots. Eventually, just about every character in your party gets their own gear, each with unique looks, moves, and attacks. These gears are generally easy to control, and store attacks and moves that can be unleashed at the cost of points as well.
Here's where the main problem people have with the game lies: the story. The story is the strongest point of the game, and really does take a lot of time and energy to get through. I for one wasn't too into it the first time I played the game, and I had to restart playing the game about 20 hours into it to really start understanding some of the story. The game is very long and will take regular players around 60 hours to beat, but the story is alive and strong throughout the entire game experience.
You start out as a young man named Fei in a village that Fei's been living in for 3 years. Fei doesn't remember his past, but feels completely content with his life in the village until one day special secret soldiers attack his village. Fei sees a close friend die from one of the soldier's gears (a large bipedal robot with special abilities), and then blacks out. When he recovers, he discovers that during his blackout Fei somehow unleashed a power that killed not only the soldiers but also some of his own friends/villagers. Fei then sets out with the help of his mysterious mentor and friend Citan to discover Fei's destiny. As simple as the plot may seem, it is filled with so many twists and turns that one will not expect.
Some critics argue that this game should've been turned into a novel, and that it is just too much to fit into a video game. I couldn't disagree more. Xenogears does a great job not only explaining its plot, it does a great job SHOWING its plot too. The only real problem with the story is its pacing, but that is understandable once one sees what Xenogears' team experienced.
Squaresoft oversaw the development of Xenogears from afar, and rushed the game out earlier than the designers had intended. The first 2/3 of the game has a certain pace that is criticized for being too slow. The first three hours or so of the game are spent introducing characters and easing players into the plot by showing players what to expect for the rest of the game: interesting twists and turns in story development. However, once the first disc is finished, the game becomes nothing but plot for a few hours. The game therefore feels a bit rushed near the end of the game. The first few hours or so of the second disc is literally nothing but plot and story, which can be considered problematic for some players. I personally saw it as a welcome addition to the game, as I was so enthralled by the plot that I just wanted to see what happened.
Overall, the story is simply one of the strongest ever written in a game, period. There is little wonder that Xenogears' development team really cared about the plot and had a great concept going on when conceiving this game, and Xenogears is easily one of the best games ever made.
Good luck finding this game in any form, let alone a place that actually still rents out PS1 games. This game is a keeper, and should be welcome in anyone's gaming libraries. Squaresoft went through a phase near the end of the Playstation era where they reprinted all of their old RPGs in the Greatest Hits form, but even during the reprinting era they chose not to print too many copies of each game. Xenogears is one of those games, and even the Greatest Hits version is a bit hard to find new or used. New and used copies can be found on ebay, with varying prices depending on condition or packaging; however, the game's worth it if you have the time and patience to give it a go.
Overall: 10/10 (not an average)
Xenogears came out at a time where it was simply overshadowed by other RPGs, and its look and design were obviously not the game's strong points. Reviewers and gamers alike saw that this game would have a tough time because it would be overlooked by fans of Square's flagship Final Fantasy series. At the same time, these reviewers and gamers recognized that Xenogears was better than most RPGs out there at the time (including Final Fantasy VII), and that it was definitely an experience not to be missed. Reviews often argued that the game isn't for everyone, and it really isn't. For RPG fans who became hooked by games like FFVII or FFVIII, this game might not be for you. For others who have been fans before then, it is much more likely that this game is for you. There is, of course, a chance that this game can be loved by newer RPG fans, but most RPG fans these days truly expect a quick payoff and for a game to constantly give gamers what they want without much effort. If you don't have time to commit to this game (which has taken some of my friends more than 100 hours to complete), then you may want to stay clear of this game. For all others who want to experience quite possibly the best RPG ever created, check this game out. It will be an experience that you will not soon forget.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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