Review by Herugrim

Reviewed: 03/26/10

The best for most!

One of my favorite games for a long time, but for most of that time I counted this title as my single favorite video game ever. That changed not because I found a newer game that I thought was better, but a recent replay of the game revealed flaws I had long forgotten. This game isn’t for everybody, there’s no doubt about that.

First I’ll start with the sound of the game. Xenogears has some top-notch sound effects for the in-game battles and background music. Everything from the noises the giant robots make to the sounds of the characters fighting each other on the ground, the game sounds great. The only falling out comes with the anime-cut scenes that are a prominent selling point for the game. The lip synching is dramatically off, especially towards the end of the game, and what little voice acting there is for these cut scenes is just as bad. The characters all have voices in the game itself during battles and whatnot but these voices seem to be the original Japanese and as such don’t match up with the English ones. It’s a hit or miss, but given that it was released in 1998, it can be easy to forgive the flaws since none of them are game wrecking here.

Now there’s the graphics. It’s easy to forget sometimes that this game is well over a decade old. With an anime-inspired character design, excellent mecha, and a delightfully good looking three dimensional environment makes this game pretty solid in this department. From the high resolution CGI FMVs and short anime cut scenes to the character sprites and robot models, this game just looks great. The environments all have plenty of atmosphere and personality of their own and the fully rotating camera only shows this all the more so. The only problem is that some of the areas are really dark and since this game does have a jump button there are dungeons that actually require plat forming which can be frustrating at times.

The storyline is always where this game shines the most, and also where it can become easily overwhelming. Xenogears has the largest, deepest storyline in video gaming history. It laces together elements of existentialism, religion, morality, psychology, and science fiction all together at once. It’s full of plot twists, mysteries, and character development. This is also when it can become too much for some gamers to bare. It falls along the same lines as Metal Gear Solid where some gamers just get tired of listening to codec conversations and watching cut scenes. Xenogears has a whole lot of dialog to read and plot to reveal. It isn’t hard to lose track. If you’ve got the attention span to handle it, then Xenogears will easily rock your world. However those used to modern roleplaying games that are very simplistic and straight forward will get lost almost immediately and likely lose interest in the game.

Then there’s the gameplay. I’m not going to get too in-depth with this system because so many others have. Suffice to say that it’s an original system using elements like a system similar to the active time battle system from final fantasy 7 and a deathblows similar to the attack combos from Legend of Dragoon. The giant robots, known as Gears, have their own system which is linked to the regular fighting system and the two can be interchangeable. There’s also a fighting minigame in one of the cities where you can play as any robot from the game against an opponent of your choosing, which has an all-real time battle system similar to a fighting game. Also it’s interesting to note that most of the characters in this game actually don’t use weapons and instead fight hand to hand using a variety of real fighting styles. This is a very unique turn for a roleplaying game and helps establish Xenogears as something far more original then the others.

However for all the depth and originality the game has it also suffers from some classic flaws. Random battles are extremely frequent and you are sometimes lucky if you make it five steps without initiating one. Worse still is that random battles overlap all other events in dungeons. You will often find that you can’t jump or open a door because you triggered a random battle that hasn’t loaded yet. This can lead to game crashes as well as general frustration when you miss a jump because you were loading a battle and didn’t know it. Also the game’s difficulty takes jumps at certain sections. Some dungeons are loaded with enemies that can only be defeated in very specific ways which can result in a lot of frustrating trial and error as well as preventing you from learning the skill that you need. Many bosses in the game are specifically designed assuming that you’ve done a great deal of level grinding. For those unfamiliar with the term Level Grinding is when you stay in a dungeon and run around in circles for the sole purpose of defeating enemies for experience and leveling up. This is a painstaking and boring task that is often unrewarding as most leveling systems are very slow and enemies very frustrating. If you aren’t into level grinding, you won’t get to the second disc of the game.

In the end while I still think this is easily the best roleplaying game ever made, it also isn’t good for casual gamers. It can often be frustrating, and is really only good to the hardcore level grinding elites that never miss an item and always over level before each boss fight. Congrats to them for having the dedication to weather this epic title. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we’re just out of luck.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Xenogears (US, 10/20/98)

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