Review by Zylo the wolf
A unique RPG, I think everyone should give this a try and get their own opinion.
Except from the Final Fantasy games and maybe the two Suikoden games, no RPG on Sony Playstation have received such a big cult following like Xenogears. I remember when I finally modded my Playstation so I could play all the excellent games that got released in America but never got released here in Europe, and that especially included a lot of different Squaresoft games. 10 years ago Square was without a doubt one of the biggest gaming companies thanks to all the quality RPGs they had released, and even if I looked forward to play any game the company released, it was two games in particular that never got released over here that I wanted to play the most. The first one was Parasite Eve, and the other was this cult RPG called Xenogears, which I had heard was supposed to be the best RPG and even the best game to have ever been released. But the closest I got to play the game was a trailer and demodisc that came with another Square Enix game, but finally 10 years after the game was released I've finally finished this game.
The first thing were Xenogears stands out compared to many others is the main character Fei, he looks nothing what a RPG main character usually looks like. Instead of spiky hair he got a pony tail, and instead of fighting with a sword this guy uses martial arts in order to defeat the enemies. He also looks and acts like he's one of the few Japanese RPG heroes who is no longer a teenager, but after looking it up it turns out that he actually just in 18 years old. Anyway poor Fei got amnesia, and don't remember anything before a couple of years ago when a masked man brought him to the village of Lahan where he grew up. One day when his two friends is a about to get married, even if the girl might be more interested in Fei, a few giant robots attacks the city. Without doing what he's doing, Fei jumps right into one of the robots and panics, and destroys almost the whole village, including killing his two best friends. When Fei awakes from his black out, all the surviving villager of Lahan are mad at him and he's banished forever from the village.
During the whole game we get to find out more about Fei's past, but also we get to understand more and more about his inner trauma. The game's plot also focus a lot of class differences between humans, and of course rebellion against the mighty people just like many other video games, but few game makes the "bad guys" actually not look like really bad guys, they just believe in different things than our heroes. Except for Fei, one of the most interesting characters is the wise Citan who also lives with his family in Lahan village, but sees that Fei needs help so he will be with him for the most part of the game. Citan is very intelligent, which helps Fei in a lot of different situations, but he's also a very good fighter, and anyone can tell that there's something mysterious about him as well. The final character that I think needs to mention is the female lead named Elly, she a Gebler officer who works for "the bad guys" but question her motives and what she's fighting for. At first she acts really tough, but as the game progress she becomes more and more caring about others. More from the cast are interesting characters, but these three are the most important ones.
I guess those of you who actually bothers to read this review already know that robots, or mechas as the usually are called in the Japanese culture, will play a major role in this game. But for the most of the time our heroes actually have to rely on their own fighting skills in order to defeat enemies. When it's not time to fight in gears, the player can choose from three different attack buttons. Triangle is the weakest but only takes one AP, while Square is a little bit stronger but takes 2 APs to use, and the X button is the strongest but also takes 3 APs to use. The number of APs you can use when it's a characters turn increases as you gain levels. You can learn a lot of special moves if you keep using the same combo, and you can also save APs for a couple of turns later to unleash more than 1 special more. It's up to you what you prefer. You can also just like what you expect from an RPG cast magic if any of your character know how to do it.
When it's time to fight in your gears, you have to rely on different equipment called gear equipment, and now every attack cost fuel to preform. Even repairing your gear and most of the special moves costs fuel, so now you better make sure not to waste any fuel in vain, but magic still costs mp even if you are in a gear (you can't however, heal your gear with supportive spells.). Aside from regular attacks, some characters can use learn special moves that costs even more fuel but might make the difference between victory and defeat in battle. You can also choose to either charge up your fuel a bit or use the boost command which drains fuel from your gear each turn, but on the other hand your gear only now needs half of the time to perform a new attack. Sometimes, on boss fights for example, it's really worth to waste fuel on this command. You can upgrade your gears in gear shops, but I don't think it makes any difference what level you are in battles where you use the Gears.
So now you may be wondering why I did gave this legendary game such a "low" score, when you guys might already know that I love the kind of graphics this game, the battle system is really unique, the music reminds me of what Squaresoft does best and how the game got one of the best plots I've ever seen in a game. First of all is that the character's stats are very, very unbalanced. Citan is for example pretty much a broken character compared to the others with both his speed, attack power and the fact the game forces you to use him a lot, Fei is almost always required to be in your party and a player like me feels like he must have one who can heal more than one character at the time and there was only Billy that could do that. Even if the other characters's levels also increases even if they are not in the party I think one of the reasons to replay a RPG is to use different characters in the party, but in this one that means that you use worse characters the next time you play through the game. Thankfully all characters's Gears are pretty balanced.
Finally, just like many other complains about, the game got way to many cut-scenes where all you do is read through a lot of text. Don't get me wrong, the plot in this game is great and I really don't mind it on the first disc, but for a big part of the second disc you will just a character in a chair who explains what happened next, after 15 minutes of reading you will get to a dungeon (forget exploring the world map) and after that dungeon you got another 20 minutes of cut-scenes, where it's mostly a character sitting in a chair and explains what happened next. For most people (including myself) this quickly gets boring because we want to play video games, not read books.
The plot is however very interesting, and I can see why many would consider this the best RPG on the system. I really like how the game brings up such things like religon, question on why humans exist, different personas e.t.c. This is a very interesting game, but I really wonder if it wouldn't been better if it was released as an anime or a manga instead.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Xenogears (US, 10/20/98)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.