Review by Mete Tanyeri
Reviewed: 08/04/01 | Updated: 08/04/01
A masterpiece that will be talked about for years.
Perhaps it is best to say that Xenogears is one of the best RPGs that Square has ever created. Through their long years of designing games that become successful, like the Final Fantasy series, Squaresoft has managed to claim legendary status from fans that buy and play their games. It should also be known that they are probably the only company that delivers the best in RPG gaming. In order for a role-playing game to succeed on any console, no matter how weak or powerful the console is, it must have a plot that easily overwhelms the player and keeps him/her going and going until the final boss is laid to rest. The other factors that play a major role in any game, no matter which genre you are skilled at or are not interested in, are the graphics, sound, and most importantly, the gameplay. So, you now might be asking me, what does all of this have to do with Xenogears? Simply put, Xenogears has maintained popularity from both Japan and the United States, and one could easily understand why. This is one of those RPGs that delivers everything and takes the RPG genre into another level, even taking the genre to new heights that nobody would have ever imagined in the first place. Let's investigate.
I'll start with the graphics. I'll utter the truth if I have too, but the graphics have indeed reminded me of the glory and power that Square used with the Super NES, with games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 3 (FFVI in Japan). At first glance, one will simply dismiss it as too ''16-bit,'' but what they may not have realized is that every background and character that your party encounters is magnificent. The backgrounds were able to attain the artistic style that was used on Xenogears to favor the anime style rather than the realistic pre-rendered backgrounds that mostly everyone rants and raves about nowadays and the characters themselves are made up of polygons, textured in every way and are much detailed. In fact, the framerate is considerably surprising, since the moves at 30 fps and doesn't show any kind of slowdown or break-up whatsoever. The camera angles serve another purpose and make the graphics even cooler for the eye to see. When you are in a town, dungeon, or in the over world view map, the camera allows the player to either find their way, search for ways to get treasure that are out of reach, or even look for secrets. To me, the camera is a great way to allow much more interactivity that is taking place and adds a lot to the environments. However, it should be noticed that the graphics are at fault. For instance, as the camera zooms on a particular character, they look grainy and at times, jumbled and screwed-up. While the graphics aren't FF7 or Tekken 3 caliber, they will undoubtedly remind gamers the days of the old Squaresoft we knew back when the Super NES reigned through it's healthy, happy years.
The sound, however, is a different story. If you were someone that gladly appreciates the blood-adrenaline rush of the boss music to the sweet, sad emotion tunes that make us all cry and laugh, then Xenogears is right up your alley. Actually, most gamers would or would not be surprised at the fact that Yasunori Mitsuda, the same man that composed the music for Chrono Trigger, one of the best Super NES RPGs ever made, was also responsible for the soundtrack for Xenogears. Simply put, the music will make one emotional or cheerful, depending on the game's current situation. In other words, the incredible music perfectly fits the game entirely, which creates a strong, sentiment feel to the game's fantastic atmosphere. The sound effects are a tad bit disappointing, especially the voices, but more on the voices later. When it comes to the sound in a role-playing game, one might either love or hate the sound in Xenogears. If you ask me, I am neutral to the sound department, since it is half-good, half-bad. On the good side, the sound is great, because you'll be hearing sounds of birds chirping in the Black Moon Forest or snatches of conversation used from one person to another in a town that is bustling with activity. However, the voices have a lot to be desired, because they'll make one cringe and wish that the voice could have been more polished until they were satisfied with the voice simple, which is cruel and unforgivable.
When I first played Xenogears, one would expect me to play the game, following the same old ridiculous plot that has been use many times before, which is not only saving the princess, but saving the world as well. To me, I thought they had to create something original and hook the player into the game from start to finish. This is what Squaresoft exactly set out to accomplish with Xenogears, creating a plot that is unforgettable, yet confusing at some points to understand. While Xenogears forced you to save the world from an evil that no one dared to think about, the plot becomes deeper and intriguing as the player goes further and further into the game. What I am about to explain to you is simply the beginning, but beyond that, I will have no spoilers for the player, since they are particularly interested in the story on Xenogears, and I won't blame you. In Xenogears, we are introduced to a man named Fei Wei Wong, who is similar to Cloud of FFVII fame. Ever since a tragic accident took place a long time ago, he has no clue of has past or who he really is, not to mention his destiny as well. As time passed by, Fei recovered and was brought back to his feet by his two best friends, Alice and Timothy. He love to teaches the kids martial arts that he must have learned a long time ago, and he likes to paint. Anyway, life was good for him until robots known as Gears started a battle in the village of Lahan.
If one played the demo that was included with Final Fantasy VIII, you might have guessed that Timothy does get wasted and causes Fei to destroy the village, which looks awesome. From there, he realizes that he killed a lot of people and the village that welcomed him with open arms and runs away. He then starts a new journey that brings questions to his fate and his destiny. If you think the plot isn't that cool or amazing, then I guarantee this: The plot delivers and will live up to everyone's expectations. The problem with the plot is the dialogue, which is slow and can be a pain in the neck. Because of this, it could frustrate those who rather take a liking to fast-paced games and will cause that person to either turn off the machine or not play it again. To me, the words that are thrown at the main characters are compelling and flawless.
Fortunately, the controls are neither frustrating or slippery, but rather easy and simple to use. Any gamer that has played RPGs for a long time will certainly embrace the configurations that were used for Xenogears. In fact, it’s simple to perform commands, run around with your characters, and get a good idea what your surroundings are. However, there are times when you need to jump to get somewhere and you accidentally slipped into a place and is forced to reach back to where you previously were before. A minor flaw for the controls, yet it’s nothing major for the gamer to worry about and still continue to enjoy the experience that Xenogears offers.
Finally, I will discuss the obvious reasons on why the gameplay is fantastic in it's own merits. At first, one will come to a conclusion that Xenogears will be like any other RPG. However, the game's unique battle engine, exploratory value and secrets are just some of the things that sets Xenogears apart from its brethren of RPGs. As I said, the battle engine is one of the reasons why I enjoyed this game in the first place. Instead of relying on commands that we see every now and then, like ''Attack'' or ''Magic,'' you have to use combos in order to defeat your enemy in both human or Gear battle. So, how does the battle system work? At first, it was hard to get used, but since I played the game for a while, I now understand how it DOES work. You see, as you gain levels for all of your characters and grow stronger, you'll learn a new ''deathblow'' that will cause massive damage to the foe. In order to perform that combo, you must press the corresponding buttons in order to make your hits a success. I should also point out that when you press the exact buttons, they also use up AP for the human battles. The difference between the Gear and human battle sequences is that Gears use up fuel, instead of AP, so you'll have to get used to the idea of losing and replenishing your fuel.
In Xenogears, you'll have to go through two discs of grand escapades, and I thought it was surprising to see what the game had in store for me. Everywhere I went, the characters had something different to say, even if it was serious or perhaps bizarre for the average gamer. There is a lot to see in Xenogears, and when you buy the game, you won't be disappointed at what the game HAS to offer. Combine this with the secrets, which are scattered everywhere and hard to find, while others are not too difficult to find, then you'll enjoy all the fun and surprises that Xenogears has to offer. I sound like a commercial, don't I?
In conclusion, I feel that Xenogears should have stolen the spotlight for the year's best RPG, instead of Panzer Dragoon Saga. Sure, editors and players were praising the game's oozing atmosphere and originality, but Xenogears has a lot of offer. It has a remarkable plot that every RPG addict must see for themselves, graphics that will remind everyone of the 16-bit days, sound that is clearly unforgettable and hard to forget, and some of the original gameplay I have witnessed in a long time, better than that of Final Fantasy VII. So, in my opinion, Xenogears is one of the better offerings for the PlayStation and I gladly thank Square for releasing it here in the States. Despite the game's flaws (jumbled textures, annoying voices), it is clear to me that Xenogears was by far the best RPG of last year and shouldn't be missed by any die-hard RPG fan.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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