Review by Guinness
Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 04/26/01
A game for all and none...
Xenogears is a fantastic game, perhaps my favorite (certainly in the top five). Plot-wise, character-wise, and thematically, you won't find any game out there that's better. It is, however, a game that asks something of the player. It asks you to show a little maturity, to think about what the characters are saying, and what it could mean. One of the challenges for game masters in "real" RPGs, is to make the player question what their character is doing. Xenogears manages to do this in a video game.
The plot is a ten. No arguing. Things start out innocently enough--Fei is a happy young man who likes painting, his village, and his friends Tim and Alice. The day before Tim and Alice's wedding, Alice asks Fei to visit the Doc and borrow a camera. The wedding does not quite go as planned, and the game takes off from there. The plot becomes an enormous tapestry of seemingly unrelated threads that somehow all come together in the end (it's kind of like the X-Files, taken as a whole that is--cool guy and smart, gorgeous red-haired super-babe discover old conspiracy run by old men who speak in vague and confusing terms--"Do you have it? "I have it and now I'll fix the situation.")I guessed on nearly every plot point, and only three of my guesses were right. It was an absolute joy.10! 10! 10!
Likewise, the characters are all great. One of the great praises for FFVII is that all the good guys are defined. Xenogears goes one better--even the bad guys get to have interesting motivations and past traumas and whatnot.
I've heard a lot of criticism of the music in this game. Turn up the hearing aid! The music is fantastic, much better than most of FFVII's! The only problem is that there isn't quite enough of it, so that some pieces that fit well with certain characters have to be used to convey the moods of other scenes with other characters. But that's a minor complaint. My big one is the end-credits theme. Yeeech! I was hoping for something more...Chrono-Trigger like, and instead I get '80s cheese-metal that just destroyed the mood! I didn't mind the lyrics, but all the Whitney Huston vocal swells, and for God's sake the Bon Jovi guitar solo were horrendous!
There has been alot of talk about this game, and one of its main motiffs, the Bible. The designers used a few words with...heavy associative overtones, and many people got pissed. Grow up. Xenogears is a wonderful game with some pretty heavy philisophical overtones, but wouldn't assuming that whenever someone uses the word "god" they automatically mean "God" be falling to, dare I say it, pride?
A character who claims to have virtue but really doesn't in a very old literary idea. The Canterbury Tales had a few, and the bad guy in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one too--a charlatan. Xenogears (which is very close to honest-to-God science fiction) uses the ultimate sci-fi conceit to make the ultimate charlatan. It's another one of the great joys of the game.
Ultimately, Xenogears is not Thus Spoke Zarathustra for your Playstation. It is a game about winning free will, a hard and dangerous fight that requires you defeat many things--other men, countries, fellow ubermenschen, fate, yourself, and perhaps even a "god" or two.
Xenogears is a great game, it just isn't for literalists. If you want GOOD and EVIL spelled out in your game with fifty-foot tall letters of fire, then why are you playing RPGs in the first place? You can go kill big ugly things in Turok: Killer of Big Things and Turok 2: Killer of More Big Things. Or, hell, why not some fishing in Mario Party? But then again, don't we all need to use our brain once in a while?
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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