Review by Jacko
Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 04/26/01
One of the best RPGs on the PlayStation, second only to that other Square masterpiece - Final Fantasy VII
This is a superb game and I would recommend any RPG fan to go and buy it now. It is a similar game in style to Final Fantasy VII which is the only other RPG I prefer. The main differences between this and FFVII are the battle system and the fact that the game takes place in a 3D environment which can be rotated using L1 and R1 rather than the static, pre-rendered backgrounds of FFVII. Although the backgrounds are more stunning in FFVII the backgrounds in Xenogears are equally as good because they allow more flexible cutscenes which use in-game graphics to occur than in FF because the camera can zoom in and out and spin around the place so both are equally as good. However, sometimes the graphics can get a bit pixelly when they get too close to the characters or backgrounds but this does not detract from the enjoyment of the game. The graphics in general are very colourful and bright. The FMV cutscenes are a mixture of rendered CGI and anime which works very well - the intro is spectacular.
There are 2 variations of battle system in Xenogears - the normal battling using your characters and their special abilities and magic, and battles in 'Gears' (huge combat robots) which are more majestic and dramatic but the frame-rate seems to suffer slightly because of the size of the Gears, but you get used to it after a while. This isn't a problem in normal battles because the characters are depicted using sprites in battles and in the main game. At first they seem primitive compared to FFVII's polygonal cast but they grow on you and allow more characters to appear on screen at once. They make the game seem more like a cartoon, whereas FFVII looks like a film. Both battle systems are well done but one slightly annoying factor is that there is no way to replenish HP if you are in a Gear - you have to find the nearest stockist of Gear supplies and top up on fuel and HP. The battles adopt a great system of attacking - using the triangle, square and circle buttons in different combinations to initiate different attacks. There is less magic than in FFVII and all magic is acquired through character development - there is no materia like in FFVII. The game uses the D-pad, not the analogue sticks and there is no Dual-Shock compatibility.
The music in this game is great and it really suits the game well. You come to recognise all the tunes and you will develop your favourites. Remember after hearing Sephiroth's theme music in FFVII about two or three times it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end whenever you heard it because you knew he was nearby? There are similar incidents in Xenogears. For example, when a giant robot appeared in front of me I deduced that it would be the big bad guy and sure enough, his orchestral theme kicked in and he appeared to take me on. The sound effects are similarly well used and kind on the ears. There is a very small amount of speech for important bits of dialogue such as "AAAAAAAAARGH!" (!) but nowhere near as much as in Brave Fencer Musashi, where half the script is spoken as well.
This is a game with similar size to FFVII - it will take you ages to complete, maybe 50 or 60 hours. There are times when you sit down to play it and 5 minutes later you look up and 2 hours have passed - that's how engrossing it is. There is so much to do I can't see how Square crammed it all onto 2 CDs. There's even a great beat-em-up sub game using Gears which will consume as much of your time as Chocobo Racing did on FFVII. The story is superb, possibly the best plot ever in an RPG - it's very interesting and surprises are thrown up regularly. However, there is a slight problem with the story in that there is an incredible amount of text which could bore you to death if you are confused by the plot which could happen considering how complex it is. Much of the time you just sit there reading and watching cutscenes which didn't really bother me because I was engrossed in the game. But there are times when you are set on a pre-programmed cutscene/text path which can last 20 minutes or so. The characters are a great bunch all with intriguing parts to play. You will almost get to know their individual personalities as if they were real people, just like with FFVII. Not giving anything away about the plot, but when faced with a decision you can guess what certain characters will do from previous knowledge of them. Finally, great though the game is, it is unlikely you will ever play through it again once you have completed it because you will just have to go through the extensive plot again and seeing as you already know what happens, there is not much point to doing it all over again. However, minor niggles aside this is a superb RPG which all RPG lovers will adore.
Buy it today!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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