Review by shneepshnop

Reviewed: 04/08/04

Xenogears could have been my favorite RPG, if not for the 2nd disc.

First things first, I really wanted to give Xenogears a perfect 10/10 score. But thanks to the 2nd disc I cannot. Judged by just the 1st disc this is an incredible RPG, but since I can’t divide games up into parts, and give them separate scores, I have to look at it as a whole, thus the 2nd disc must be included. It becomes obvious the whole second disc was rushed, and the finished product was terrible. However once you get wrapped up in the story the 2nd disc is worth sitting through, in order to see how this epic ends.

Story – 35/30
This is a wonderful story. It s not you average, some guy wants to take over the world story. It is much deeper than that. Xenogears took a lot of criticism upon its release because of its spiritual nature and its constant questioning of God and religion. The story is this; 2 nations are at war, Aveh and Kislev. They have been fighting for many years. Through excavation each side has discovered an ancient fighting technology called “Gears”. These are giant fighting robots (they look like Transformer’s). Upon discovery of this ancient technology the type of war evolves, thusbecoming more destructive.

There are 2 kinds of people in Xenogears, there are the land dwellers “lambs”, and the people who live in cities in the sky “Shepard’s”. The “Shepard’s” view the lambs as inferior beings, and control them through the government and psychological means. They also use “lambs” as slaves and for research experiments. The Shepard’s are much more technologically advanced than the land dwellers so they can easily establish superiority over them and control them.

You play as Fei, a “lamb” who is an interesting young lad who has no recollection of his past. He has dreams of his past which include, but are not limited too, murder and death, but he doesn’t understand what they mean. Fei was brought to the village of Lahan 3 years ago, and he has no recollection prior to being brought into the village. He is living peacefully until a failed attempt to steal a new prototype gear falls into the hands of unwilling Fei. The stolen gear crashes into the village of Lacan where the thieves and rightful owners of the gear battle right in the middle of the village for the ownership of the gear. They carelessly attack each in the middle of Lacan with no care about what they are doing to the town. In order to save his village Fei takes control over the gear, and uses it to fend off the intruders. Unfortunately something happens to Fei and while in his gear he goes crazy and ends up destroying the whole village he tried to protect. Fei is considered as an outcast and is told to leave the village by the few remaining survivors. Fei having no other place to go wanders of on his own. Eventually he encounters a ‘gung ho” young lad named Bart, and he gets Fei wrapped up in a mission to retake the throne of Aveh for its rightful heir, who is Bart. Eventually the true story unfolds. Fei and his group of friends must save God from being resurrected and unleashing his centuries of hatred on humankind. This story is full of twists. There are many back stabs, and unforeseen plot twists. Among other things, before the game is over Fei will discover who he really is, uncover his past, save the love of his life, and overcome tremendous odds as he tries to save his species from extinction.

The character development here is incredible, especially with Fei. Fei’s development is probably the best I have ever seen in an RPG. All the supporting characters are just as interesting and undergo their own development over the course of the game. Overall this story and characters are probably as good as it gets.

Gameplay – 12/20
All your normal RPG elements are here. There are 2 different types of fighting; 1 is hand- to-hand combat, the other is via gears. Both kinds of fighting use an ATB battle system that is similar to Final Fantasy VII. During hand to hand combat you can execute different combos consisting of weak, medium, or strong attacks. The stronger the attack, the more of your stamina it will take to use it. When you run out of stamina your turn ends, and your ATB resets. By attacking with the right combos you can learn deathblows, which are just like regular attacks, but they are more impressive, visually and damage-wise. You can also use magic, which is called Ether. Ether uses Ether Points in place of Magic Points. Hand to hand combat is fun, and learning the deathblows is interesting and fun to watch.

The other battles in the gears, are not so fun, they are very repetitive. You only have about 10 different kinds of attacks you can do the whole game per each gear. Gears run off of fuel, and when you run out of it you must regain it. This can be done by charging. Charging replenishes fuel at a painstaking rate of 30 per turn. Different kinds of attacks use different amounts of fuel. You are also unable to refill life at first; you must get an item to do so. Using this item uses about 1/3 of your fuel so you will be limited to about one life refill per fights. Also gear life and fuel cannot be replenished outside of combat unless you refill them at a town. So once you start in on an area with your gear you will have to plan on conserving life and fuel until that area is finished. This is another element that you must factor into the already difficult battles.

A lot of battles with gears are done in a row, meaning you will be fighting about 3-4 bosses in a row, one at a time, with no break in between. Since you cannot refill life or fuel this makes the already difficult task of beating 4 bosses in row even more difficult.

A good quality about the game in general is your movement. Fei can jump by pressing the triangle button and this adds a new element into exploration. You can also rotate the overhead camera around by pressing the R1 or L1 buttons; this helps you see the whole area better. These two qualities are very good and make the game a more enjoyable experience.

The real problems of Xenogear’s happen with the insertion of the 2nd disc. The gameplay completely turns to crap. Instead of, lets say breaking into a secret military base, and you actually doing this, someone will narrate the scene for you. Almost all the plot development past the first disc is done in narration. The plot is still good but it needs to unfold via your experiences not by narration. Also, the 2nd disc is as linear as it gets. They plop you right into the middle of a mission and you cannot leave the area, so you must finish the mission. Once you do this they narrate some more scenes then plop you into another linear mission. This sucks and is not at all like the 1st disc. I get the impression that the makers of Xenogears took too much time creating the first disc, and didn’t allow themselves enough time for the 2nd. The 2nd disc is pure crap, and you will have to really be interested in the story to continue.

Fun Factor – 9/15
The story in Xenogears is fun to watch unfold. Fighting via hand-to-hand combat is fun. Fighting in gears is not. Playing the 2nd disc is not. The fun factor here is a mixed bag.

Graphics – 4/15
Plainly put Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana 2 look better than Xenogears, as do most other SNES games. The characters look very pixilated and they actually hurt my eyes for the first 1-2 hours of gameplay. Xenogears has very few FMV’s. The FMV’s are done in Animi style, but they still look poorly done. Graphics in RPG’s are not at the top of the list of important qualities in my book, but I expect them to at least be painless to look at.

Music/Sound – 14/15
The music in Xenogears is my 2nd or 3rd favorite music in all the games I have played. The battle music is tolerable, which it had better be, and some tracks are really a joy to listen to. I don’t know the name of the track, but it is the most reoccurring theme in the game, and it is incredible. I think it plays whenever you are in Nisan or on the Yggdrasil, but I may be mistaken. There are other tracks that are good as well. The only problem is that past about 30 hours of gameplay there won’t be anymore new music, just the same old reoccurring tracks. It is obvious the music here is good, but it is also obvious that the creators didn’t create enough of it for a 60-70 hour game. By the 30th hour you will begin saying, “O man, not this track again”, or something to that extent. The sounds here are good. I really could care less about them.

Controls – 1/5
You are required to do precision jumps here and there, and if this is the case, than I expect better controls. The buttons are very unresponsive. You will attempt a jump, miss it because of crappy controls, then fall all the way back to the beginning where you must start over and are likely to repeat this process again. Sound like fun to you? Example: The Tower of Babel.

Replayability – (Bonus) 2/5
The game is very nonlinear in the first disc and just the opposite in the second. This game is very long, like 60-70 hours. So you may or may not want to play it again. To get a firm grasp on the story you will probably need to play through it again. But with the length of this game I could more-than-likely finish 1 ½ RPG’s with the time it takes to finish Xeno.

Conclusion – 77/100
Pros
- A very original and fascinating story.
- Very interesting characters that are developed very well throughout the course of the game.
- A fun, and at the time, unique combat system.
- Great music.

Cons
- Everything turns to crap at the start of the 2nd disc. I cannot stress this enough. EVERYTHING turns to crap.
- Fighting in gears is repetitive and boring
- Fighting 3-4 bosses in a row numerous times during the game is difficult and unfair if you cannot refuel/reheal in between.

I really liked this game before the first disc. I even considered it as the best RPG I have ever played; even better than Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI and VII. But when the 2nd disc arrived it destroyed all these thoughts. Xenogears would be better off as a book and not a game, thanks to the terrible gameplay and 2nd disc. Xenogears is a great game but it could have been better, much better. It had the potential to be perfect. But it isn’t.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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