Review by RAMS
Xenogears was released in 1998 by Square, which is easily associated with the Final Fantasy Series. If Chrono Trigger is the Square stand alone game in SNES that could compete with the Final Fantasy series in term of storyline, there aren't any doubts that Xenogears would be it's Playstation equivalent. Few would argue that Xenogears is a great RPG. It also explores a controversial issue - religion as highlighted by the various biblical references in this game.
Story and Characters 10/10
If I could give it any higher than 10, then I would. For me, Xenogears storyline would remain as the best storyline for an RPG. The complex and deep storyline is definitely the main selling point of this game. The game started with an anime style introduction. We saw the destruction of spaceship, and followed by the emergence of a woman in a desolate landscape. The story shifted to the present time. A man by the name of Fei Fong Wong was take to a peaceful town called Lahan by a mysterious man. Soon, a squadron of gears landed in Lahan. What follows is the destruction of Lahan.
Without spoiling any of the stories, Xenogears is one of the most complex and intriguing storyline that Square ever conceived. It explores various themes with religion being the main theme. Without a doubt, this makes Xenogears a controversial game, even bordering on blasphemy for some. Biblical references are plenty in this game. However, if you could tolerate this, there are no reasons why you won't enjoy this game. In addition to the religious theme, love also served as a significant side-story in this game. Personally, I would say that Square has done a great job in this aspect of the game. The story does not go overbroad, and it able to evoke the emotions.
Like its storyline, Xenogears also provides a myriad of complex characters. Most of the main characters do not appear to be two dimensional, and the game has done well to bring out the unique characteristics in the main characters. Even the villains in this game are not there just for the sake of being there. These are clearly visible in these three characters : Ramsus, Grahf and Krelian. The game does not portray these characters as some evil, cold-hearted villain, but it gives motivations behind their characters and actions (Sephiroth). Another great job here by Square, as these characters definitely evoke sympathy as much as they evoke hate among the player.
While the graphics might not be the best for its times (it pales in comparison with FF VIII), Xenogear's graphics is still excellent. Some of the cutscenes could be breathtaking. Another aspect that makes Xenogears unique would be the use of anime style drawing in some of the fmv. This definitely sets it apart from other RPG. These FMV with anime style drawing could be found throughout the game. Even the opening and the ending movies are entirely done in this anime style. This usage of an anime style drawing is definitely a fresh approach to an RPG and sets Xenogears as different compared to other RPG.
Like many RPG, the basic gameplay of Xenogears is pretty much the same. You need to level up your characters by fighting enemies. There aren't really much to talk here, except the battle system. This is where Xenogears is unique. Unlike other RPG, Xenogears has two set of battle system. One for characters and one for gears. As the names imply, the former is used when you are battling using human characters, and the latter is used when you are battling your opponent in your gears. These two sets of different battle system certainly break the monotony of the stereotypical RPG battle system, and it adds flavor to the game.
For battle using human characters, you can have a maximum of three characters in your party. The basic attack consists of three buttons: The square, the triangle and the x button. These three buttons define the strength of an attack. (triangle for weak attack, square for medium attack and x for string attack). These moves could be string together for a combo. In addition to that, there are also special abilities differing in each character.
The basic concept of the battle system for gears is pretty much the same. You still have your three buttons for different strength of attack. However, each attack while you are using your gears will cost you a fuel. In addition to gears special abilities, you also have the "charge" command that allow you to refuel your gear. Another fundamental difference that exists would be the fact that when you battle in gears, your equipment will determine your gear stats instead of your characters' levels.
Despite this pretty innovative way of battling, Xenogears does have a flaw when it comes to gameplay (Depending on how you see it). Disc 2 might not be the usual RPG player idea of how an RPG should looks like. The disc is done in narrative style almost in its entirety barring for the final dungeon as well as the occasional quests that you have to complete. There aren't any explanations whether Square has done this intentionally (rumor has it that a last minute budget cuts resulted in a shorter version of disc 2). In any case, the lack of real gameplay in disc 2 could be intriguing for some. However, without taking anything from Xenogears disc 2 is still great in terms of storyline.
Over the years, Squaresoft games have been well known for their well-orchestrated music. Xenogears follows that long time tradition. Xenogears has brought another set of great music for all RPG fans. Like in many RPG, there are different ranges of music in this game, from the upbeat tune to the slower and more emotional tune. The music has also played a part effectively to build the right ambience. Some unforgettable music such as the upbeat Shevat theme or June Mermaid will go down as one of the most memorable Video Games music in the years to come.
Nothing can deny that Xenogears is a great game. It ranks up there with the finest of RPGs. Personally, Xenogears is in my top three list of games. (would be number one if not for the "incomplete" Disc 2). If you have never played it, and you called yourself an RPG fan, you should definitely try it. This is especially true if you play RPG for its storyline; Xenogears is the perfect game for you.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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