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Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 91% (based on 23 ratings)
Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 96 ratings with 5 reviews)
Xenogears became famous for its enormously complex story that tried to deal with deep psychological and religious issues.
The game's main hero is Fei, an orphan who was found abandoned in a village. Most of the time you control Fei or his party (whose members change all the time). Fei will start his journey once he is chased away from the village, but soon he will find himself involved in a war between two kingdoms. This is, however, just the beginning of an incredibly complicated plot that outdoes pretty much everything I've seen before in Japanese RPGs or any other kind of video games.
The amount of psychological, social, ethical, and religious problems raised by Xenogears has few, if any, parallels within the medium. The gradual, relentless development of the story is singularly impressive, and the amount of plot twists mind-boggling. The story starts as a more or less conventional tale about war, but what grows out of this is a remarkable (though not necessarily successful) attempt to analyze the nature of faith and religion, trace back the origin of mankind, and face unanswered questions.
The game has an overwhelming amount of characters, each with a well-developed background and importance to the plot. The smaller quests - personal stories of the characters - are organically woven into the main plot, and every character brings with him a piece to the puzzle that will be solved only at the end of the game. Fei is easily one of the most complex video game characters ever, and most of the supporting characters are interesting, colorful, and varied.
The one interesting aspect of the gameplay is gear combat, where your characters fight while piloting large mechs. Nearly a half (or perhaps more) of the game's dungeons can be accessed only with gears. Gear combat doesn't work the same way as hand-to-hand battles and requires different tactics. Your gigantic armored suits can't level up, and you upgrade them only in shops or at certain points of the game. They also lose fuel each time they attack. Gear combat can therefore get quite tricky, especially during the last portion of the game and the final battles, where fuel is precious and you have to think about preserving it all the time.
Unfortunately, Xenogears is just not that good of a game. It is a classic example of a late-nineties Japanese RPG where plot matters more than gameplay. The creators of the game crammed huge amounts of cartoony plot twists and uninspired dialogue into the game, but forgot about what matters most.
For starters, the game's system is nowhere as flexible as in Final Fantasy games. Characters have neither pronounced class traits nor allow any kind of free-form customization; they automatically learn some fairly meaningless spells when they level up, and that's it. They can execute and store combo moves, but this never surpasses the level of a harmless gimmick because no tactical thinking is required: the game is too easy. On-foot combat is generally utterly forgettable, not in the least due to its disproportionally low difficulty; gear battles are a bit better, especially in the later stages. But overall, there is almost no challenge in the game.
In fact, it seems that combat system and much of the gameplay were added to the game as an afterthought, to accompany its monstrous story rather than the other way around. The game masks its linearity fairly well during the first half of the game, where you explore large areas and where setpieces are varied and progression is dynamic. It all, however, goes downhill in the second half - which is where Final Fantasies usually open up and provide optional areas and access to secrets. Sadly, there is way too little of that in Xenogears, and it comes too late, just before the final confrontation. The rest of the second disc consists of long text blocks unabashedly summarizing events that should have been shown through gameplay, interspersed with streamlined dungeon romps in a most weirdly artificial, disjointed fashion. The game is generally fond of lengthy cutscenes done with the engine, with little cinematic handling and plenty of averagely translated, overly verbose exchanges between characters. Only very few cutscenes are presented as anime-style movies, and they are very short.
Finally, the ambitious story of Xenogears is not all good. First of all, like with most anime-influenced narratives, one should take it cum grano salis. An example is the determination of the Japanese to include "cute" characters in every story. Personally, I didn't "hate" Chu-Chu as much as many other people seem to have; but I can understand how annoying such characters and similar instances can be for someone who expects serious treatment of very risky material. Unfortunately, said material is often handled with irksome nonchalance. Biblical topics are being thrown around with next to no coherence, and the developers' comprehension of religions is revealed as roughly matching the ravings of a confused adolescent who has just discovered the romance of mythologized philosophy from a book written by a nineteen-century amateur. Basically, it's all a giant mess, albeit one the writers clearly tried to infuse with creativity.
The Bottom Line
In the end, Xenogears is an overblown, messy game that treats its own gameplay with unjustified negligence, and collapses under the enormous dead weight of its freakish narrative. The storytelling megalomania of the game's creators cannot compensate for its lackluster and chunky gameplay.
PlayStation · by Unicorn Lynx (181794) · 2016
Xenogears is truly an incredible experience, and much of it comes thanks to the fact that it is a very experimental, chance-taking game. Riding hot on the success of FF7, Square took a big chance and released a very atypical rpg with the knowledge that even if it bombed due to it's weird graphics, complex and philosophical story, etc, etc. FF8 would redeem it since it was tailor-made to please the masses. I really don't know if Xenogears was a commercial success or not, but I do know that it is one Square's greatest games.
The game takes place in a fantasy world (which is, in turn, surprisingly similar to ours) where two powerful nations are at war with powerful mechs named Gears, and secret organizations move all sort of strings from the shadows. Suddenly the war will reach an innocent village, home to an orphan named Fei, and when said village becomes attacked, the naive Fei will take control of a Gear and in a sudden release of power, destroy his enemies, the village, and everyone he loves in it. That small confrontation will be the stepping stone to one of the most complex and ground breaking stories I've ever encountered in a game, as Fei leaves the remains of his village in a self-imposed exile, he'll become entangled in the war that is brewing and find out that his release of power wasn't all that accidental. He'll eventually join a revolutionary movement and discover that the war is secretly being motivated by a shadowy nation whose objectives will grow to be larger than the typical "world domination" scheme and actually include human evolution and very deep religious and philosophical affairs. And if you think you have seen that before you are right, the game is heavily inspired by that masterpiece of animation known as Evangelion. But Xenogears, free of the constraints that a tv show has, is able to go the extra mile and pose all sorts of questions regarding life, religion, and our own identities. But perhaps the finest achievement in Xenogears is the way the story is presented, instead of marching proudly to accomplish an objective or perform a specific task, the plot is revealed in layers and layers that transcends each other, the patented Square "complex hero" plotline reveals a deeper dilemma when all reality is shattered and exposed as a lie, after which you find yourself confronting god itself (if it can be called that) and the source of all creation... and after which you come full circle in a... well, let's leave that as a surprise ;)
The graphics in the game are also very rare, instead of CGI cutscenes Square used traditional cel-animated ones, and for the in-game graphics they used a mix of 3D backgrounds and objects, with 2D characters! That's right, I told ya this game took chances and none are more evident than the graphics. Plus instead of going the super-realistic route, the characters are rendered in the traditional "Super Deformed" way that make them look like they were ripped right out of a Snes, given a technical workout, and placed in a fully 3D world. You may ask how can I include such an unholy union in the "good" part, and that is simply because it gives the game a unique and excellent style that no other has. It takes the subtleties that only simpler art can give you and the freedom of exploration that a 3D environment give to make one stunning game world.
Also interestingly inventive is the game system, which includes some platform-game touches (tough don't worry... or actually do! [read "the bad"]) and features a fighting game-like fighting system. Fights are turn based, and can be on Gears or mano-a-mano, but instead of being handled over a buttload of menus, they are controlled by your pad's buttons: press X and you execute a hard blow, press O and you do a kick, etc. with your only limitation being a series of Action Points. As your character goes up in levels you'll be able to execute "special moves" by pressing sequences of buttons and even unleash combos by not attacking and storing those APs. Once again this system works perfectly with the game and seems like a breath of fresh air by cutting out the hassle and enhancing the action for each encounter.
Well for starters some of the stuff in the game are, due to their experimental nature, love-or-hate. I loved the graphics and the arcade-like battle system, but I'm aware that some of you will grow to hate them (especially the graphics), ahh...what can you do...
The only big gripe I've got with the game is that it is completely linear in nature, even for a console rpg! Save for some secret items and the choice to finish the game with merely a competent cast or with every character at level 1.000.000 there's not much you can do. There's one BIG (and I do mean BIG) side-plot that explains some stuff, but all there is to do is obligatory, so there's no "buttloads of secrets" in this one like on the FFs. Also, for as chance-taking as the storyline is, there are unfortunately quite a bit of the Square-touches (cue in the patented flying ship, the cutey character, the "big-strong-character-that-is-menacing-but-really-has-a-heart-of-gold", the hidden traumas for the main character, etc. etc. etc...) not enough to detract from the experience, but enough to make you think "Couldn't they leave those things out at least ONCE??!".
The other big gripe I've got is with the platform touches, they include some stupid jumping puzzles and obstacle avoiding, I said don't worry because unlike other console rpg's (hello Nintendo!) they are few and far between, but this is also bad because it means that when you get to them you'll be ill prepared and get incredibly frustrated as you fall, get killed, etc.
Lest I forget, the dubbing is HORRIBLE! I hear this is not Electronics Arts fault since the animation wasn't even done for Japanese dialogue in the beginning, but still... the mouths keep moving for up to 5 seconds after the dialogue has ended!!
The Bottom Line
A very odd console rpg that holds one of the most complex and well constructed stories ever to grace a computer game. I usually tend to think of this one as FF7.5, but it is actually a great game in its own right. Despite it's few flaws (which were something to expect in a game that is really one big experiment) it is quite simply a game that is too good to be true. If only Square dedicated to take chances more often instead of trying to keep making "hip" pseudo rpgs...
PlayStation · by Zovni (10503) · 2001
You know those games. Games, that don't require you to save the world, don't feature outlandish mixes of fantasy and sci-fi, short on exposition and usually dealing with "relationship" problems and personal dramas. These games can be adequately described as chamber games, taking cues from filmmaking and classical music. Do you like the sound of it? Well, suck it up, pal. Because, Xenogears, is the exact opposite of the game I described above. It's 100% concentrated epic. Hell, if you ever wanted to define "epic" in a single word, Xenogears is the word to go for. This game is grand, it plays with titans and gods, Freudian psychoanalysis, organized religion and Jungian philosophy. It doesn't shy away from destroying nations and exploring the genesis of life itself. It's an enormous leviathan, filled with delusions of grandeur and megalomania. It's monumental and relentless on its mission to explode your brain from within, with hundreds of plotlines, dozens of twists, numerous characters and the whole library worth of backstory, shifting gears (no pun intended) far beyond the capacities of any reasonable gearbox. And it also has giant robots and a cutesy sidekick animal that says "chu" instead of "to" or "too".
You can immediately tell its a Japanese game. The maxim of making everything either as cool as possible, or as grand as possible or as saturated as possible is in full play here. However, there is also aplenty of stuff that really separates the game from other <moby>SquareSoft</moby> RPGs. The most important difference here, is that story is the ultimate boss, not a single character can be named a protagonist, even Fei - the character you play with most of the time is but another thread in weaving the tapestry of Xenogears story. Leave your emotional problems upon entry, nobody cares if your father didn't appreciate for what you were, nobody cares if you can't express your feelings adequately, here people play with gods and demons, far beyond the petty problems of mere mortals.
In the end, it's definitely cool, that moving at a breakneck pace, in effort to tell its grand story, the game forgets the half of its cast on the sidewalk, once they've served their function as many cogs moving the story of Xenogears forward. Including an obligatory cutesy animal, thankfully. No time for comic relief, we have a powerful story of majestic proportions to tell! Actually, there is rarely time for anything. Thinking about it now, it seems that the game pace moved with the speed of light, changing major players, motivations and identities every two minutes or so. Which is rather impressive, for despite its length, neither part of the game's narrative feels dispensable. Something happens all the time, the development of plot never stops. And it's nothing but commendable, in light of many jRPGs, artificially prolonging their narratives, just to put a bullet point about 100+ hours of story and gameplay.
About gameplay. It's hilarious how immersed the creators have become in their story, that they often forget that its actually a game, and that the player is also expected, by definition, to do... stuff. It feels like they've hired someone specifically for the purpose of entering the busy room of developers team once in a while, and saying "Are you working on gameplay portions?" followed by the disgruntled sighs "Oh, yeah... totally forgot about that. Let's put a boss fight here... or something". Not to say that the gameplay isn't without its share of imagination. It's part generic jRPG fare, with random battles and grinding, part a fighting game with combos and special moves. Once a selection of moves has been learned, one can employ those abilities while fighting in giant robots or, as they called them in the game, gears. Unfortunately, the game doesn't really have time to explore this promising system at any significant depth, for the reasons mentioned above. Thankfully, the gameplay portion of this visual novel is never a nuisance, the game is very easy. Every single boss requires only but a few strategically placed kicks in the nuts to get out of your way.
Another thing worthy of praise is the game's presentation. It's basically a Playstation game with SNES sensibilities. No need for fancy 3D model, if a lushly animated sprite will do the trick. And looking at the horrible simplicity of character models in <moby>Final Fantasy VII</moby>, I think it was a correct choice. The environment is in full 3D, however, removing much of the annoyance of pixel hunting in the prerendered stills of Xenogears bigger and more popular <moby game="Fina Fantasy VII">sistergame</moby>. The design is also great. Especially the interiors. Little cups, pots, pictures, sinks, stoves are painstakingly detailed with warm light flooding the room through the open window, evoking the first moments of <moby>Chrono Trigger</moby>, the game featuring the same level of detail. Another similarity with <moby>Chrono Trigger</moby> is Xenogears score. While not exactly well-versed in Japanese game composers, I have still unmistakably identified the author of Xenogears music, by his style and touch alone.
Robots are cool too. I'm not a mecha fan, but I definitely enjoyed the introduction of every new gear, and always looked forward to trying them out in battle. <br><br>**The Bad**<br>The major problem is the one I've already mentioned. While I don't mind long cutscenes to munch popcorn (I hate popcorn, btw) to, I do become easily annoyed when I'm asked to hit a confirmation button every time someone finished a sentence, or even performed the infamous Japanese art of dots pronouncing i.e. ".....", ".....!", ".......!??!", and my all time favourite "!!!......!?..I..?". No idea what those are supposed to mean.
No to say that substituting dots with actual words makes sentences any better. While on macrolevel, the narrative of Xenogears is incredibly complex, entangled and rich, on microlevel of words, sentences and phraseological units, its rather dull and pedestrian. A sin shared with many other jRPGs, so no big deal, if you're used to this strain of Japanese/American teenage anime talk.
Another point I would like to make deals with the fact, that the game is unfinished, and obviously was rushed towards the release by the forces unknown to me. The 2nd disc is a good indicator of that. Having lost the support, money or time, but not willing to sacrifice the original story plan, the developers chose to present the rest of its grandiose storyline with walls of text backgrounded by a handful of still frames. Obviously, the game suffered as a result. The already fast pace nearly skyrocketed, with events happening so fast, that its beyond human abilities to keep up. Side plot lines like those of Rico's claim to royalty, or the relationship between Bart and Sig are also never explored, let alone resolved, the same with many other characters arcs like Billy's, Emeralda's etc.
And lastly, although it isn't really fair to criticize the game for being what it is, I can't help but feel, that perhaps Xenogears does take itself too seriously. Don't get me wrong, I did dig all the Biblical stuff, and as I said in oneliner, it definitely is a much more enjoyable piece of work than Bible, now that it has giant bipedal robots, and god is nothing but a... nah, won't spoil it. But really, sometimes, it does go a bit too self-conscious with its epic madness of a story. And given the amount of symbolism it carries over from religion, philosophy and psychology, it wouldn't have hurt to be, I dunno, more playful with it. Mirroring the crucifixion scene at Golgotha, with Jesus substituted with a giant mech is an example of that. And, unfortunately, it never gets any wilder that that.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that if you never experienced even a faint interest in the genre of jRPG, Xenogears won't sway you over. If, however, like me, you are equally mesmerized by them as you are frustrated by their deficiencies, Xenogears is a gem. It's a game, which couldn't have been made outside Japan. It's a grand, awe inspiring and a genuinely deep adventure, with no equivalent to be found in miles. It's better than any Final Fantasy and it's one of my favourite jRPGs ever.
Basically, if there ever was a way to convincingly marry Jesus and Freud in a ceremony involving giant walking robots and flying submarines - this is it.
PlayStation · by St. Martyne (3648) · 2009
There is a lot I wanted to like about Xenogears, and while I thought it was a hugely idiotic game, there was still quite a bit lying around that at least made some of the game worth putting sixty hours into.
Around the time the game came out, console RPGs were going under a graphics trend involving 3D characters on prerendered two-dimensional backdrops. I appreciate that this game does the exact opposite: 2D characters on 3D terrain. It not only makes this game stand out, graphics-wise from the rest, but it also works very well and looks fantastic. Especially with a Playstation 2's "smooth textures" option, which blurs the sprites so that they don't appear quite as pixelated during close-ups.
Like a long, complex, deep story? Xenogears has probably the deepest story I've seen in a console RPG. Throughout this two-disc adventure it seems that every fifteen minutes you uncover a new layer, a new plot twist, a new side of Fei. The story dives so far under these layers you might want to keep a notepad handy to keep track of everything going on.
There are two modes of combat: with a Gear and without. Outside of a gear you fight using weapons and martial arts and can string together combos and such, and inside a gear you have to manage your status and fuel consumption. While I thought both modes were very lacking, I still enjoyed having to adapt to two distinct fighting environments to survive.
Unfortunately, it seemed that for every great idea this game had, there was something there just made to counter it. As I said, this game's storyline is long and complex and very, very deep. But rather than immersive and exciting, I found it to be convoluted and annoying. The storyline itself is very good, but the execution and presentation of it make it far too annoying to enjoy.
This game has hands-down the most stupid and annoying dialogue I've ever seen in any game. It almost seems as though it's just a really, really poor translation. Awkward grammar, misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and more "..." per conversation than any game I've ever played. Here's a pretty good example of what 99% of the dialogue in the game looks like:
Elly: "...?! ...What's wrong, Fei?!"
Fei: "...What? ...Nothing?!"
Fei: "...I'll be okay?! ..."
Now, I just made that up...I'm pretty sure. But that exact conversation is not unlikely to have been found in the game somewhere. Having to sit through that kind of crap made whatever story this game had to give almost unbearable. I wanted to like the characters, but I just hated them instead. Or rather, I hated the people who wrote the damn dialogue.
If you can get past the bullshit dialogue, sometimes the characters are almost worth their presence, but then you realize that this game consists entirely of cliched characters. Characters such as the nerd, the rebellious royal youth, the annoying kid, the shy, deep main character, the large, detached mean introvert who has a soft side to him although he'd never admit it, the mad angry villain who wants to rule the world for no real reason...and the list goes on. As I said, sometimes the characters have...something in them that really shines through. But those instances are a rare occurrence.
Having to play through the game utilizing two different methods of combat was a neat thing, but I really wish they'd have just left Gear combat out of the game altogether, or just changed it to something better. Unlike normal combat, which is flawed but still fun to do, Gear combat consists mostly of making sure you don't run out of fuel. The fights in Gears are never hard, unless you run out of gas, in which they're still not very hard but they're more annoying. Combat on the ground is fun, and the sprites are great to see kick each other around, but about a half hour into the game you get pretty much the most powerful combos you're going to get and there's no reason NOT to use these combos. You can stack up some points by not using these combos and then executing a really long combo, but do the math and you'll see that you'd be doing just as much damage by doing the combos as you would by saving up combo points, and you'll probably get hurt less too.
The game has a pretty deep story for you to experience, but be prepared to grab a walkthru or something before you play this game. There's almost never a clear indication of where you're supposed to go next. Sometimes, the only clue you're given is "make yourself at home" and the plot WILL NOT advance any further until you've spoken to one specific character in some specific area, and there may be a hundred different characters in twenty different areas for you to talk to, and there is no clue for whom you're supposed to meet! If I put sixty hours into the game, I'd say at least twenty were spent wandering around talking to every single person and sitting through line after line after line of increasingly stupid dialogue until I finally found that one guy - who, by the way, may not have had any importance at all as far as the story goes! - that allowed the plot to go a little further until the next vague "why don't you make yourself at home" mission. In one particular part of the game, the plot doesn't advance until you've spoken to EVERYBODY in a certain area. That's like thirty people. AND it does not indicate that this is what you're supposed to do! As a rule, I only use a walkthru as a very last resort, but having spent two hours in the same fucking area I finally looked it up and found, hey, you have to talk to EVERYBODY and I missed one or two people during my frustrating need to advance the story.
There are areas in the game where encounters come at an insane rate. I can't remember many battles, save for boss battles, being very hard, but it's just throw-your-controller-against-the-wall annoying when you can get from Point A to Point B because you get an encounter every two seconds.
The Bottom Line
Looking back at this game, I think I could have enjoyed it if they had just made a few changes. Rewrite the entire damn dialogue (or shorten it by about sixty thousand lines by getting rid of all instances of "..."), and make a clear indication of who you have to speak to next, and I think I could have really enjoyed the game. Sure, it would have been flawed, but at least it would have been bearable.
Xenogears has a deep story, a lot of interesting characters, a unique graphics style and two unique modes of combat. Unfortunately, the dialogue is horrible, the quests are frustrating, the characters taken from the Big Book of Cliches...
Oh, there's something there. But it's buried under a mountain of frustration.
PlayStation · by kbmb (415) · 2004
Xenogears is another one of those RPGs that's coveted by a dedicated fanbase and/or hardcore RPG players but is met with either disdain or dislike by everyone else. Coming out in an era when Squaresoft tried to sort of recreate its image through the kinds of themes present in their games, Xenogears is another sci-fi fantasy RPG, combining elements of advanced technology, religious and psychoanalytical philosophy, and to some extent, magic. And as with many Squaresoft RPGs, the game's strong point is its plot. Xenogears tells the story of Fei, who after "accidentally" laying waste to what he thinks is his home village, goes off on a journey to find his place in life. But what starts off as a cliche quest for soul searching turns into an epic tale of several millennia of human progress on a distant Earth, and a battle for the ultimate fate of those humans. And if that's not for you, you also get to duke it out in giant mechs called Gears. And who doesn't like giants robots, eh?
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading the previous section of this review because frankly, that's all the good stuff I could say about this game. While the concept of this game's story seems brilliant, it is executed in a dull and slow-paced fashion. I honestly have no idea how Squaresoft thought they could stuff this much plot into a two disc RPG without it gobbling up hours of gameplay time, but they certainly didn't do a very good job of it. The amount of text-based cutscenes in this game is just ridiculous. And with the dialogue already being quite poorly written, I found it irritating having to sit through them. And the amount of these scenes just increased as the game went on, with disc two being almost completely comprised of them.
But forget plot and presentation for a minute and digress to a much more important aspect of a video game: the gameplay. This is probably the biggest source of boredom and frustration in this game. The battle system seems fun and different initially, but becomes extremely boring and repetitive as the game goes on. Rarely do you do anything more in a battle than heal your party and use characters' best Death Blows. Oh sure, there are Ether spells in this game, but most of them are just there for show and are borderline useless in most situations. In-Gear battles are a bit better since you actually have to take fuel consumption into account and have Special Options and the Booster feature to use, but don't feel as fun as they should. What also bothers me is how ridiculously easy all the battles in this game are, but I guess that's there to counter the relentless encounter rate in this game.
That leads me to the topic of dungeons and cities. Most of the locales in this game are pretty boring. The NPCs don't say anything interesting, and there's little more to do than to shop and find some way to progress the plot. Okay, maybe one or two towns DO offer a mini-game for you mess around with, but they're hardly worth your time. The dungeons in this game are quite tedious and poorly designed. In a lot of them, all the rooms look the same, and while I could forgive this in an 8-bit or 16-bit RPGs which have a static overhead view, in Xenogears you're often forced to rotate your camera within dungeons to know where to go, which quickly makes you lose your sense of direction since only two dungeons in the game actually have maps, and you're forced to figure out where to go by yourself. Combine that with sloppy platforming elements, annoying puzzles, and a high random battle encounter rate and you the perfect recipe for gamer rage.
One last complaint I have about this game is a lack of any interesting side quests or dungeons. I know a few bonus areas open up near the end of the game, but only one of them is actually somewhat pertinent to the plot and offers something useful inside it. The rest are just plain stupid and pointless.
The Bottom Line
Xenogears is one of those games that you either love, hate, or don't care about whatsoever. It is an unconventional RPG that tried to set itself apart which a complex plot and unique gameplay elements which honestly didn't impress me. The dungeons and towns are boring, the battle system is underdeveloped, and there are just way too many cutscenes. If you like to play games just for the plot, then you will probably thoroughly enjoy this game, but if you like RPGs with lots of fun side quests, interesting dungeons, and a good battle system, then look elsewhere.
PlayStation · by Idkbutlike2 (18) · 2011