Jan 3, 2012

Looking back on Xenogears. That's right! I'm a coward!

Xenogears, the cult-favorite Squaresoft RPG that challenged a lot of stuff... Religion, good voice acting,Classic RPG conventions... Yup, Xenogears challenged them all while standing tall...

But before going deep in the whole ratings thing, let's discuss Xenogears a bit.

Xenogears was released in 1998, around the same year as Konami's Metal Gear Solid. Why is this important? Well, MGS set the standard for Videogame Voice Acting. Xenogears, well... of the few KNOWN VAs from the game 2 are pretty well known and the other 2 have some moderate to high following, but the performances are well, wooden. But I'll get into it later. Call this a not-so subtle foreshadowing.

OK Xenogears was one of the Games Square released between two Final Fantasy games (Between FFVII and FFVIII) and back then Final Fantasies got all the attention and the other games, well... they had some attention, but not as much as a Final Fantasy game.

Now Xenogears was an ambitious little project from parts of the Crono Trigger Team. It was a 6 Episode Adventure that followed the life of multiple men across various generations in the far future. So it's a Sci-Fi, space Opera type of thing meets classic fantasy type of world... a Mix of High Tech and old-school Fantasy... (Knowing my love for MOTU, that aspect drew me in.) Also at the same time it's a little bit like Neon Genesis Evangelion (with it's Religious not so subtle subtext, psychologically messed up characters) so it's a WIN-WIN. Heck even the second disc goes in a final NGEVA Episodes messed up somewhat "lazy" or "rushed" style of storytelling.

(The whole Characters sitting on a chair while the screen tells us the story instead of letting us play it) Some say it was due to the game going overbudget, others that resources from XG were redirected towards Final Fantasy VIII. Another thing that attracts people is the battle system.

The whole variety of attacks by using different button combinations is rather nifty, compared to just choosing attack. (While the video shows more focus on the dial-a-combos called Deathblows in the game, you CAN do different attacks.)

Also the gears (as the Giant Mecha are known here.) have a combat mode similar to the characters. While they cannot do multiple attacks on a turn (unless they have a Combo Level) it works in a similar manner. 3 attack buttons.

Now I should get on with the whole in-depth review and stuff.

Music and Sounds:

The Music of this game is AMAZING! I dare say that the Music is the BEST PART of the whole game.

The voice acting on the other hand, is a bit wooden. Which is surprising with folks like Cam Clarke and Brian Tochi being two main characters storywise. Note: Both of them have been Leonardo from TMNT…

This is one of the worst synchronized scenes, but it’s one of the least wooden voice acting from the game. (also it’s the least spoilerrific) I blame the one directing the VAs and the translators.

Now if this score was Music alone it would get a 10 out of 10, but the voice acting knocks it down a few pegs:


It starts very Sci-Fi and outer spacey and all that, but when the gameplay begins we’re on a kinda steampunk/medieval village. It then shoves the Gears into this peaceful setting and the plot moves forward. Fei, the main character you control most of the time is thrown into what seems like a normal, Kid vs. Evil Empire overused plot, then it flips on itself and beats you up with Judeo-Christian references and themes, while messing up with some character’s minds. We get to see glimpses of previous events (some are 500 years old, others are far older) but in the end most of the current events can be blamed to 2 Leonardos falling in love with the Referee from Nickelodeon’s Guts… If I wanna be a smart-ass about it.
I'd say an 8/10 due to parts of disc 2 where I was TOLD the story instead of being allowed to play it.


Well the game is from 1998 and from the first Playstation, we can't expect State of the Art graphics of 2012 here. For it's time it had OK Graphics, most of the problem was on the extremely low-res sprites used for the characters that made them look very pixelated at times.
I'd say about a 6/10


As I stated before, the Battles work with 3 attack buttons and depending on what combinations are used you can either chain various normal attacks depending on the amount of Ability Points available and which attacks are used. (Weak attack is worth one AP, Medium attack is worth 2 and strong Attack is worth 3) The gear battles are a bit different since you can only use one attack per turn (unless you have Combos available) and your attacks use fuel. (No fuel, no attack) so you can’t spam your strong attacks… until you get parts that let you recharge your fuel gauge.

Outside of battle, the world is 3D while the characters are 2D sprites. The camera does rotate which helps a bit. On some places the rotation is limited, but almost everywhere you can rotate it 360 degrees.
Why all this stuff on the towns and dungeons? Platforming Elements. Love them or hate them, they’re here on Xenogears. After XG, you MIGHT hate platforming elements. There’s a Real Time One-on-one Fighting mini-game, there’s a Rock, Paper, Scissors mini-game and a game of Speed. Most of these are side-quests, but the One-on-one Fighter is part of the story.

The controls are a bit awkward at first, especially jumping with theTriangle button. On the one-on-one fighting mini game, the controls are not that responsive and feel a tad sluggish.

I'd have to give it a 7/10

Fun Factor:

The game is NOT bad, but it suffers from bad aging... I wanna make a joke about Lindsay Lohan's bad aging to compare with Xenogears, but I dunno who would be more insulted. While the story is not for all, (It's a love it or hate it deal.) have to deal with tedious grinding at times, awkward/frustrating platforming segments, wooden voice acting; I have to say that the game is entertaining, to me. I actually prefer it to the "pseudo knockoff/Prequel" series made by part of the Xenogears Team at Namco (Xenosaga). Honest opinion, a 7/10 There are a few areas where I wish they weren't in it so I wouldn't have to replay them (Babel Tower, Nortune come to mind) but I enjoy the rest of the game so, I'll deal with them.

Now for the overall Xeno Score:
7/10 The Score may be a bit biased due to my love of this game, but as they say: "your mileage may vary". It has not aged well for a 14 year old game Heck even FFVII makes a reference to it:

BTW The Playstation Version says Zenogias instead of Xenogears... Probably a mistranslation...

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