- Xenogears -
-= Overview =-
Xenogears is one of the most interesting games I have ever played. I began liking it, then hating it, then I liked it again. It was definitely not the best game or RPG I have ever played, but was a very enjoyable experience. The game is about a mysterious guy who gets exiled from his town, and meets a mysterious woman. He finds out that what little he knew about himself is only part of a giant ball of yarn he must unravel. He discovers, with the help of several other characters, that the world is not what everyone thought, and the one they call God may not be what he seems. Intertwined with this is a love story which goes back countless ages, and becomes the focus of the story. Is there a good game behind this expansive plot? Yeah, but I don't think it's as good as we make it out to be.
-= Story =-
: Rating :
This is probably where I most disagree with the mainstream audience. The plot of Xenogears is so elaborate, it often got confusing when I played it. Thankfully, most of the unanswered questions I had eventually did get answered.
The fact that the plot is so expansive is a double-edged sword. The game's story, on one hand, draws you in. It keeps you playing, wanting answers to your questions, and at the same time getting more questions to wonder about. Even at the very end you will still find yourself waiting in suspense.
Is it all worth it though? No, I don't think it is. The whole plot is very much like the X-Files, where what is around us is not really from God, but rather from somewhere else (I won't spoil it). The plot is very clever, but really does not have a purpose to it beyond entertainment. There is also, of course, the love story. It takes pretty long to really get developed, and frankly is nothing special. The game ends almost the exact same way that another game I played did, and the game's ending itself just did not really affect me. After all the elaborate plot, it never seemed to really make a point.
Another gripe I had with the plot is that it's pace was not consistent. The entire second disc went really fast. The first part came in scenes, some in which you did not even participate. Not to say that the game was too short. No, it was quite long actually, and it seemed like the game would have been about 80 hrs if the second disc had not been cut down. This gave the game an uneven feel, which was even more exemplified with unneeded parts of the plot, and unneeded characters. The game went very in depth everywhere, but some parts just were unrelated to the plot, and just added to the length of the game.
Overall, the story of Xenogears was very elaborate and drawing, but could have used a lot of re-working to make it more even and focused.
-= Gameplay =-
: Rating :
Xenogears' gameplay was probably its worst point. It seemed on the surface to be excellent, but when examined closely, had serious flaws. First of all, there's the battle system. It uses 3 strengths of attacks, and button combinations to execute DeathBlow moves. This seems very clever, but it really is not as great as it sounds. Each strength has drawbacks, and choosing which one to use does not involve as much strategy as it would seem. The DeathBlows themselves are a pain to learn, and you can't learn and use them at the same time. In addition, the only major differences between DeathBlows are their animations, and choosing one over another does not really mean much. You also get the option to string several DB's together, but doing these means skipping turns, making one ask why he did not just use those turns to attack in the first place. The whole thing is very elaborate, but just amounts to what order you want to do your damage in. There really is no strategy to it most of the time.
The battle system also has a magic system. Each character has a different set of magic commands, but many do the same thing. While pretty, magic in Xenogears is very useless. Magic attack spells almost always do less damage than attacks do, and many of the magic spells are downright useless.
Finally, there is the system of gear battling. This part is very clever, and there are real advantages to different attacks (fuel is a factor in gear battles). As you attack, you build up attack levels, and the more you wait, the better an attack you can do. It foces you to manage fuel, and choose your parts and weapons carefully, making this aspect of the game a plus.
Outside of battle, Xenogears is a pretty good game. The navigation is good, in 3D, and so are the controls, with the exception of no Analog support. The only real bad aspect of it is the slow text speed, which makes some scenes annoying.
Xenogears' gameplay is overall good, but held down by the poorly executed main battle engine, which seems very clever, but is ultimately a joke.
-= Music & Sound Effects =-
: Rating :
The music of Xenogears was pretty good. It took me to realize it, however, because the music was extremely repetitive. You will hear certain songs in at least 10 different situations. This gets very annoying, especially with songs like the battle theme, which sounds like a slowed down version of another song, and is very irritating after a while. If you can get past these irritations, you'll find that Xenogears has pretty good music, that you will definitely remember. The sound effects were pretty standard, some a bit overused, but sounded overall good.
-= Graphics =-
: Rating :
Xenogears does have pretty good graphics. While the characters themselves are 2D sprites, the game is done in navigable 3D, with 4 viewpoints. This works out pretty well. Battles are also a combination of 2D and 3D, but characters often look pixellated on zoom-ins. My biggest complaint was the camera angles. The battles take place in a 2D plane, usually, much like the old FF games. Gear battles and certain attacks cause some 3D rotation, but each attack is limited to one camera angle. One of the things I liked in FF VII and VIII was that spells and Limits had different angles from which they were viewed, and aditionally the camera movement could be turned off. In Xenogears, attacks only have one camera angle, which is a minus for me.
The movie in Xenogears was anime and some 3D animation. Both were well done. However, the movies were used without balance. In the beginning of the game, there were a lot of movies, and toward the middle and end, they seemed randomly placed. This seemed inconsistent to me, and I think that the game's structure could have used rearranging, expecially in that area. I think the graphics of Xenogears were quite original, but poorly executed.
-= Fun =-
: Rating :
I think a lot of the reason people liked FF VI was its outlanishness. It really was quite elaborate, but had no main point to it. This is also present in Xenogears. It has more focus, thankfully, but still lacks a main, novel-like, theme. The game's gameplay is at times fun, but gets repetitive, and you sometimes get sick of some of the same things over and over. The plot advancement sometimes takes a back seat to this, and this may be why the game seems so long. The game is overall pretty fun, and other than a lack of sidequests, provides a lot of adventure. It is a very memorable game, but I would be reluctant to re-play it.
-= Last Word =-
If you like a mix of new and old, buy this game. If you have a lot of time, buy this game. If you think you like outlandish plots, buy this game. And if you think you are a serious console RPG fan, definitely buy this game. But casual players and those who prefer games they can finish in a few weeks (playing a few hours a week) will find this game too long to keep track of. It's fun, but may be a bit too much for some.
Total Score: 84/100
(Sum of all categories x 4)