The standard by which I now judge role playing games.
Xenogears' greatest strength is by far it's story. Like a great book (Even to those who don't care much for literature) you have no choice, but to be drawn into it's world. It's mature, deep, has plot twists at every turn, and is perfect for people like myself, who love a good conspiracy. Now...the science community, and the religious communities have always been at odds, but Xenogears is the one time I can recall my favorite parts of science fiction (Giant robots, cloning, space, etc), and my favorite parts of religion (I'm an atheist, so I'm really just into the conspiracy theories involving religion, along with the many rumored ancient relics, and the hunt for them all) come together in true harmony. If you're into either subject or neither, just a fan of really good stories, you'll most likely love Xenogears.
I was tempted to classify Xenogears as "Revolutionary" instead of "Masterpiece," because I've come across very few RPGs that introduce as many new ideas as Xenogears has. Now normally, I, like many others find random battles in most RPGs to be a total drag. Not in Xenogears. I looked forward to them. Every character has a set of combos (Which are really nice-looking and pretty entertaining as well) and I enjoyed exploring the different button combinations to find them all. Gear battles are where the strategy comes into play though. Let me just get this out of the way now. I love giant robots. I've always loved them. I may not think much of the shows they're a part of (Aside from Neon Genesis Evangelion, which inspired Xenogears' creation), but I love them. In a gear battle, you have to keep an eye on your fuel. You have three physical attack options. A weak attack (Which is used by pressing the triangle button) only consumes about 10 fuel, a mid attack (Which is used by pressing the square button) consumes about 30 fuel, and a strong attack (Which is used by pressing the X button) consumes about 50 fuel. (Or maybe it's 10, 20, 30? I can't recall clearly. Either way though. You get the basic idea). Like a battles outside of your gear, you can also use an ether attack, which doesn't consume any fuel if I recall correctly. There's also a charge option, which restores a small amount of your fuel in exchange for giving up your turn. Outside of your gear, this option changes to defend which cuts down damage done by enemy attacks. Anyway...if you run out of fuel, you're essentially just an unusually cool-looking punching bag, so you better conserve your fuel. Like the combos in combat outside of your gear, you also have them inside of your gear, but to do them in a gear, you'll be forced to attack either once (To unlock a level one combo), twice (To unlock a level two combo), or three (To unlock a level three combo) times first. Obviously, combos consume a larger amount of fuel, but are well worth it. Outside of battle, guess what? Your character can actually jump and the camera isn't locked in one position like your typical Final Fantasy. Amazing, eh? So it's not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it's still pretty cool for a traditional RPG.
Like in some of my previous reviews of other games, I've mentioned that there are a handful of RPGs that I consider on another level as far as soundtracks go. Star Ocean: The Second Story, Final Fantasy VIII, Chrono Cross, and yes...Xenogears. Xenogears is probably tied at the top of that list with Final Fantasy VIII as the greatest soundtrack the genre has ever produced. Yasunori Mitsuda (No. I'm not one of those nerds who always memorizes every game designer's name in hopes of one day getting their autograph) is a music genius. Xenogears has a variety of great music that fits incredibly well with every scene or area it was created for. Xenogears is one of those games where the music actually makes the story even better and anything that can make this story even better than it already is must be great.
I don't give games a perfect 10 anymore, because I've come to realize that everything has it's flaws, and there's always room for improvement. Before I came to that conclusion, Xenogears would have received a perfect score from me. If it has any fault, it would be the graphics. They're perfectly fine for the era in which they were made, on the system for which they were made, but they were a little muddy. I'm not sure if I noticed it much when the game was first released, since almost everything on the Playstation shared the flaw, but now, I do. Still, Xenogears' world is beautiful to me, and that's all that counts. Whether it's the few instances where they use FMV or the hand-drawn anime sequences, they're beautiful. Any artist will tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to create even a short animated sequence, so that helps me appreciate Xenogears' long ones even more than I already did. I wanna give the visuals a 10, but in the interest of keeping this game as close to a perfect score as possible without actually reaching perfection, I'll give them a 9. Who am I kidding? I thought this game was beautiful when it was released and I did refer to Xenogears as the standard by which I now judge role playing games, so yeah. I'll give it a perfect score. Xenogears deserves it. This will be one of the few times when I'll even think about giving a game a perfect score, let alone actually do it.
My very first copy of Xenogears' was lost in an unfortunate accident, caused by a young nephew of mine who will remain nameless. Phew. I'm too young to be an uncle. Anyway...after that, I went out, and decided to purchase a new copy of the game. Because Squaresoft wasn't sure how well a game of Xenogears' controversial nature would sell in America (Most likely because of the fact that it has many references to both God and religion, which don't exactly place them in the light that our religous leaders would like). In the end, it sold much better than they initially though it would, so there was a higher demand for the game than there actually was supply of it. I was forced to pay about $45 for a used copy at that time and it was well worth it. Especially since the game looked brand new. One of the few times you'll come across that when purchasing a used game or even when renting one for that matter. Nowadays, I believe you can purchase the game for the greatest hits price. At most, $15-$20 new. That's what Don King would call a deal of epic proportianated standards. ONLY IN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Only in America can you purchase the Holy Grail of role playing games for the low low price of $14.99. :-)
In closing, if a burglar were to break into my home, and take everything, I'd be the most upset when I found my copy of Xenogears missing. I love this game more than I do half of my family. And although I'd be able to purchase a new copy for a small price, the time I'd spend without it would be every bit as empty as Hillary Clinton's soul.