I really like writing reviews. I don’t purport to know anything about writing them nor do I think I am good at it. I just like doing it. But I like writing about the type of movie/game that is worth talking about, good or bad. Something comes out, and I can’t stop talking about it. Even if it is a bad game/movie I like discussing why it was bad and what went horribly wrong. On the opposite side of that coin I get a game like this. Xenogears. Which happens to be my favorite game of all time. But despite that perhaps obvious bias, the game is good for a very very GOOD reason. Though the game has graphics, that even for the time, left little to be desired those would want a truly epic RPG experience have come to the right place. Do you remember that good book you read so long ago, the one that left you feeling like you had weathered a journey with the main characters. This game has that exact taste. It one of the only games that I have ever played that feels complete and whole. Before you start you must know that this game provides over 60 hours of solid game play from start to finish sans the side quests and treasure hunts. Not only that, it starts off slow and small, so have patience. Hardcore RPG’ers will not have a problem with this, however if you are looking to break the ice with this gaming genre this may be a bit heavy material for you. The game starts off with a breathtaking cut scene that combines Rendered art and 2d anime characters. The games story is the golden cup of Xenogears and these provide a nice break and cinematic climax for those pivotal scenes. This particular cut scene that starts the game off really sets the mood as a construct within starship “Eldridge” takes over and delivers a prophetic message to the captain reading “you shall be gods” across the bridge view screens. If this sounds cryptic, trust me, it is. And it’s only the beginning. After all this prophecy you are introduced at an unspecific time after the Eldridge to the main character Fei. His best friend is getting married to a girl who is actually secretly in love with Fei instead. You are told by the village elder to retrieve Lacan, the doctor who lives at the top of the hill beside the village. During your journey to the top where the doctor lives you are given a nice introduction to the unique combat system. Xenogears’ combat system is based on a martial arts style of combo techniques. You are able to acquire ‘magic spells’ but they pale in comparison to the power that your techniques can get too. Thus they are rarely used save for the occasional heal or revival. The combo’s are dependent upon the combination of buttons you press within the allotted amount. Each attack button represent either a typical punch or kick etc…When you combine them however, they can turn into some very effective combo techniques. At the beginning you are given only a few number of max button presses but as the game progresses and you gain experience you are allowed more which makes for a wide variety of combo attacks, some of which are as awesome as they are devastating. For instance, individually the attacks may be a punch or a kick, and though you do have the option of pressing any number up to your allowed presses, the combinations of punches, kicks, throws etc, turn out to be a wide range of special combo’s that deal extra damage. I would recommend picking up the strategy guide for this aspect alone as there are a very large selection of combo’s you can pull as your button limit climbs higher. The combat however does not stop there. When you get the ability to use Gears (which may seem like halfway through the game, trust me it’s not) the combat system changes a little. Instead of a wide range number of combo’s you are allowed a little less, as well as each move draining the amount of max fuel in your system. Once you run of out of fuel, your toast. And there is no refueling during the battle. Which makes that particular aspect of Xenogears a little frustrating at times but a little more intense as well. You have the ability to customize your gear throughout the game with modifiers like fuel capacitors and such which gives your gear a little more longevity during battle and ultimately makes the game much more interesting. Both systems of combat are used simultaneously for the most part, however during the latter you will use mostly your Gear. There are even times when you can call in your gear and jump into it during a battle, which can be fun, only because there is a logical difference between fighting on foot and in a 4 story walking hunk of metal. The battles in this game are also no cake walk. Some of them are tough and just down-right mean. Those of you who are also looking for a challenge, well this game just seems to have everything you need. They enemies, especially the boss battles, follow loose patterns of attack (like end-the-world-style attacks when you have knocked a boss into a corner) but none that you can really track without getting the odd surprise. Upgrading regularly and going on experience runs is a typical errand in this game so be prepared to put some work into it. Even that however doesn’t do the trick as you are also thrown the kind of battle where the odds are just against you no matter how developed you have become. Which means it will also take a little brain rather than just brawn to win this fight. The game also offers some notable mini-games, one of which will surprise you with it’s pretty complex nature. It is an 3D fighter style game where you fight in a Gear against computer, or even a 2nd player. The controls switch at this point and transfer to a more fighting game style. Though it is fairly simple compared to most 3D fighters and lacks a little polish, this “mini-game” has the potential to be a entire game unto itself and provides a couple hours of entertainment alone. When you get to the top of the hill you meet the doctor and a long time friend, Lacan, who becomes a main part of the story and probably one of the coolest characters in the game. But I won’t spoil it for you. The character development itself is one of the games great achievements as they are believable and likable and provide a realistic development of the story without getting in the way with cheesy lines or illogical sentences that break the mood. You return to your village with Lacan only to find it is in flames. Two groups of Gears are in a heated battle and it so happens that that battle landed on your village. Needless to say, from this crucial event in the game your destiny as Fei unfolds. The music more than the sound lends itself to the mood and tone of the game beautifully. Every village and almost every area during different times of the game has its own theme song. So the score really varies a lot which just gives Xenogears whole lot of flavor. The score went on to a CD called “Creids” which was a more stylistic take on the original and was pretty popular among cult enthusiasts. Nonetheless this just adds to the musical credibility the game has to offer. Finally, Xenogears’ graphics, which are its only slight disappointment don’t provide quality it really should have. It is a typical third person POV like most RPG’s with a rotatable camera. The characters are animated in 2D sprite fashion on a live-rendered background. The detail in both is substantial and full of depth, however the resolution is a bit choppy which some might find hard to ignore. The Gears are also fully rendered as well during battle and sprite animated during World travel. In contrast to the rest of the game, the graphics are a moot point. Though they take away from the gravity of certain situations if you are into the story enough, they are not too bothersome. The cut scenes also provide gorgeous interludes for those moments of cinematic climax; they are used however during times of relative un-importance and not used at all during very dramatic moments. For instance there is a part where an escape pod is fired into space. That whole sequence is an animated cut scene, which kind of baffles me still as it is relatively unimportant. Don’t let the screens of this game discourage you, this game has far more substance that it would appear and too the hardcore RPG’ers, it’s sheer bliss. Rarely do I play a game with such emotional depth. This game has it all and doesn’t hold back when it comes to telling a good story. Nor does it spoon feed you every last detail. Much of what this experience is made from figuring stuff out on your own, especially when all is said and done. There is plenty of replay value to Xenogears as well, as you will probably miss all the little side-quests, treasure hunts and mini-games the first time you play. Some will even add to the depth of the story and perhaps fill gaps in the story that you had otherwise thought empty. All in all, and hour for hour, this game is solid the whole way through. And just when you think it’s over, there’s more just around the corner. RPG fans, this one’s for you.
Other Helpful Reviews for Xenogears: Elyhaym Van Houten Edition (Square Millennium Collection)
I've always compared Xenogears to Phillipe, in the movie "The man in the iron mask." In that movie, the queen of France had (Two sons) twins, but after seeing many empires destroyed by sibling rivalry throughout history,... Read Full Review
Xenogears is truly special. Like Chrono Trigger, Xenogears offers a unique cliche-free story, Amazing music, Amazing artwork, fantastic graphics and to top it all off an engaging and innovative battle system. All of thes... Read Full Review