Many years have passed since Squaresoft released Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In a final attempt at hitting it big, Square got lucky and started one of the most successful franchises in video game history. Not only did this help revolutionize the role-playing genre, but it also made way for Squaresoft to become one of the biggest developing and publishing companies in the market. Generally speaking, Squaresoft stuck to the formula. Regularly they would release a new Final Fantasy game but some times the company would release a game that wasn’t in the direct Final Fantasy series. Because of that, Squaresoft brought us some classics like Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, but neither of those were as good as the pinnacle game not bearing the Final Fantasy name. Xenogears would be the name of the game, and it almost never saw the light of day over here in North America. Strangely, the game was met with a huge amount of protest, mostly from Christian organizations and worried parents. It wasn’t the same kind of controversy that is usually seen with the most ultra-violent games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto, but it was controversial in its own right. Due to the highly mature themes of the game it was nearly banned from coming over here. To gamers’ benefits everywhere, that ended up not being the case. In this neo-sci-fi mech-driven opus which defines the word “epic” you will play as a young man by the name of Fei Fong Wong. Fei is a young painter who lives in a small town called Lahan. He doesn’t exactly know how long he has lived there, because until recently, his memory is completely blank. He has few friends, but the friends he has are very close and dear to him. Through a fateful turn of events, Fei finds Lahan under attack by these giant robots called gears. The problem wasn’t with the town Lahan directly, but rather was just being in the wrong place. Two separate parties were fighting on Lahan soil and Fei was the only one who could change this. After the fight roars on, people begin to perish. Fei hops in one of the unused gears and tries to fight off the enemy. After some incredible twists Fei ends up murdering many of the townsfolk including his best friends. Fei finds himself in much turnoil and depression when he is eventually exiled from the town. That being the first thirty minutes or so provides for a pretty cool introduction when the game really hasn’t even gotten started yet. From then on out you and your fellow mates in the game will be put in arguably the most plot-intensive video game ever created. If you play role-playing games for the stories, this is the game for you. This isn’t your typical save-the-world story, this is about a young man’s destiny. And that is the quest to kill God. Yes, it sounds like it’s a bit on the mature side, but as the plot actually unfolds you’ll begin to understand why it’s like that. Don’t let that turn you off, it’s one of the most incredible plots you’ll ever find in a game. But it’s not the plot that drives the game completely, the gameplay and presentation are also absolutely stunning. Next to Final Fantasy VII, this is the most complete role-playing game for the Playstation, and in many ways, it’s the best. The gameplay in Xenogears is pretty interesting in comparison to the streamlined Final Fantasy battle system. Though it retains the turn-based battle system, it makes it so much more involving than anything before it. There are two kinds of battles, in your gears and as your regular characters. Without spoiling too much of the story, beyond the beginning, it’s hard to really tell what sort of gears you’ll be using and the sort of attacks you’ll have at your dispersal. But basic combat is relatively similar in your gears or as your character. Through character battles you’ll have the option to attack, use magic, items, or most anything else you usually do in games like this. But the thing about attacking as a character are the great combinations you use. Triangle, Square and X attacks all open for different combinations. Generally, there are many combinations that each character can use and the more you do them the more you’ll unlock. For gear battles you’ll have something sort of similar. Triangle, Square and X attacks will be used as 10, 20, and 30 fuel point attacks. As you probably guessed 10 fuel points would equal the weakest attacks you can do and 30 would be the strongest ones. If you can build up your deathblow points in your gears you can perform some devastating combinations, which is usually the best way to win a battle. Beyond basic combat, there is a lot more to the gameplay. You also have the ability to jump while in the game. This is something not often seen in RPGs, and for a good reason. Even though the gameplay is basically flawless outside of this, the jumping aspect ends up feeling clunky and unnecessary. As seen in games like Final Fantasy VII, there is a great way to travel around the world map. In this it would be by the means of your ship. As the game progresses, your ship will continue to get better and better. As it starts you can only travel on the ground, eventually you’ll be able to travel on the water, and then finally you’ll be able to use it to fly. Easily, the gameplay is nearly flawless in every aspect, even after it’s release being so long ago. As said, the release was quite a while ago. 1998, though seemingly recent enough, still was long enogh ago that standards have been drastically raised. While Xenogears plot and gameplay hold up quite well, the look of the game does not. This is, in fact, one of the worst looking games you can find on the market. It takes a unique approach at making use of the Playstation’s hardware before it was fully realized. Though games like Final Fantasy VII and SNES RPGs technically aren’t as ambitious graphically as Xenogears, they still looked better artistically. Xenogears tried to use 3D environments and models for the game, because of this, it looks very messy and choppy. You have a fully 3D rotatable camera to play with, which is nice, but static backdrops would have made the game look much nicer in the long run. Though Xenogears may not look great, it sure sounds great. Besides the occasional yell from a character mid-battle, the sound effects in the game are some of the best that had been seen up to that point. Also, the soundtrack is one of the most memorable and haunting ever seen to this very day. You’ll definitely be able to put up with the great sound effects, if anything else. If you can get over the graphics and clunky jumping, you’re going to find one of the better role-playing games on the Playstation. It’s not going to be fair to yourself if you end up missing out on this one. Xenogears puts you in one of the most serious roles ever seen in a video game. It’s filled with religious and philosophical overtones that often ask you to ponder your very existence as a human being. As Fei uncovers just who he is and why he has such a terribly destructive power coming from within you will find yourself touched by what is likely going to be remembered as Squaresoft’s paramount attempt at true art in the form of a video game. Xenogears has gameplay that is to die for and arguably the best plot ever conceived in a game. If you miss out on this, you’ll really regret it. Xenogears is simply a masterpiece.
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
Gameplay- Xenogears sets the standard for turn based battle systems. Each ally/enemy on the screen has their own gauge that fills at different rates indicating when their turn will be. Xenogears uses a combo system ... Read Full Review