Xenogears
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation
Publisher
Square EA
Developer
Squaresoft
Genre
RPG
ESRB Rating
Animated Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
Grade
The Good

• Involving Story
• Button-Combo Fighting System
• Mechs
• Numerous mini-games and things to find

The Bad

• Most graphics are heavily pixelated
• Lengthy Story segments
• Camera is not always helpful

 
Grade
B+

Xenogears is a complex, lengthy tale of racial superiority, religion, reincarnation and self-discovery. At the beginning, you find yourself in the role of Fei, a young man with amnesia who is adopted by a small village, only to become it's demise when waring forces from Kislev and Aveh force him into a mechanized robot, or "Gear" in hopes of stopping the conflict. From this point, he begins a journey in which he will eventually discover both internal demons and his link to Ellie, the violent ID, and the enigmatic Grahf.

Gameplay
Xenogears
fighting system is composed of two different combat systems that are linked to each other and built from the basics of previous games. Using the Active Time Battle System from Final Fantasy to gauge when actions can be taken, combat is broken into Gear battles and character battles. During the character battles, players use series of button presses, like a fighting game, to perform attacks. After using certain combos a number of times, attacks based on the said combo, called Deathblows, are learned and can often cause more damage. Battles with Gears involve making similar button attacks that grow in strength. For example, in round one, you make a weak attack. Round two, you make another weak attack to get to Level Three. In the third round, you can unleash an attack using up the stored attack levels by pressing a two button combo. Attacks used in Gear combat are based on Deathblows learned in character combat.

Outside of this evolved fighting system, the gameplay of Xenogears is your standard fare. You take characters through dungeons filled with treasure chests and random battles with the exit and often a boss fight as the ultimate goal. Also available later in the game is a Battle Arena mini-game where the player can fight other Gears in a real-time combat, like a fighter-style ZOE or Armored Core.

Graphics
It would be unfair to compare Xenogears with the glossier Final Fantasy. Graphically, the characters are designed well, but often look heavily pixelated, especially during close-ups in story sequences. The world is built in polygonal environments that look fairly decent. While some of the graphics on their own may not be the most impressive, the total package comes across as a convincing environment and world. On occasion, the gamer is treated to anime and CG cutscenes that add a little flavor to the story but don't walk the player through the game.

Other
There's a lot to Xenogears. The story in itself is deep and full of plot twists and surprises. While the religious iconography can be a little heavy-handed at times, the story as a whole is solid and any detail above what we've given might ruin one of the many surprises. The music is pretty good, even if the sound-effects and character grunts during combat are annoying and ill-timed. Dungeons and even some cities have platforming elements in which the player must jump from one are to another to progress. Also, in every city, there are hundreds of people to talk to and the occasional mini-game here and there. You'll be playing Xenogears for hours on end.

With so much available, there are a few things that really seem to hold this game back. Certain story segments seem to carry on too long. While I never thought that a story could be too deep, there are moments where you'll be sitting through 30-45 minutes of storyline and history, praying for the next opportunity to save. The in-game camera can be less than friendly, and at times, you'll have a hard time finding any decent angle to see your character at. Also, with so much focus on the two linked battle systems (character and Gears), the lack of a decent final boss utilizing the character combat system seems to leave those who focused on learning all of the Deathblows hanging. On the other hand, the final boss(es) for the Gear combat is an excellent finale to a great game.

Xenogears is a solid RPG and well worth the money. If you can find a copy and can look past some of the less-than-refined graphics, this game will be well worth your time and effort. There's a lot to do, so be prepared to not come out from this game for some time.

- - Kinderfeld

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