Xenogears User Review
In terms of ratings, I realize this is now the year 2010, and games made in 1997, such as this title, would obviously not make it as a new title today. For this reason, it is only appropriate that the ratings be made in comparison to other games released around the same time.
Many people have not even heard of Xenogears. I credit much of this issue to the fact that it was released in the same year as the renowned Final Fantasy VII. Xenogears is another Squaresoft title that should have rivaled Final Fantasy VII. The fact that both of these titles were released in the same year is proof of the prowess Squaresoft used to take pride for.
The graphics were definitely above average for the time in which the game was released, but it was not as wonderful as many of the later PSone releases. On a good note, it was a three dimensional world where you could rotate your camera and see things from various angles. In battle, the visuals of many special effects were simply spectacular and are still fun to this day to watch.
Cut scenes were rendered in anime artistry, and there was voice acting. Back at this time, voice acting of any kind was a major plus.
Gameplay never let you down. There are mini-games throughout to enjoy. In the world environment, you not only had to run around to explore, but you could jump around the environment as you please. Although the jumping feature was cool, it could be frustrating to barely miss a ledge you might nowadays be able to climb anyways, and then slide down even the least slidiest surfaces! With a three dimensional environment, exploration (with the exception of a small handful of repetitive environments) was always a treat.
Battles were wondrous in this title. It's a turn based battle with an ATB time meter. Once filled, time stops and you issue commands for whichever character has the next turn. Each character has their own unique magic spells and attack sequences, too.
The attack command is not as simple as merely attacking. Your characters have a range of 3 to 7 attack points, depending on how far you are in the game, and throughout the attack command, you decide how to spend them. A weak attack takes 1 point, strong takes 2, and the most powerful takes 3, although it carries less accuracy. Not only can you decide how to spend it, but you spend it in any order you wish, allowing you to observe a number of different attack sequences.
But it doesn't stop there. Over time you learn special attacks throughout those sequences. For example, the first special attack you learn is a 1 point attack followed by a 3 point. Your character will use a weak attack then back up for a special and powerful combo. Characters learn these attacks by you using a variety of different sequences over time. If you wish, you may even stock up those attack points and unleash as many as 6 or 7 ultimate combos all at once on a boss for major damage!
As you can see, battles carry a lot of variety. I haven't even begun to talk about the other half of the battles you engage in with your gears (similar to those gundam robots). They, too, have unique abilities and a battle system all of their own. Plus you can customize and upgrade those machines at gear shops. The possibilities are VERY expansive.
The sound is another quality feature. The musical score is moving. Some musical pieces -will- move your emotions as the game does a fabulous job of using the impressive musical score to accentuate the storyline. This is, in fact, the only video game for which I have purchased a couple of different copies of the musical collection on disk... it's just. that. good.
Each character has their own sound effects through voice acting as they participate in various attacks, as well.
The control is good. Although you can only run in eight directions (due to the D-pad use), it can be adjusted by adjusting the camera angle for anything that seems too tricky.
What is really annoying is this: there's about a full 1 to 1.5 second delay between a battle happening and when the game wants one to happen. It's hard to explain. Basically, when it starts to load a battle, you can hear the battle music start, but you can still run a few feet. The bad part is, during this time, you can't jump. Imagine if you are trying to jump from one point to the next, and you can't because a battle is about to start... You just fall. That's this games only bad control point.
The replay value is really great. For one, it's a really long game. It's 2 disks long, but you will easily get 60 hours just going from start to finish with nothing in between. Second, there's so much to the game, that a second run through will allow you to pick up on things you missed the first time. In fact, the game is so long, much of the story in the second disk is summarized by a main character in a quick narrative.
Which brings me to the story, which can be described in one word:
I've said before Final Fantasy is my favorite series for storylines, but that's because Xenogears didn't become a series. I still to this day cannot get over how incredible the story to this game was. As is typical in dialogue from games translated to English from Japanese, some parts were a little bland, but it was mostly incredible. The plot twists, character building, political commentaries, and everything else made for the most fantastic story I've ever seen in a video game. It is so huge and so diverse, that you will always need to know what happens next. Perhaps the most important fact to note, is that you will actually -care- about the characters. You become concerned for their well being, and every one of their backstories are deep enough to make them believable and meaningful.
A true gem.
In the end, there are very few flaws, and the ones that exist are forgotten entirely because of how engaging the story is and how complex the battle system can be.
If this game is indeed released on the PSN in North American, I expect every single one of this article's readers to get it. If you even simply -like- rpg's, you will -love- this title.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.