Xenogears: Part I. A review of insolent audacity.

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I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!

Most of us have one.
That one that made gaming what it is for you today.
That one game that made you say, "maybe video games are more than toys?"
With many people it was such classics as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time, Or maybe Final fantasy 7, or maybe even Metal Gear Solid.
I played many of these games growing up, but when I look back I only see one, one game that made me grow and love video games for more than toys, but artful entertainment.
That game is Xenogears.

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Xenogears: part I

(At the time I am writing this, I realize that what I have is way too much for just one post so I'm separating this into two, story then game play)

You might look this up, or remember seeing it, and say "Bollocks to that, its a JRPG, another game about femmy little boys, taking their turns throwing around over-compensatingly large swords, at giant caterpillars."
To that I say, actually everyone looks like their gender and only one guy has a sword, but its normal sized.
Now I hate JRPG's, I'm just gonna come right out and say it, I like the story's but never enough to suffer through the rest of the game
I cant stand them, usually because of the character designs, game play, and many other things.
The men look like women, the game play has barely changed since the 80's, and even the recent masterpiece Lost Odyssey uses many outdated elements that kept me from fully enjoying it (absolutely love the story though).
So why the hell should I consider this my favorite game of all time?
Let me try to take this from the beginning.

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When I was a kid I didn't have many video games *pause for the audience "awwww"*
So I had to survive on a healthy supply of free demo disks for my PlayStation 1.
I had a few good ones, like the opening for Metal Gear Solid, but Xenogears was the only one that I played over and over.
It was a year or two before I could actually play the whole game, my brother came back from Buffalo, New York and brought it with him.
I played and played, but in the end, never beat the damn thing.

The ending of the game has the most difficult maze I have ever seen in a RPG or any game.
I wont give anything away, but you pretty much have to, move platforms, change warp pads, navigate rooms, and all the while you have random battles with the most difficult enemy's in the game.I would either die, get frustrated, or run out of all my necessary items before I could even begin to figure it out.
So I don't remember what happened but I stopped playing, lost or sold the game, and never beat it.Now a year or two ago I don't remember why but I had the urge to play it again, I bought it from ebay for thirty bucks and finally beat the game with a little help from the internet.
So now that my personal history with it is out of the way lets talk about why Xenogears is awesome.

So our story opens on an anime cut scene, apparently there is a very large colony ship (think the size of Texas...now think ten times bigger) called the Eldridge carrying what appears to be the entire human race aboard.
Something alien attacks the ship from the inside and turns the ships defenses against them.
the captain try's to evacuate the ship, but the escape pods are shot down by the Eldridge's own guns.
In a final attempt to stop the thing, the captain destroys the ship.
The wreck of the Eldridge falls to an earth-like planet, completely destroyed.
However a single woman walks out of the wreckage unharmed and alone.

That entire cut scene will not make any sense until three quarters of the game is over.
Now the real story opens on our protagonist, Fei Fong Wong (stop laughing), finishing up his latest painting, and before you think he is some pansy artist, know that about five minutes later he's in the forest headbutting wolves.
The opening seems to be a pretty basic RPG start.
Young man has amnesia with an uncertain past, however he lives peacefully in a quiet village where nothing can go wrong, but later some terrible tragedy befalls his idealistic lifestyle and he has to hit the road to right wrongs.
Thats the beginning, but there is a very big twist that ill talk about in a sec.

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um yay?

On the way to run an errand for Fei's friends wedding, the village becomes caught in the crossfire between Gears (Mechs[giant robots]) from two warring country's, Aveh and Kislev.
Fei and his friend Dr. Citan run back to the village to help evacuate the townsfolk, but during the chaos Fei climbs in a gear to try and fight off the soldiers.
He manages to defeat a few of them, but his friend timothy is gunned down and killed.
Fei sees this and starts to scream, freak out, and see terrible visions.
He loses control, a blast of energy comes from his gear, and he destroys his entire village.
(Psst..this is the twist I was talking about.)
From there our hero has no choice but to leave the remaining survivors, because they all are afraid of him, and Citan suggests going and finding his own way.
Fei wanders through a forest, and starts being reckless, to the point of being suicidal.
It is here that he meets a young female soldier name Elly, from the floating country of Solaris who holds him at gunpoint.
She says that she is supposed to kill any "Lambs" (surface dwellers) that she comes in contact with, but Fei saves her life from a forest monkey-like thing, and she changes her mind about killing him and joins your party for a short while.
It doesn't stop there though, they are both attacked by a Rankor dragon (T-rex lookin mother)
Elly gets knocked unconscious, and Fei trys to save her by attempting to attack it in hand to hand combat.
Let me just say that one more time, Fei sees that his ally is in danger so he attacks a giant dinosaur creature with his fists.

Told you this game was awesome.

Needless to say Fei doesn't do too much damage, but its Dr. Citan to the rescue, bringing Fei's gear with him.
After that the dragon is easy pickins, but the gear (which we learn is named Weltall) is damaged and needs new parts.
Elly decides to go her separate way and meet up with her unit, while Fei and Citan go into the desert to search for parts.

I have not even begun to even begin to scratch the surface of the story.
Fei gets caught up in more than the war between the two country's, he joins sand pirates, destroys an entire country (of evil!), exposes an evil religious leader, gets imprisoned, discovers his past, gets some awesome gears, does his taxes, saves a puppy, programs his VCR...oh and learns he is the one who is supposed to destroy "god".
The story is extremely deep, and goes from one plot to the next never giving our heroes a break, it even goes back to the beginning of humanity, our characters past lives, and the very edge of the Apocalypse.
With this big of a story they could have easily split it into two games. (and on hindsight probably should have)
Its also sort of difficult to understand sometimes, I lost count of how many times I have played it, but I still catch onto new things every time.
This however does not get in the way of enjoying it.

The cast of main characters is huge, you have nine playable party members (eight of whom are useful) and almost too many secondary characters, and antagonists.
Every party member is unique and has deep, engrossing backgrounds and character development: from Bart, the one eyed, whip wielding, exiled prince/sand pirate, to Billy the young, gun slinging priest.
My favorite by far is Dr. Citan, He is a martial artist, a swordsman, a wielder of arcane magic, a Doctor, a scholar, and when you learn his deep back story you will realize he is even more than that.

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Left to right: Bartholomew Fatima, Dr. Citan Uzuki, Fei Fong Wong, Billy Lee Black.

The way Fei meets each character comes into play heavily with the main story (or the story at the time)
For example when Fei is imprisoned by the Kislev army, due to prior craziness, he meets Rico Banderas a mutant prisoner who is the champion of the prisoner fighting arena.
In order for Fei to be free he needs to defeat Rico, then Fei frees Rico from execution, due to more craziness, and with his help stops an attack on the Kislev citizens.

Elly is Fei's love interest, but she is much more than that, she is her own character and almost more important to the overall plot than Fei.
Their love story isn't cheesy or forced like some JRPG's (herrmm*cough*finalhrrrmmfantasyeight*cough*)
It grows throughout the entire game.
Through dialogue and events they go from strangers to lovers and you even learn that they are soul mates (literally)
I cant say much more without ruining some of the plot, but ill just say its one of the best love story's I have seen in a game.

Our hero is also very well written.
At first Fei Is a little emo (for just a bit) and doesn't want anything to do with fighting because what happend in the village.
Through many events he has to fight to save his life or other peoples lives, and after awhile he decides that he will only fight to protect innocent people, and other hero stuff like that.
He is a good contrast to many of the antagonists, who only want to fight for power, especially Grahf "the seeker of power".

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"Do you want the power?"

Kahran Ramsus, the leader of the Gebler army, is also a note worthy antagonist. after Fei defeats him, Ramsus becomes obsessed with killing Fei, he is almost suicidal in his execution and you can tell that he wont stop until one of them is dead.
You might think his obsession is almost a little extreme at first but, like everything in this game, it goes back further than you think, and Ramsus has hated Fei long before either of them were evem born.

Ill wrap this up with my complaints.
The biggest complaint I have takes place during the second disk, I dont know why but the cut scenes go through the roof and much of the story is just explained instead of being acted out with game play.
For example lets say in final fantasy 7, instead of playing as cloud while you attack the factory at the beginning of the game, cloud would explain the whole event like hes telling a story.
I cant remember why they went this way, but I believe that they might have ran out of time or money during the development and had to scrap a few things from the end game.
The very end is left intact but I have wanted a directors cut of this game so bad, for so long.

Next time ill talk about the game play and my conclusion, stand by for part 2 coming...when I have some time off from work.

Thanks to SquareEnix for making a JRPG that I like.

I hope you enjoyed this review enough to comment, and tell me what you think of my banner (don't be too harsh, I spent 5 seconds in photo shop)

Xenogears is technically part 5, by the way.

It's also unmitigated and absolute toss, poorly written, even more poorly translated, poorly paced outside of the first few hours, and falls to bits completely halfway through because Square ran out of money and patience with this kind of indulgent cack.

Also, Fei is slightly more whiny annoying and crap than Tidus, and that's saying something. Quite frankly it's a wonder his own hair doesn't strangle him as a favour to the world.

GloatingSwine:
Xenogears is technically part 5, by the way.

It's also unmitigated and absolute toss, poorly written, even more poorly translated, poorly paced outside of the first few hours, and falls to bits completely halfway through because Square ran out of money and patience with this kind of indulgent cack.

Also, Fei is slightly more whiny annoying and crap than Tidus, and that's saying something. Quite frankly it's a wonder his own hair doesn't strangle him as a favour to the world.

ok so your not a fan.
actually thats pretty funny, I will admit the translations were not the best, but maybe I'm just looking at it with thick nostalgia goggles.

btw what did you think of the game play?

Best review you've written so far! You nailed the placement of pictures and it is miles more visually appealing than you later ones.

Bravo!

pimppeter2:
Best review you've written so far! You nailed the placement of pictures and it is miles more visually appealing than you later ones.

Bravo!

wow thanks pimp!
I actually had second thoughts about this one, but if you like it then I guess im really happy with it.

IanBrazen:

btw what did you think of the game play?

I thought it had some good ideas, particularly in the progression of your Gears being based on purchasable parts rather than grinding levels, but I thought Chrono Cross did that even better (indeed, CC's levelling system is all but unparalleled in reducing the effectiveness of grinding but still giving a reward for fighting battles).

Outside of gear battles, however, things generally devolved into "perform most powerful combo you have until enemy dies".

One of the longest RPGs ever! I loved the combat system in Xenogears. They should remake this game with todays graphics. Nice review!

Ghostwise:
One of the longest RPGs ever! I loved the combat system in Xenogears. They should remake this game with todays graphics. Nice review!

Thanks.
I wish they would too but there is a big legal farce going on with it, thats why xenosaga had to be made an unofficial prequel with no ties to the original game. ill go into more depth with that on my second review.

A good review, but I really don't think so much plot explanation is necessary in a review. Talking about the "quality" of the plot is fine, but outright telling us so much of the plot doesn't really work in my opinion.

IanBrazen:

I wish they would too but there is a big legal farce going on with it, thats why xenosaga had to be made an unofficial prequel with no ties to the original game. ill go into more depth with that on my second review.

Xenosaga is not a prequel, sequel, or even in the same universe as Xenogears, the two just share similar styles. Quite a few of the higher ups who worked on the project have said as much.

 

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