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Developer:
Square
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
Platform: PSX
Release Date: October 20, 1998

by Jason Ferguson




Xenogears is, in my opinion, one of the finest RPGs ever created. The game is truly epic and easily has one of the deepest and most intriguing plots ever conceived in a game, along with a very unique combat system. Although Xenogears may appear just like any other RPG at first glance, it is an exceptional gaming experience.


The game follows the adventures of Fei, who has no memory of his past and has been living peacefully in a remote village for years. At the same time, the world has been engulfed in war between the nations of Kislev and Aveh. Using advanced technology and giant mech-suits called gears, the war has spread to air, sea and sky. One day a battling group finds their way to Feiís hometown. Outraged, Fei boards one of the gears and somehow manages to annihilate the intruders. In the process of doing so, Fei also manages to level his village. Confused and ashamed, Fei runs off on his own and his adventure begins. Throughout Feiís journey heíll meet many friends who will join him in the war between Kislev and Aveh, but thatís only the beginning. As the game progresses Fei will realize that thereís more going on than there appears to be, and that Kislev is certainly not his greatest enemy. Fei will uncover his own secret past, and even unravel the very meaning of human life in the process! The plot is complex and interesting, and a lot of the times it can be confusing. I'll admit it suffers from some very slow pacing, which makes it a bore to play on occasions, but don't let that detract you from playing. They're are hordes of twists and turns that will keep you guessing for hours, and when itís all said and done youíll be amazed by what youíve just witnessed. As the game unfolds youíll discover who the real villains are, and the great war between Kislev and Aveh will seem like nothing by comparison. The game has a very religious tone, and if youíre easily offended, you may want to skip over this one. Because of the complexity of the plot and length of the game it can also be a little bit boring at times, but otherwise the plot is solid and deep and will likely awe you.


There are a lot of characters in Xenogears and overall the game features an excellent cast. Each character has an excellent backstory that is relayed through the game superbly. By the end of the game youíll feel that you really know a lot about these characters, which is something that seems to be lacking in RPGs nowadays. Both the heroes and villains in the game are deep and complex characters, each with their own motivation and development. Youíve got such touching characters as Billy, a priest who begins to doubt his way of life as the reality to mankindís creation unfolds, and Fei, whose psychological problems outweigh nearly every other Squaresoft character's combined. This is just scratching the surface. There are a lot of characters in this game, many of which were developed to the point that they were worthy of their own game.


You donít see a lot of games with combat similar to Xenogears. You can fight in two different ways: on foot or in gears. On foot, combat isnít that much different than your basic Final Fantasy fighting. But, added to the classic fighting style is the ability to string together a chain of physical attacks, called deathblows, with strength depending on how much AP a character has. The 4 symbol buttons on the controller each represent a different attack with a different degree of power, and by pressing different combinations of these buttons you can unleash a devastating blow on your opponent. The more damage the attack inflicts the more AP will be used, but by using weak attacks you can charge up your AP. Gradually through the game, each character will learn multiple of these devastating attacks. Although a little bit confusing at times, I found this type of combat very innovative and fun. Itís much less dull than simply pressing X to attack, and it adds a level of depth to the combat. Each character also has their own magic spells that theyíll learn through leveling up, but magic is rarely used in this game.


Then combat goes to the gears, which is somewhat similar, but youíre in a giant, cool looking robot! While in a gear, you can also do powerful combo attacks, but gear combat focuses on attack levels. By using low attack level moves you can charge up to do a deadly attack. Combat in a gear also takes up fuel, which youíll have to restore now and then. Gears can be upgraded throughout the game with a larger fuel capacity or stronger defense much like your hand-to-hand weapons are bought and sold at stores. I very much enjoyed this second form of combat, and many of the key battles take place in gears (after all the game is called XenoGEARS).


Graphically, the game is dated, but then again itís several years old. The art and design is beautiful, but characters are very sprite-like and the environments were nothing to write home about. The world is 3D, which allows for a lot of exploration, and youíll run into points where you must jump and climb, which helps to liven things up a bit. Graphics are by no means this game's strong point, but the design is still great and the gears look really cool, even if they are outdated. Youíll also come across the occasional anime cut scene, which was a nice addition, but nothing spectacular.


The sound is much better than the graphics, although the occasional voice acting isnít very good. The music is perfect and always fits the mood of the game. Thereís a huge variety to the musical score, but itís all great. The music has its highs, where youíll get that warm fuzzy feeling inside, and itís lows, where youíll want to go out and burn down a church (uuh, did I just say that?).


Although Xenogears features great character development, a spectacular soundtrack and an innovative battle system, the highest point of the game is in its story, which is in my opinion one of the finest in any game. This is a game that every RPG fan should play, and if you can push yourself through some dated graphics and a sometimes slow paced game, Iím sure youíll be amazed!


Final Grade: 93%




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