A unknown past...
An uncertain future...
This is Fei's life. After an invading force of machines, known as "Gears", began fighting in the village of Lahan, Fei tried to fend them off, by taking control of a unmanned Gear. When he took control of the Gear, He began to journey down a long dark road to discovery. Not only about who he is, and what his purpose is in the world, but the very history of the world itself. Fei will have to fight for the survival of this world, those he loves, and everything dear to uncover the mystery within himself. He must unlock the doors of his past to save the future of the world.
Xenogears was announced in 1998, but with a certain upset for American fans. Due to the sensitive nature of the games story being mired within religious areas, it was initially said to not be coming to our shores. Those who were looking for the next big RPG from Squaresoft were upset to say the least. After the experience of Final Fantasy VII, fans were hungering for the next title. Luckily for everyone, with the help of Electronic Arts, Xenogears was released in the USA, with little to no changing in the story. If you have not seen this game, you are truly missing out. Xenogears is perhaps the best non-Final Fantasy RPG to come from Squaresoft. It has all the depth and appeal of the Chrono series, and so much more.
First there is the visual presentation. Though we had moved into the world of 3-D with pre-rendered backgrounds of VII, This was a far better looking game. Square mixed the very best of the 16 bit character sprites with gorgeous rendered backgrounds. The detail within the sprites really popped out this way. This was better in many ways than VII’s sometimes awkward 3-D graphics. This created a more hand drawn feel, than a computer game. Also the frame rate is increased, giving both you and the enemies the ability to move at a much faster pace. You run across terrains and battle maps seamlessly.
The world itself is also created well. The 3-D world you run around in gives hidden areas, areas to jump, and explore. This made Xenogears seem far more open to players than any other game before it, distancing itself from being just another straight forward RPG game. And it worked very well. It made players feel like they had complete freedom to explore wherever they wanted to.
The battle mechanics are somewhat the same as most Square games of the time. The ATB is the basic battle mechanic in the game, giving you a gauge to indicate when your character will have a turn. The difference is the addition of combo attacks, which give the characters the ability to string multiple hits together using AP. Each button on the controller represents an attack. When you have the AP to do so, you can string together multiple attacks that get stronger with each one. You can also store unused AP for higher “Fury” attacks that can seriously damage or obliterate the enemy you are facing. This is perhaps the biggest innovation in the game. But it is not quite the most impressive. That would be the massive Gears.
Battling with Gears is like fighting using Gods. Your AP is replaced by Attack Levels. These increase over the duration of the battle, allowing you to unleash killer combo strikes on your enemies. Fighting mammoth enemies or bosses in the game is perhaps the most visually satisfying thing there is. Xenogears has the sace of the fights mixed with the momentum down to an art.
The story is perhaps one of the greats to ever cross a gaming platform. It is deep, complex, and a bit confusing at times. There is layer upon layer of story that is uncovered throughout the journey, that reveals the true underlying story of the game. It is similar to a mystery novel for the players to experience and find the answers for themselves.
There are a lot of religious aspects peppered into the game. Names, quotes, things that are said and done, and a good deal of the plotline itself were sampled from religion. This would normally place a lot of people up in arms. Xenogears however was done in such a way as not to offend those who believed in the Bible’s teachings, or religion. At the same time, it gave new thoughts and questions for everyone concerning what they truly believed in. If anything, Xenogears sparked new interest in religion.
If there are any complaints about this game, they are so small that it is really not that big a deal. One though does come to mind.
Camera rotation can get a bit frustrating, since you can easily lose your characters place, or not be able to see the actual distance of a jump here and there. But this is really the only bad thing there is in the otherwise perfect game.
Overall, Xenogears is a masterpiece that easily surpasses any game of its time, including the much loved Final Fantasy VII. Get it, play it, experience it. It is well worth the time and money.