There are big games, there are huge games and then there's Xenogears. If you've ever hankered after something that's really going to eat into a seriously sizeable chunk of your life, this is the game for you. There's a good deal more than 60 hours' worth of gameplay here...it's considerably larger than Final Fantasy VII and easily one of the most sprawling and contentious games yet on the PlayStation. In underlying theme, it shares a lot with FFVII. A tortured soul makes a group of friends, wanders a land that's a novel blend of old-school swords and sorcery with super-modern technology, and gets into fights (maybe too often). The similarities don't end there--much like Square's previous epic it is rich in story and character development, but unnervingly linear when you sit back and really think about it. That said though, the tale it weaves is full of intrigue, action and most importantly--some genuinely exciting and different themes. Without giving the game away, much of the story deals with religion and the way it is handled is simply beautiful. Presentation is up to the usual Square standard too, with cinemas and 3O environments only let down by the quality of some of the sprites. It may be for the hardcore RPGer, but the story's so good you'll want to get through it.
Xenogears is a different kind of RPG for Square--and not just for its anime flavor or unique combat system. This is Square's most story-driven game to date (yep, more so than FFVII). You spend as much time watching cinemas (most of which use the slick in-game engine) as you do playing. It makes for a long adventure that takes a while to get into. Yet once all the plot pieces Fit, you'll find one of the greatest RPG stories of all time.
Nothing is more important to me in an RPG than the story. A good story can make up for even the worst gameplay most of the time. Fortunately, in Xenogears' case, it only serves to add to an already great-playing game that not only looks beautiful, but sounds it as well (what a soundtrack!}. Fights take place a little too frequently, and some of the writing quality is weak, but otherwise I have no complaints. A fantastic game.
There's nothing like a long, long RPG to keep me up all night for weeks. Xenogears sports some of the slickest animation cinemas I've seen, mixing CG objects with traditional cell work. The story is just plain cool, with morally deep topics discussed, and the battles are no cake walks with lots of techniques to learn and master. Being able to rotate the world is great, but J wasn't too keen on the slightly muddy graphics.
Square's latest RPG is coming along nicely, and due to a minor delay, the game (originally scheduled for a December release) will be available in Japan on Jan. 29.
Xenogears is a stylish-looking RPG that mixes polygons and hand-drawn anime style art to create an RPG world unlike any other. The story revolves around ancient robots known as "Gears" that were recently unearthed, and the quest is expected to be huge. The game's battle system looks phenomenal, with a fight style somewhat similar to FFVII's, but with more technique. For example, you have a bar similar to FFVII's Limit gauge, but when it fiils up, rather than just selecting your attack, you choose it by performing certain button combos on the pad. Cool!
Sadly, because of religious overtones, it's doubtful that the game will ever reach the U.S.
Xenogears was released in japan quite a few months ago and has already proved itself to be a popular game, selling around a million units. Proof yet again that Square Soft has the golden touch in this particular genre. For a while though, it looked like we might not see this game on U.S. shores. Rumor and speculation suggested that due to some of the religious content of the game, it wouldn't be released here. The game opens with some religious lines, and there are references throughout that allude very subtly to the Bible. Mentions of "the son of man" notwithstanding, from what we've seen so far it would appear that the game is raising questions concerning the roots of religion rather than actually tackling religion directly. Admirable stuff nevertheless. Some of the more contentious stuff is actually pretty powerful--and that's not an adjective I use very often when describing a video game. One scene in particular stays fixed in my mind: The central character stands looking into a vast cathedral with the wind blowing through his hair.
Thankfully, Square has seen fit to face up to potential problems and just release the thing (after all, Final Fantasy VII had its share of dubious content--cross-dressing, a liberal scattering of swearing, etc). So, by October you could be playing something that genuinely challenges issues that are often ignored in video games.
While the back story is apparently more than up to Square's usual calibre, it's worth going into the way the thing plays here rather than spoiling the fun for you. We've been lucky enough to play the first few hours of the game (and you can see a playable demo of this too if you buy Parasite Eve...there's a fantastic demo CD in the box) and can report that it has the typical Square "feel" to it. The action centers on one particular character (a sprite this time, not polygons...the environments are all fully rotating polys though) and as with Final Fantasy VII you can build up a party to wander the lands with.
Set in what appears to be the past, the game mixes some old-school "cows and chickens" RPG imagery with futuristic robots and technology. This is most apparent in the combat. Early punch-ups have you dancing about swatting nasty animals while later on you'll be going nose to nose with the big robot "Gears." The system itself is very different in that it's about as close as you can get to "real time" without actually being so. Each button on the joypad begins a certain combination attack, and depending on how you start you can build up set moves by performing different button patterns. Attacks range from kicks and punches to typically silly Square-esque special moves with lightning bolts and, oh I dunno, planets colliding or something. There is a weapon where you harness the power of the "Big Bang"...I kid you not.
Fighting in the gears gets even more exciting, as you still have to manage the different moves, but you also have resources such as fuel to manage as you divert energy to weapons systems. It's all spectacularly cool and the resource management element adds a dynamic that hasn't been present in other similar Square titles. Without wishing to spoil anything, we've thrown in a few screenshots of the Gear combat.
Let me start out by saying this the first RPG game that I have had the opportunity to review. The last game I played that even remotely resembled this was back in the late 80's in a familiar game called The Legend Of Zelda. That, my friends, was a classic, one for the record books, one to base all other RPG games from. I look for a simple pick- me- up, not all this fancy-shmancy cast a spell, wave a wand and you move on. I am from the old Dungeons and Dragon days where we used our imagination to paint these fantasy worlds. Now onto the review, where I dismiss my wants in a game and let you, the reader, decide if this a game for you.
Squaresoft did good in picking a subject that I am partial to, Japanimation. In short, you usually have big-eyeballed heroes with some sort of mutant power and/or a giant robot to control and an evil being with sharp teeth. Examples of Japanimation include Dragonball Z, Voltron, Akira, and of course, Robotech. In Xenogears, you are Fei, a young long-haired hero with no recollection of his past. Fei looks like he belonged in Street Fighter, but turned down the part to star in this role. He is a destined hero now living in a small village of Lahan. You are treated to an opening movie, but you learn much more about what's going on by talking to everyone. A quick glance at the story goes along the lines of the following: A long time ago (of course) a ship crashed into their planet and in the past 50 years or so two countries have been fighting with the technology that was unearthed since excavating. The technology was giant mechanical warriors called Gears. These Gears were, of course, driven by both oppositions in the countries. Somehow our hero Fei ties into all of this.
Well, since there are three modes of gameplay I will have to break each one of them down for you. When the game finally begins after a sequence of reading text, you start out in your typical third person walk-anywhere mode. In this mode you can walk, run, start dialogue, and rest. You also have the chance to buy and sell in that mode. This will be the most used mode of the game and the most useful for doing most of your tasks. When you travel from city to city you will have to search around and familiarize yourself with the city. Knowing what shops are where and where you can find info is essential to the completion of a level. I also found that different outcomes could arise if you answer differently to asked questions. A word of advice: When you are playing, answer in a simple-minded way to ensure a good journey.
The next form of gameplay includes the fight scenes. This was not something you could just do when you felt it necessary, but instead when the story felt it so. For instance, I was merely walking to a scientist's house and shazam, I was being attacked by a couple of plants. In other words if I wanted to fight a bartender that was my friend, I was unable to. The good thing about the fight scenes were the chances to increase your health points, which brings me to my next topic. Even though you can access your health and items menu anytime during the game by pressing the square button, you would use a fighting menu when engaged in combat. In this menu you have Chi (special powers), Attack, Items (for magic and health renewal), combos, and Escape (which I refer to as "Run, Forrest, run..."). Each time you battle, you have a chance to attack an opponent, but be selective in your moves because some spells or combos are rendered useless in battle. If you choose to attack, you have several combo hits to try. If you h it them in the right succession you can really slam your opponent with some high point hits. I still haven't figured out what the combo option does other than display the combos you have learned. The escape option can be useful if your energy is low, but sometimes the opponent will not let you escape. Also, you are able to use other characters in your fight stage if they are traveling with you at that time. When you are in a Gear, the fight stages are pretty much the same, with a few other options.
The third and final form of gameplay was the world map. In this mode you have the option to travel in a global sense from city to city. During the game there are several Cinema movies that range in length from 20 seconds to about 2 minutes. What is funny is that sometimes the dialogue will play out and then the cinema version will do the same thing you just read.
One of the complaints about this game was the fact that I had a hard time finding shops that sold Gear weapons. Of course I could have the fastest and strongest Gear, but when I fought, my weapons were my big iron fists, Chi, and combos I had learned.
The game is very smooth in transition and becomes addictive and time-consuming. You get wrapped up in the storyline and you want to be in your Gear a lot more than the story lets you. Fei makes a great character to become, but has that Racer X appeal to him from the famed Speed Racer cartoon. One key function in this game is to read carefully and never leave any stone unturned.
Once you pick up on the fighting stages you will start to learn moves that increase your experience points. One thing to keep in mind is to try different button combinations for new moves. Sometimes you will stumble upon what is called a deathblow move (sounds scary, huh?). These, as mentioned earlier, are accumulated by different button combinations; however, you must have a what are referred to as action points (not so scary). Action points are accumulated by stopping midway through a combo routine. When you have enough stored, you will be able to open a can of whoop-ass that you have been saving. Squaresoft could have done a better job on their fight scenes by maybe doing some 3D panning around the scene, or zooming in closer for some real nice shots, or better yet just giving me a percentage of what they make annually.
In closing, the game is really not my type of game to rant and rave about. I know that it is along the lines of Final Fantasy fame, but cannot comment on the comparison. This game is geared (ha ha) more for the RPG player, and I can say that it could have possibly converted me into one with a little more action.
In this department I have to say that it was what I expected for an RPG. I mean you have your basic layouts with a little cinema action, with a hero and a storyline. I am a fan of Japanimation, and for that I must say I liked the graphics. As far as the gaming graphics go, they could have been a little more realistic, and as aforementioned done more with the fight scenes. All in all the graphics had a fluid-like texture, and the game only experienced slowdowns when the actual characters were engaged in combos.
Another company has dealt another game into the Christmas pool, hoping to be a prospect on a Christmas wish-list. But before considering Xenogears, see if you are one of those who love role playing games before you buy. If you are, I'm sure you will enjoy the game as much as I did reviewing it.
Xenogears is the new from the masters of the genre who brought us Final Fantasy VII. 'Gears combines the Japanese love of giant robots with the tried-and-true role-playing elements we've come to expect from epic PlayStation games. Unfortunately, the FF-meets-Ultraman recipe has a long way to go.
In Xenogears, you're Fei Fong Wong, an amnesiac with a mysterious past who wields powers he's unaware of: for instance, a mastery of Gears--giant humanoid war vehicles. When Fei's power surfaces, accidentally destroying the village that adopted him, he's spiraled into an epic 50 hour-plus story line that reveals his secret heritage, skirts toward a sinister, antagonist, and dances around religious references...allatan extremely slow pace.
The boring, confusing, and slug-paced story line is Xenogears' fatal flaw. With no central quest or goal, you're often left to wander around aimlessly. Even when the story is advancing, you'll be confused and will need the events explained later. And that's no gift, because the dialogue is horribly stiff, sometimes taking seven lines to convey what could've and should've been said in just one.
Xenogears offers separate, but ridiculously similar, fighting interfaces for hand-to-hand or Gear-based combat. The controls are a complete waste of what could have been a fantastic hybrid of RPG and giant robot-sim genres. Instead, they offer an attack number that can be used in a series of weak, medium, and strong assaults or conserved to unleash special maneuvers. It's all too familiarand disappointing, considering the potential.
With both game-engine interludes and brief anime cut scenes, Xenogears tries in vain to keep the pace moving. The anime is a welcome addition, but they're often too short and reserved (serving as contusing dream sequences) to pump your adrenaline. The game-based characters thankfully aren't super-deformed, but they built of awkward , sprites in an otherwise polygonal, rotatable environment, making the personages look goofy. Xenogears' sound is as dubious as its graphics with decent, but as its graphics with decent, but almost cliched, special effects and annoying Irish-inspired music.
Slow Grinding Gear
A relentlessly slow plot, plodding dialogue, and the unfortunate fumble of the robot interface's potential keeps Xenogears out of that stratosphere enjoyed by its far superior cousin, Final Fantasy VII.
This is by no means a complete failure, but 'Gears hardly lives up to Square Soft's reputation.
- After leaving Oanzil, head north through the desert, following the direction of the two Gears all the way.
- Keep using the strong attack and special attacks on Bart--you don't need to worry about recharging during this battle.
- In the village of Danzil, make a right to find the Gear store, then find the sand buggy rental shop.
- Hold off the Rankar Dragon as long as you can. Play defensively and make sure your Hit Points are full before you approach him.
- The Wyrm isn't affected by regular attacks, so use your special attacks every other turn to bring him down.
Travel through a world of martial arts and mechs in Square's latest RPG, Xenogears, featuring fast-paced battles, meaty dialogue, and 360 degrees of real-time rendered, texture-mapped polygonal backgrounds.
The Battle Begins
The game's story starts on the Colony ship Noah, which is taken over by a strange force. In the aftermath, a lone survivor, strangely untouched, awakens on a new world amongst the wreckage. Flash forward thousands of years to Wei Feifong, a young villager suffering from amnesia and endowed with high skills in the martial arts. Wei becomes a pilot of one of the 'Gears: large, ancient mechs with mysterious powers. While two countries do battle, Wei begins an exciting journey with his friends to find his missing past and his destiny in an ancient war.
Gearing Up for the Future
Exploration is an integral part of the story, and the tight controls ensure it won't be a frustrating experience. The fast-paced battles are light on menus and easy to understand, with three-button combinations used for attacks. The background music is on par with other Square titles and is used to great effect to set the atmosphere in towns and dungeons. Xenogears promises hours of intense gameplay, an engrossing story line, and a myriad of details and features. Watch for it this November.
Xeno's characters are sprite-based, with the exception of the polygonal 'Gears and their enemies. The game's 3D arena backgrounds look good and are enhanced with natural lighting effects, which add a high degree of depth to the environment. As you would expea from an RPG these days, key events within the game are highlighted using Japanese anime-style cut scenes to help flesh out the characters and intertwine their story lines.
Snapshots and Media
- Final Fantasy 7
- Grandia 2
- Grandia Xtreme
- Mount & Blade Warband
- Persona 2: Tsumi
- Phantasy Star Online 2
- Suikoden 2
- Suikoden IV
- Tales of Destiny
- Dark Cloud 2
- Earth and Beyond
- Enchanted Arms
- Final Fantasy XI
- Final Fantasy 8
- Front Mission 3
- Lords of EverQuest
- Phantasy Star Online
- RPG Maker 3
- Tales of Legendia
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- The Granstream Saga
- Wild Arms 3
- Ys: The Ark of Napishtim