Xenogears - Review

Greatness or garbage

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 3
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 7
   Plot 10
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

80-100 hours



   Xenogears is a game that polarizes people's opinions. Everyone who plays it either heralds it as one of the best RPGs ever created, or hates it with a burning passion. Both groups oddly enough rely on the same basic arguments however. The length, and the plot.

   If Xenogears is anything, it is long. Roughly four times the length of the average game. The perceived length of the game is even longer as it covers a wide variety of concepts and situations at length. On top of this, towns and dungeons are extremely vast and take hours to explore.

   The story of Xenogears is a confusing blend of nearly every science fiction concept there is. Confusing shadowy conspiracies, countries waging war with giant robots, plagues of zombies, people with destructive mental powers and many more ideas are all woven together along with some strange religious concepts into a single complex multifaceted story. Throughout the game, this story unfolds slowly, one piece at a time, with the connections between everything remaining a mystery until the later portions of the game. On top of all this, the game is riddled with references but subtle and overt to nearly every anime series ever to feature a giant robot.

Looks muddy, but it's well animated.
Looks muddy, but it's well animated.  

   As good as the story is, more than this is needed for an RPG. When the player isn't sitting through a long, drawn out, expository cut scene, Xenogears follows much of the same format as any other RPG. Visit a town, learn some new information from the inhabitants, and journey on to the next town, usually by way of some maze-like wilderness. Unlike most RPGs however, Xenogears features only a handful of towns which make up for their number in their sheer size. Most towns have their own map screen connecting various areas and populations of over 50 NPCs. Rather than functioning as mere way points on the way through the game, these towns are all quite important to the plot, with the story dragging ones party back numerous times. In fact, a full quarter of the first disc is spent entirely within a single town.

   Dungeons are also rather vast, and at times confusing due to 3D layouts which require a fair share of camera spinning to see. As an extra obstacle to exploration, some dungeons include areas where the player must make difficult jumps to proceed, which can prove quite frustrating at times.

You don't NEED Gears to fight Gears.
You don't NEED Gears to fight Gears.  

   Combat in Xenogears is complex as any other aspect of the game. Roughly half the battles in the game take place on foot, and the other half in giant robots called Gears. When battling on foot, the interface is roughly the same as a typical RPG, with the standard options of attacking, defending, casting spells, or using items. Choosing to attack however adds a whole new twist to things. When attacking, a number of points is available to be spent on a combination of light medium and strong attacks, with stronger attacks being more costly, much more damaging, and less accurate.