Xenogears, Square's 1998 million-dollar masterpiece was an out of the ordinary RPG for Squaresoft and RPG's in general. It had many strong points that were not seen in RPG's at the time of its release, and that's what made it so unique. At the time that Squaresoft announced its newest RPG, Xenogears, wasn't to be released in North America due to "sensitive religious issues," many excited and awaiting fans were awe-struck. During the following months, a new decision was had, along with the coalition created by Squaresoft and Electronic Arts. This enabled the North American release of Xenogears to be brought forth. How lucky we are that this happened.
The setting of Xenogears is staged in a colony far in the future. The story centers around a war for rights, power, and resources fought between the different nations. Warfare has escalated to never before seen heights with the discovery and usage of giant robotic mech known as "gears". Caught in the warfare, and searching for clues of his past, is the hero and main character of the story, Fei Fong Wong. Fei begins a tortuous journey scrounging the edges of the planet for the mysterious past of himself that keeps him fighting. He ally's himself with many interesting characters, young and old. Not only does he uncover the truth of his past, but the truth of the people's past, and the truth of the planet's past that he lives on. All of these twists are unraveled in one very complex, saddening and confusing storyline.
Xenogears is very unique in its battle systems, and the system it uses is like no other in an RPG to date. It owns a dual battle system, where at times you must fight in a gear, and at times you must fight barehanded, and gear-less. While gear-less, you will notice many of the traditional RPG battle options that you have seen so much in the past, such as attack, item, magic, defend. Although they have these simple options that are known to the RPG audience, there are still new battle features to be had. One of them is the combo system. After opting to attack, you can chain one, two, or even more attacks together in one move if your characters have the ability to do so, and the player knows the button combination to initiate these moves. Any left over attack points may be used in your next attacking turn, leaving you with the points and ability to chain together a lethal number of attacks. The more unique of the two systems is in-gear battling. Gears attacks are much more powerful, and don't use attack power, but large stashes of fuel. Options such as the "booster" command are included, which can up your gears speed and ability, but require extra fuel intake. And when your fuel level is depleted, you can use the "charge" ability to very slowly bring your level back up. This is not enough to re-charge your fuel, but it can give you enough to cast a spell every couple minutes.
Visually, Xenogears is a beautiful mix of rendered and detailed worlds and characters. All of the sprites are highly detailed, and lifelike (albeit a bit choppy) and are perfectly placed in the completely 3D polygonal world. The look of the terrain is much like that of Squaresoft's Final Fantasy VII, but Xenogears has improved on that in many aspects. The frame-rate has been tremendously increased in speed, and now the player won't have to wait a second too long when moving from area to area, or jumping from platform to platform.
Characters will be using many more techniques to move around the Xenogears terrain than Square fans might be used to. Climbing, swimming, and jumping are just a few of the actions that the player will have to get good at to excel at certain events. These abilities really enhance the variability, and give area maps a lot more depth. Realistically, this enhances the environments greatly, and lets it stray slightly from the usual straightforward daily played RPG. The amount of detail that the Xenogears team put into the game lets the player feel as if he is in the environment, and gives them the utmost of flexibility while playing the game. These reasons are key to its success, and help Xenogears be the unique and awesome RPG that it is.
Xenogears has been publicly chosen as an excellent, mind-boggling, deep, complex game that warrants the sales and popularity. It was undoubtedly one of the best RPG's of it's time, if not the best. Some even go so far as to say it's the best game that they have ever played, and for some reason, I can't blame them for saying that. But with all these superlatives, there must come the down-points, right? Of course, no game is perfect, but in Xenogears, the pros out-weigh the cons four-million to one. The most annoying feature is the flexibility of camera movement. When in tight areas, it can be quite annoying turning the camera at every movement. It also limits how much you see when in a larger area. This doesn't happen enough to even take a shard of the quality away, though. Another complaint from fans was about the complexity of the storyline, most notably the cinematic sequences. These always leave questions, and mis-understandings, but all questions will be answered at one time or another. I enjoyed the complexity, because it helped portray the depth in Xenogears' storyline.
After all the information, it can all be summarized into a very short phrase; Xenogears is a subliminally thought out game that no one, RPG fan or not, should pass up. The experience will stick with you for a long time, and its intricate details are that of no other. Don't make the mistake of not trying out this game, because no matter what the situation, you can't miss out on this epic adventure.