So I just finished playing Xenogears on my PS3, after downloading it from the Playstation Store. It’s a pretty old game (1998), and I spent the first few hours being amused at the graphics, but once I got used to it I enjoyed it quite a bit. I even got used to using the d-pad for movement instead of the analog stick. It has a deep, convoluted storyline, I liked a lot of the characters (Bart was a favourite!), and I enjoyed the gameplay. It’s not a particularly difficult game, and for an RPG, requires very little grinding. I finished it in about 45-50 hours.

xenogearsSo you play as Fei Fong Wong, an amnesic artist living in the small border town of Lahan. The bordering countries of Kislev and Aveh are in the midst of a 500 year war. When the war envelops Lahan, Fei gets dragged into. The plot transcends this war fairly quickly, and you discover there is a whole lot more going on. The plot is pretty interesting, and there are a lot of sub-plots, names and concepts to keep track of. It can be a little confusing, but it all becomes clear in the end. I found it particularly rewarding when the game finally ties back to the opening cutscene. As you get near the end of the game, you understand a lot more about the world and the places you’ve previously visited, and I get the feeling you could enjoy this game a lot on replaying it. The characters that make up the party generally all have interesting back stories as well (though for one character, it feels like the game just drops his backstory and forgets about it – which was disappointing as it looked quite interesting).

xenogears_battle

On to the gameplay, you fight on foot and in giant robots called ‘gears’. In some parts of the game you can choose to switch between being on foot and being in a gear, but a lot of the time you’re forced into one or the other. I liked both (slightly preferred foot), so it wasn’t much of an issue for me. On foot, you use up AP points to attack. You start with about 4, and get more as you level up/at particular plot points. The triangle button takes 1 AP, square takes 2 and X takes 3. You chain these together in an attack to use up all your AP, or end the attack early to save up the AP to unleash a combo. The particular button combinations you use are important as they will contribute to learning deathblows, which are powerful moves that do massive damage (you also use your deathblows in combos). The deathblows your character learns on foot also link back to the deathblows they can use while in the gear. As well as deathblows, the characters have ether abilities (like magic). I enjoyed fighting and thinking about saving up my attacks to unleash a combo.

xenogears_gear_battle

The gear fighting gets more interesting as the game progresses and you learn more abilities (such as the ability to heal and deathblows). In a gear you also have fuel, which is used up in attacks, special abilities unique to each character, healing and boosting (which increases your speed). In the gear sections you have to manage your health and fuel carefully in between repair bots (that refuel and fix your gear). You can ‘charge’ in a fight to recharge your fuel, but of course that takes up a turn. You’ll spend most of your money in the game upgrading your gear, rather than buying equipment for your characters (unusually enough, most of the characters don’t actually use weapons).

xenogears-babel-tower-1

Onto some flaws with the game. There are a couple of platforming elements in the game. They generally work well and were fun, but in some sections they can get frustrating due to the camera angles and the way random battles will break up your jumps. One dungeon in particular, that required you to go back to the beginning of the platforming section whenever you made a mistake, was incredibly frustrating. There’s also no option to sort your items, which annoyed me but may not bother other people.

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There is a lot of reading in this game as well, particularly when you get to Disc 2. The style changes markedly here, and you spend most of your time reading, doing a boss battle, reading more text, then being sent to another boss battle. It was a baffling departure from the earlier sections of the game and came with no warning, so I spent the first part of Disc 2 wondering when I was going to get my game back. At least, it’s only a few hours of gameplay in a fairly long game. At the end of the game, before the final dungeon, you do get control back and can wander around the world again and do sidequests. Some of the dialogue is also a bit awkward, which considering the large amount of text, I found quite noticeable. It wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying the game, but it did irritate me.

Overall, I found the game very enjoyable despite its age. The story is pretty deep, and I think I could replay it and appreciate parts I didn’t understand on my first playthrough. I liked the gameplay, though it wasn’t particularly challenging. The story is the best part of it though, and there are a lot of long cutscenes that require a lot of reading to get through, particularly on Disc 2. If you aren’t bothered by 90s-era graphics, don’t mind reading a lot in a video game and enjoy RPGs, I’d suggest picking it up.

 

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