The combat system is innovative, and features both battles on a character scale as well as those when your characters are piloting giant robots (mecha).
Characters can even fight alongside others in mecha, or go up against mecha outside of their own (good luck). But wait, there's more! Characters act in an Active Time Battle (FF6) reminiscent manner, where time advances until one player becomes ready, they act, etc. Each charater has a certain number of AP (Action Points) that they can use each turn. They have three basic attack types, light (1 AP), medium (2 AP), and heavy (3 AP), as well as special abilites, a 'defend' option, etc. So, if my character has 6 AP, I can attack with three light attacks in a row, then a heavy attack on an enemy. The light attacks are more likely to hit, but have a lower AP:Damage ratio. Plus, each character can learn 'death blows', by which they can enter a certain attack sequence, and use a special attack. All these attacks are well drawn and animated, and you learn death blows by fighting, and using various combinations of attacks, instead of out of books that you find, or something else like that.
Yep, I have it. All in my mind at least. Some of it is even written now. It will take me a while to get it all written out, but I'm going to try to get that done rather soon. When it IS done, it will be located at the VERY BOTTOM in the spoilers section (Unless someone feels motivated to put it on its own page - I don't see the need however). Note: These will include massive spoilers for BOTH XenoGears AND NeonGenesisEvangelion. Basically, I am assuming you have completely finished both. There really is no other way to do it. And I might even run it through a spell checker first, if I'm feeling really nice :->
The use of sprite characters might seem unfortunate, but the layout of cities and towns is quite nice, and the characters are well-drawn, although their pictures are somewhat small, and there are very well done cinematics throughout the game.
The CG does look a bit dated when compared to that in FinalFantasyNine, but the anime-style FMV is pretty well done (though the dubbing is terrible)
Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a 1+ CD game, since the second disc takes about a fifth as much time as the first, if you don't do too much optional stuff.
While the mecha combat isn't quite as polished (IMHO) as the character combat, it is still a welcome addition. It operates on a rather different paradigm from character combat; rather than using AP, all attacks take the same amount of time... but they take different amounts of fuel. Heavy attacks are still less likely to hit, but they do more damage faster. Gears have ten to a hundred times as many HP as characters. And so on (one could rave about the subtlties for quite a while).
The plot is just plain great. A little reminiscent of NeonGenesisEvangelion, if you know what that is. Some people have went so far as to say that it's a rip-off of NGE, but I believe that the similarities don't justify such a claim (okay, well, it's closer than I thought at first..). There are definitely religious images in both. Xenogears has a fairly large cast of characters, but makes sure to spend time with each of them, so that they are developed. The character design is excellent, and the plot is long and well-thought out. My sister, who has played through the game at least three (!) times, has noted a few... minor discrepancies with the plot. But overall it hangs together pretty well (and anyway, you're not going to notice :-). --AndrewSchoonmaker
Okay, forget options. Who really cares what their window color is, anyway? All I want from Xenogears is some way to skip through dialog, or speed it up! It's so mind-bogglingly simple! Every RPG since Dragon Warrior (Quest) has had it! WHY didn't they implement one? Argh!--Anonymous
Upon second play, I realize that Xenogears is one of the few console RPGs I've played that has a markedly different feel from the "stock" RPG. WildArmsTwo, for example, didn't really throw any curve balls. Even the original WildArms, which had a number of interesting features in the battle system really felt like the "standard" console RPG, if you will (perhaps as typified by FinalFantasySix, or any FinalFantasy other than One or Tactics). It's hard for me to put into words, but Xenogears feels, well, unpolished. Like the battle system was an afterthought or something. (Damn it, maybe it was... they wouldn't have needed much of one if the whole game was like the beginning of Disc 2...) None of the characters get more than a dozen "magic" abilities (for lack of a more generic term), and while there are a lot of neat items one can find that have weird effects, combat is, overall, fairly limited. As Curtis notes, by Disc 2 one can work out a standard pattern for battles which will end them quickly.
The poor quality of the translation also probably contributes to this feeling--it's not glaringly bad at any point, but ... And the game is dark; one of the few such CRPGs I've played (perhaps I've been playing the wrong ones...)
In the "random things Andrew finds neat about the game" department: few of the dungeons have background music. Most of them have some kind of ambient noise, but the general lack of music (other than the battle music) is, in general, a blessing. Also, Gear combat and people combat operate on two almost completely different paradigms, as mentioned elsewhere. Oh, and then there's the prologue, which has no visible connection to anything in the game for the first fifty hours of gameplay, at least. I wish more games would do that... (it looks like FinalFantasyEight tried, but the plot wasn't good enough and the prologue wasn't coherent enough for that goal to be realized...)
Setting, Plot, and Characters: The plot is by far XenoGears' strongest element, and is orders of magnitude beyond that of any other console VideoGame's in complexity and development. XenoGears is in many ways a novel in VideoGame form, and this is especially true of the second CD. However, the plot is kind of murky for a lot of the game the first time through, and you have to play it twice to really catch a lot of the subtleties. I mostly enjoyed the linear structure of the game, though there were a few times in the second CD when I felt an overwhelming desire to roam an overworld and couldn't because of the structure of the game. However, some of the similarities with ChronoTrigger irked me; as I noted in the ChronoTrigger node, I am something of a fanatic about the game, and I think the designers trod a little too close to ripping off the game, even though the development teams for the two games had significant overlap. While I had no trouble with Lucca (one of ChronoTrigger's characters) appearing in a minor role in the XenoGears, Shevat in particular seems like a direct knock-off of a similar area in ChronoTrigger, including the musical theme and a few other elements which would be plot spoilers (see the spoilers section). I felt that rather than being a homage, Shevat ended up seeming like a tacky takeoff.
Similarities with ChronoTrigger: they're definitely there, if you look for them. There are also a couple of similarities with ChronoCross (though I guess it'd be more accurate to say that CC has similarities with Xenogears). I didn't feel that any similarities were *particularly* glaring, but I'm not half the CT fan Curtis is...and I can sort of see the resemblance he mentions (though not the theme music part of it). --AndrewSchoonmaker
Gameplay: The game is fairly challenging, though not to the level of TacticsOgre (judged by the number of times I had to reset key battles, as always). The combat system is innovative to an extent, but by the end of the game I had still developed an automatic routine which would win most battles. There are plenty of optional sidequests and lots of cool stuff to find, some of which is pretty broken. And the Voltron bit is definitely amusing. On the downside, the game has truly terrible controls which cannot be altered (as AndrewSchoonmaker noted, there is no Options menu). Compounding this, the game has a Jump button. I can only remember one game with a jump command where the designers didn't feel the need to abuse it (FinalFantasyLegendThree?, if you're wondering), and XenoGears isn't it. There is one jump in particular I remember with strong loathing, since it took me literally more than three hours to complete: three hours of jump, miss it, fall, jump back up, fall again, lather, rinse, repeat. One of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had in a VideoGame.
It doesn't take my title for JumpFromHell?, but only because I played Alundra first (and only spent one hour on the XG jump) ... ... having done the jump again, I will note that a bit of observation goes a long way. --AndrewSchoonmaker
The characters are also dramatically unbalanced: not only are some characters half-characters (i.e. only good in Gear battles), but Citan, who starts out as one of the strongest characters anyways, in particular kicks massively more butt towards the end of the game. Don't even get me started about how b0rken Elly is...
The anonymous comment in Andrew's review reminded me of one of the other features of XenoGears which really annoyed me: the text speed. I normally read pretty fast (I habitually set text scroll on the fastest level for VideoGames) and I am also naturally impatient, so XenoGear?'s s...l...o...w text messages which could not be accelerated were torture, especially since there are so damn many of them.
Eye-and-Ear-Candy: Coming from FinalFantasySeven, I was pleasantly surprised by the character models, which, though they were sprite-based, looked considerably better than FinalFantasySeven's 3-D but blocky models.
Random Comments: Andrew's comments above reminded me of the real central reason I simply did not enjoy XenoGears as much as my all-time favorite games: for some reason, XenoGears simply lacked polish. There are some rather obvious ways in which this was true, such as the lack of an Options menu, (And a few of the plot advancement bits--Anonymous) and others which were more subtle, such as the combat system and some of the level design. Incidentally, I'll include a ChronoCross manual spoiler here: anyone who plays that game will quickly recognize a significantly revamped and improved (in some ways), in other words, polished, version of XenoGears' combat system which also owes very little to ChronoTrigger. More's the pity. While CC's battle system is neat, the element grid could have used a couple more revisions...and more similarities to CT's battles would've been appreciated.
All in all, out of a possible five points, I'd give XenoGears four: better than average, but not one of my all-time favorite console games.
Yeah... after watching NGE again and playing (most) of XenoGears again, the two plots seem REALLY intertwinable. Or at least enough so each keeps reminding me of the other - but that is definitely NOT a bad thing :->.--JustinPava
I would hesitate to call it a rip-off though, as the one aspect that seemes to be different is that actual plot. It just happens that a lot of the thematic background ideas seem to be reminescent of NGE. Also as in NGE, XenoGears utilizes a lot of "different" looks and interpretations to standard Judeo-Christian images and ideas. I really like the way it does this and personally believe it adds much to the story, but someone with a heavily rooted Christian background might find this interfering with their enjoyment of the game (Just a warning, I suppose - And I suppose the same could be said for NGE as well). --AndrewSchoonmaker.
Yeah, and it doesn't help that it has those narration scenes with a character sitting in a chair, facing the screen. I half expected the characters to all say, 'Omedetou, Fei!'... Congratulations? *blink* *blink*
At least Elly doesn't promise fan service every two hours... (2 hours? How 'bout every 30 minutes! ergh...!)
I was converting the time scales... NGE is only 13 hours long (15 with the good movie), whereas XenoGears is 70...
Fan service: basically, when an anime character appears partially or wholly nude, for no particularly good reason. Probably also includes panty shots, or other things of the sort. MisatoKatsuragi? mentions this in pretty much all of the episode previews in the first half of NeonGenesisEvangelion.
In the "hadn't noticed that" department: one of the gears you have to fight is named Fis-6. And does anybody know what's up with the "child of the Dragon Tribe" in the civilian sector of Kislev?
In the "hadn't remembered that" department: thirty hours in, one of the characters gets the line "Hmm... the plot thickens." (followed, soon thereafter, by another character saying "hold on, it's hard to translate this stuff")
Remember, Christianity is sort of exotic and mystical to a lot of Japanese people. If someone in a Japanese movie or anime series wears a cross, it's a sign that she's all occult and stuff. It's definitely not as familiar or standard as it is in the Americas and Europe.
The "Christian" bits in the game are certainly exotic and mystical. But then, so are the miscellaneous references to Norse mythology...
Shevat feels almost exactly like the Magic Kingdom of Zeal in ChronoTrigger. You get to hear about the three Gurus, named after the three wisemen who visited Christ in Bethlehem. The kingdom is ruled over by a queen with a dark secret. There are hidden doors made by one of the Gurus for you to open to get goodies, with cryptic hints placed to help you along. Even the music sounds the same. I'd be able to dig up more similarities if I had played either game more recently, but you get the idea. --CurtisVinson
Huh. I guess it'd been too long since I'd played CT, and I didn't hear the music when I did (yay slow computers and no SNES!), so the similarities didn't LEAP out at me. But I guess I do have to concede that similarities exist, after being hit in the face with them by my betters... :-) --AndrewSchoonmaker
It's hard to argue with. But, let's take another look at this: how much of this is really something to shout about? Do we bat an eye when FF 32 sports a character named 'Cid' or a sword named 'Masamune'? They're two games made by the same company... So maybe what we're looking at is less of an influence than an homage, in this case.
Side note...at least FinalFantasy renders the Masamune as a katana, unlike a couple of other games I can mention ...
(I will be updating this in spurts, so give me a little slack at the beginning. I add more explanations once I get the shell up)
First, the basics: Fei = Shinji + Mad Skillz. But if you extend the defintion to include that Fei = Id + "The Coward" (Super-ego) (Pardon my Frudeian), then we can set Id + Coward = Shinji + Mad Skillz. Cancel out the Cowards, and we get Id = Mad Skillz. Can't argue with that, really :->
Of course, the SEELE council are the Gazel Ministry. No real explanation needed. I think they are the first things I saw in Xenogears that outright reminded me of NGE.
The last "Obvious" one is Lilith (You know, the big white blob in Terminal Dogma?) as Deus. Origionator of humans, with humans created in order to build technical parts (Evas?) in order to re-enter and provoke the destruction of humanity. Well, duh :->
Now the REALLY difficult ones, from which all others sorta fall in to place:
In my mind and in talking with AndrewSchoonmaker, I came up with quite a few different mappings of some of the primary charectors. Only one combination really seemed to hold up to much scrutiny, however, and here it is (Although it might seem a little wierd to begin with.)
Starting with Gendo, I think the Grahf character fits him perfectly. He originated as an almost different person then he is now (Lacan), but after the death of a loved-one (Yui/Sophia?) embarked on a quest for the ultimate power. At the same time he is Shinji's (Fei's) father which occasionally slips through as almost a different person (Wiseman). He also seems to hold the key to unlocking Shinji's inner rage (Granf's manipulation of Id). (The one flaw with setting Gendo as Grahf means I can't use him as the Emporar Cain, which I orginally wanted to - primarily because of his position in charge of NERV and his relationship with the SEELE council. Ah well... more on that later). Grahf is still obssesed about the long-dead Sophia, and seems to be spending all of time working on this power as an attempt 1) To regain her 2) Of revenge against those who destroyed her. Grahf is seen working in conjuction with Miang constantly, especially in some of the more occult or mystical aspects, although at many times it is very unclear who is really trying to take advantage of whom in that one. This parallels the relationship between Gendo and Rei, especially with Rei's "betrayal" of Gendo in the movie taken into consideration.
This brings us to Rei. In my mind she perfectly encompanses the "non-human" archetype. The fact that she is one of many shells kept in a tank just serves to further this idea of inhuman immortality. She seems to be connected to all the secrets of NERV, working in conjunction with Gendo (Grahf). She also seems to have a strong connection with Lilith (Deus - more on that later) along the lines of spawning as a part of it. It is her return to Lilith that spawns the apocalypse, just as Miang's whole quest is to work for the revitalization of Deus. She seems to be able to enact strong feelings out of most of the other characters - perhaps due to the sheer nonhumanity of her character - including her strong influence on the Ramsus character (It's a surprise, more on that later also :-> ) and being the only one who seems to comunicate with Gendo (Grahf) on some sort of normal level. There is more to be said here, but it really requires me to describe some of the other characters first.
I'm having real trouble seeing Rei as seriously manipulative. Just because she *does* get a rise out of most everybody else doesn't mean it's something she tries to do.
Elly as Yui is not that hard of a stretch. Yui (as Sophia) is both Gendo's love interest and (as Elly "The Mother"), Shinji's (Come on, you thought Shinji's love interest was Asuka or Misato or something like that? Nah... It's his mother :-> ). The combination of Elly and Miang at the onset of Deus's awakining coincides with how Yui and Rei coincide into almost the same character (Although I am holding out the Yui represents the human side and Rei the non-human side).
It's a bit of a stretch, but you can get the whole Oedipal thing going if you really want to on the Xenogears end -- Fei kills his father and sleeps with Elly, who later turns into Miang, just like his mother. Or, as you say, Elly is the mother...
Okay, here's some more for you:
(Any thoughts on Dr. Akagi and Ritsuko? Maybe Queen Zephyr and Maria? The first works, but the second is a bit of a stretch)
Uh, Dr. Akagi is Ritsuko. (Ah, I meant Ritsuko's mother here)
Auska: I made this connection by looking more at Ramsus' interactions with everyone around him as opposed to his "villain" status. Basically, Ramsus was essentially designed and destined from birth to be THE supreme commander, and it was only with the arrival of Fei that he suddenly seemed incapable of doing anything. This seemed to closely parallel Asuka and Shinji's interactions. Asuka just is incapable of dealing with Shinji's superior abilities, and this more than anything else causes her downfall, steeped in concerns about her own relevance and worth. Also, Asuka IS Shinji's human nemisis for a while (or at least tries to be), in much the same way that Ramsus has designated Fei to be his prime rival and Fei could pretty much care less. There is also some sense of personal redemption with Asuka by the very end, just as with Ramsus, although in both cases this is at most a limited form. Asuka's interactions with Rei seemed to remind me of Ramsus and Miang, especially after it became clear that Miang was manipulating Ramsus all over the place. It would not be hard to extend Rei to some sort of extreme passive-aggressive manipulative stance :->
Considering Miang was more or less personally responsible for Ramsus' creation, not to mention loathing for Fei (she rubs his nose in it every chance she gets; I believe it's a bit more explicit than that, however), I think you want to handwave over this. I should also point out that Ramsus wasn't so much created to be the supreme commander; he was created to be capable of killing Cain. (Random thought--Ritsuko as Ramsus? She does get manipulated into killing one of Miang's forms, and at least _tries_ to kill Gendo. But that messes up other stuff).
Krelian showed up relatively late in the game, seemed to have weird connections directly into the heart of the council of elders, definitely had some special knowledge of Deus and the makings of the world, seemed to conspire together with Miang, and in the end is the one person who essentially transcends to a higher plane. At times he seems to be the most human and least human character at once, perhaps able to step aside and actually objectively look at the human condition from outside while still retaining the purity of his final purpose. This really coincides with my view of Kauro. He seemed to show up out of nowhere, sent directly from the SEELE council into the heart of NERV. Being an angel, he was at a higher stage of enlightenment then those around him, and also knew all that was going on with NERV. He seemed at the same time NERV's greatest threat and Shinji's greatest friend. He seemed to share some sort of connection with Rei (Miang) and in the movie appears to have reached transcedence along with her. His use of Eva Unit 2 in his attack on Terminal Dogma reminded me of Krelian's manipulation of Ramsus to kill Emperor Cain (although I still haven't figured out who the emperor is... maybe NERV as a whole - That would explain it keeping a check on SEELE and SEELE needing to get rid of it in order to fulfill their plans to be like gods. That's probably stretching it a bit though)
I can sort of see the Krelian thing. But the flashbacks to 500 years ago, where Krelian also appears, have no parallel in Eva, in that case.
I'm working on it. Sleep is good too, though.
Comments in italics (mostly) by AndrewSchoonmaker, who doesn't have a better mapping himself, however prone he is to pick holes in the work of others.