When you go to High School, there are typically a lot of "firsts" that come along in those four years. Things like getting your driver's license, getting your first car, getting your first "serious girlfriend," getting your first job to pay for your first car and to spend the rest of your pay on your first 'serious girlfriend' so that you can get a slim chance of getting yet another "first." For me, only the license, the car and the job happened, so I spent the extra cash on gaming.
Despite the over all sadness of that last statement, I did spend a lot of my free time in High School playing Role Playing Games. Now, I had been gaming a lot nearly all of my life, but I never really got as engaged in it as I did during the year 1999, which was the start of my freshman year of High School. This year would see my first playthroughs of what I consider to be my "Holy Trinity" of RPGs. These games would forever effect the kinds of games I play through my life, would turn me into a huge fan of Video Game music, and they would also turn me into a huge fanboy for one particular game developer.
The first of my "Holy Trinity" of RPGs came out in 1998, but I wasn't introduced to it until early 1999, when my best friend told me about his struggles with the last boss. That game was Xenogears
, and it was the first actual RPG I had ever seriously played up to that point in my life, and it started to reinforce my theory that "Giant Robots make everything better."
takes place on a planet that a huge interstellar ship crashed into ten thousand years ago. As man began to evolve, they discovered ruins of this ship. Among various advanced technologies, they found "Giant Humanoid Fighting Machines" called "Gears," which quickly changed the face of warfare on the planet.
The story centers around the exploits of a man named Fei Fong Wong, or "Fei" for short. Orphaned as a child, Fei is forced to leave his home village of Lahan after it is destroyed in an incident. He leaves only seeking a new place to live peacefully, but is instead dragged into a journey of strife and self-discovery, and along the way, he would come to battle men, machines, and even "god." The characters in Xenogears
all had great depth to them, and many characters were far, far more than what they appeared to be on the surface.
The battle system was very engaging and challenging. It used a variant of the Active Time Battle System found in Final Fantasy games. You can battle as your character or inside your Gear. Attacks were done via a combo system for your characters, where various combos of the three basic attacks (weak, moderate, strong) could be strung together to do a "Deathblow Combo." Each character had their own variety of attacks and combos. Learning these combos is also essential to Gear battles, as they unlocked various attacks you could use, provided you build up the correct "Attack Level," which consisted of four levels: 1, 2, 3 and Infinity. The higher the attack level, the more devistating the attack.
You can enhance your gear with various items to give it more armor, a more efficient engine, weapons, ammo, and special items that gave it even more abilities. In Gear battles, you were also limited by the amount of fuel your gear had. Each attack and Attack Level combo had a certain fuel cost. The fuel limits made more than a few boss fights very frustrating. In fact, Xenogears
is host to two of the most frustrating boss battles I've ever played in an RPG, and they happen in succession. (Anyone who has played the game all the way through probably knows which battles I am referring to.)
(There's a lot more to Xenogears' battle system, but I'll leave the details out for you to discover if you haven't played the game yet. :p)
The music of Xenogears
was also something really special. The game's soundtrack, composed by the great Yasunori Mitsuda
, gave me a deeper appreciation for great Video Game music. In particular, the song playing during the end credits, titled "Small Two of Pieces" and the final battle theme "Deus" both really sparked my interest. I still hold that, while maybe not as memorable as Final Fantasy VII's
"One Winged Angel," the track "Deus" is the best final boss music I've ever heard in an RPG to date.
The story pacing on Disc One was what you would expect out of an RPG, but the pacing on Disc Two was extremely hurried. This is due in large part to the fact that Xenogears
is an unfinished game. While no specific reason was ever given, some believe that the higher ups at Squaresoft had either lost interest in the project or cut funding, and told the development team to finish quickly in order to focus on other games. The game was intended to be part five in a six part series, as evidenced by the fact that the title appears with the words "Episode V" under it during the end credits, and was originally planned to be called "Project Noah."
Despite the fact that it is unfinished, Xenogears
is arguably one of the greatest RPGs ever made. It is truly a game that "stands tall" above almost all others. If you ever get the chance to play through this game, take it.
In my next post, I'll talk about the second
game in my "Holy Trinity" of RPGs, which comes with a pretty embarrassing story