Xenogears Review
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Xenogears

Publisher: Square-Electronic Arts
Developer: Squaresoft Japan
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Peripherals: Memory Card

Fei in his Gear, Weltall
Story

Thousands of years ago. The Eldridge, a gigantic interplanetary emigrant spacecraft, suffered a sudden shipwide systems malfunction. On the monitors that warned of the ensuing danger, a mysterious shadow flickered for but an instant. Before the spacecraft's crew could respond, someone or something had taken over their entire ship.
As the passengers and crew attempted to evacuate, the spacecraft's own laser cannons coldly turned and shot them down. The captain had no choice but to activate the ship's self-destruct mechanism. In a flash of light, the spacecraft fell to a nearby planet.
Born from the fallen wreckage, 'she' slowly arose, her long hair blowing in the wind as her eyes reflected the dawn's breaking light. Reflecting the start of the day that 'god' and 'humankind' fell to earth.
Xenogears masterful story begins to unfold from the opening anime sequence. Set in a world consumed with strife and warfare, Xenogears follows the adventures a young martial artist named Fei Fong Wong. Fei lives a peaceful and uneventful life, until one fateful night. Out of nowhere a marauding squadron of Avehan Gears lands in the middle of Fei's village, with the Kislev Army right on their heals. In the ensuing battle there is a great explosion and the entire village is destroyed. Blamed for this act, Fei is banished from the village, beginning his long journey.

Graphics and Gameplay

Graphics
Rather than polygonal characters set upon a pre-rendered background, Xenogears is a fully polygonal, fully explorable 3D world, with hand-drawn, sprite-based characters. This technique is absolutely magnificent. The characters do lose a lot of definition, but the areas you'll visit are better realized and possess great depth. Slowdown does occur often in some towns, such as the Bledavik market, but is only a minor gripe in a great game. Also, the animated CG movies are amazing(there are over 30 minutes worth). The anime sequences are developed by the same team that worked on Ghost in the Shell, and do not disappoint.
Gameplay
Xenogears is a turned-based RPG, but installs a combat system called the Active Time Battle, which relies on the physical attributes of agility, speed, and weight, to determine when you may launch an attack. Also, the characters have 3 different attacks, weak, strong, and fierce. These can be linked together in different combinations to learn new and deadly attacks. Finally, do not forget the use of Gears, for which the game is named. While fighting in your gear your attacks consume different amounts of fuel, which can be expended. Allthough the battles are usually not that difficult, the game avoids the constant RPG pitfall of needing to fight forever to level up.

Elly, a Gebler Gear pilot and spy
Music and Sound

This is were the game truly shines. The music in Xenogears is of the quality that all RPGs should try to live up to. This is what FF7, should have sounded like. Not to say the music in FF7 is bad, because it isn't, I just thought the music in Xenogears was on a whole other level. There would be times during a major storyline plot that I would drop my control, turn up the volume, and listen to the music.
Overall Xenogears is an amazing game, and allthough not as graphically good as FF7, has a much better story and music. If you're looking for a game to get you through the wait for FF8, think about picking this one up.

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