Xenogears
ps1_xenogears_cover

If you're a video game collector, you've probably noticed that the vast majority of role playing games for the various systems out there tend to be either rare and in high demand, obscure and expensive, or common and in high demand. At least, that's what I think, and nothing you say is ever going to change my mind.

Way back in 1999 or so, my thoughts on this matter lead me to pick up a game called "Xenogears" for $US15 second hand, along with its guidebook for another couple bucks. At the time, I didn't give it much thought - I was on vacation in the USA, and buying a rather alarmingly large amount of PlayStation games. I didn't really have a proper go at the game until a while later, after listening to a friend of mine repeatedly bang on about how awesome and brilliant and excellent the game was.

He was a filthy, stinking liar.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating.. the game isn't half bad to start with, and to middle with, but if you're not prepared for what you're getting yourself into, you may find you're getting increasingly frustrated as you go along. Think of Xenogears as a very interactive novel, because there's an awful lot of reading involved.

The …
script…
of the…

game…
is …

very

drawn out

in

places.

ps1_xenogears_screencap

Mind you, that could maybe perhaps sort of kinda vaguely be excused by translation from Japanese, but it does tend to grate. The narrative, however, is certainly interesting enough to warrant your attention, even if it takes interminable skipping of " … " dialogue boxes and a decidedly unbalanced ratio of cut scene to game time, particularly on the second disc.

Have I forgotten something? Oh yes, what the game is actually about. It's a science fiction saga involving a thousand years of history, it's a coming of age saga for Fei Fong Wong, and it's a cavalcade of religious and philosophical concepts and images combined in a way that'll keep you curious until the end. It kept me curious until the final boss fight, in which I discovered my characters were nowhere near levelled enough, and couldn't be bothered to leave the final dungeon, level for hours on end, redo the final dungeon and then fight the boss. Not that I'm bitter.

The RPG part of the game is (unsurprisingly, as it was released by Square) interesting in a few respects - it uses a combat engine similar to that of Chrono Trigger (an active time battle system), and combats can be both between people and between "Gears" - giant mechanical suits in the "Xenogears" universe.

What I was saying at the beginning about rare, expensive and high demand? Well, you're in luck, as Xenogears was reissued on the greatest hits label. However, you're still not so much with the luck if you live in a PAL territory.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: This originally appeared on Collector Times as the November 2006 Consoletations column.

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