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Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
(He/him)
Please discuss.

That said, listening to the Chrono Cross podcast in Retronauts, it reminded me on how similar the plot of those games are. I wonder if Masato Kato reused the plot because he wanted to have another shot at it or because it was so good it had to be used twice. even if he had to convolute it even further to make it fit the Chrono universe.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
My copy of xenogears had scratches on it, and it froze at the very end of disc 2, literally right before the point where I would insert disc 3. If I recall, the game was more or less a massive cutscene and bossfight before that point. Felt like an eternity of lost progress.

Anyway, I never played it again, and that was uhhh 18 years ago? Should I revisit this game????
 

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
(He/him)
Xenogears was only a 2 disc game - are you sure this is the game you remember? That said...

Anyway, I never played it again, and that was uhhh 18 years ago? Should I revisit this game????

Dear lord, no. I mean, if you have time, and high tolerance for anime twists, and enjoy games with lots of story and text, and if you have an emulator that allows you to play at 3X speed - and a game genie, maybe. If you have that then then go ahead, by all means. Otherwise, I'd suggest you to look for a Let's Play, because the game has really aged badly.

I love this game, but it already had some flaws at the time and now they are even more evident. It is the epitome of "you had to be there" in gaming, IMHO. It's one of the best games I've ever played, but I would inflict it on my worst enemy.
 

Aleryn

Gravity is overrated.
Xenogears was ambitious in a particularly 1990s JRPG way. I think what got me was its scope; spanning thousands of years and covering the creation of essentially a new human civilization. I think I still find it as appealing as I did originally, but I would partially agree with Positronic Brain above me, the -game- part of this title definitely has flaws. If nothing else it would really benefit from a fast forward during battles because it suffered a lot from another 1990s JRPG issue; bad pacing and [if I recall correctly] bad load times.

Still, I'd trade my beloved Final Fantasy XII remaster for one of this game every time, and probably even Chrono Cross.

Unrelated: Is 'JRPG' an offensive term? I know that its considered odd nowadays in some ways, but that's all I know.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Unrelated: Is 'JRPG' an offensive term? I know that its considered odd nowadays in some ways, but that's all I know.

I...what? Why would...? WHAT? It's a Japanese Role Playing Game! It's exactly what it says! What internet disk horse could possibly come up with a way to take offense to that?
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I'm not a fan of the term, it doesn't describe the games' content, nor are JRPGs exclusively made by Japanese developers. It made sense at one point, but these days I find it an odd, almost gauche, adjective to pin on a whole genre.
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
The most frustrating thing I remember about Xenogears is that it had areas with jumping and random battles, and you absolutely could get into a random battle while trying to make a jump.
 
I remember that! There were a few frames where your jump button was disabled before the battle started, so if you were trying to make a leap you basically just fell. The tower of babel sequence was fittingly very frustrating for that reason.

Also some difficult boss fights that immediately followed long non-skippable cutscenes. It's very much a game of its time in that regard, but you have to give it credit for being as ambitious as it was too.
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
I actually got frustrated and quit the game (accidentally, one of those "take a break and just never end up picking it up again" quits) at the Babel Tower sequence, exactly because of the jumping.

Some years later, I played Xenosaga Ep 1 and then was like "I should really go finish Xenogears!" so I booted it back up, got through the jumping immediately, and played to the end. Boy had I forgotten a lot of details, but I did it!

Xenogears is deep, like the ocean. I really love the whole semi-mythical God and Monsters aesthetic of its story, if that makes sense. Thousands of years, battling giant monsters and god figures... I'm still trying to think of things that capture the same kind of feel, game or otherwise, and I can never quite come up with anything. Anybody have any suggestions?
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
NEVER FORGET!

 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I played this over a few months at the end of last year / beginning of this one. Was a great experience, and I love basically everything about the game. It's a mess, but it's such an ambigious mess. That they included a special real time battle mode just boggles my mind. It's a fascinating setting and tackles such cool themes. And it is goofy in delightful ways - the way Graf and his gear fall down from the plane or when Billys dad sacrifices himself, because the design of the super-weapon is so dumb are beautiful. And the crucifix scene is glorious. I love the Chu-Chus. And so much more.

So, if one still likes PSX-JRPGs, I would actually recommend it. But only then. I don't think it actually aged bad, just that most peoples tastes changed away from this style.
 
I will probably never replay Xenogears ever again, but it will continue to be king of my heart. I would definitely take an HD Remaster, but my ability to enjoy such a product would be largely contingent on several factors:

1) A retooled translation. (Including re-recording most of the ENG dub.)
2) Getting the masters of the anime cutscenes from whoever they contracted that out to, so that they can get re-digitized in a higher resolution than the original game's 240i cutscenes.
3) A generous save state system built-in.

Unrelated: Is 'JRPG' an offensive term? I know that its considered odd nowadays in some ways, but that's all I know.
I...what? Why would...? WHAT? It's a Japanese Role Playing Game! It's exactly what it says! What internet disk horse could possibly come up with a way to take offense to that?
Good Lord! That's His Music!
I guess I'm that disk horse? 😂

"Offensive" wouldn't be the exact right word, but it's certainly very obnoxious to me and something I find intellectually very problematic, creeping up to the line of being offensive. Hear me out for a second.

When I was a kid and gaga for RPGs of any kind, there wasn't "JRPGs" and "Western RPGs" - nobody said that, there was just "Console RPGs" and "PC RPGs". Implicit in this, if you knew enough, was that Console RPGs were JRPGs, and PC RPGs were Western RPGs, simply because Japanese software devs almost exclusively designed for home consoles (themselves, manufactured by Japanese companies), and Western software devs almost exclusively made their RPGs for PC (themselves, mostly the purview of Silicon Valley). But it's only implicit if you knew enough about how the sausage was made; to a kid like me who didn't even realize that console games mostly came from Japan, all these games were just... games. No need to gender them with nationalities. There was a big schism after Wizardry, and the two schools of RPG making went in divergent paths for many generations. If you didn't mix ecosystems and stayed loyal to just console gaming or PC, you wouldn't even necessarily know there was a difference. And for their part, Japanese companies went to great lengths to hide the fact that you're paying Japanese companies for things, because at that time, racism and paranoia against Asians and imported Asian goods was at an all-time high.

Then comes the Xbox-360/PS3 era, where Western devs decided to defect and port their games to consoles en masse, and Microsoft started paying bounties for Japanese companies to make games exclusively for their platform. Suddenly, all RPGs are now Console RPGs, and we need a new way to differentiate between the games that followed the Dragon Quest branch on the family tree, versus the ones that followed after Ultima and Bard's Tale, etc. And because humanity is awful, everyone defaulted onto a nationalistic/racial way of dividing and classifying games. Which honestly, I find intensely problematic. Just calling things "Western" versus something Other is fraught with the baggage of centuries of racism and colonialism. Suddenly, games all of us grew up with thinking of as ours and as normal, are suddenly being given Othering labels. They're Japanese games, and PC games are now our games - "Western" games. There is probably a really good master's thesis in here dissecting the tonal shift in how games out of Japan are discussed - like statistically analyzing how much more often derogatory, othering language got used in the 360 era and beyond when discussing games originating from other cultures in say, games media.

It's one of those things where the average person doesn't really think it's weird or wrong to make this kind of division. Because there's just an obvious difference and everybody intrinsically knows it. Asian-Americans know that thought process though, it's the same thought process that the Supreme Court used to perpetuate institutional discrimination against us. (see: Ozawa vs the United States) Labels matter, and affect how we perceive and experience things, with centuries of meaning and baggage imbued into words.

And even if you disagree with this entire screed, it just increasingly doesn't make sense anymore. There's a multitude of Western devs that grew up playing Console RPGs and have decided to take them as their primary influence when designing their own. And this trend isn't just the West aping Japan, it's a proper cultural exchange where tons of Japanese devs are implementing all kinds of influences from Western games into theirs. Just like how rigid genre definitions like TRPG/SRPG/Action RPG are all completely obsolete, so too is the title JRPG. When Western devs without a single Japanese person on their staff, Nikkei or otherwise, decides to call their game a Japanese RPG, what's even the point of that differentiation then? Can't we think of better ways to talk about our games that don't use Othering language?

/endrant
 
My additions to Wisteria's wishlist would be:
4.) Configurable faster speeds for dialogue text, with a more readable typeface.
5.) Simulated loud PSX disc drive whirring sounds 3-4 seconds before random battles, so you'd know when not to attempt a jump in the tower of babel.

I haven't replayed Xenogears since release, but I still have a lot of fond nostalgia for my experience of it, starting in 1997 with my bottomless well of adolescent outrage that the potential for religious controversy was making Square skittish about a North American release of this literary masterpiece, to uneasily promulgating theories on Usenet about how Square's joint venture with Electronic Arts to publish Xenogears and three other games was the beginning of the end of JRPGs just like it was for Ultima after EA's acquisition of Origin Systems, to spending weeks fumbling to convey the audacity and ambition of all of the game's new-to-me anime tropes and philosophical namedropping to my skeptical friends in high school band class, up through my eventual nervous piling on to the ironic early-aughts internet mockery of the game's goofier moments as a university student and pretending I never thought it was cool to begin with.

I think the game itself was probably fun at times, too. Awkwardly paced with a lot of difficulty spikes and save point traps, but the earnest enthusiasm of the creators for the story they were trying to tell really carried me through it. I don't know if I want to replay it in any format that fails to recapture the entirety of the preceding paragraph, though...

Realistically, I'll probably end up finally giving Chrono Cross or Vagrant Story a fair shot well before I ever revisit this, the next time I muster the free time and motivation to jump into an eighty hour PSX-era RPG, but I'd still love a fleeting glimpse into the alternate reality where this game received as lavish and expansive a modern remaster as the one currently underway for Final Fantasy VII is in ours.


I remember hearing recently that the Xenogears soundtrack was due to be remastered or rerecorded and set some reminders to keep track of its release, but it looks like it was only ever put out as a concert blu-ray in Japan with a small print run. Has anyone heard enough about this to know whether it was a substantial and worthwhile release to track down? (speaking as someone who doesn't own a blu-ray drive and would need to jump through some considerable hoops to render it conveniently listenable even if I were to obtain a copy)
 

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
(He/him)
Xenogears is deep, like the ocean. I really love the whole semi-mythical God and Monsters aesthetic of its story, if that makes sense. Thousands of years, battling giant monsters and god figures... I'm still trying to think of things that capture the same kind of feel, game or otherwise, and I can never quite come up with anything.

Yes. The thing I love about Xenogears is the scope. The story is unashamedly ambitious and I love it for it. My favorite bit, though, is the eternal reincarnation cycle, and how these two souls are destined to met each other life after life and have to fight for their happy ending every single time, and how they keep at it even though every single attempt so far has ended in tragedy. It's a plot that talks to the optimistic romantic in me. Granted, their destinies are entangled because they are basically halves of a intrincate metaphysical mechanism that keeps an extra-dimensional sentient being trapped as fuel for a terraforming engine transformed into eldritch abomination, but hey, successful relationships have been based in less.

As for scope, nothing else comes to mind. Xenoblade Chronicles 1 tries, but it takes a looooong time to arrive there. Chrono Cross is almost as ambitious as Xenogears, but is weighted down by having to tie its story into the Chrono continuity. And I do notice that my two examples are from basically the same development studio, but I guess that's the kind of stories Masato Kato and his successors want to tell.

if one still likes PSX-JRPGs, I would actually recommend it. But only then. I don't think it actually aged bad, just that most peoples tastes changed away from this style.

I disagree - it has aged badly, mostly because now we understand a game doesn't have to last 100 hours with 80 hours of dialog, even though some still strive for that (I'm looking at you, Persona 5, although now even you understand that long hallways with random encounters do not a game make). The game is a bit grindy, it's excessively talky and it needs some major QoL improvements that didn't exist in the 90s. The ability to skip cutscenes, for one, and a faster dialog speed. Maybe an in-game enciclopedia? Most of the mechanics hold up, though, although I don't have the patience for keeping an eye on fuel during Gear combat. Maybe a difficulty slider?

Oh, and remove the audio puzzle in Solaris. My tone deaf ears forced me to brute-force that one.
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
Xenogears is incredible. In particular, the scope and quality of the world-building are still unmatched, consisting of thousands of years of history, many different cultures, and a massive cast of characters, all with intertwining histories, human failings, Romances, and actions that consistently speak to each of their underlying motivations. And even though it's a considerable undertaking to play it even once, it actually rewards multiple plays, as once you know what the movers and shakers of the world are all about, all their cryptic mutterings hold up and even elucidate what's going on behind the scenes of Fei's trials and tribulations. Xenogears may be the only game from that era of Byzantine, Katōesque lore that succeeds in doing it right.


It still has the best vocal theme, too.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
NieR: Automata is the only game I know of that has been more successful than Xenogears at going this big with the themes.

Xenogears isn't a big fat downer though, so that and nostalgia push it above Automata as far as favorites go.
 
Suikoden as a franchise hits that era-spanning scope IMO, as does FF8, but yeah. Xenogears is dope. What really would have been great in retrospect, is making the moments that look into the past more interactive than just cutscenes. Like, letting you play out some segments as Lacan or Abel or Kim. Or hell, even Id. I'm imagining short sequences a la the Laguna scenes in FF8.
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
The primary antagonist of Xenogears --as in, not the final boss, or the biggest villain, but the character who drives 95% of the conflicts in the game-- is a dude who has been reincarnating across generations where both he and his always redheaded lady always got killed until she altered the deal by sacrificing herself first so he went heel so HARD he almost destroyed humanity and was therefore executed so he's now possessing a dude while disguised as another dude to manipulate the dude he was reborn as and whom he himself fathered because the reincarnation cycle is still active and oops he's now two dudes.

And honestly I wouldn't have it any other way.

All I know about Xenosaga is that I once tried to read the wiki to get an idea of the plot, and I left more confused than when I didn't know anything. But it honestly sounds interesting as all hell, I'm in love with its worldbuilding and its thesis on domain hierarchy, and its demonic fusion of Gnosticism and Eternal Recurrence makes me giddy, but I'll probably never play it. I'll have to be satisfied with that Youtube cutscene where Ultima Weapon is born by cracking a planet like an eggshell to revolutionize the world or something.
 

Vaeran

perfect world
(he/him)
Last year they released a beautiful Xenogears 20th anniversary concert blu-ray that's available on the NA Square-Enix store and absolutely worth your money if you like this game and its soundtrack. (A few months ago someone had a complete rip of it up on Youtube but either it's been taken down or I can't find it.) Don't worry about the fact that it says it's a Japanese import disc; Japan and North America are in the same blu-ray region so you'll have no trouble playing it.

Yasunori Mitsuda himself is there, playing various instruments and emceeing; Joanne Hogg returns to sing Small Two of Pieces and Stars of Tears, there's a wonderful chorus and the orchestra is on top of their game. Influences from the CREID arrange album can be heard in some of the pieces, and there are entire new arrangements of others. There's also an adorable young electric guitarist during the battle tracks who is visibly more into playing than anyone has been into anything, ever. I had a blast watching it a few weeks ago and have been listening to the mp3s on my phone incessantly since then. Check it out, maybe!
 

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
(He/him)
Last year they released a beautiful Xenogears 20th anniversary concert blu-ray that's available on the NA Square-Enix store and absolutely worth your money if you like this game and its soundtrack. (A few months ago someone had a complete rip of it up on Youtube but either it's been taken down or I can't find it.) Don't worry about the fact that it says it's a Japanese import disc; Japan and North America are in the same blu-ray region so you'll have no trouble playing it.

It's also available in the EU store, so I'd assume it's region free. I've been eyeing it - it's a bit pricey because the shipping charge in the EU store is bonkers, but I'm considering it.

Questions, does it include the MP3s or did you have to get them trhough ripping or some other, ahem, alternative method?
 
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