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  1. #1

    Xenogears/Xenosaga and the ''intellectual'' JPRG.

    Without a switch, I dusted of the PS2 and regave them a try.

    Both games are in(famous) for having a headache inducing plot. But, IMO, Xenogears handles itself much better, if we forget some cost cutting measures on Disk 2 (euphemism...). While using rather poorly mysticism and gnosticism (a tall order, considering that those esoteric theologies were almost openly made as complex as possible in a elitist perspective), the plot is extremely ambitious but make actual sense. While Xenosaga have the traits that make (IMO) FFXIII and FXV so annoying : barrage of made up terms, people droning on the abyss of nothingness and the time compression....

    What I mean is that Xenogears had many flaws but an actual rock solid idea (God and Eve are both real and do exactly what they are supposed to do in our theology). Like, in fact, Evangelion. While recent games that are a bit simpler plot wise fare better, Xenosaga is almost the nadir of JRPG plots-it sounds prententious and it's barely understandable even with a Wikia and a guide.
    Last edited by sarahtasher; 2017-12-15 at 04:27 AM.

  2. #2
    Xenosaga was never properly finished, so no shit it makes no sense. The first game was just world building for something that was originally intended to span 9 games.

    First game was good, 2nd and 3rd games where ordered rush jobs by namco after first game didn't meet their expectations.

    It's no surprise after Nintendo acquired them their quality of work went way up and delivered on the promise Takahashi once gave us with Xenogears. He also learned to do mostly stand alone stories with loose connections here and there instead of trying to develop a long series that will never be finished. Even with the cliff hanger ending many interpret in XCX, it was still very much a stand alone game with a completed story.
    Last edited by Tech614; 2017-12-15 at 04:52 AM.

  3. #3
    I wish I still had my PS and copy of Xenogears, maybe I'll try and find it on an emulator. It was hands down in my top 3 greatest jrpgs. Never even tried Xenosaga because from the outset, they didn't appear to even come close to stacking up against Xenogears.

  4. #4
    On the same note, I'd argue that Xenoblade Chronicles (the original) was fantastic for the opposite reasons as Xenosaga. 'Chronicles focused on a handful but very compelling ideas, namely about whether or not one is bound by fate, whether or not one should resign themselves to what they see as "inevitable". It didn't try to over-complicate itself for the sake of being deep or pretentious; it was already deep as it was. 'Chronicles had restraint, and I think that paid off. It goes to show that you don't need to go overboard with obscure philosophies that few people have heard of to present a thought provoking story. It says alot that the story is intelligible to mass audiences too, not just a niche few.

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  5. #5
    Hoo. That's a topic all right.

    Xenogears was way too ambitious. The person in me who want to lose himself in a game loves that aspect of the game. This wasn't a 70 hours JRPG. This was a 250 hour JRPG crammed into 70 hours. The ambition showed with this game is part of why Xenogears is and will remain one of the most amazing games I have ever played. It literally dripped with a desire to tell the greatest story ever... and that is also its greatest flaw; because it failed to do so. Tolkien spent a lifetime making the Lord of the Rings. A simple story about some friends delivering an item to a neighbouring country. This story was far bigger. And it didn't manage to deliver the story it tried to deliver. Because of time constraints. Budgets. Spending time on the wrong parts of the story. Expectations versus Capabilities. Overreach.

    In the end, Xenogears simply didn't manage to have a decent ending. The disc 2 syndrome, if you like. The amateur author in me can't help but feel that this ultimately stems from an author desire to make the greatest story ever. I can relate, and most certainly appreciate the effort put in - and allow me to once again reiterate that I truly adore Xenogears for what it both is and tries to be. But I also think it is possible to make smaller stories just as good. We just don't see those stories often in games. But they exist. "To the moon" is about a dying man's last wish. "Life is strange" is a novel-sized story about a geeky heroine and a bad guy. Neither tales needed a existence-ending antagonist dipped in ancient philosophical-religious wrapping to make them good tales.

    I hold Clannad in the highest regard. It has around 10 characters in it. It is very tight in terms of the story it tries to tell, there is almost no cruft in there (though you can certainly find some if you try). And yet I consider it the better tale than Xenogears, because it manages to live up to the goals it set itself. By comparison, xenogears spends multiple hours introducing things that essentially aren't important to the story. Did we really need a pit stop in that first desert village in Xenogears? Did it add anything to the game that the Bledavik couldn't have offered? Was any of the continents beyond the first one giving the game anything useful? Did Billy, Rico, Maria and Chu-chu even matter in the story Xenogears was trying to tell?

    These kind of questions linger, because I know that the game had plans for all of those things. For example; Emeralda was the story tie-in to earlier generations. Her entire story was cut in disc 2, only vaguely hinted to.

    If I am to give Xenogears a critique it is that it tried to do too much. Had it tried to be a bit tighter, it could have done all it set out to do, within budget. Instead, we ended up with a legend of a game that could have been the best ever... and we're holding on to the essence of that would-have-been game. And mind, that game we imagine is amazing. But it isn't the game we played. I believe some of that comes down to the Alien effect. The monster in Alien was so scary, because we never really saw it until the very end. It ended up being formed in our heads. All stories are like that, really., and Xenogears' story I feel is very much the same. It's not the game we played. It's the game we imagine we played.

    Not to say that the game we played was bad. Because it certainly wasn't. I loved Ramsus' plunge into madness. Miang is one of the best antagonists ever. I loved the homecoming to Solaris. Grafh is one of my favourite characters ever. The reveal of Id was superb. The scenes of throwing a warship will forever bring a smile to me. The wisdom in the one-winged angel statue was a very nice addition. But - it was just the puppets playing in the grand story. It isn't what the story is about.

    I think it is the combination is why I love Xenogears. Sure, the music helped a lot too. The fact that the main couple jumping the hay before the endgame certainly wasn't something you would see on a Nintendo console either. But ultimately, Xenogears is about the grand story. And it's a story that wasn't told.

    --

    So where did Xenosaga go amiss?

    Well, it was down to the expectations for me. Xenogears had placed impossible expectations. No matter what the game could have done, it would never have exceeded the Alien effect. That said, I don't think Xenosaga 1 was a bad game. It was just ... whimsical. The dialogue was filled with characters seeking reassurance for their actions. Maybe that is a japanese thing. But it is literally a killer for progression. You need a protagonist or antagonist to have strong opinions, drive the flow of the story. Shion did not have that, and the closest thing the game had to an embodied antagonist; Albedo, was literally insane (the other antagonists, Wilhelm and was never seen). You cannot make a cohesive story from that.

    After finishing Xenosaga 1, I remember thinking that this game was "cozy". But therefore "boring". Not in play terms, I found it quite fun to play actually. But in terms of story; it just had terrible dialogue, terrible pacing, and a suffered a very bad case of enemy pileup. Our heroes go from being caught by evil fleet #1, then that is obliterated by evil fleet #2, then that is obliterated by evil fleet #3, rescued by what you think is evil fleet #4 turning out to be some good guys maybe, before being obliterated by evil superweapon #1, and ... then the game kinda ends. I dunno. As an odyssey it lacked the impact of the journey.

    But that's why there was multiple games right? Not really. Xenosaga 2 and 3 very much followed in the same vein. The graphics got an upgrade, the story, pacing and dialogue stayed the same. By the end, there were so many unresolved antagonist story threads that they literally had to take a waiting line ticket to get screentime with the party. That's not a good storytelling device. And to be honest, I was kinda bored playing them. I would not say in retrospect these two sequels were good. I played them for that Xenogears Alien effect promise I think.

    Ultimately, I think Xenosaga tried to be that grand tale again. But I also think they literally gave up mid-way. the nine games being cut to three certainly is part of it. But I again fall back to my feeling that a smaller tale would have been much better.

    --

    Xenoblade Chronicles solved most of these issues I think. I concur that this game was superb. It tried to be a smaller story (let's get revenge!), set in a very interesting setting (big dead titans fighting), and had the goddamned most gorgeous soundtrack ever created. I could listen to the Gaur Plains music every day. If anything is amiss with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is that Xenoblade Chronicles 1 set an impossibly high bar for its soundtrack quality.
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  6. #6
    I played a demo for Xenogears when it came with (I think) FF7 or 8. Loved the atmosphere of it, but at the time I was super young and didn't have the money to buy my own games so I never got to play it.

  7. #7
    Xenogears blew my mind when I was a little kid back in 98. My older brother always got me the best Christmas presents and I still remember opening it that year and seeing a fleece and being disappointed, and when I lifted it out and the case was underneath it. I must have played that game my entire winter break.

    I couldn't put it down. It had martial arts, robots, a sci-fi setting, and mystery abound. The music still causes all sorts of emotions to me today 20 years later. I even wrote my college entrance exam about how that game shaped had left such an impression (much to my English teachers dismay lol). I ended up having a recruiter, at one of the colleges say my paper had convinced him to buy it.

    One thing I think this game just did better than most is character development. I felt really connected to every single one of them because of the events you experience with them. Fei's progression is incredibly well done as is Elly's. Some of the villains, notably Ramsus w/Elements and Miang are top notch. Supporting characters get a lot of screentime and development as well, some more than others sadly, due to the second disk design.

    Another thing this game did well, that IMO not a lot of games fail to do, is concurrent events. Most games really don't have events occurring simultaneously in different parts of the world that you get to experience. There's situations like seeing the Gebler ship flying above Blackmoon and you know why it was there, and the fighting tournament. The same thing with Shevat flying across the desert. There's the desert cruiser/Bart interception bit, there's the skirmish with Kislev/ID/Elly part. Later on with the Hecht and Kislev etc. Babel Tower/Ft. Jasper, etc. It really made me feel connected to the world.

    The opening scene of the game seems to make no sense, but I realized after the Babel Tower, why the world map was the way it was and how they tied in. I loved how most towns had some neat secrets in them (Shevat, Lahan, Thames, etc.). and Zeboim on the second disk gave me chills.

    The game has its fair share of criticisms for sure though. One commonly stated is the overuse of the same tracks. Personally I find this not a bad thing, but I can see how others did. I prefer to hear some themes over and over rather than have a unique theme for every single scene.

    Combat having 2 distinct forms was a great touch, but the gear combat got stale and wasn't balanced terribly well at all. You either had a hard time because you didn't learn enough deathblows, or missed the upgrade shop before a big fight, or you blew through it with ease. Human combat was fun, and learning a new deathblow was always a treat, but I would have liked a system that incentivized using older ones in conjunction with newer ones (and not that gimmicky combo system command). Much like in Legend of Legaia how your 3 command specials are weaker than 4, but cost less and can be combined to save a space kind of system.

    The second disk obviously, but there was some merit to "watching" some bits of story from specific characters POV that was exciting.

  8. #8
    I am Murloc! unfilteredJW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danner View Post
    It's not the game we played. It's the game we imagine we played.
    All the other stuff you wrote was spot on, but man if this isn't the heart of it.
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  9. #9
    I am Murloc! New sauce boy's Avatar
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    Yeah one game like this that stands out the most right now is Final Fantasy 13. Right off the bat they started talking about fal'Cie this and l'Cie that in Cocoon in the world of Gran Pulse and I'm just sitting there like "ok...".

    RPGs (specifially JRPGs) wtih these complicated plots are really annoying to play sometimes because they use these terms and names that are so odd that it makes it hard to follow the story and understand what's going. It gets to a point too where I start to not care about it anymore because as you move further through the game it just gets more and more complicated.

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