“I am Alpha and Omega…
The beginning and the end…
The first and the last…”
How many games have you played in your life? How many movies have you seen? How many books have you read? My guess is that if you could remember all of them your answers would be large numbers.
Imagine you are able to recollect all of that information. How many do you think would still rank as good experiences? My guess is still a very large number.
Of all these works how many have managed to stay inside your head weeks after finishing them? How many have managed to get you to bother deepen their creators, as well as its argument contexts and all his inspirations and references?
My bet is that for most of your running tallies have dropped, dramatically.
Now tell me, with how many of these works have you experienced that sweet feeling of being in something unique and unrepeatable?. How many of those works made you notice that when complete you them they took for themselves a piece of your soul?. How many of these works have managed to revive in you that thought of “I’ll never experience anything like it again?”.
Xenogears is one of the few things that have accomplished all of the above for me.
It is a game that came out more than a decade ago on the almighty PlayStation. It never reached Europe, and obviously had bad results because of it. But, thanks to the internet, a group of fans created patches to translate it into other languages. This gave us the ultimate opportunity to play what many have dubbed one of the greatest games in video games history.
Xenogears, as I guess we all know, is a traditional JRPG. With all that that entails, turn based combat, slow pace, linear game play… but it has something that makes it stand above the others:
Xenogears is possibly the greatest story ever told in a video game. I doubt there is anything similar out there.
Xenogears is a game that is based on its script, as should always be the case in a JRPG, and this means that the player will be into thousands of lines of text. It is a game where you have to read a lot. Illiterates who criticize games for having to read a lot should step aside and not play Xenogears. They won’t even get past the first two hours. Even those who do not care about the absurd quantity of text may be completely overwhelmed by the avalanche of letters that will be thrown upon them.
In Xenogears, you should not expect the typical story of saving the world, princess, or any of the hundreds of the typical topics within the JRPG genre. The argument is profoundly complex and adult, based almost entirely on philosophical thoughts, with strong references to religions such as Judaism and Christianity. There are a few winks throughout the game to biblical characters such as Christ, Cain and Abel, and also The Tower of Babel or the Ark of Noah.
Xenogears is a game that plays with historical reality of humanity. Its message is so large and has so many readings and interpretations that most people do not understand all of its grandeur.
As I said, the message Xenogears tries to give is outrageously large. In it we can find a subtle but devastating and intelligent critique of the concept of “Church” and its manipulative power over society through religion, even if only in purely philosophical reflections.
Those of us familiar with philosophy can see the numerous references to Nietzsche. Especially his thoughts on the “will to power” concepts; which are controversial in and of themselves with multiple interpretations throughout history.
But Nietzsche and his philosophy are not the only “guests” in Xenogears. Sigmund Freud and his theory of the mind and human behavior also make an appearance in the game. Characters like Jacques Lacan with his theory about the structure and behavior of the human unconscious, or Carl Gustav Jung with his theory of the collective unconscious and its relationship to dreams are also important for understanding everything that Xenogears tells. I could go on listing references; the Confucian moral religious doctrine, or the fundamental principles of reality studied in metaphysics but there are too many references in this game to try to fit them all into one article.
The argument is deep and complicated and it is told with a mastery and elegance that leaves the player in a state of extreme confusion. Playing with the timelines and showing incomplete scenes to take us down the path they want. The progression of the argument is so well designed that it captures the player in such and exaggerated manner that it is at all times difficult to explain what one feels in the final stretch of the game, when everything is much clearer but at the same time, you do not want all that you lived for weeks (or months) to come to an end.
As it could only be in such a gigantic story we meet a cast of characters with which we could fill pages and pages analyzing their personalities and behaviors.
The relationships between the characters are unimaginably good. I would tell you more about this aspect, but I don’t want this review to spoil them for you.
Many people still tip their hats to the fighting system in the game. The battles are dynamic despite being turn based. And also because besides normal battles, many times we have to fight within a Gears. And with this the combat system changes slightly.
And the Soundtrack? What about the Soundtrack?. I’ll only tell you that it competes with the best of Nobuo Uematsu.
In spite of all this it is not a perfect game. It comes with some pretty serious design flaws like having to swallow a large of scenes before a boss battle without the possibility of skipping them. Or the horrible camera we handle throughout the game.
Why did not I read a book if I wanted a good story?. The answer is simple, I am among those who have always defended that video games are the best tool to tell a story, since they gather the best from films, the best from literature, and have enough elements to stand out from everything else and get what no other entertainment media could even dream of.
You should not waste any time getting to know this fabulous game. So get to playing it. Until the next time we meet, Darkaray signing out.