Xenogears is a PS1-era RPG from Square that I did not enjoy playing. Admittedly, JRPGs are not my bread and butter, they really need to strike a chord with me. In my opinion, the hallmark of a good “genre game” is an appeal to folks who don’t regularly play the genre. Xenogears just doesn’t accomplish this.
In the days of the first PlayStation, perhaps players accepted 2D sprites over a 3D environment. Maybe it’s because players didn’t know better, but this graphical style just looks ugly and lazy in 2020. Especially if we compare Xenogears with the 3D games that Square was releasing at the same time. It just shows Xenogears could have looked better.
Additionally, the back of the game’s case boasts “over 20 minutes of stunning, hand-drawn anime” but those cut scenes are heavily weighted towards the first couple hours of play. After my first 3 hours, I did not see another cut scene for 20 hours of gameplay.
The music is bland, repetitive, and irritating. Honestly, I muted my television for significant portions of my playthrough just because I couldn’t stand to listen to the same tune on repeat. Wikipedia says there’s 41 tracks, but I swear I heard the same 5 songs over and over again
The game does a good job of world-building. The countries opposing one another feel fleshed out with believable cultures and histories. But the main story is absolutely bonkers and it’s dragged out with mystery upon mystery.
Pacing is a huge issue in this game; you’re still meeting new party characters 30+ hours into the story, and characters disappear and reappear so much that you forget why you should care about them to begin with.
I wanted to like the story, but I just found myself not caring what happened after a while.
The game has the same “active time battle” system as many other Square games of the time. There’s a combo mechanic that’s supposed to make the game feel different from other RPGs, but it doesn’t feel groundbreaking or fresh.
Xenogears was almost Final Fantasy 8 and perhaps if it had been greenlit as a Final Fantasy entry it would have received the same polish that made those games so remarkable. But it didn’t, much to my lament.
If you’re going to play a 60-hour Playstation RPG, make it Final Fantasy 7 or Final Fantasy 8. Xenogears gets an A for effort, but a C- in execution.