Xenogears (ゼノギアス, Zenogiasu?) is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) for Sony's PlayStation. It was released on February 11, 1998 in Japan and on October 21, 1998 in North America. The game was never released in PAL territories. The game was recently re-released by Square Enix for the Japanese PlayStation Network on June 25, 2008.
Xenogears follows main character Fei Fong Wong and several others as they struggle to survive in a world torn apart by war between the nations of Aveh and Kislev. The principles and philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Jacques Lacan, as well as various religious themes greatly influence the overall plot and world of Xenogears. A major theme of the game is the nature of human memory: from the start of the game, Fei suffers from memory loss, which color his interactions with other characters. In addition to the concept of memory, the struggle between man and machine is also central to the game's plot. Each of the playable characters can ride in giant mechs known as Gears and can use them in battle.
Overall, the game was well-received by critics and commercially successful. It was voted as the sixteenth best video game of all time by readers of Famitsu in 2006. Xenogears has sold 1.19 million copies worldwide as of March 31, 2003. Due to its high sales, the game was re-released as a Greatest Hits title in December 2003. It maintains a 91% ratio on Game Rankings and a score of 83 out of 100 at Metacritic.
Xenogears gameplay combines traditional console role-playing game elements with new innovative features. It uses two-dimensional sprites overlaid on three-dimensional backgrounds, as well as two different battle systems: the first uses the characters in combo-based physical combat; the second takes place in turn-based "Gear" battles. Xenogears uses both traditional anime and pre-rendered CGI movie clips by Production I.G during some emotive or important plot points.
The player controls the protagonist and his party through a fully three-dimensional fictional world. There is an overworld map with different locations spread out across several continents. At first, the party only travels on foot, but is eventually permitted to travel via a variety of vehicles, including their Gears.
Battling is a variant of the Active Time Battle system found in various Final Fantasy games and Chrono Trigger. Most enemy encounters in Xenogears are random, and once a battle starts, the screen changes to a combat scenario. Characters fight with martial arts combat and "Ether" attacks along with special "Deathblow" moves that are learned through repeated combinations of strong, moderate, and weak hits. Attacks use Action Points (AP) and cost 3 points, 2 points, and 1 point, respectively. Each character can initially use 3 AP per turn, and leveling up characters eventually allows them to use 6 AP per turn. At a certain point in the story, an additional AP is acquired, allowing characters to learn "Elemental Deathblows". In addition to being used for attacks, AP may be saved and used as Attack Points for combo attacks in later turns. A total of 28 AP may be accumulated for combo attacks.
In addition to their regular attacks and Deathblows, characters can also use magical abilities that can aid the party or damage enemies. These abilities are limited by the number of Ether Points (EP) that are available to a character and are not replenished between attack rounds. For most characters, these abilities are called Ether, but some characters' abilities have different names, implying differences in their origins. For example, Fei's magic is called "Chi" and Citan's is called "Arcane". While fighting in their Gears, characters' Ether abilities are amplified, though some change or become unavailable during this type of combat.
In addition to small-scale, hand-to-hand combat, the characters sometimes fight from within their respective combat robots, called Gears. For these particular battles, the combination style is reduced to a selection of strong, medium, or weak attacks that build up the attack level of the Gear with each attack so that the Gear can unleash a special attack. While in Gears, the limiting factor of AP is replaced with a fuel gauge, with each attack consuming an amount relative to its power. There are three levels of normal special Gear attacks and one additional "infinite" level of special Gear attacks that correspond to a character's learned Deathblow skills. Infinite level differs from the other three levels in several ways. "Infinity Mode" lasts for three turns; while in this mode, fuel can be recharged in larger amounts and Gears can use "Infinity" attacks. To reach Infinity Mode, a character has to stay at attack level 3 while performing any other action. With each turn, there is a chance that Infinity Mode will be reached.
Gears can regain fuel with a "Charge" command. The Gears can also activate "Boosters" which enable them to act faster at a cost of extra fuel per turn. The "Special Option" command allows for Gear HP restoration abilities and special attacks. When a Gear has no fuel left, it can no longer execute attacks, use special options, or use boosters. They can, however, Charge to regain fuel and use Ether abilities. The main characters can purchase Gear fuel, parts, and upgrades in shops or from certain individuals.
Xenogears initially takes place on Ignas, the largest continent of the Xenogears world, and site of a centuries long war between the nations of Aveh and Kislev. A church-like organization known as the Ethos has excavated giant fighting robots called Gears in the name of preserving the world's culture. These Gears have had a major effect on the war and have almost entirely replaced the need for human infantry. Although Kislev originally had the upper hand in the war, a mysterious army known as Gebler appeared and started providing assistance to Aveh. With Gebler's help, the Aveh military not only recovered its losses, but began making its way into Kislev's territory.
Much of Xenogears plot and backstory is detailed in the Japanese-only book Xenogears Perfect Works. This book, produced by the now defunct DigiCube, details the history of the Xenogears universe from the discovery of the Zohar to the start of the game. According to the Perfect Works schematic (as well as the game's end credits), Xenogears is the fifth episode in a series of six.
Xenogears' nine playable characters hail from different areas of the game's world. The game begins on Ignas, a continent with two countries, Aveh and Kislev. Fei and Citan at first appear to be from this land, although it is later learned that they are from Shevat and Solaris, respectively. Fei is the story's protagonist, and has initially lost his memories of his past. Citan is an intelligent man whose knowledge of the world and technology often aids in the party's quest. Bart, a spunky desert pirate, is also from Ignas and is the rightful heir to the throne of Aveh. Rico, a demi-human with incredible strength, lives in a Kislev prison, spending his days as a Gear battling champion. Solaris, a hidden city of advanced technology, is home to several characters in the game. Billy, a pious worker for the Ethos religious group, was originally from Solaris. Elly, a Gebler officer of Solaris, is destined to be near Fei and falls in love with him by the end of the game. Maria and Chu-Chu are both from Shevat, the floating city and the only place resisting Solaris' domination. Emeralda is a colony of nanomachines from the ancient civilzation Zeboim.
The main antagonists, Krelian and Miang, are both leaders of Solaris who seek to revive Deus, a mechanical god that fell to earth thousands of years ago. Grahf, a mysterious man with immense power, follows Fei and his group and often fights them, though he keeps his goals a mystery. Many of the characters of Xenogears are not who they first appear to be and many have distinct roles in the game's fictional timeline. Fei, Elly, and Miang have been reincarnated several times throughout the game's history.
The story centers on protagonist Fei Fong Wong, an eighteen-year-old male who was mysteriously brought to his current home, Lahan, by a "masked man" three years prior. Because of the events surrounding his arrival at the village, Fei has no conscious memories of his childhood; the rediscovery of past events, both pleasant and traumatic, prevails throughout the game.
After a Gear attack on the peaceful village of Lahan, Fei jumps into an empty Gear and manages to fight off the enemy attacks. However, in doing so, he accidentally destroys the entire village. Because of this he, and Citan, the village doctor, decide to leave with the Gear in an attempt to get it as far away as possible from the village. During their travels, Fei meets Elly, a Gebler officer, who works for Aveh. Fei and Citan are also picked up by Bart, a desert pirate who happens to be trying to rescue his cousin Margie from Shakhan, the current ruler of Aveh who is searching for the Fatima Jasper. As it turns out, Bart is the rightful heir to the Aveh throne and wants to stop Shakhan and the war between Aveh and Kislev. During an attempt to attack Shakhan and Gebler, Fei goes out of control inside his Gear. Meanwhile, Bart and Citan, in Bart's ship, the Yggdrasil, are attacked by a mysterious red Gear, which then proceeds to defeat Ramsus and Miang, two of the leaders of Gebler. The Yggdrasil sinks and Citan escapes, whereas Fei wakes up in the middle of a Kislev prison. There, he meets Rico, a Gear battling champion, and Hammer, a salesman. After Citan sneaks into the prison as the new doctor, the group manages to escape by having Fei become the new Gear battling champion.
Gebler is commissioned to purge Kislev, and during the purge, Fei convinces Elly to leave her position and join his group. After preventing the destruction of Kislev by defeating the Gebler officer Dominia, Fei and his friends sneak into the Goliath Factory to steal the new Kislev airship in order to get off the Ignas continent. Bart, who recently discovered a new ship, then shoots the Goliath out of the sky, thinking it is being piloted by Kislev soldiers. Fei and Elly become separated from the rest of the group, but they all eventually come together on the floating city Thames. Dominia attacks the Thames and kidnaps Elly, calling her a traitor. Miang gets a hold of her, brainwashing her into almost destroying the Yggdrasil II, but her plan is foiled. Ramsus then attacks the Thames, searching for Fei because he has a vendetta against him, one Fei does not understand. Fei loses the battle and loses consciousness.
Billy, a worker for the Ethos on the Thames, allows the group to use the Ethos' advanced hospital technology for Fei. The group then travels to Billy's orphanage, where they meet Jessie, Billy's father, who knows Citan from Solaris. Jessie warns his son that the Ethos group is not as it seems and that he should give up being a priest, but Billy's faith is too strong. Upon returning to the Ethos headquarters, the group finds that assassins have murdered all the Ethos priests. Bishop Stone, the Ethos leader, confronts Billy, telling him that the Ethos' purpose was to help control the Lambs, the land dwellers, for Solaris, but some of the Ethos priests were trying to break away from Solaris and dominate the world themselves. At this time, Krelian, one of Solaris' leaders, leads an attack on the Thames, which was aiding the Ethos in excavating the ocean. The group follows Bishop Stone to a dig site, which turns out to be the ancient city Zeboim. There, the group discovers a small girl composed of nanomachines, which is what Krelian is after. Bishop Stone takes the girl and the group is left to fight Id, the pilot of the mysterious red Gear. Id claims that the girl belongs to him and no one can take her, but Wiseman shows up and stalls Id, allowing the party to escape.
The group returns to the Yggdrasil, where they find Fei awake and standing at his Gear, unaware of what he was doing. Bishop Stone attacks, transformed by Krelian, but is taken down with Jessie's help. Fei and his party then decide to climb Babel Tower in order to reach Shevat, the floating city, the only place that still resists Solaris. Zephyr, the queen of Shevat, asks Fei and his friends to assist in fighting Solaris and allows Maria, the pilot of Seibzehn, a special Gear that is part human, to go with Fei. At this time, Shakhan leads an attack on Nisan, looking for the Fatima treasure. Margie and Bart, the holders of the Jasper, unlock the treasure, an Omnigear, before Shakhan can and use it to defeat him.
To get to Solaris, the group needs to destroy three large Gates that protect Solaris from the outside world. At the third Gate, they encounter Emeralda, the nanomachine colony. She attacks the party, but then is given to Fei by one of Krelian's assistants. Upon reaching Solaris, Fei learns that Citan has been working for Emperor Cain and that Solaris has been producing foods and medicines made out of recycled humans in a Soylent System facility. The party also learns that the Gazel Ministry seeks to revive their god and wants to achieve eternal life, whereas Krelian seeks to possess Elly for his own gain. The Emperor informs Citan that Fei is not the enemy and the entire party escapes Solaris. However, during the escape, Grahf and Miang attack the group. Id appears and helps the party escape. Back at Shevat, Citan informs his friends that Id is actually Fei repressing his memories, and that there exists a third personality as well, the coward
The party's next move is to collect the remaining ancient Anima Relics, which will transform their Gears into the powerful Omnigears. It is also during this time that Elly and Fei become romantically involved with each other. During all of this, Krelian spreads a virus on earth, turning all the humans into mutants, in order to collect flesh to reconstruct Deus, a god that crashlanded on the planet thousands of years ago, creating humans so that one day they would revive him. While this is happening, the group learns that Fei and Elly are the reincarnations of Sophia and Lacan (who became Grahf), people that lived 500 years ago. Krelian and Miang dispose of the Emperor and the Gazel Ministry because they are no longer necessary and proceed to kidnap Elly, the Mother, who must be sacrificed in order to revive Deus. Miang is killed by an enraged Ramsus, who realizes he has been tricked by her, and then Elly turns into Miang, who then is absorbed by Deus.
Fei, as Id, attempts to make contact with the Zohar, the source of all energy that had fallen to the planet along with Deus 10,000 years ago. Wiseman, who reveals himself to be Fei's father, Khan, stops Id, which then allows Fei to reconcile his other personalities, Id and the "coward," and find peace within himself. Fei's Gear transforms into the Xenogears and Grahf appears, revealing that he had been inside Fei's father's body the whole time. At this time, Fei also makes contact with the Wave Existence and learns that he must destroy Deus to free humanity. Grahf, who wants to merge with Fei, is defeated and warns Fei that Deus will want to merge with him as well, as it did with Elly. In Merkaba, god's ark, the party defeats Deus, freeing Elly. Elly and Fei confront Krelian, who decides to leave the world altogether. They learn that Krelian wanted to create a world where only "waves" exist in order to rid people of pain and other human concerns. Fei and Elly return to the earth and reunite with the rest of the party.
Xenogears was produced by Hiromichi Tanaka, who previously worked on the popular SNES game Secret of Mana, it was directed and written by Tetsuya Takahashi. Yasuyuki Honne was the art director, while Kunihiko Tanaka was the character designer Tetsuo Mizuno, Tomoyuki Takechi, and Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi were executive producers for Xenogears. Koichi Mahimo, animator for shows like Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion, was in charge of the anime cut scenes.
Originally, Squaresoft had intended to call the game "Project Noah". The name was later changed to Xenogears for unknown reasons. It is the fifth part of a six-part story detailed in Xenogears Perfect Works; at the end of the game's credits, "Episode V" appears on screen. Xenogears' story is influenced by the ideas of Freud, Jung, and Nietzsche, and they are referenced numerous times within the game's narrative.
Square had announced that Xenogears may not have come out in the United States due to "sensitive religious issues", however, Square soon after reversed this and, with a joint partnership with Electronic Arts, released the game in October 1998. Square Enix re-released the game for the PlayStation Network in Japan on June 25, 2008.
The English translation of Xenogears was the first instance in which an English localization team worked directly with Squaresoft developers. It also was the first major project of Square translator Richard Honeywood. According to Honeywood, translating the game was a particularly difficult task due to it containing numerous scientific concepts and philosophies.
The music in Xenogears was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, who was made famous by his work on the SNES title, Chrono Trigger. The Xenogears Original Soundtrack was released on two disks and published by DigiCube in Japan. There are two vocal tracks included on the OST and both are sung by Joanne Hogg. The first vocal track is titled "Stars of Tears" and is similar to the game's principal overworld theme, "Emotions". This track is not played anywhere in the actual game, though it is on the game CD and can only be accessed by unconventional means. The second vocal track is titled "Small Two of Pieces" which bears resemblance to the music box song "Faraway Promise". This song plays at the conclusion of the game during the end credits.
An arranged soundtrack of Xenogears also composed and arranged by Mitsuda was released as Creid. The soundtrack contains one CD with ten tracks. Two of the tracks are the Japanese versions of "Stars of Tears" and "Small Two of Pieces". The rest are arrangements of tracks from the OST with heavy Celtic influences.
Shortly after Xenogears was released, there was speculation of a sequel being released, although this never occurred. While Xenogears has never had an official sequel or prequel, there was wide speculation that Monolith Soft's Xenosaga was a prequel when it was first announced. Tetsuya Takahashi was the director and writer for both Xenogears and Xenosaga and has noted that "with our relation between Square, I think it is difficult for us to say it is a direct sequel or prequel". Approximately 20 members of the Xenosaga development staff had previously worked on Xenogears.
On the connection between Xenogears and Xenosaga, Takahashi has stated:
It's probably more suitable to say that it follows the direction and style of Xenogears. […] Now that we are under a different company, we figured we should start everything from scratch all over again. Though there are familiar faces that serve as important characters in Xenosaga, others are more like self-parodies, so we don't really want Xenogears fans to overreact. Like movies, sometimes you have the director of the movie or friend of the leading actor appearing as cameos, so it's similar to that.
Several members of the Xenogears staff came together in 2008 to work on World Destruction: Michibikareshi Ishi, a console role-playing game for the Nintendo DS, published by Sega. These staff members include Masato Kato, Kunihiko Tanaka, and Yasunori Mitsuda, however, Takahashi was absent from the project.
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