Seriously. There is no other game that even comes close to the excellence that Xenogears delivers. With its deeply immersive and philosophical story in addition to great gameplay, graphics & sound, no title is more worthy of being #1 on this list. The word “epic” is thrown around a lot today, but you don’t know what “epic” is until you’ve played Xenogears.
Xenogears was published by Squaresoft and released in 1998 for the original Sony PlayStation. Because the game made controversial statements involving religion, it almost didn’t get released in the US. It was originally planned to be the fifth chapter in a series of six games. Unfortunately, this never came to be, and although it can be argued that the Xenosaga series, which came much later on, ties into the story of Xenogears, those games never quite reached the heights that Xenogears did.
The game opens up with a spaceship drifting through space on an unknown mission. All seems to be going well when suddenly, all the systems on the ship start to go haywire. The security system turns against innocent people on the ship as the message “You shall be as gods” flashes across the computer screens. Unable to avoid the imminent disaster, the ship crash lands on a nearby planet. Having somehow survived, a mysterious lone female figure rises up from the burning wreckage, and our story begins.
Thousands of years later, humans have populated the planet. On the continent of Ignas, a war has been raging on for many centuries. The two nations of Aveh and Kislev have been using giant mecha weapons known as “Gears,” which have been excavated from the ruins of the crashed ship. Knownst to some but unbeknownst to most, the ship carried much more than just a bunch of giant robots, and there are some who wish to use the powers within for their own personal gain. Fei Fong Wong, the story’s protagonist, is a young man from a small village who suffers from memory loss. Struggling to discover his deep, dark and hidden past, Fei, through a series of shocking and thought-provoking events involving betrayal, seduction, and plenty of mecha-fighting action, sets out to keep the evildoers at bay and retain peace in the world.
The story of Xenogears is one of biblical proportions that questions the very concept of religion and incorporates the philosophies of many of Earth’s famous thinkers. Xenogears is a massive and unforgettable tale that lives on as a fan favorite to this day, and is easily worthy of being my #1 RPG of all time.
Xenogears makes full use of the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation, and considering the massive size of the game, the graphics were very impressive for the time. Everything from walking around the field to story cutscenes is all rendered in 3D. The 2 discs of data contained in this game make for over 80 hours of gameplay. I use the term “gameplay” loosely because a large portion of the game’s content is comprised of cutscenes. Some people criticize this, but I see it as a necessary measure to keep advancing the game’s massive story. Without the copious amounts of cutscenes, the game just wouldn’t have the same effect as it does.
Battles are played out using two systems; the system being used depends on where you are in the game. Some battles will be fought on foot while others will be fought in Gears (mecha). Both systems have many differences – for example, fuel is an important resource in Gear battles, and running out of it could spell bad news for your party members. Both battle systems make use of combos, which can be executed by pressing a certain combination of buttons. More combos are unveiled as you progress through the game, and the animations on these attacks are quite impressive. As you advance through the game, a few more battle mechanics are made available, and can really deliver massive amounts of damage to your foes.
Though they are few and far between, Xenogears is one of the first games to make use of pre-rendered anime-style cutscenes with actual voice acting, a new thing at the time. Though the animation wasn’t spectacular and the English dub voices were certainly sub-par, it’s certainly a nice addition to the game and helps tell the story’s most crucial moments.
Xenogears contains a multitude of musical pieces composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, the same musical mastermind behind Chrono Trigger. It’s rare that I use the word “powerful” to describe a work’s soundtrack, but in the case of this game, there are no other words. Its musical score offers the perfect accompaniment to the game’s story; combined together, these elements will provoke your thoughts, immerse you into the game’s world, and even get you emotionally involved. The game’s closing theme song “Small Two of Pieces” still remains to this date one of my favorite songs of all time, and still brings back memories of the great times I had playing the game.
Finding a copy of Xenogears nowadays could prove to be a challenging task. A new copy of the game currently totals close to $150, although I have seen used copies avialable for as low as $40. The game was released on the PlayStation Network, but only in Japan. As of now, the only way to obtain this game is to buy the original disc version and hope you still have a system that can play PS1 games. If you do go through the trouble, you won’t regret it. It’s worth every bit of effort and every penny you will spend, and much more. Take the plunge and see for yourself as to why Xenogears is my favorite RPG of all time.
Xenogears is available for the Sony PlayStation.