In my recent play through of Ni No Kuni I have been nostalgic for the classic JRPG era as a whole. It's a genre we saw go through a pretty big renaissance from roughly 1997 - 2001 as far as mainstream titles and popularity are concerned, bookended by both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X.
A lot of really great JRPGs came out during this era and many would say the genre was at its best during this time. Xenogears was a game that, even looking back, is still arguably unrivaled in terms of the ambitiousness of its plot and its thematic spirituality. Video games have grown leaps and bounds as an artistic medium since 1998, but I will always remember Xenogears as an innovator and pusher of boundaries. Many still cite its focus on plot and character development as far beyond its time.
It's not without its flaws, sure, but its a classic that deserves a lot of love for standing out in an era that saw such titles like Ocarina of Time, Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy 7 changing the medium left and right.
XENOGEARS APPRECIATION THREAD COMMENCE
This guy explains part of the backstory of Xenogears as he nears the end of a "Let's Play" series. This video truly reminded me of how mind boggling the scope of the story was:
Id at his worst (best):
A collection of some of the most complexly motivated villains in any video game ever:
Can't find a good pic of Krelian, but you get the picture!
Fantastic music, but the battle engine is rather boring making the game quite a chore to play through
I gave it another playthrough a year ago on my PSP. Notice how in the first area the enemies appear split up on the left & right of the screen and you jump across when you finish one group, but then for the rest of the game after it's just you on the right and them on the left?
Having a much better understanding of game development now than when I first played it 12 or so years ago I was quite amazed at realizing this, the weird way the game plays out has all the signs of a game going over budget and having to cut cut cut.
The game had a very clear pacing to it, where you could easily break it down into a series of chapters that take about 5 (and maybe as high as 10?) hours to complete. Then you get to the part where the world breaks and all of a sudden the game starts narrating to you. Back then I thought of this as the part where you simply sit and watch 2 hours worth of story.
Now though I see how they throw you into a boss fight here, a dungeon their, all the while narrating in the gaps up to that point. Seemed pretty obvious that these were intended to be 'chapters' paced out like the rest of the game, but someone obviously made an executive decision that hey guys this is getting pretty damned long, just use what you have and finish up. So a directors cut complete edition would probably have an extra 20-30 hours of game play to it.
Still a great game even to this day, in my most recent play through what impressed me the most was how the story keeps you involved right up to the very end. In many JRPG's, Final Fantasy's included, you always get to the point where you pretty much know what's going to happen, it's just a matter of slogging through the last dungeon and beating the final boss. I'll admit that sometimes I have a tendency to lose interest at this point and never actually finish the game, but there was no chance of that happening with Xenogears.
One more interesting thing I noticed, the game was actually labeled "Episode V" or something like that. They obviously had intentions of making more Xenogears games, probably starting with a prequel to the events that are alluded to throughout the game of the previous Fei and Ellie.
Yeah, it's pretty clear that they ran into budget and time issues, as evidenced by disc two. All in all, though, a relatively minor flaw in the presentation of one of the best stories in the history of the genre.
How is Xenoblade? Xenosaga 3 was alright but the other two were bunk
Xenoblade was a great game, but even further removed from Xenogears than Xenosaga was. Maybe it's just me but if you had to tie it to any franchise, I thought Xenoblade would be closest to Phantasy Star than anything else.
Personally I didn't mind the Xenogears series. Overall it's not a direction I'd like to see JRPG's go in but for experimenting with a style that uses lengthy cut scenes to tell stories it was pretty decent for a change of pace.