After spending an embarrassing amount of my free time lately playing XenoGears, I have reached two conclusions:
First, it is just so much easier to blog while playing a PC game from the very computer you generally use to blog, than it is while playing a console game on a television several dozen… centimeters… away from said computer.
Second, XenoGears has not aged quite as gracefully as I had anticipated. Here’s why:
1. Cutscenes: O. M. G. There are so many cutscenes. It’s Death by a Thousand Cutscenes. It’s Chinese Cutscene Torture. If there were such a thing as Cutscene Boarding, then Cutscene Boarding, thy name be XenoGears. Frankly, Fei can’t take a quick walk around the block without running into six cutscenes and their illegitimate child Extended Dialogue. And even then, it wouldn’t be so bad except for the…
2. Translation: Ok, it’s not that the translation is bad – we haven’t reached Final Fantasy Tactics level, or even approached the epic hilarity of Last Alert. But the translation is… rigid. And even a Japanese language neophyte such as myself can see numerous idioms not converted into some sort of English equivalent. Most telling, though, is how non-conversational most of the dialogue appears. Again, it’s not a bad translation, it’s just not up to modern quality (you know, where games are developed by native English speakers : D ).
3. Play Control: What’s this? A play control complaint about an RPG? Why yes, yes it is. And this is one of my pet peeves. If you’re going to include platforming elements into your game, please, for the love of Mario, please tighten up your controls so simple jumps don’t become epic trials of concentration and willpower.
4. Cliches: Fei. Bart. Rico. Billy. Emerelda, even. ALL of them have a sob story about at least one deceased parent. And then Fei has amnesia. And Bart is the lost heir to a throne. Rico is not only a lost heir to the throne, but he was also the victim of mutation-inspired discrimination. And on it goes. Secret empires. 500 year old wars. For a game with such a rich story, XenoGears is certainly propped up by more than a few suspect plot points. While several of them do feel necessary, such as Fei’s amnesia, others just feel like shortcuts.
Of course, all the aspects of the game that I loved still remain: the aforementioned obscure, complex, and and extraordinarily deep story, the great dual combat systems, both in gear and out of gear, and the sheer overwhelming power of Id and Grahf. But I do wonder: how would the gaming community receive XenoGears in the current gaming environment?