August 1, 2006


I just finished playing Xenogears, which is an old game from 1998 but one with an amazing story and depth of intellect and emotion. From a technical standpoint, it's a very traditional RPG that has all of the hallmarks of the time. Which is good, but lacking in comparison to contemporary games. As a result movement, combat, and the audio are not particularly great. In particular combat is somewhat repetitive although a bit above par for the times. It's really the content that makes this game shine.

The first thing that one needs to realize about Xenogears is there are two layers to everything in the game. On the surface, you are presented with a lot of challenging ideas and plot mechanisms and characters that will really make you think. But beneath all of that is additional meaning which you can only extract if you have the background required to do so. And I am pretty sure I don't have all of it.

Some of the discussion points referenced include World War II and Nazi Germany with themes that can be applied towards anti-semitism as well as prejudice and social caste systems that apply or have applied to many other societies, such as India. There are also references to Freud's ego, superego, and id which make concrete appearances. Some references are to popular culture and include Star Wars, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Volton, Final Fantasy, and Soylent Green. I'm sure I've missed a few.

Perhaps the biggest talking point is how the concepts of religion, the church, sin, sacrifice, and God become the central plot around which everything else revolves. There is meaning behind the protagonist being the one who will destroy God, as well as arguably the reincarnation of Adam while another protagonist is the reincarnation of Eve. Other characters have representative roles as well, including Miang and Cain and Abel. The lambs have both a negative conotation in general speak, but a positive conotation in regards to biblical reference. There is both a clear criticism of how religion has been approached by people and an argument that tries to force you to find your own true faith. People assume certain things when it comes to God and religion because those are assumptions that are comforting. If those assumptions are removed or proven incorrect, are you willing to reshape your own view of the universe?

All in all, while I wasn't particularly impressed by the gameplay I do think many things were done very well for the time. But all of that is of very little importance compared to the storyline and the amount of thought that went into conveying those ideas and questions to the player. The second disc actually goes into a narration mode for significant amount of time, no doubt because expanding upon those parts of the story would easily have doubled the game's play time. I'm very satisfied with where this game ended up.

I do have a few questions which aren't answered. This installment of the game is referred to as Episode V. And there is a clear connection between this game and Xenosaga. But I have no idea how tight that connection is.

Posted by josuah at August 1, 2006 3:32 AM UTC+00:00

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