Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All

Xenogears (PlayStation) artwork

Xenogears (PlayStation) review


"Two tailors arrive at a palace. Sly and scheming, they offer to spin garments for the Emperor out of a fabric so delicate that it appears invisible to all those too dull to appreciate its inestimable quality. The Emperor pays them and gives them the gold thread they request. When the tailors come to fit the fabric, they drape the “clothes” over the Emperor and place him before a mirror. The Emperor, sweating bullets now, seeing nothing but unwilling to make a fool of himself, says, “Yes, this is..."



Two tailors arrive at a palace. Sly and scheming, they offer to spin garments for the Emperor out of a fabric so delicate that it appears invisible to all those too dull to appreciate its inestimable quality. The Emperor pays them and gives them the gold thread they request. When the tailors come to fit the fabric, they drape the “clothes” over the Emperor and place him before a mirror. The Emperor, sweating bullets now, seeing nothing but unwilling to make a fool of himself, says, “Yes, this is a very fine suit you have made.” When the Emperor goes out on parade, the citizens clamor: “What fine raiment the Emperor wears!” or “Such colors!” But one little boy, of no special importance, shouts, “The Emperor has no clothes!” The Emperor realizes the boy is right, but it is too late. So he stands there naked, straight-backed on his carriage, while behind him a valet lifts an imaginary mantle.

Those who claim to “enjoy” Xenogears have surely fallen prey to the same disease as the citizens in this tale.

Where to begin in picking apart this dreck? Xenogears tells the story of Fei Fong Wong, the usual confused young man born into a world at war. Though the basic plot elements are a bit generic, Xenogears separates itself from the pack by adding epic amounts of confusion and nonsensical complexity to the mix. The game seems to be going for a Hitchcock-esque sense of suspense – the player is left to puzzle out some mysterious elements, and not quite all the information is there. Of course, Hitchcock would have accomplished this in such a way that it felt mysterious or suspenseful. Xenogears just feels confusing. To quote Gamespot, the game leaves one in a "constant state of cluelessness." Of course, Gamespot editors also gave the game a 9/10--apparently they enjoy being clueless. I don't.

Painfully stunted dialogue only heightens the mind-numbing effects of this cerebral Novocain, made yet more gruesome by a translation that too often makes Engrish look good. It's not the story, but the somewhat interesting battle system, enhanced by the addition of "gears," massive mechanical warriors that do much of the fighting in the game, that keeps the game going through the first disc. Of course, even the best battle system can't do much when the excitement you feel after a great boss fight is immediately doused with another wearisome dose of plot development – the crappiness of the story undermines the game's best elements with startling viciousness.

Despite these rather obvious flaws, fans continue to praise this title as the greatest ever. Unfortunately, the game itself isn't innocent of inciting the regrettable belief that it's a quality title. Xenogears is so obviously obsessed with its own greatness, so actively trying to transcend mere gaming, that the whole affair is piteous. The pretension begins with the incorporation of references to religion and philosophy, for which the title is frequently lauded. Indeed, Xenogears is larded up with direct references to the work of Nietzsche and Jung, as well as lots of indirect references to religion. This would be delightful, except that all these references aren't part of some larger scheme related to a larger message that the game is trying to relate. They appear, rather, to be randomly inserted; e.g. the creators need to name a city in the game, so they open up the Bible and insert the name of a city in Israel. Xenogears is possessed of a sea of metaphor and metonymy, but it's impossible to see anything emerging out of all these connections. For instance, at one points many robots appear posed as Christ on the cross – but is this moment attempting to comment on Christianity? On the Bible? On religion in general? I, for one, don't see any meaning here. Throughout the game, the player waits for some moment when all this referential baggage clicks into place and makes sense, but that never comes -- at journey's end, you will be no more enlightened than when you began.

Aside from being incomprehensible, the religious and philosophical references in Xenogears are a tactical way of making the game seem meaningful without it actually being so. While we oooh and aaah and pat ourselves on the back for catching a covert reference to the life of Jesus, we neglect to realize that if director Tetsuya Takahashi and producer Hiromichi Tanaka were really of the same cerebral pedigree as Immanuel Kant, they'd be writing the Critique of Pure Reason not making a fucking video game. What we see here is not an intellectually invigorating or thought-provoking story, but spiritual pablum masquerading as creative genius of the highest order. One wonders if the fans of this game would respond positively to this ad:

THIS WEEK ONLY: POORLY-SPOKEN JAPANESE MAN WITH NO KNOWLEDGE OF PHILOSOPHY LECTURES INCOHERENTLY ON NIETZSCHE FOR 80+ HOURS. TICKETS JUST $49.99

Possibly not. But dress that up with a decent battle system and fit it on a couple CDs? 10/10. Greatest game ever.

Xenogears, an otherwise above-average work, is marred by a drawn-out, needlessly complex, emotionally dry and dispirited story. And of course, the game takes the S.S. Pretension into wholly new waters. The fans say that its detractors can't understand its genius – but could it be that the story was deliberately made nonsensical, to grace it with the illusion of depth? Can we see in the creators of this title a hint of the two tailors? Truly, the Emperor has no clothes.

Rating: 1/10

denouement's avatar
Community review by denouement (December 18, 2005)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by denouement
Ninja Spirit (TurboGrafx-16) artwork
Ninja Spirit (TurboGrafx-16)

Herodotus writes that on the eve of battle with the Persian army, the Greek hero Dienekes was told that the Persian archers were so numerous that the mass of arrows, when they launched their volleys, blocked out the sun. Quite undaunted by this prospect, Dienekes responded: "Good. Then we shall have our battle in the s...
Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis) artwork
Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)

Contra. Forgive me the mild cliché, but the Nicaragua connection is too good not to bring up first thing, every time. Really now: the Contras were rapists, murderers, and terrorist thugs who plagued the countryside of a hapless Central American nation – and incontestably were the good guys. Equally the di...
Star Ocean: The Second Story (PlayStation) artwork
Star Ocean: The Second Story (PlayStation)

Here’s a math problem for you. Take one of the most respected RPG development companies in the world, Enix; add two other talented production houses, Tri-Ace and Links. Now factor in two separate storylines, a party of up to eight characters chosen by the player from all parts of an obsessively detailed fantasy world, ...

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Xenogears review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
zippdementia posted January 20, 2009:

"While we oooh and aaah and pat ourselves on the back for catching a covert reference to the life of Jesus, we neglect to realize that if director Tetsuya Takahashi and producer Hiromichi Tanaka were really of the same cerebral pedigree as Immanuel Kant, they'd be writing the Critique of Pure Reason not making a fucking video game."

Bwa ha ha ha ha! I needed that, thanks.
board icon
Suskie posted March 24, 2009:

Huh, I guess the original feedback topic for this review was purged like the rest, so I'll say it again: This review sucks. Dismissing Xenogears as overly preachy is a fair point but I'm sure there better ways of doing so than accusing its fans of being shallow idiots who pretend to enjoy it because they don't actually understand it.
board icon
EmP posted March 24, 2009:

That's kind of a 32-bit Square trademark, though. Discover their game plots are half-baked so inject healthy doses of overly-pretentious hyperbole and, when people complain, the defensive fanbase can just insult their intelligence. See: FFt, FFVII, Chrono Cross and, yes, very much Xenogears.

As far as I'm concerned, so long as these attacks are commonplace, then there's no problem turning that around and firing it right back.

'Gears is a fine game, but that apsect about it's plot is right there, open for multiple interipation. I'm middle ground on this; I think some of it was great and some it was utter dick-waving bollocks.
board icon
Suskie posted March 24, 2009:

But did Denouement really want to sink to their level, though? It feels like he's reviewing the fanbase more than the game.
board icon
EmP posted March 24, 2009:

He opens and closes with shots at the fanbase, but that's hardly the focus of the review. As I see it, he takes what is meant to be Gears' biggest highlight, the plot, then does what we all do when we bash, tears it to shreds. But he does so better than a lot of us in how he displays a confident, assured tone and a high degree of knowledge on what he feels the game is ripping off.

Fanbase bashing isn't anything new. It was seemingly the cornerstone of ths reviewing community post-EmP and it's still something that goes on. When I said on my Chrono Cross review that its popularity was akin to throwing up a mutated sheep then belitting people who didn;t see it as art, I made the same point as this. I'm sure there's something along the same lines in your FFVII bash, too.

I disagree with your stance that this is the focus of this review, just as I would disagree it was the focus of either of ours. I actually really like this review because it sets out to do what it intended to: to discredit the material it set about discrediting.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Advertise | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Xenogears is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Xenogears, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.