Ready for some science fiction influenced by philosophers like Jung, Nietzsche, and Freud? Then you, my friend, are ready for feature for today’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past.
There are about a million things to say about ‘Xenogears,’ so I’ll try and keep it short and succinct. ‘Xenogears’ was an audacious game developed in the late 90s for the PSX by SquareEnix. I say audacious because it attempted 3D environments early on in Playstation’s development, with moving cameras. It also included jumping puzzles. Keep in mind that ‘Final Fantasy VII’ came out only a year before, and it was static background, with hideous polygons for characters.
Audacious though it was, it didn’t age well, and it had some strange quirks… namely the second disc is literally just reading blocks of text, and a boss battle. A lot of speculation surrounds why this is, but the common fan understanding is that the production ran out of budget, which explains the plot threads that were never addressed, and the near complete lack of player interaction at the end (except for hitting x to see the next dialogue).
Now I hear you saying, “This doesn’t sound that great, Boom.” To which, I respond, what’s good is so good that it almost makes up for its little oddities in production.
So, let’s back up. ‘Xenogears’ follows Fei Fong Wong and what seems like a Joseph-Cambellian hero’s journey. I.e, like most RPGs of its time, it has his homeland being destroyed pretty quickly (‘All of the Suikodens,’ ‘Final Fantasy VII,’ etc…). It seems like a typical story of a boy thrown out of his world to find out that he was made for greatness…. but it’s really not.
Unfortunately, after that it gets a whole lot more complicated. You have two warring nations who have fought so long they’ve forgotten why, a technologically superior past that spurs these nations into warring over ruins in order to find new and better mechas to fight with, and church organization trying to protect world “culture” whilst hiding its history from the actual people. All of which cause a great deal of tensions for one more RPG protagonist. But… boy, it only gets more intense from there.
Fei’s world is actually comprised of many different incarnations impacting each one of his “lives”, and having him unravel his own memories, plus that of his past and others’ pasts makes for a truly engrossing game, graphics and impossible camera angles be damned.
I’ve not really done this game justice with this description. It’s hard to. The game is truly something you just need to experience to understand. While I know with the clean, perfect graphics of today’s games makes it hard to go back to the old pixelated games of yesteryear, I think you owe it to yourself just to try it.
If you want the original game, those tend to be hard to find and fairly expensive (the game had a limited run, and people really love it). Good news though. You can totally download it from the Playstation Store for about ten bucks.
Do it. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.