A long, long time ago, I bought into the prelaunch hype and snatched up Squaresoft's Xenogears on launch day. How could I not? It had been teased obliquely in Final Fantasy VII, been "passed over" for localization, inspired a petition to bring it to the U.S.... at that point, buying it felt practically like an obligation.
Buy it I did, but what I didn't do was enjoy the game. I played more than 60 hours to reach the end, constantly waiting to hit all the cool parts my friends kept teasing... but those mind-blowing moments never arrived. My disappointment became a running joke for years, until more than a decade later I decided to give Xenogears a second chance. Would I love it? Would I still hate it? Find new meaning in it? Evangelize it to the world? I dug into the game, and reported back on my findings:
In short, I wouldn't say I became a fan, exactly... but at least I can respect the ideas behind Xenogears. Especially against the backdrop of modern game publishing, where big ideas and bold risks have become anathema, Xenogears stands out for being creatively uncompromising (albeit financial compromised). Squaresoft, and specifically director Tetsuya Takahashi and his team, had some big ideas and aimed to make an equally vast RPG around them. They didn't always succeed; in fact, at times they failed spectacularly. But you have to admire the intent.
In this brief Retronauts episode, I revisit Xenogears and contemplate its frustrating shortcomings while admiring its grand scale and wild ideas. I know nuanced opinions aren't really a thing the Internet does, but I find Xenogears to be neither the worst thing ever or a brilliant masterpiece. As with so many ambitious works, the execution falls short of the intent, but the fundamental idea is so audacious it's hard to criticize. Well, maybe that's not true, but at least that criticism is tempered with respect.
Jeremy explores his uncomfortable mixture of admiration for and frustration with Squaresoft's almost-classic RPG for PlayStation, Xenogears. It's a complicated episode for a complicated game.
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