Friday, November 23, 2012

To Fong Wong, Thanks for Everything: Xenogears

So it's over. I've taken Xenogears off the Backlog, and come to grips with the fact that this titan of gaming mythology is less striding colossus and more puny mortal than I remembered. It's still one of the best games of its time, but it served to clearly illustrate just how much times have changed. Xenogears is still better than some of the terrible games released today, but if each new good and great game stands on the shoulders of giants, then the games of 1998 are just too far down the totem pole to attempt making eye contact with those of today.

And some remain firmly at crotch level.

Naturally. there are exceptions. There are games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Chrono Trigger - games that will hold the same place in history as the Pac-Mans and Tetrises of the world in that they'll never really get old, even when measured up against today. Xenogears was, unfortunately, attempting something that had never really been done before, and since it came along a whole slew of games have done it better. Combat is smoother, the story is presented better, the characters are better developed, and they allow more open exploration of the world.

Still, if you can turn off the part of your brain that knows they didn't stop making games in the late 90s, Xenogears still presents a hell of a good time. Let's take a look at how this Squaresoft gem manages to hold on to the last bit of its luster.

Friday, November 9, 2012


My last post on Shin Megami Tensei:  Nocturne detailed me regaining my bearings and figuring out just where I was supposed to head next in the game.  You'll be happy (or indifferent) to know that since then, I've figured out where to go.  I've made some headway in the story.  I cleared the first Kalpa in the lengthy Labyrinth of Amala.  I've come to see just why people rant, rave, and generally sing the praises about Nocturne.  However, if I want to sum up my latest stretch of  play with the game, I can sum it up in 2 words:

Fuck, Hamaon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Because we're too lazy to draw these as webcomics.

Having recently conquered Xenogears, David now moves onto Persona 4 at my thre--I mean insistence.  In the midst of that, this conversation via AIM takes place:

I think you'd be the Heirophant link for me.

Are you saying black people can't be main characters, you racist asshole?

Yes, but besides that, you just seem to fit the role of the grizzled, jaded guy with a heart of gold beneath the rough exterior.

Oh ok just checking. And I'm not grizzled, but jaded sure.
Who the heck is the Hierophant in 4?


Oh no
He's the worst cop ever.
And worst father.

Well the only teacher link I can think of is Hermit from P3.


That's not such a great fit.

Only if I can be the Dojima from the himsidaisy comic that throws coffee in the MC's face and regularly punches Adachi.

That does sound like you.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Alive, I'm on Fire, and My Spirit Burns With Desire: Xenogears


Thirteen years later, I've beaten Xenogears.

And the peasants rejoice.

I'm going to write two entries about the latest game to come off the Almost Got 'Em list. One will be a more traditional Backlog post about the gameplay, the characters, the experience of playing it again after all these years, and so forth. This one though, this one is about the story. The story, the thing that sets Xenogears apart from every other title of its kind to come out and still has fans clamoring for a remake or sequel. The story, the epic narrative that made Xenogears an enduring classic, remembered even to this day as one of the greatest games ever made. The story - which doesn't hold up at all to the passage of time.

Somewhere along the line, video games changed, for the better, in the way they present narratives. The consequence is that the sheer epic scope of a game attempting to tell a story the way Xenogears does suddenly becomes the friend from High School you remembered as captain of the football team, then you bump into to discover he's gained 50 pounds, lost all his hair, and never moved out of his parent's house. I want to get out of the way from the get-go that I'm not saying the story is bad, just that its delivery is so antiquated now that I don't know if anybody who grew up on today's games would have the attention span to deal with it.

Pictured: Modern game audiences.

So let's take a little time to discuss a tale grand in scope and ambition, and grievously lacking in execution.