Okay. So there really is no anime for the Square RPG, Xenogears. I was going to write some ode to Soujiro [the always smiling swordsman-kid of Shishio -Ed.] or what-not, but seeing as how I can't think of anything to write about him without giving off major spoilers -- plus the fact that I've never written poems except in junior high -- I've decided to change my topic. I thought, heck, since an article about Iron Giant came out (which, by the way, is a great piece of animation deeply wronged by the WB execs when they made that lousy trailer and killed any possibility of a box office success) and, having seen other articles in the past that were "thinly" connected to anime, why not write about this fabulous anime?
Yes, I term Xenogears an anime, or at least an honorary one, because I think it definitely represents the spirit of anime very well. For those of you who have never heard of the game, it is this wonderful creation that came out in Japan around two years ago, I believe, and only made it to the U.S. last year because of hundreds and thousands of petitions by demanding fans. So this is a year-old game, and I'm writing about it. OK, OK, I really couldn't think of what else to write, so you'll have to bear with me. Or not. Anyway, what is the point of this article? Hmm, I guess it's my chance to say what a great game it is and how much it stands for anime and why everyone who likes watching anime should play it and maybe even watch it (see below for more details).
So what makes Xenogears so good? I've tried convincing the mighty President herself about the greatness of this game, but I don't think I got my message through. So here it is on paper. Xenogears is an RPG made by Squaresoft for the Playstation. It's about a lot of different things, but try to imagine all sorts of mecha (termed "gears" in the game), martial arts, a super-complex story with twists that will leave your brain with tumors (OK, not that bad), and just about any other detail you can think of from most any anime. Oh, and don't forget about the cute, fuzzy animals. The mecha scenes will impress all those Gundam and Macross and other fans, the plot will cause Eva worshippers to burst a blood vessel thinking about it (remember, I'm trying to impress -- impress), and well, the cute fuzzy animals are actually very cute (Kero-chan?? Bleh! =) )!
But aside from that, I think what separates this RPG from other RPGs is the amount of detail and history the creators put into the game, extending as far back as ten thousand years (and is not one of those "1000 years ago, magic destroyed the world blah blah blah kind of detail"). The sixty-plus hours of gameplay will show you scenes from four thousand years ago, characters from fifteen years ago -- a real history that brings the world to life. The characters that accompany you on this journey are unforgettable (honestly, ever since playing this game, I relate the name "Bart" with "pirate-boy" instead of "boy in Simpsons"), the relationships are extremely touching (this game has the most romantic story of any game I've ever played), and it seems like everyone you meet in the world says something unique. Another bonus is the Virtual-On-type game found in this game.
Xenogears is not perfect, though. If you take off all of the random battles and the times you miss jumps or spend loading or saving the game, you could probably save yourself twenty out of those sixty-plus hours. The interface is just horribly slow; the battles are fun if you're using your fancy martial arts against bosses, but really drag when you have to fight hordes of little minions. The platform parts of the game are just horrendous -- those who have played it probably still get nightmares when they hear "Tower of Babel". Also, the dubbing for the English version is atrocious.
Despite those minor shortcomings, the game overall is excellent. The graphics are beautiful, boasting a combination of anime and CG cut-scenes. The music is the best music I've heard in any Square RPG, which says a lot (for those who care). In fact, I own both the Original Soundtrack and Creid, the arranged soundtrack to the game. I bet if someone played the game from beginning to end and taped it all, cut out all of the random battles and menus and missed jumps, the result could be a sixty-to-one-hundred-episode anime that will definitely be worth watching. Hence, the Xenogears Anime.