It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a PS3 because I really don’t have a spare 80 hours to put into yet another play through of Xenogears right now, and I hear it just came out on PSN. I don’t want to think about how many hours I’ve already put into the game considering I’ve played it through so many times in the past. It’s scary to think how long it would have been if the design team (which included Masato Kato of Chrono series fame and Tetsuya Takahashi, who went on to make the alternate-reality-semi-prequel Xenosaga series, not to mention badass composer Yasunori Mitsuda delivering probably his greatest soundtrack ever) hadn’t gotten the budget yanked out from under them before the second disc was finished.
The game gets a lot of flack for its linearity (some of it, especially in the Solaris segment and on the second disc, well deserved), but I suppose it was the right game for me at the right time. As a student of philosophy, theology, history and psychology, Xenogears spoke to me in a language I knew well, and it said all kinds of things I probably needed to hear. (Also, giant robots. Always a plus.) One of the things that always stood out to me about Xenogears is the fact that the references to religion, philosophy, psychology, etc. actually make sense if you’re familiar with the material in question. Hell, knowing a little about Kaballah and Gnosticism even fills in some of the background story with regards to stuff like Xenogears‘ version of god, the Wave Existence, and how it relates to the story’s “false god,” Deus. It’s the rare JRPG that not only draws on Western mythology and religious icons, but does so in a way that makes rational sense within the story.
On top of all that, you have a hell of a cast: Fei (probably the most screwed up Square hero ever; sorry, Cloud); Bart the badass one-eyed, hot-headed sand pirate; Citan, who keeps you guessing even though you want to like him; Ramsus, probably the best pretty-boy villain to come out of a Square game; and did I mention giant fighting robots?
I guess if I have a point, it’s this: go play Xenogears if you haven’t already. If you have played it before, and you have a spare eighty hours you’re not doing anything with, go play it again in my stead. Or if you’re in the mood, go download the completed English translation of Xenogears: Perfect Works, which was semi-legendary back in the day; it lays out the plans the game’s creators had for the greater Xeno universe that, unfortunately, never quite made it to game form (though a lot of those plans did find their way, in altered form, into the Xenosaga games).