God Digs Giant Robots: Let's Play Xenogears!

Shield Of Doom

It Begins

The last time we saw Fei, he was exploring the very obviously doomed hamlet of Lahan. Seriously, we've already seen what's going to happen there, so I don't consider it much of a spoiler.

Anyway, Alice wanted him to get a camera from the local doctor, so we're off to see him.

Naturally, being the village doctor, he lives atop a mountain infested with wild beasts, and a sign next to the path tells people who want to see him to "proceed with courage and conviction".

Something tells me Doctor Uzuki didn't think this through entirely.

Anyway, since I'm headed into the first area with enemies, I might as well explain the battle system.

Combat in Xenogears runs on a highly variant Active Time Battle system, possibly a remnant of when it was supposed to be a Final Fantasy title. It pauses when you get to someone's turn, though, because doing otherwise would create more headaches than it's worth.

On foot, your options in combat are the following:
  • Attack: Lets you perform physical attacks, which aren't as straightforward as you might think. You have a set amount of AP dependent on your level (Fei has 3 because he's level 1). This AP is used for three different types of attack, which are performed with the face buttons:
    • Weak attacks cost 1 AP and are performed with Triangle.
    • Medium attacks cost 2 AP and are performed with Square.
    • Strong attacks cost 3 AP and are performed with X.
  • Defense: You'll do nothing on your turn, and until your next turn you have a 95% chance of blocking incoming attacks, taking half damage. Mostly, though, it just lets you allow slow characters to show off their attacks.
  • Ether: This lets you use Ether abilities, which are basically magic. Some characters call this command something else (Fei, for instance, calls his Ether command "Chi").
  • Item: Lets you pull out an item and use it. Duh.
  • Combo: If you end your attack chain without spending all your AP, it gets added to a reserve of sorts. This command lets you use that reserve to perform Deathblow chains. Since Fei doesn't know any Deathblows right now it's useless to him (and it'll mostly be useless when he does have Deathblows, too).
  • Escape: This lets you run from battle. If you can run, you always have a 50% chance of doing so, so it's not too hard to escape before anything can hit you.
  • Call Gear: The character gets in his or her Gear to utterly steamroll the enemy forces. Obviously, though, you need a Gear to use it, so it's currently off limits to me.

Incidentally, this is the random battle music.

The mountain path contains 2 enemy types: the Hobgob and the Jackal. The latter just hits you, while the former has an ability called "Gobble-Gobble" that absorbs HP from its target. Hobgobs also randomly drop Hob-Jerky, which restores 50 HP, but can only be used outside of battle.

One more thing of note is that the battlefield for this area contains a fissure that runs down the center. Sometimes, Fei'll spawn across it from his enemies. He can jump across, but they can't, so you can snipe them with Guided Shot or just punch them as normal. There are a few other places with terrain features like that, but not all that many (maybe there would've been more if the development team had the time and money they wanted?)

Now, I may as well take a moment to discuss what Fei can do.

Character profile: Fei Fong Wong
  • HP: Above Average
  • EP: Average
  • Attack: High
  • Defense: Very High
  • Ether: Below Average
  • EthDef: Average
  • Agility: 11
  • Weapon of choice: Martial arts

Fei is pretty much the baseline from which all other characters are measured. He's quite good at punching things, and his Agility is quite high so he'll get plenty of turns. His Chi abilities are a mix of pretty much every type of Ether, though he doesn't have high enough Ether to really use the offensive ones well.

Incidentally, you'll note that I listed Agility as a number rather than as a comparison to the other characters. This is because Agility is static for each character.

As of now, Fei only knows one Chi ability, Guided Shot. It's your standard "shoot a beam of light with the power of my mind and body" type attack so many fictional martial artists have, and it does the base damage for any Ether ability. The formula is (5 * Ether - 4 *target's EthDef) with a multiplier based on the ability, so if Fei were to use it on himself (he's got 7 Ether and 8 EthDef, he'd do 3 (35 - 32) damage before random variance is applied.

It should be noted that most enemies don't have nearly the EthDef that player characters do. Against the enemies here, Guided Shot generally does about as much damage as a strong attack (mid-high 30s).

Anyway, back to mountain climbing. This place contains two arbitrarily placed item boxes, both with Aquasols in them. It also contains a cliff I need to jump across.

A word about jumping in this game: it's mapped to Triangle, which is all kinds of awkward. Also, the game starts loading random battles a few seconds before they actually start (you can tell because the music or ambient sound stops), and you can't jump at that time. Those of you who've played through the game before should already know why this is annoying.

Near the end of the (rather short) path, I jump into a tree and catch a Spider to go with my web. It can be traded in for something later on, so don't miss it.

With that taken care of, I head up to the home of Citan Uzuki, the village doctor (you totally saw that coming, didn't you?) The music here ain't half bad. Citan lives peacefully with his beautiful wife Yui and their daughter Midori, who isn't all that talkative. All told, they're a perfectly ordinary family in every way. Maybe.

Before actually heading inside, I proceed to look for stuff hidden in the scenery, because that's what JRPG heroes do (okay, so Ein didn't do this, but whatever). The most important of these, oddly enough, doesn't actually show up in my inventory. It's a ring that belongs to Midori, and I find it in a flowerbed outside the house. I can also look in a small room on the house's second level (which is outside for some reason) to get another Aquasol, and head to an observatory on the third floor, which has a ladder leading to a telescope on the roof. There, I can find 120 golds stashed in the chimney.

After rifling through his close friend's personal belongings, Fei heads inside and tries to talk to him. Unfortunately, the doctor is out at the moment, but I can talk to Modori (who says absolutely nothing) and Yui. Yui mentions that Citan's "tinkering with his junk out in the backyard", a phrase that's too easy to make jokes about.

So, I head outside to Citan's laboratory, which is behind his house. He's trying to fix some sort of strange four-legged helicopter-like machine (inexplicably known as a Land Crab), but it's...not going too well. In fact, he manages to make it explode.

Before Fei can ask him about the camera, Citan asks if he'd like to look at something inside the storeroom. Fei accepts, and I promptly guide him into the structure.

The storeroom contains a golden box of some sort, which when examined opens up to reveal a statue of an angel inside. It then starts playing this song, which I strongly recommend you listen to. Fei feels like he's heard it before, but he's not sure where.

Enter Citan, who talks a bit about it in a highly cryptic manner.

"Music is a mysterious thing... Sometimes, it makes people remember things that they do not expect. Many thoughts, feelings, memories... things almost forgotten... Regardless of whether the listener desires to remember them or not..."

Citan then talks about how the music box was found in an ancient ruin, and how he's still repairing it. He then remembers to ask why Fei's here. After hearing of our epic quest for photography equipment, he is more than willing to hand his camera over...but dinner's about ready, so that'll have to wait.

Fei heads back to the house while Citan does a bit of cleaning up. Immediately after Fei leaves, Citan starts thinking about stuff, then attempts to go do some more repairs. Before he can, though, the music box grinds to a halt. With an appropriately dramatic sting and a neat zoom effect, the statue disintegrates.

Citan, naturally, takes this as an omen, as he rightly should.

One delicious meal later, Fei heads home, Citan having promised to bring his camera to the wedding himself. He's worried that Fei will damage it, you see.

However, on the way down, Fei hears a loud noise, and several Gears fly overhead. Citan comes running, and identifies them as Kislev machines. There's no time to talk, though, because they're headed for Lahan.

Though I take the fastest route back, it's too late. Lahan is already burning, and the people are in panic. Conveniently enough, Alice and Timothy are right nearby, looking for Dan. Timothy wants to go look for him, but Citan advises against wading into the battle between giant robots.

Fei and Citan proceed to look for survivors. Instead, however, Fei finds a Gear whose pilot is dead. He sees a strange kid whose eyes are hidden in the cockpit (by way of anime cutscene, because the actual ingame sprites aren't nearly detailed enough for that).

Fei leaps onto the Gear to investigate, and Citan notices this. He calls out to Fei, who jumps into the Gear and heads into battle against the enemy Gears.

As I enter combat (with Gear battle music), the Gear displays the following messages:

.....XafbEWfadJZ........Linguistic Modifier enabled.

Identified: Lamb, Ignas dialect

No piloting exp. ->Easy mode set

Synchronizing input interface with pilot's normal reflex time

Warning to Pilot: C O M B A T M O D E

About to enter combat! 1200 units of fuel left

Utilize Command Ring in upper left of screen to select ATTACK then [Triangle], [Square], and X buttons to commence auto-attack sequence.

Power and fuel usage differs with type of attack (button): [Triangle]10 [Square]20 X30 (CHARGE restores 30 fuel units)

WARNING! Enemy Gears are now preparing to attack! Terminating Help Mode.

That explains the main ways that Gear combat differs from normal combat, but there are a few other things to go over. First, though, I'll note that Charge replaces the Defense command, and that it still defends. Here's the other commands that differ:
  • Ether Machine: This replaces whatever Ether command the character normally has. Some Ethers have different effects in a Gear, while others can't be used at all.
  • Booster: Replaces the Combo option. This doubles your Gear's speed, but it also consumes 2% of its Fuel every turn.
  • Special Options: This replaces the Call Gear command. I don't have anything to use with it yet, though.

Anyway, the enemies I have to fight are a pair of Musha Mk100s, which pose very little threat, but the experience they give me does bring Fei up to level 5.

After the fight, some more Gears show up. They surround Fei, and their leader shows up in a unique-looking Gear. The subsequent fight isn't playing, because we instead see Citan, attempting to get Fei to stop fighting. Also, this music starts playing.

"Oh no! This is not good! If 'he' awakens here..."

As Citan says that, Dan calls out to him. He explains that he returned to save Alice's wedding dress, which is a phenomenally stupid thing to do. Citan then suggests that they evacuate, because the gear Fei's in seems to be what the Kislev forces are after.

Dan...isn't too excited to learn that Fei is piloting a Gear. Before he and Citan can evacuate, though, Timothy returns for Dan...and is shot dead by one of the Gears while Fei is helpless to stop them.

This is the last straw for Fei, who starts seeing strange visions, then fires off a massive blast of energy that destroys the Gears. Unfortunately, it also kills quite a few of the villagers, including Alice. It also destroys what's left of the town.

Fei awakens some time later, near the survivors. Citan tries to fill him in on what happened, but Dan says it more bluntly than Citan ever would.

"It...was because you had to go get in that monster... Alice and Timothy... The people of the village are all...!! You killed everyone using that monster...!!"

The villagers are naturally suspicious of Fei now, thanks to what just happened. As he tries to approach them, they run in fear, and Dan has this to say:

"Murderer!! My sister... Give me back my sister!!"

Citan suggests that Fei leave the area. Between the survivors hating him and the possibility of another attack, it's probably for the best. He suggests that Fei head through Blackmoon Forest to Aveh, where he'd probably be safer. So, on that note, Fei leaves his former homeland behind.

I think that's enough for now. Voting on what to name the pink rat is still open, and will remain so until I reach the point where I need to name it.


Barely out of the tutorial, and the protagonist has already been declared a mass murderer. We're off to a good start.
Fluid 27th Jun 11
I just love extremely lengthy sidequests that can only be completed by doing seemingly arbitrary actions in the very beginning stages of the game! (Which of course you can't return to!) Don't you?
FreezairForALimitedTime 27th Jun 11
At least it doesn't involve any butterflies or empty bottles this time. :P
ShieldOfDoom 27th Jun 11
Oy, you forgot to mention about stealing a bird egg and getting ravaged by the mother bird in order to gain weight, even though weight is pointless in this game.

Otherwise, great Liveblog so far. :)
Daigerus 29th Jul 11