Hello, and welcome to my second liveblog. Once again, I'm going to be playing a flawed, yet entertaining JRPG. This time, though, I'm going with one that more people have heard of.
So, Xenogears. This game, released in Japan and North America in 1998, features a plot that involves conspiracy, Gnostic references, and giant robots. It was generally praised for both its complex story and its battle system, which is sufficiently different from what other RPGs of the era had to make it stand out. It also received praise for its impressive soundtrack, courtesy of Yasunori Mitsuda.
Of course, the game is also known for being horribly rushed to release and thus missing quite a bit of stuff that was originally planned for it. This also led to a rushed translation that contains quite a few blatant errors (Richard Honeywood, who led the translation team, is quoted with calling the work "pure hell"). The most blatant omissions will be visible by the time we reach disc 2, which is one of the most infamously rushed things in JRPG history.
Anyway, that's not for quite a long time, so for now, let's just jump right in.
Now, being a JRPG from the Nineties, Xenogears contains a few anime cutscenes, and the introduction is one of them. Being a JRPG from the Nineties, it does not contain much in the way of decent voice acting.
The opening cutscene shows a massive spacecraft that very quickly encounters a significant problem. Something starts attacking its systems, and nothing the crew can do is able to stop it. Also, the computers start displaying "You shall be as gods" on every screen.
Naturally, the captain decides that the best course of action is to evacuate the ship, which...doesn't go so well given that the escape pods are promptly destroyed. The captain then blows the ship up, and the parts fall upon a conveniently-placed planet nearby.
The last shots of the intro show a naked woman with purple hair emerging from the wreckage. She then proceeds to stand up and watch the sun rise as the last bits of wreckage descend into the atmosphere.
Now, don't expect to know what that has to do with anything until much, much later. For now, just remember that it happened.
The game then provides me with some exposition on the state of the world at the start of the game proper. We're on a continent called Ignas that takes up about a third of the world map. The continent contains two nations: Aveh, a desert kingdom, and the Kislev Empire. They've been at war for long enough that nobody even remembers why they're at war, just that to each nation the other is "the enemy".
Recently, the Ethos church has begun repairing ancient weapons for both nations. The big ones are Gears, giant humanoid robots that are much more powerful than any other weapon available to either side. Thanks to these, Kislev ended up with a significant advantage, because the Gears in their ancient ruins are better than the ones in Aveh's ancient ruins.
Recently, though, a military force known as Gebler decided to support Aveh. This allowed Aveh to gain the lead in the war.
After that, we cut to the village of Lahan, which is near the Aveh-Kislev border, and is currently a war zone. A man named Fei is shown piloting a Gear, fighting some other Gears. Another man, named Citan, yells at Fei, trying to convince him not to fight, but he doesn't stop.
We then see a shot of the burning village, which transitions into a painting. Turns out Fei's an artist, and the whole "village burning down" thing wasn't actually happening.
I'm sure you know where this is going already.
Anyway, Fei decides to take a break from his art, and I'm given control. I immediately head over to Fei's bed and examine it to get the 200 golds he was hiding under the bed (despite being far too old for stuff like that). This brings my total money up to 300G, which won't be nearly enough to finish the game.
I then head to a nearby storage room, where I take a couple of Aquasols (basic healing item, restores 50 HP) from some barrels. I also jump in a nearby spider web, which is added to my inventory. Yes, this does have a use, though it won't show up for a while.
I then talk to a maid, who talks about how Fei's been in the village for three years. He was brought to the village by a strange masked man, and he kept having nightmares at first, in addition to having amnesia. Fortunately, Lee, the village chief, took him in.
Anyway, I head upstairs to find several people talking about something. Namely, they're discussing how Fei's friend Timothy is going to marry his girlfriend Alice tomorrow. I talk to Timothy, and Fei thanks him for being such a good friend to him. Timothy then asks Fei to stop by Alice's house and check up on her.
As I try to leave the house, Alice's brother Dan stops me, claiming that he has something he wants to talk about. When Timothy tries to chastise him for being rude, he responds by saying they have nothing to do with each other until the wedding.
Gee, I wonder what he could want to talk about.
I proceed to head outside and explore the village of Lahan, whose name does not bode well at all given the intro cutscene. The highlights are as follows:
- First, there's the music that's playing here. No doubt it's one of the better "first town" themes of its time.
- A woman in the center of the town wonders what a life on the road would be like. I assure her that thinking like that isn't at all weird, and she gives me a free Aquasol.
- I jump in the well a few times. This rewards me with a few terrible "well" puns, along with an Eyeball (no use except to sell), an Aquasol S (restores 150 HP; useless right now because Fei only has 50 HP), and a Power Ring, which increases Attack by 2. I equip it in place of the Martial Cap Fei's already wearing, which only gave him a single point of Defense anyway.
- In the bar, I meet a drunk guy. I tell him that drinking won't solve his problems, causing him to give me a Mermaid Tear.
- A house in the southern part of the village contains an old woman who asks me what I think of Lahan. I answer that I like it, because I actually do and it would be stupid for Fei, who's lived there for as long as he can remember, not to. This causes her to give me 120 golds for the road.
- The same house also contains a guy who's obsessed with rock-paper-scissors, of all things. I can bet 50G on a game against him. If I had the patience to win five times in a row against him, I'd get the RPS Badge, which is part of a sidequest that provides me with a few items. However, I failed to do so. It's worth challenging him a few times, though, simply for the things he says for each of the possible outcomes. I managed to win a total of 200G before I gave up.
- The building west of that house has a guy in it who offers to explain combat to me. I already know enough to get by, but I ask him about "abilities" (basically, the game's magic system) anyway. This causes him to give me 80G for being a good student.
- This building also contains a cameo by Lucca, who offers to explain Memory Cubes to be. I accept, and she proceeds to give me an incredibly long-winded explanation of how they're basically save points, and how I can save anywhere on the world map. She then takes 28G, which I'd be more angry about if that was an amount worth caring about.
- Out behind Chief Lee's place, I encounter an old farmer, who's willing to hand over 2 Aquasols.
Next, I head to the local store, which contains the following items:
- Aquasol (20G)
- Rosesol (100G): Restores 10 EP (Ether Points; they're the MP-equivalent)
- Omegasol (50G): Fully heals HP and EP, but can only be used outside of combat
- SurvivalTent (150G): Restores the whole party's HP and EP, but can only be used at save points
Note that since the party size is 3, there is absolutely no reason to ever buy SurvivalTents unless you've got way too much money and nothing else to do with it. In my case, I just buy 2 Omegasols leave.
Next, I talk to Dan, who is walking around outside the bar. As expected, he wants Fei to elope with Alice. He actually goes so far as to try to sell Fei on her looks, which is incredibly creepy. Naturally, I refuse, both because Fei wouldn't ruin his best friend's marriage like that and because Dan's a creepy bastard.
Now, the only thing left to do in town is to go see Alice, who's preparing for the wedding (a phrase which here means "staring at her wedding dress""). She mentions that she wanted Dan to borrow a camera from Doctor Uzuki, who lives at the top of a nearby mountain. Since Dan's obviously not going to do it, Fei offers to go instead.
As Fei's leaving, Alice briefly stops him in order to ask about something she's been thinking about.
"Fei... Have you ever thought about things this way? If... If, you had only been born in this village... And if we had only known each other earlier on..."
Yeah, I think you can tell what she's trying to say without my assistance.
I then head to the local save point and save, because I think that's enough for now. Next time, I'll head up hat mountain and maybe explain the battle system while I'm at it.
Also, this game has exactly one thing that can be named, and I figure I might as well start asking for possible names now. Specifically, I'm going to need a name for this thing◊. Believe it or not, joke names actually would work in this case.