Perhaps things have slowed just a little bit over here at the Chrontendo ranch. The last few days have placed a number of demands on my time. And on top of that... I've decided to sit down and play a video game! Yes, every once and awhile I'll actually fire up a video game that isn't related to Chrontendo and isn't Halo (which I have no special love for, but my nephews always seem to want to play) or Rock Band.
So, for some crazy reason, I decided to finally play Xenogears, a game I've long been curious about. I'm not hugely familiar with the realm of Playstation-era RPGs, but the fact that so many gamers either love Xenogears or dismiss as a pretentious piece of twaddle intrigues me. The game is pretty notorious for experiencing budget issues -- resulting in the second half reportedly being rushed mess which attempts to tie up any loose plot threads using lots of cutscenes. I've also heard the religious content is somewhat controversial, and that, as Wikipedia puts it, the game is supposedly based on "The principles and philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Jacques Lacan...." Jeez, if Square was going that route, why not toss in Jean Baudrillard while they were at it?
Expensive looking cutscenses that combine traditional animation and CGI probably sucked up a lot of the budget.
Completely optional tangent: For those not familiar with the nutty squabbling that occurs between various insular academic disciplines, Nietzsche, Jung, Lacan (and plenty of other French guys like Baudrillard and Jacques Derrida) are all philosophers and/or psychological theorists whose reputations, as Metacritic would say are "mixed." These guys tend to be quite popular with humanities departments and freshmen philosophy students due to their almost mystical obscurantism and eminent quotability (e.g.: "A geometry implies the heterogeneity of locus, namely that there is a locus of the Other" - Lacan), as well as the sense of self-assuredness with which they write. One the other hand, they (except Nietzsche, to an extent) tend to be dismissed by those in the "hard" disciplines, such as experimental psychology, mathematics or analytical philosophy. Lacan, in particular, is widely mocked for randomly inserting mathematical terms which he seemingly does not understand into his writings, in an attempt to give his work a patina of intellectual rigor - after all, his intended audience probably isn't going to know the difference! The charges of intellectual elitism and even charlatanism are often thrown and Lacan and his ilk. The typical response from his supporters is "Well, you're clearly not smart enough to understand his theories. And, no, I cannot explain them to you in anything remotely resembling plain English."
Xenogears uses an ATB-like mechanism for battles.
Well, anyway, I've gotten a decent-sized chunk of Xenogears behind me and haven't come across any heavy duty philosophical or religious content yet. Though I will commend Square for shoehorning giant mechs into a standard RPG setting in a pretty hilarious fashion. The world of Xenogears is one where people fight using swords, rods and whips, and live in sort of medieval-looking houses, but also hop into ultra high tech Gears (big robots) when necessary. Despite being big-ass robots capable of high speed flight and firing projectiles, Gears mostly engage each other using giant-sized versions of swords, whips, etc, and they generally do this while running around on the ground. One particular Gear is even seen standing around with its arms crossed for some unexplained reason. Maybe it's trying to look tough? Does its operator have to manually maneuver its arms into the crossed position, or did it come with a pre-installed automated arm-crossing sequence, I wonder?
Yes, those robots are equipped with 80 foot long spears. Wouldn't missiles make more sense?
Despite the high levels of silliness involved, I find myself enjoying Xenogears quite a bit. The characters seem a bit more relatable that those in Final Fantasy VII (a game that I've never cared for). Maybe this is due to due the hand drawn character portraits that appear whenever someone is talking, as compared to FF VII's emotionless Lego figures. Xenogears uses 3-D in the exact opposite way of FF VII: sprites move around in rotatable 3D environments, instead of polygonal 3D characters placed on pre-rendered flat backgrounds. So it feels more like you are are inside of Xenogears world, rather than simply walking around on top of a nicely drawn painting.
Detailed 3D environments abound.
I'll try to post a more Chrontendo relevant update soon. One thing I must bring to your attention, in case you haven't seen it, is the Least Favorite Character Tournament over at 1UP.com. While some of the nominees are bit weird, naturally our very favorite baby persimmon has been doing quite well. I suspect Tingle may win, but in the meantime, cast a vote for Percy when his next round comes up!