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A mecha Japanese RPG released on Playstation in 1998 and developed by Squaresoft. It is also available via the Playstation Network. It is the first of the Takahashi Tetsuya's ambitious Xeno series followed by the Xenosaga games and Xenoblade. The game is directed by Takahashi Tetsuya and its story is written by Takahashi Tetsuya, Tanaka Kaori, and Kato Masato with music composed by Mitsuda Yasunori. It was executive produced by Sakaguchi Hironobu, Takechi Tomoyuki, and Mizuno Tetsuo. Anime director Mashimo Koichi handled the animated cutscenes. Tanaka_Kunihiko designed the characters. Due to the game's story-heavy nature, anyone who hasn't played the game yet should be wary of potential spoilers when looking up information about it online.
It begins on the continent of Ignas, which has been caught in a seemingly endless war between two nations, Aveh and Kisev. One of the key aspects of the war is the use of powerful mechs known as Gears, which had been uncovered from ruins. The former is also assisted by an army known as Gebler, which is helping the nation gain the upper hand in the war. Protagonist Fei Fong Wong is aware of this conflict, but he lives a relatively carefree life in the village of Lahan, located on the border of Aveh. Fei is actually amnesiac and he was discovered by the village residents three years prior, but he has settled comfortably into the community thanks to the help of his friends Timothy and Alice.
Unfortunately, the war is suddenly brought to his doorstep as a Gear crashes into the village followed by Gears piloted by Gebler and Kisev troops. Fei desperately wants to save his fellow villagers and for reasons he does not quite understand finds himself climbing into an abandoned mech and fighting the other mechs. This soon goes horribly wrong as Fei suddenly goes berserk upon witnessing Timothy's death during the battle and the entire village and most of the population including his friend Alice are killed. Fei does not fully understand or remember what exactly happened, but he feels intense guilt over the village's destruction and antipathy towards the mech he had just piloted, which is still standing. To make things worse, the remaining population of Lahan, with the exception of the local doctor Citan Uzuki and his family, turns against him and Citan advises Fei to leave lest the situation grow more tense.
Fei complies and heads into the nearby forest where he meets a troubled young Gebler soldier named Elly who is surprisingly sympathetic towards Fei. She, too, is also plagued with guilt as she was the pilot who abandoned the mech that crashed into Lahan. The two of them develop a strange and intimate connection with each other. Citan soon joins Fei, bringing the abandoned Gear, dubbed Weltall, with him in order to prevent the villagers from being caught up in the war any further.
Fei doesn't really want to fight or be involved with Weltall any further, but he finds himself embroiled in a conflict much larger and more complex than the war between Aveh and Kisev. Fei also discovers who he really is and the connection he has to Elly. . .
The game is notable for its immensely complicated plot and loads of Gnostic symbolism, although the Perfect Works companion piece clarifies some aspects of the plot and backstory. The game also ran into behind the scenes budget problems resulting in the game's second disc telling a lot of its story through the characters narrating. The game's combat is split into on foot battles and Gear battles. The latter required the player to manage the Gear's fuel properly. The game featured some voice acted anime cut scenes which were animated by some of the animators who worked on Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is also a likely influence on the game's style and tone.
Xenogears was originally intended to be Final Fantasy VII, but the producers felt that the game's storyline was too dark for a Final Fantasy game so it was made into its own work and would've been the start of the 'Xeno' franchise. Xenosaga was originally intended to be a prequel to Xenogears, but the series notoriously ran into behind the scenes problems and many of the original ideas including the series' connection to Xenogears were discarded so the final product ended up being a spiritual successor to Xenogears. Xenoblade is also a spiritual successor to Xenogears and has no apparent connection other than title and sharing the same creator and similar themes.
Xenogears is also the first Square game where the original developers closely worked with the English localization team.
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