Xenoyears: First and LastDecember 4, 2009
Last night I finished Xenogears, with 75 hours on the clock. I think this run (on PSP, largely played while sick in bed, fueled by donuts) will be as memorable as the first one a decade ago (on my Lime iMac, on Christmas break in Chicago, fueled by Chex Mix with Cheez-It in it).
I was definitely more conscious of some meta-game stuff this time, after having a lot of time to learn about games.
It’s tragic how clearly the second disc reveals the rush to finish the game. Right when the story gets truly fascinating, you’re whisked through a series of scenarios that were meant to be carefully, lavishly developed like in the first disc. Instead, they’re represented by several screens of narration, a screenshot of what the dungeon would have looked like, and a boss battle. Much of the world-building, grindy stuff on the first disc seems embarrassingly frivolous when you see what they had to give up implementing at the end.
And it’s clear why Xenogears has the most compelling, epic storyline of any single game I know. The history is not just a sketched-out setup for the current story. This time through I knew that Xenogears was meant to be episode five in a series of six. Roni Fatima, Lacan, Zephyr, Krelian, and other characters from generations past seem more real than historical characters ever do, because they were always meant to be stars of their own episode. As much as I would love to have played Abel, Kim, and the others, this compression of five games worth of story into one seems almost as good as the whole series would have been.
Also! I figured out why the text in the English version is so infuriatingly slow, especially in the screenfuls of text on the second disc. Compared to English, Japanese conveys the same amount of information in fewer characters. The game had a character draw rate roughly matching normal Japanese reading speeds; they must have never changed it when switching to the much longer strings of the English version.