Monday, February 22, 2021

Xenogears: Perfect Works


Whoa, what have I got here? And where are Elly's clothes? Well, in Japanese media, it's very common for characters to be portrayed as naked when they're represented in a metaphysical world, since they've shed any Earthly additions (Thanks to Shesez on Youtube for this information).

Every so often I like to look at an art book, and Xenogears' Japan-only art book is a good one. As the cover tells you, it's got all kinds of information on the world of the game. It's a crime that this never got any translated versions in the West, though. As for why that is... well, look at the cover. Is that the outline of a nipple? Such vile and evil things are verboten! I've got them too, unfortunately.

Speaking of the cover, it may well be the most gorgeous image I've ever seen that relates to a game. Absolutely stunning, this. The reflecting pool, the water-ripples, the super-long hair that has its own flowy-ness to it. I wish I lived in a culture that thought things like this were gorgeous rather than something to get upset about.

Here it is flipped, with Miang on top. Like if we were in an alternate dimension where Miang was the main character instead of Elly. Now that's a concept.

The sheer volume of information here is nuts...if you can read it. We've got a breakdown of the USS Eldridge spacecraft, named after the ship from the Philadelphia Experiment that met a similar untimely end. Also worth noting that Xenosaga sorta brought this idea back by also having a sword-shaped ship called the Durandal. Unfortunately it turned out to not be the Eldridge, because Squaresoft would sue.

Here's the timeline that tells us that Xenogears was part five of a six-part series. Good chance this was inspired by the original Star Wars movie. Unfortunately we never got games covering the other five parts of this saga, even as Xenosaga looked poised to be a retelling of Episode I. Early magazine previews of that game didn't help with this misunderstanding, as they usually billed it as just that. The most interesting thing here, to me, is that Episode VI exists at all. The other four are previous eras referred to by the main game. However, Episode VI doesn't figure in at all because it's in the future of Xenogears. Was it put here in case they decided to do a sequel?

Also, much like this book itself, it's a crime that Square-Enix hasn't done more with this IP. There's so much you could do with it: A remaster, a full-on remake, prequels, a sequel, novelizations, and so on.

Lots and lots of text...that I can't read. This pertains to the finding of the Zohar in 2001 A.D., which is the real beginning of the Xeno-timeline. Xenosaga is consistent with this and a lot of other aspects of Xenogears' history. For example, Xenosaga takes place in the years TC 4767-4768 while Eldridge's disappearance at the beginning of Xenogears takes place in TC 4767. Which would obviously lead players to put the two together. I haven't seen a not-prequel this infuriatingly vague since Prometheus.

Episode II timelines that I wish I could read. Episode II is very interesting to me because we don't have any kind of game stand-in for it. Xenoblade Chronicles X is the closest thing I can think of. At least the Xenosaga series can function as a stand-in for Xenogears Episode I even if it isn't really. I wonder how they would have handled an Episode II game, given how empty the world was at that point in time. With only a few humans on the planet, it might make for a difficult story to translate into game form. Unless of course it were retconned a bit to have a fair amount of survivors of the Eldridge crash, heading out into the world to explore it ala XCX.

More timeline, some technology. As the main thing I can understand visually here, the artwork is the most important part for me.

Speaking of artwork, really like these pictures. Looks like it might be Shevat.

Grahf, the nefarious. For a long time I thought that his ingame portrait (right) was a metal bird-head helmet, like Stargate. Nope, those are actually Freezaesque side-horns with the face in the middle.

The world map. Weird thing is, I barely remember the game outside of the main (upper-right) continent, and for a moment I thought that the other three continents were unexplored parts of the world from the other Episodes / historical eras. I believe you go to all of them, though. An interesting note is that they're (presumably) named after the four elements: Ignis (fire), Aquivy (water), Terrane (earth), and... well, I say presumably because it doesn't have a name on the lower-right continent. I'm going to guess it has an air-related name.

This book is so in-depth that it has archaeological notes about the different eras and what's left of them now.

More sketches of Shevat. I find the concept of Shevat to be an awesome continuation of Zeal Kingdom from Chrono Trigger. And the crashed Eldridge forming the Tower of Babel is another eons-old location with technology beyond the present-day surface-dwellers. No lie, I would pay $200 right now for a remaster of Xenogears. Not even a full-on remake or anything like that, just an Octopath-like remaster of the visuals to make it less horrendous to look at now. $200. No question.

One thing that I'm not too keen on seeing in HD, however: Old Man Bal. Why is he so mad? "Get off my lawn!"

Saddam Hussein allegory Shakhan, plus optional secret uberboss Big Joe.

Billy and Jessie. This part is kind of interesting because they look so similar that it's like we're seeing three different images of the same character. Billy at 15, Billy at 30, Billy at 55. Something like that.

Onward to the namesake of the game: GEARS. Weltall is the star of the show, but evil alterego Id is the real menace. Is any other gear as powerful as Id? Maybe Xenogears, the final one. That's about it.

The strongest tier-1 gear is Siebzehn. The large mass of Siebzehn is a stark contrast to the sleek and sexy Crescens. Isn't Crescens technically an omnigear? Maybe the only omnigear without a tier-1 predecessor. Siebzehn meanwhile is the only tier-1 without an omni form, if I remember right, which is why it's the strongest tier-1 gear.

...everything I'm saying will make no sense to people who haven't played the game. Another reason to do a remaster. If you're reading, Square-Enix, you're sitting on a gold mine!

Wyvern and Alpha Weltall, technically a pair of villains. Though it's worth noting that Ramsus' Wyvern is the gear on the back-cover of the game, and coupled with Ramsus having an omnigear of his own, I'd bet that he was originally intended to be a playable character instead. He'd join later on, much like Magus. When that didn't work out in development, they just used his omnigear as a later boss. This is my theory.

Deus, one of the most interesting subjects of this game. Xenosaga touched on this a bit and even had its own version of the Deus System (with a different name: Omega. plzdon'tsue). Deus has a weird larva-like earlier form before evolving into a sleek, aesthetically-nice form, similar to Cell from DBZ.

Here's the larva form. I believe the ship is Merkava, his ark. Xenosaga has a place called Proto Merkava, but it ends up having nothing to do with this (plzdon'tsue). Though funnily enough Xenosaga III has another place called Abel's Ark that also looks like Merkava (aka it's an update of Proto Merkava) and that's where you fight Omega (Not-Deus). Given how hard XSIII goes in the paint regarding Xenogears material, it's really too bad it isn't an official Episode 1.

Deus' final form. What a tremendous design. There's a lot of angel aesthetic here with a dollop of extraterrestrial creepiness.

Xenogears, the ultimate gear. Since Weltall-2 is Fei's omnigear, does that mean Xenogears is something beyond-Omnigear? And who would win in a fight between Xenogears and Id-Weltall?

Fun Fact: Id-Weltall is an optional superboss in Monolithsoft's Xenosaga III. Unfortunately it's nothing more than a cameo with no story significance (plzdon'tsue). Also Xenogears here is the strongest, final optional uberboss in Square-Enix's World of Final Fantasy. Which is interesting to mull over. Square definitely remembers that this game exists, if they put the star gear into a modern game as not just an optional boss but the strongest optional boss. It's about as much evidence as anything that maybe Xenogears is going to get a revamp at some point.

Elly timelines. I...I wish I could read this! Translations exist online, but I have the book itself and it'd be nice to be able to read it.

Emperor Cain and the Gazel Ministry. A creepier bunch of villains you'd be hard-pressed to find. They look like The Advocacy from the War of the Worlds TV show from 1990. Actually I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the creators of this game actually got the inspiration from there, given the story and physical similarities between the Gazel Ministry and The Advocacy.

Emperor Cain on his throne. He sorta reminds me of the Engineer/Pilot from Alien. His design is a bit reminiscent of a pope. How much of him is machine? We never fight him, or even see him move that I can recall.

Citan Uzuki. Perhaps the game's coolest hero and one who has gone under-mentioned in this post.

Emeralda, the inspiration for similar child-then-adult characters in Xenosaga like Rubedo and Albedo. All three of them have names synchronized with their hair color. They also harken back to the various gem-themed WEAPON foes in FFVII, which this game shares some DNA with.

Bart: It's short for....Bartholomew.

Here's the Alfred to his Batman, Maison. ...and a GIANT FISH. Who? Why? Well, the game can't always be a winner. At least the giant fish is a bit adorable.

Not as adorable: A superdeformed gallery of the cast. The Devil's hands have been busy.

Fei through the ages. Pay to attention to the psychotic murderer on the right side of the page. Or Id.

Elly, w/ leggings. This basically ended up being the same outfit worn by Shion in Xenosaga (the first one, not the vastly inferior redesign of the other two).

Karellen is a direct reference to Karellen the Administrator from Childhood's End, played by Tywin Lannister in the recent TV adaptation. And there's Ramsus, who I really do think was originally intended to be the Magus of this game and join the heroes at some point.

Miang/Myyah, also with a Shion-like outfit. Does the Emperor look like that because he's 10,000 years old and barely hanging on to life, or is it just a mechanical exterior akin to a Dalek? I really want to know more about this guy.

In the game's instruction manual they had these character images reversed, which made it appear that Citan was gazing at Bart admiringly.

Billy posing with his twin pistols. The dude single-handedly manages to be cooler than the entire Xenosaga cast with this one shot. Except maybe Jin, that guy was cool. I liked KOS-MOS too.

...oh, there's also Chu-Chu. Once again, the Devil's hands have been busy.

Emeralda, relic of Zeboim. Wish we'd ever gotten a game set in that locale. Squaresoft circa 1998 definitely had a streak of setting games in modern world esque city-locations, like FFVII, Einhander, and Parasite Eve. It isn't a stretch to think they would have wanted to make another Xeno game set in the advanced modern cityscape of Zeboim.

Grahf is very reminiscent of Darth Vader. Also worth noting that the opening movie characters have uniforms that line up with the uniforms of the spaceship crews in Xenosaga.

Sketches of Elly being Elly.

Was she ever really that happy in the game though? Also, I don't recall this outfit ever appearing ingame. Maybe this is her appearance in one of the game's earlier eras. Episode III Elly?

Sketches of Deus' various forms.

Not sure what's going on here. I believe these are unused design ideas for Alpha Weltall, however. The long-armed one in the upper right is particularly creepy.

I believe this is Miang's final form. ...Gear? Not sure. Looks organic, much like Ramsus' final form.

Outro. Gotta say, flipping through this book was solid for the pictures alone, but I imagine you get even more out of it if you can read it as well. It's practically a textbook about all things Xenogears. It made me want to play the game again, that's for sure. Unfortunately without a remaster, I'll have to "settle" for the modern Xeno games like Xenoblade Chronicles X. Which are all great, I hear, so it isn't much of a settling.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose to Miang she was the main character. Came very close to achieving her goals too, over the span of 10,000 years.

    That would be too much of a retcon I think, if there were that many survivors at all there wouldn't be a need for Miang. Also Abel was only able to survive the crash for a pretty specific reason.

    Great read here.