Xenogears (1998)

by Ji-yeong
7 minutes read


Xenogears is not just a game; it’s an experience that delves into the depths of human consciousness, identity, and the existential ties between mankind and technology. With its captivating story, robust gameplay, and philosophical undertones, it remains a must-play title for fans of the genre.


Xenogears stands out as a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay, offering a unique blend of traditional RPG elements with a profound narrative. Its exploration of heavy philosophical themes alongside the exciting control of giant robots called ‘gears’ has captivated players for decades.


“Xenogears”, a role-playing video game developed and published by Square for the PlayStation console, was released in 1998. It is the debut entry in the larger Xeno franchise. The game revolves around navigating 3D environments both on-foot and using humanoid mecha dubbed “Gears”.

The protagonist of the game is Fei Fong Wong. After his village is destroyed, Fei is exiled and forced to deal with a chaotic world as well as the chaos inside himself. He gains several allies and finds the means to face his destiny, as well as uncover the truths behind mysterious forces operating in his world.

The gameplay of Xenogears combines traditional role-playing video game structures such as Square’s signature Active Time Battle system with new features particular to the game’s martial arts combat style. It features two slightly different battle systems: in the first, the player controls human characters in turn-based combat manipulated through the sequencing of learned combos.

The story follows Fei and several others as they journey across the world to overthrow the all-powerful rule of Solaris and uncover mysteries concerning their world. The story incorporates Jungian psychology, Freudian thought, and religious symbolism. Created by Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife Kaori Tanaka as a proposal for Final Fantasy VII, it was allowed to be developed as its own project.

First, it was a sequel to Chrono Trigger and then an original game with a science fiction premise. It was developed under the working title “Project Noah”. The characters were designed by Kunihiko Tanaka, while the gears were designed by Junya Ishigaki and Yoshinori Ogura. The designs were portrayed during in-game cinematics through the use of anime cutscenes.

Due to time constraints and the team’s general inexperience, the second half of the game’s plot was primarily told through cutscenes. The game was almost not localized due to its religious content. Its localization was handled by Square Electronic Arts staff and translator Richard Honeywood, who described it as one of the most troublesome games of his career.

Xenogears received critical acclaim, with many calling it a work of art due to its heavy religious themes and elements of Jungian psychology. Praises particularly went towards the storyline, gameplay, characters, and psychological and religious themes, but received criticism for the rushed pace of the second disc, due to a lack of gameplay and excessive narration.

By 2003, the game had shipped 1.19 million copies worldwide, gaining a cult following. While a direct sequel has not been developed, Takahashi would later found Monolith Soft and develop the Xenosaga trilogy and Xenoblade Chronicles games as spiritual successors.


Fei Fong Wong, the reluctant hero with a mysterious past; Elly Van Houten, a complex character tied to Fei’s destiny; and other memorable allies, each with their own backstories and abilities. The cast is set against the backdrop of a world governed by shadowy organizations and divine machinations.


Combining turn-based combat with strategic gear battles, Xenogears offers an engaging gameplay experience. Players navigate 2D sprites through 3D environments, encountering foes in both personal combat and large-scale gear fights. The game’s innovative battle system allows for a variety of tactics and character development paths.


Xenogears is a seminal work in video game history, renowned for its ambitious integration of philosophical and psychological themes into the fabric of its storytelling. Its legacy endures as a testament to the potential of video games as a medium for exploring complex human stories.

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