A Rushed Apotheosis
If there’s one thing most JRPG fans remember Xenogears for, it’s the game’s infamous second disc. When a critical discussion of this game comes up, the second disc will usually be a talking point. Going into this thing, I knew that it was likely going to be a messy, somewhat rushed experience, and while my predictions were correct, I didn’t think it would be this bad.
The second disc of Xenogears knocked the wind out of me, and not in a good way. For every moment of beautiful storytelling on this thing, there’s a boring info dump, forced gameplay, or sometimes both back to back. Playing through it made me actively miss the first disc, which is amazing considering I wasn’t even really a fan of that one to begin with. And yet by the end of the game’s credits, I was exhausted and burnt out by the game’s squandered potential. Continue reading
Ambition & Perdition
As someone who plays a lot of JRPGs, it’s hard to ignore Xenogears. When fans talk about classics of the original Playstation era, it’s always bound to come up due to its massive critical acclaim and dedicated cult following. In many ways, the title defines Squaresoft’s ambition at the time, with Xenogears being the peak of their willingness to take risks. Initially pitched as a concept for Final Fantasy VII, the idea was rejected due to its dark and intense subject matter. And yet they still greenlit it as a separate project, sending director Tetsuya Takahashi down his long path of increasingly ambitious projects that has lasted up until this current console generation with Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
It’s hard to deny that the game has left a mark on genre fans. And yet, I somehow feel like it’s impact has only lessened over time. Like Chrono Cross, Xenogears no longer seems to be a title people instantly think of when they think about good JRPGs. The game is still the subject of a lot of speculation and debate, but I don’t think anyone would put it on the level of the Final Fantasy games of the same era in terms of popularity. Then again, comparing a niche game to one of the most mainstream RPG franchises of all time may be flawed argument to begin with.
But it still begs the question of how this game has held up over the past 19 years. Is it still the daring title it was all those many years ago? And better yet, was it ever any good to begin with? Continue reading
Crossing the Ocean
Out of all the JRPG’s I’ve played on the PS1, Chrono Cross may be the most brilliant and strange. In a console library dominated by classics from the genre, the game stands out among the rest by just being so, well, bizarre. As a sequel to Chrono Trigger you’d expect something more traditional, a title hoping to live up to the soaring heights of its genre defining predecessor. But the game itself is anything but typical, featuring a battle system unlike any others before or since, and a story that seemingly tries to make things confusing. When you look up anything about the game’s endings, you’ll find that most search bars will bring up Chrono Cross ending explanation as a secondary option. The game is a puzzle to say the least.
And yet, in spite of how obtuse it can be, whether it be because of the massive exposition dumps that dominate the game’s latter half, or the strange logic of its multi-dimensional mechanics, I can’t help but love it. Because at the end of it all, when you look past the Dragon Gods and supercomputers called FATE, Chrono Cross has a very well thought out message. Continue reading
Recently I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more. A few years ago, you would find me reading about 60-75 books a year, a number which seems absolutely baffling in retrospect. That would mean I would have consumed probably millions of pages each year, though it would have admittedly been made up of a lot of YA fodder and the occasionally more thought provoking Newbery award winners.
Still, I kind of miss those days. Being a writer, one of the most important thing I should be doing is reading, reading, and, well, reading. Consuming the works of other writers isn’t just a good way to absorb techniques, but it also helps you better understand what you like and don’t like to write about in your own fiction. Do you hate unsympathetic characters? Do you find certain stylistic quirks to be generic and/or annoying as hell? Then it’s safe to say you shouldn’t try to write using those tools.
So with these efforts, I decided to finish up a book I started all the way back in July, aka Haruki Murakami’s seminal late 90’s classic The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I got into Murakami about two years ago with his most recent novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Many Years of Pilgrimage, which I learned about through the lovely folks on anitwitter. And while my roots with him are centered in my weebiness, my appreciation of his work is decidedly much more literary. Continue reading