Kung-Fu, over-sized piloted mech assault robots, the occasional anime cut-scene. What's not to love about this JRPG released on the Playstation by Squaresoft in 1998?
With a deep story intertwining psychology, philosophy, and religion, you're gonna have to prepare your brain for this massive undertaking. And let's be honest, you mention any of those three hooks and it's a turn off for most but, if you really look under the hood of any RPG, those elements are there. Xenogears just happens turn those elements up to 11 (ala Spinal Tap), mix them up in a giant religipsycholosphy (I made that up) gumbo and throw them in your face.
The sound and graphics of this game are what grabbed me from the jump. Always a sucker for 2D sprite work, the characters are represented in this way while the rest of the world is displayed in 3D render. You also get the occasional anime cut-scene that leaves you wanting an entire movie, is it too late to ask for that still? The soundtrack is beautiful and never leaves you feeling bored. I remember this being this first game that made me want to buy a video game soundtrack and so I promptly found an ebay listing and did just that.
Game play in Xenogears stands out from other games in its era in that battles happen in two separate ways. On foot you use a series of triangle, square, and x commands to land martial arts combos on enemies and also using Chi or Ether (aka magic) attacks. Then there is the Gears, hence the namesake, which also use fighting combos and Ether but the gears consume fuel and if you run out of fuel, you might as well go home, its over.
1998 was a great year for the Playstation and part of a holy trinity of years, 97, 98, and 99, for RPGs for the PS1 in my opinion. Xenogears is at the top of that list of greatest RPGs. Martial arts action, anime, giant robots, heavy story-line with depth. If one or all of those things appeal to you, check out Xenogears on the Playstation!