Metroid: Other M – Wii

 

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I know I live an awesome life of adventure as a kick-ass space bounty hunter…but maybe I’d be happier taking care of a whiny shit-factory who won’t develop a reasonable circadian rhythm for up to a year.

At the end of most video games, characters are pretty powerful. That poses a problem for direct sequels. If you want to go through the process of growth all over again, the game has to do something to turn back the clock, wipe out all the progress, experience and common sense, smash all the items, cancel the credit cards, take out a second mortgage on the house and smash the headlights on the car, just for good measure. And yes, developers might get a little bored with cliched catastrophes, I get that.

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Ridley is confused as fuck as to what he’s doing here and why Samus is suddenly interested in his potential as a father.

However, I’ve never had a story line interfere with gameplay quite so bad as in Metroid: Other M. Coming straight off her adventure on Zebes, Samus starts to question whether using an infant as a meat shield between her and mother brain might have crossed some sort of line—you know, the kind that gets you put on an FBI list. She intercepts yet another distress call—because Nintendo isn’t tired of all their cliches—and runs into her former commanding officer intercepting the same distress call, thus beginning a whole, wacky will-they-won’t-they scenario like some sort of outer-space sitcom.

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i gotta be honest, faults aside, this is exactly how a 3D Metroid should play.

So here’s the catch: Samus still has all the equipment from Super Metroid. She just decides not to use it unless Commander Adam tells her its okay.

Where shall I start with that one?

It isn’t as unreasonable as everyone seems to think that a highly trained and competent bounty hunter would, out of either respect or the spirit of cooperation, find wisdom in submitting to authority. But I find it increasingly hard to put faith in her training and competence when she sits basting in a pool of fourth degree burns, waiting for daddy’s permission to turn on the air-conditioning.

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Samus, depicted here mercilessly slaughtering a wounded animal, immediately after worried that her biological clock is ticking.

So maybe I could ignore a shitty storyline that turns one of my childhood icons into a weak-willed gender stereotype drowning in her own Vagisil, as long as the game play is good, right? For the most part, it’s a good game, after all. And when she’s not crying about her biological clock in a cut scene, she is literally tearing the limbs off monsters with her bare…er…power suit. Except Metroid loses something by removing the scavenger hunt aspect. Knowing she has the brains, heart, and courage all along has two obnoxious side effects: one, either she gets to an obstacle that we know full well she can overcome, but we have to file it away for later, or two, the good Lord Adam giveth what Samus needs as soon as she needs it. Either way, it actually makes the game a little less fun to know you’re not going to find anything really useful or powerful as you scuttle back and forth on the ship.

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Um, excuse me guys, I can’t use missiles unless I’m rooted to the spot and I need just a moment to get the wii remote to figure out where its…no fair! Time out! Time out! I should have bought that Pip Boy!!!!!!

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Fire Emblem – Path of Radiance

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Uh, yeah, do I really have to write another entry about Fire Emblem? Just play the damn game already.

But while I’m here, we need to talk. Every time you defeat an enemy in, well, just about any game, the corpse goes through some dying animation, then digi-mortis sets in and they vanish from the screen. Evil is punished and the hero goes on with his quest. Everyone is satisfied, right?

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Like independent contractors on the death star, a horse’s personal politics deeply influence which riders it will bear.

Except I noticed something this time around. If you’re fighting against a mounted unit, the enemy soldier slumps down on his horse, and then both of them vanish. That poor, innocent horse! Just shoved still-breathing into the grave like the horse of some deceased pharaoh. What happens to it? Where does it go?

Fire Emblem HorseApparently this was a big enough issue that the game had to weigh in on the ethics of mount loyalty. At the very end after felling the evil king, there’s a lengthy (unasked for) cut scene involving an extremely minor sub character being in love with the king’s mount (both pictured to the right). This runs on in Fire Emblem’s traditional style of half National Geographic documentary and half verbal dysentery.

While the game was true to form and well worth playing, I think I cared more about high school history exams than the ending to the game, which felt like it resolved nothing at all and was just trying to sell you the $90 sequel for the Wii. (Is that a Dolphin I hear chattering in the distance?)

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Dear god, will someone just take Twitter away from Trump already?

The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

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Sometimes, a company puts out a bad game. Square Enix, for example, decided what fans of the Final Fantasy series truly wanted was the experience of a steaming dump being flushed through a long straight expanse of cyberpunk sewer pipe. And Nintendo put out Skyward Sword, assuming that long time Zelda fans wanted to double down on the incessant tutorials from Captain Obvious the companion character. But while Square decided to rectify their problem with two sequels worth of more sewer pipes, Nintendo took a long hard look at themselves and decided to go back to their roots.

Enter Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s re-interpretation of the original NES gameplay. Appealing not just to modern players, but people like me who have played their games since the eighties, Breath of the wild evokes a sense of that past by employing a non-linear, open world, de-emphasizing the mandatory nature of items and casting a girl I went to school with as Princess Zelda.

Okay, Nintendo….that’s an oddly specific move on your part. I gotta be honest; I’m flattered, but that’s a little on the creepy side. I fail to see how that would appeal to anyone except me and like a dozen people I went to school with.

It’s a good choice on their part, though. We were in a handful of plays together, and I even played one of her backup dancers when she played the demonic seductress Lola in “Damn Yankees.” I have pretty good memories of Trish. I mean, how awkward would that be if I had ever dated or even had a crush on Zelda? I don’t think I could stand playing Zelda if I constantly had to be jealous of a mime who dresses in a full-length tunic and pals around with faeries. And Trish pulls off a pretty impressive British accent, considering she grew up in a town where people talk like someone held a Canadian accent face-down in a toilet for about seven minutes.


This is how people talk where I come from.

The game? Oh yeah. It was good enough. I’m not supearance on Iron Chef being one of the goals of the quest. I’m pretty sure Link just went and bought health potions, rather than spending a dozen hours brewing up food that, let’s be honest, probably just went into his sack and grew fuzz. I mean, sure it restored all my hearts…but what if I needed that effect of 20 seconds of cold resistance?

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At least he’s a pig again.

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Wait, you’re not a televangelist, are you?

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Oh dear god, I take it back. Keep the rupies, just go back into the pod!

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Hey, back off buddy. You can’t assume my cultural knowledge is the same as yours. Someone needs a little sensitivity training.

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The Deku Tree looks like you just crapped on his lawn.

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Huh. How about that. Usually that doesn’t happens unless I’m on a few mushrooms myself.

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Kabuki-posing fish me. Don’t you just want to be this guy’s friend?

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Okay, gotta be honest, the attention to detail is pretty fucking awesome.

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Uh…is that…is that a sex thing?

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At the end of his dance, sparkles shoot out of his maracas. I swear that’s not a euphemism.

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Uh, Link, you know you’re supposed to wipe it down before you sheathe it, right?

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Then we’ll see you in the sequel, Trish.

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When these guys play hide and seek, they go hard core. I imagine at least a dozen koroks die of exposure each year due to untalented seekers.

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Uh…you wanna help me out a bit?

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These guys. Apparently a cross between a walrus, my cat Ozzie, and Mr. T.

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And this is why we need male protagonists…because how else would we dress up so fabulously!

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The, uh…porcelain shrine?

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Finally got that Tremors reboot we were hoping for!

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Nintendo trying to cut a deal with Lego.

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On the other end of Hyrule, a giant cat is going nuts.

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Just a woman infatuated with her ball. Nothing to see here.

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Oh, that’s right…horses like food, don’t they?

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…ouch.

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Casual Fridays for the questing industry.

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Wait, you’re not my local congressman, are you?

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Xenoblade Chronicles II

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First up after my triumphant return…Breath of the Wild! But honestly, I don’t remember much about that right now, so here’s Xenoblade Chronicles II.

Great literature makes us think about difficult questions, and Xenoblade II is no exception. I swear wholeheartedly it’s the first time I asked myself how sentient a sex doll has to be before the hamster overlord that created it is morally obligated to ask for consent.

I can’t quite figure out if the interspecies lust for an adolescent robot is an unfortunate trend, or the game’s subtle way of acknowledging it has a Pokemon complex when it comes to tits. The game’s core mechanic revolves around collecting “blades,” superhuman cheerleaders who are intrinsically bonded to you and cheer you on, giving you super powers in combat.

Yeah, I totally see how this plays into the male power fantasies but…god damn it, Ms. Sarkesian, just this once I don’t give a damn. I might just risk the reputation that comes from digitally collecting people if I can finally have that bond with the hot blonde girl with massive cans like the girl I was just friends with in high school.

Oh, and it’s a good, solid game that improves upon the flaws of the earlier. And all that. Now lets get to a few of the literally hundreds of photos I snapped of this baby.

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Even fucking Chewbacca can’t compare to this…even if Chewie can keep it in his pants.

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*snickers like a twelve-year-old*

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This is literally how I feel when Hollywood puts out another shitty reboot and I get three hits on my blog from someone looking for BDSM on my Shadow Hearts 2 entry.

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The game is actually breathtaking…and not just for the women.

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*snickers like a school boy*

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Wait…are they going to recap the plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender?

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Shouldn’t you be wearing a gas mask when you ask that?

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Classy dialogue.

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The scriptwriters accidentally transcribed the conversation in the writers’ room.

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Mythra, I can guarantee I have never focused on anything nearly as hard as I am now. (*snickers…hard as I am now*)

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Masterpon Tora is apparently Master Roshi in disguise.

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Xenoblade plays to a key audience of boys with Napoleon complexes who all secretly desire to wake up with hot girls in their beds…

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…while still speaking for what would happen if adolescent me had ever woken up with a hot girl in my bed.

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I have like forty shots of this capybara. Apparently I really wanted to show this to you.

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Just some roly-poly hamster women in a steam bath. I don’t see what the problem is.

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For a combination sex-battle bot, Poppi actually has a lot of personality.

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There’s a rack that holds up its own towel.

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Game says what we’re all thinking.

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Okay Jake…stop taking pictures of the hot blonde chick.

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Press X!

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Seriously….I really must have thought this capybara was the coolest thing since Mythra’s chest.

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Day of the Triffids, except not as British and stupid.

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Okay…one more tit shot.

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*Snickers like I was back in sex ed*

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By the time this article posts, this will probably be Trump’s new press secretary.

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And for the ladies….

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Help me Obi-wan Kenobi

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Seriously, the creepy-crawlies in New Zealand make me want to move back to Minnesota.

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Rocks friends.

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The Xenoblade world’s equivalent of a chain gang.

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So now its…better?….that a hamster built a sex bot?

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Don’t get excited…he’s trying to convince a human female team member to take a bath with him…thinking she’s a guy.

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These guys.

Welcome Back

Thanks, Internet, for your support, which as usual came in an avalanche that wouldn’t dampen my socks.  I guess that’s God’s way of saying not only do I not get readers, I can’t even enjoy a nice snow day out of my whole ordeal.  In the past several months, I broke everything off in the U.S., packed up and moved to New Zealand. I had hoped it would be this wonderful, unspoiled Middle Earth where the weather was always nice and the people wouldn’t try to lynch you for saying such radical things as science is real. While parts of that turned out to be true enough (and I at least found myself with a full-time job for the first time since I lived in Korea), I also found myself in Auckland, which is the municipal equivalent of getting your head stuck between the balusters of the stairs, a concrete hell of traffic congestion that I doubt Tolkien had in mind when he envisioned Middle Earth. And if the city wasn’t a disappointing enough place to find myself, the sole antidepressant that doesn’t cause an avalanche of side-effects isn’t available here. So I’m trying to adjust to the standard drugs, which will make you feel good enough at the mere cost of not being able to sleep at night or stay awake during the day, gaining obscene amounts of weight and still starving all the time, having dysentery and constipation re-enact Street Fighter II in your gut, and have all sexual functions melt down like Chernobyl.  What could be greater?

 

So at the nadir of my existential quandry, after swearing off writing altogether so long as everyone on earth refuses to read my work, I get pinged by WordPress: “Thank you for auto-renewing!” …fuck. Figures that the universe would know my one weakness; my projection of sentience onto inanimate abstractions.  So I guess if I’m paying for it, I can at least use this blog to chronicle the games I’ve played.  I don’t really feel like crafting the full-length articles I did before, but I’ll at least draw something up every time I finish something new. And fortunately I don’t have much of a backlog, having recently finished a few 100+ hour games.

 

 

An important announcement…

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, first of all—thank you—and second, you’ve probably noticed something is lacking. It’s been harder and harder to get entries written, hence the fact that I’ve been posting bi-monthly, which sounds less like a writing habit and more like some sort of irregular menstrual fetish, and let’s face it: nobody wants to look at that. So here’s the deal: I’ve been struggling with depression. Not the sad, mopey Eeyore depression (although if anyone left me a comment, chances are right now I’d respond with “Thanks for noticing me.”), but more of the manic, crazy Robin Williams depression. But unfortunately, even if I’ve been so fortunate as to have a debilitating brain disorder that makes me want to make others happy, no brain disorder can bestow upon me the same brilliance, talent, or charisma as Mork.

This blog is viewed by upwards of dozens of people per…month. And I’ll not kid myself. A few of you might be shy, but avid readers who love video games, but the vast majority of views I get are people searching for BDSM who stumble upon my Shadow Hearts: Covenant article by mistake. Between that and my Brand New Youtube Channel! viewed consistently by…my wife…when she remembers…and I often feel like an accomplished professor giving a brilliant lecture to a dead log.

Is it worthwhile to write just for myself? To an extent. I do kind of like having an extensive record of all the games I’ve played. But then there are the months where I can do everything right—take my medication on time every day, get regular exercise even though exercise is miserable, sit out in the sunshine, and eat healthy—and that raises my mood about high enough that I can manage to get out of bed in the morning and occasionally shower. Or eat breakfast. (But doing them both on the same day isn’t looking good.)

So I’m currently sitting on the task of writing about three different randomizers (Legend of Zelda: like playing a new game every time, Super Metroid: like playing the same game every time, but sometimes starting off with the screw attack, and the Super Metroid Link to the Past Crossover: easily the biggest time waster since Skyrim, but fun as hell), as well as Shadowrun for the SNES (it’s like someone took William Gibson’s Neuromancer and infused it with the worst parts of point-and-click-adventures and ineffective RPG elements), and Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer Novels (Amazing fucking story about sorcerers imbued with the power of 3-D printing). Plus I’m playing through Breath of the Wild, which I could totally augment by contacting my old classmate Trish Sumersett for an interview with the voice of Princess Zelda (true story…in high school, I was in “Damn Yankees” with her. She was the beautiful seductress indentured to Satan. I was scrub baseball player #2.).

Will any of that get done? I have no fucking clue. Honestly, the future of this blog is pretty up in the air right now, and I really have to figure out if I’m struggling to write because I don’t enjoy not having an audience or if I’m struggling to write because depression is sapping enjoyment out of everything I do. So…it’s July as I’m writing this and you’re seeing this post about two weeks after my Xenogears article. (Hey, it’s my 35th birthday today! And already with the midlife crisis. Damn, I’m an early bloomer!) I’ve probably been working in the background to get something done, either personally or professionally, but let me ask a favor of you:

If you do read my blog, let me know. Leave a comment (or two or three). Talk about your favorite game or series. Do you think I’m worth reading? Do you just scan the pictures and the captions? Do I even play games you care about? Not fishing for complements…be completely honest whatever you say. You just don’t have any idea how helpful it will be to know I’m actually reaching some sort of audience.

If I had some cool catch phrase I used for signing off, I’d put it here. But I don’t.

-Jake

Xenogears – PS1

 

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…one of the minor enemies, actually.

The pathology of an independent, freelance game critic such as myself is not unlike the madman who plunges head-first into human waste hoping that, unlike the last two-dozen piles of excrement, there might be something good inside. I generally prefer to think of it like the Shawshank Redemption, that someday I’ll emerge victorious and stand triumphantly cheering in the rain as I taste the sweet, longed-for joys of pure freedom; unfortunately, I’ll have to swim through a lot of shit to get there. I don’t know. Maybe making a habit of criticizing games just teaches me to look for the negative, or maybe having just a modicum of disposable income and enough tech skills to emulate just about anything I can’t afford has piled up the shitty games that look interesting at first glance. Fortunately, every so often there’s a game that, even after two decades of play, still does everything right. A game so well-conceived that it’s almost depressing how fucking awesome it is. A story so strong it empowers you, makes you feel invincible. “Yes!” you cry to the heavens. “I am important! I have made contact with the divine and thrown the yokes and shackles of an oppressive deity from the shoulders of mankind, and thanks to me the world will at long last know the true release of tension and live its days in glorious peace. Now I have to shut off the Playstation, look for my unemployment check, and then go watch the dog take a shit in the back yard so I can pick it up with my hand.”

Xeno6Xenogears is, quite frankly, the best game ever made, and there is a special place in Hell, where you’re forced to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde until the end of eternity, reserved for any of you who disagree with me. How’s that for being completely objective, non-judgmental and totally writing without any preconceived notions whatsoever?

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Have you considered, maybe, joining the circus?

Most often cited as Xenogears’ biggest flaw is its story, said to be convoluted, harder to follow than a GPS unit set to the “down syndrome” voice, and denser than the impacted bowel of a neutron star. All those grievances are…well, I’ll give it this much; it’s not the way we usually tell stories in video games. Even some of the best told stories necessarily take a back seat to gameplay. That’s why the vast majority of games fall into the fantasy genre, where questing allows both plot an character to take a direct route through the vilest, stinkiest dens of monsters in order to carry out interspecies genocide in the name of personal growth and development. If you instead want to steer your heroes through populated areas to examine mundane desires and struggles of a broken society under the oppression of the powerful, you might have to reign in those violent instincts lest we start to notice your characters’ party tends to look like boys’ night out with Joseph Stalin, Genghis Kahn and Hannibal Lecter.

Xenogears attempts just that. Our main character, Fei, starts the game with nothing but his God-given amnesia trope and the personality of a gladiola. When a centuries-old war crash lands in his village (after somehow avoiding it for five hundred years), he gets into an abandoned mech (called “gears” in this world), and in trying to protect everyone accidentally inflicts collateral damage that slaughters 95% of the population. Oops. Anyway, he spontaneously decides to take a short hiatus from living in the village, and begins to travel the world, exercising more care about where and when he participates in battle. Problem is, he attracts trouble like Scooby Doo attracts asshole cosplayers, not to mention he discovers that a hidden nation of elites ruled by an oligarchy of old men with strong self-interests and an inept figurehead of executive power is manipulating world events through the use of their over-inflated military. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, though…they don’t represent the United States because their de facto leader is a brilliant physicist who specializes in life-extending nanoengineering, while our de facto leader is a clown that wants you to supersize your french fries.

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Why does God look like someone drew a face on the Thanksgiving turkey?

Anyway, the story does weave together about a dozen plots, complete with several factions of villains who all strive for their own personal goals. In short, we see people struggling to live and find meaning in life across the world, only for the villain to resurrect a God who has literally been farming us because he was hurt 10,000 years ago and has to harvest a shit ton of organs. So the hero, who has both to discover the reason why his personality is as developed as a hydrangea and to embrace some weird, Freudian mommy issues, now has to fight that god just to restore meaning to the lives of the game’s survivors. Almost all characters affect the plot in one way or another. Villains have noble ambitions and human emotions, while heroes make mistakes and succumb to temptations. It’s a moving story, deeply human, beautifully written, and translated with as much care as a lemur with a hangover and access to Google translate. The language is more distracting than a bikini courtroom, but I don’t think this necessarily counts as a strike against the game. Rather, I think it’s strong support for a remake. The game has one of the most amazing end-credits songs I’ve ever heard, and I think Square-Enix ought to upgrade its translation from “hungover lemur” to something a little higher up on the intelligence scale, like “stoned cocker spaniel” or maybe “pig that isn’t so sure that was really a truffle anymore.”

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If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that…

Also a point in the “needs a remake” category, the game’s second disc plays like you were running out of time before the test, so Square had to rush through the Spark Notes before class started. Granted, there is something strangely Shakespearean about seeing characters act out vital scenes against a black stage and a poorly drawn backdrop, but the finer plot points about a planet in turmoil over the resurrection of an unfeeling God probably require a little more nuance and development than your average Elizabethan dick joke. And when entire dungeons are swept over in just a few lines of dialogue, the game ends like a customer service transaction from Wells Fargo—you’re more than just a little confused, but pretty sure that it owes you something it’s not planning on giving you.

Like any good RPG, the actual game is played out through hundreds upon hundreds of repetitive battles. Here, Xenogears is…eh. It’s okay. Not great. But okay. They’ve got a system where rather than enter the “fight” command a half a million times until the game ends, you mix up weak, medium, and strong attacks until your action points run out. Really, it doesn’t matter what you throw at 90% of the enemies—all you’re doing is teaching characters special deathblow combos or simply using the combos. I guess it’s better than your typical RPG. Magic in Xenogears is very much like a bedpan: it has some creative applications, but you’ll probably never want to use it unless you’re healing.

Xeno3Xenogears also employs a secondary battle system for gear fights. Rather than using up AP over a single turn, gears are fueled up and slowly deplete this fuel over the course of a dungeon. They can sacrifice a turn in battle to charge a small amount, which somehow is a feature they can’t use outside of battle. It’s like if you could only recharge your phone one percent at a time while in your car, idling in the fast lane of the freeway (functionality which I hear is coming in the next model iPhone). Gear battles take a little more thought than character battles since you can’t level-up your mechs. So just to lay this out here, your gear can only charge when its being attacked, it can fly in cut scenes but can’t reach a treasure box on the top shelf when under your control, but Squaresoft drew the line at a robot getting stronger through experience points. That somehow would have shattered suspension of disbelief? Meh. Whatever. The gear battles are difficult because you’re limited to the upgrades you can purchase in shops and three equipment slots, but once you lose to a major boss, you know what attacks to prep for and can equip your gear properly. The only downside is it requires you to either play through the game once or, you know…die…in order to have a decent shot at winning.

But quite honestly, any of the games combat flaws slide by virtually unnoticed because of how fluid and compelling the story is. So let’s get on it, Square. Time for a remake already!