Xenogears: An exercise in unabashed nostalgia


When I was in college, I spent a lot of time drinking. I mean, hardcore, trying to kill myself, at least three-fifths of the worst rotgut I could find drinking. I was often so drunk on a daily basis that I would spend my nights unable to even go out and get drunk due to a combination of being unable to afford more alcohol and being physically incapable of going more than three feet at a time without the kind of visceral nausea that would probably have killed me had I been wasting money on trivialities like food.

During this time, I went from 312 lbs to 206 lbs. Somehow, I didn’t die or blow out my liver. I also managed to procure a PlayStation, and so, on nights when I was too slobbering drunk to even go out and drink, I would play the various games I bought on the extreme cheap. Silent Hill, an actual PS port of Diablo, and my at-the-time favorite Xenogears, possibly the best game not many people have ever heard of.

I’m still fond of this game, with its tremendously derivative plot, predictable characterization, and state of the art (for 1997) visual effects. Frankly, I played it because I got to pilot giant robots in combat with other giant robots without having to play Heavy Gear. (I liked the Activision Heavy Gear games better than the pen and paper ones.) Xenogears boasted a rehashed version of gnosticism that would make the Manicheans think it was heavy handed, shoddy explanations of completely insane phenomenon, and ever escalating scale of bioengineering and artificial life forms that somehow grabbed hold of my alcohol sodden brain. To this day, I sometimes go back and watch the old game cutscenes just for the reincarnation through genetic manipulation storyline.

Xenogears wasn’t exactly good, but it was mesmerizing to watch, and was pretty fun for the time. A JRPG by Square that did what none of the others ever managed to do: hook me.