Hello, everyone ! I'm back from my vacations (where I tried to write a first episode for a Xenogears comicbook... with the idea that I'll keep Alice alive in it... honestly, I think the story would have been even more interesting if she had survived instead of Dan).
I prefer to think that Elly - the person she was before the game's start - was being gradually but steadily overwritten over the course of Xenogears with no trace remaining. (Just in case there was not enough horror in Xeno for your taste.)
The outro kind of gives some hope on that front though. Her promising to (maybe) not jump at the first opportunity to sacrifice herself for others next time looks like a marked improvement to the complete lack of self-preservation she exhibited before.
It's true that it's a pretty horrific interpretation. I enjoy to see the Antitype in a different light myself. You know, if you believe in the concept of the soul, then... maybe it's not such a huge deal that Elly was given the WE's will. Since she was born this way... it's the basis for who she is as a person. We were all given a specific personality ourselves at birth and there is little we can do to change this fact. And if we believe the concept of the soul, then, we probably had the same basic personality in another life.
The game has this free will theme (that all Takahashi games have). Even Fei and Elly's relationship is questioned, the concept of soulmates, by Krelian. But real life truly doesn't give us free will over certain things. Why do you like this color ? Why did you fall in love with this person ? Why do you believe in god and choose this religion and not another ? Why do others like different things than you do ?
There is no answer. It's just... who you are and you can't fight it.
When it comes to love for example... you can't control your feelings. At all. Your only "free will" lies in whether you will act on them or not.
So, when I look at Elly... I don't think she's being rewritten. I just think she was born to be a certain way, like everyone in life (and considering that Takahashi wrote the characters using the Enneagram, it makes it even more true, each character is designed to act according to his/her type). She's the same type of woman in all of her incarnations (mother figure in ep 2, nurse and a mother to a robot in 3, religious figure/mother to her people in Ep4 and while she's a soldier in Episode 5, it's interesting to note that she's not comfortable in this role, much like her responsabilities as Holy Mother were hurtful to her *people were killed because of her existence and she wanted to die until Krelian showed up*... besides seeking her father's approval, I think Elly may have joined the military because of her need to "protect"... as the mother persona... but killing people traumatized her and she was deeply troubled by her orders of dropping bombs on Nortune... and in the end, she quit)... but with different lives in different eras.
Miang is also interpreted differently. PW indicates that she is a contradiction, that she's not just a program. But lots of fans only see her as... well, a program. A mindless monster. But we all remember moments in the story where she displays human behavior, going against her "nature".
I think her relation with Elly, the Antitype, is fascinating. BECAUSE Deus kind of hijacked the Wave Existence's creation to make Miang. So, in the end, there was probably a bit of the WE's will left in Miang, this will/desire to free herself. But because of the hijacking, it also means that Elly's existence is binded to Deus (as well as all of humanity born from Zohar)... as the "other side" of Miang.
Not sure if I'm explaining myself well here. In short, I'll say that :
- Miang is a machine/program with a bit of humanity buried.
- while Elly is a "human" with a fixed personality and binded to a machine/program (like every human in Xenogears, who are supposed to go back to Deus).
58 Is there a character archetype you like the most in Takahashi's works?
59 Do you think Takahashi could write for another genre?
58 Honestly, I think I like a lot of his Type 8 characters. Can't help it. And even if it might get old after a while, I always end up liking his samurai type characters. As for the girls, it's nice when they're not Type 2 "caretaker" characters (like Shion or Emeralda... who supposedly are type 7 and 4, respectively... I also suspect that Dominia might not be a Type 6 like Yuriev classified her on his website... she's so forceful and proud that I can only see her as a 8... my issue with how Yuriev typed the Element girls is that he did it according to the group's role... that is to assist Ramsus... instead of typing each one of the four women according to their different behavior *Dominia is forceful, fiery and goes against orders, Seraphita is happy go lucky, Kelvena is level headed and Tolone is sarcastic*).
59 Another genre ? Well, Takahashi did some fantasy with Xenoblade. I would enjoy him to do some modern time stuff... just... you know, science-fiction that actually takes place on Earth (something he never did before, since Earth is always lost). Something like Shadow Hearts (which is more fantasy and revisit history but you get what I mean)... or MGS/Ghost in the Shell/SMT series.
I guess, it's not exactly a genre lol... but yeah... something that takes place on Earth would be cool. Science fiction or not.
60. Considering the first two parts of the Xeno-series were supposed to be parts of a six part tale, what do you think of other video game narratives being told in this large scale episodic way? Shenmue was supposed to have 11 episodes. Is it a viable way to tell a story?
I think it's complicated if you don't have the support and money behind this. Look at FF7 and its compilation. Or Kingdom Hearts as a series. It works for them because the original games were insanely popular. Unfortunately, neither the KH series nor the FF7 compil are of the same caliber as the planned and aborted Xeno series. For one reason : because Square Enix added on games that didn't have sequels/prequels planned for them (and did it in poor taste for a few titles). The FF13 series is also an example... of a series built on a FF that a lot of people hated. Hence sequels that make no sense, change the gameplay and throw the mythology of the first game out of the window (which is an insult to the rare people who saw lost/untapped potential in the original FF13 and its mythology). The FF13 trilogy went similarly as Xenosaga, it seems... with the difference that FF13 wasn't planned to have sequels at all.
Speaking as someone in the industry, I think rigging the framework for the universe and the framework for the gameplay and sticking with it from title to title is a much more viable way of creating an environment where a multi-part saga can flourish. Listening to feedback based on what players are saying is really, really important. A lot of people really didn't like how hands-off and cutscene-heavy XSI was when it came out, and the response from Monolith from XSI to XSII wasn't a drop in cutscenes, it was a battle-system overhaul and character redesigns (when really all it needed was the XSIII treatment). When playing with things like budget and deadlines, it's easy to lose confidence from Title 1 to Title 2, but I think the way to make a sequel-jump higher than 3 is to stop reinventing the wheel every time it's time to just continue the story. Once a studio achieves this, then I think telling a long story in this manner is viable.
Katimus also brings up a good point. One of the problem with Xenosaga... or FF13... is that each title is built so very differently than the previous one, when they're direct sequels. It's confusing for players. It's okay to make different games if they're like main FF titles, unrelated storywise. But if you want to tell a story with direct sequels... you need some continuity... storywise and gameplay wise (though, it's always nice to have a few new things and improvements... like the Shadow Hearts games... the first one was nice but the second improved on the gameplay and added a lot to the story...
I heard that Shadow Hearts 2 could have been a different game with Yuri as an antagonist so I'm not sure that a sequel was ever planned from the start... but if it wasn't, then SH2 is even more brilliant than I thought, one of those rare unplanned sequels that doesn't ruin the original and make it more engaging instead
63 Who works as a "main" protagonist for you?
Generally, I like the anti-heroes better. And if I have to comment on the Xeno main protagonists... I ended up relating more to Fei and Shion than Shulk. Far more. Fei's personal story resonated with me because of my issues facing reality and Shion's depression resonated with me because that's also something I had/ve to face (plus the strained relationship with a family member and her being a geek and making emotional decisions despite her smarts and not being the nicest person to be around because of her problems... it's tons of things I can relate to... and also, she's a main female character and I'm a female player so it's even easier to relate).
Shulk is nice but... I can't relate at all. I don't think I can do this with any Xenoblade character, in fact. At most, people will feel closer to Melia because the writers did everything to ruin her life and she has the unrequited crush going on (the unrequited crush thing is the easier way to make a character relatable it seems lol... from Eponine to Tifa to Melia). But aside from this... I can't relate to anyone, even if I like some of the characters quite a bit (like Fiora or Riki).
64 What makes Xenogears and Xenoblade (Chronicles) so acclaimed? Did they do anything differently from the bog standard JRPG if so what?
Xenogears is enshrined in a lot of older gamers' memories because it was one of the first games that came out in the US that tackled truly mature issues like the capability for religion and religious figures to be false, and featured characters that weren't ashamed of things like sexuality. A lot of previous games kinda upheld moral and physical purity standards, but Xenogears just kinda throws all of that off a cliff. Saga or Blade haven't truly shown as much of a loss of faith as Gears did. When Ormus turns out to have been a construct, it doesn't affect any of the playable characters except Jin by proxy of his relationship with Pellegri and his rivalry with Margulis. In Gears, when the Ethos religion is unveiled as a front, it directly impacts Billy, and since Billy is part of the main cast, a lot of effort is shown in showing him working through the loss of his faith, where in Saga, all you really see is the Ormus characters suicide themselves. Also, there's Elly's defense of her supposedly questionable purity. Not a whole lot of female protagonists involved romantically with another major character walk up and say, "Hey, if you're going to judge me for my choice to have sex with the person I love, deal with it." That obviously wasn't verbatim, but you get the idea. Saga or Gears has no one like that. When Madonna (the singer) came out as a very sexually liberated woman in the 80's, a lot of people were shocked, and even though Elly wasn't super-brash or a pop star or anything, she was the closest the JRPG genre had at that time to being a sexually liberated female character (while still kinda caged by all the heteronormative stuff, I think Elly's a lot more liberated than other female jrpg characters during the late 90's). Take FF7. There's Aeris, whose whole thing completely rides on her purity, and Tifa, who was clearly designed with the male gaze in mind, and Yuffie, who is the manic pixie dream girl. Not one of those characters had Elly's depth. Take Cloud Strife and compare him to Ramsus' backstory, and there you have the depth for the protagonist of FF7 equal to the midboss of Xenogears, who never ends up even playable.
A lot of gamers remember and are moved by the depth of the characters, and especially over time, having forgotten how truly difficult this game was, remember the parts that they loved much more than the parts that they hated.
You make lots of good points. But I think FF7's female characters are more than how you describe them. I don't think Yuffie is a manic pixie dream girl. Not in the original game (she's a little shit who steals and lies to you... and many people hated her for this... I think the manic pixie dream girl thing was more apparent in Dirge of Cerberus where her characterization was more Rikku-esque). Aerith is also more than "the nice innocent girl". She is a strong bold girl with flaws who grew up in the streets (like, she's not very tactful and she can be rather harsh sometimes *Tseng comments on this in the Temple*). Yeah, Aerith is basically FF7's Eliza Doolittle (well, just comparing the characters, not their respective storylines of course). The purity thing is the only thing Square Enix and some fans remembered her for alas. As for Tifa... yeah... I had a talk with someone lately and we realized why some people seem to think she's the deepest character in the entire game when really... her backstory is almost entirely Cloud's and her passive/motherly/fanservicy side is a total male wet dream. And the answer seems to be that she's a self insert, a character that is really easy to project into. She's a female and more attractive Allen Ridgeley, to make things short (or a mix between Reyn, Melia and Sharla). They're the human guy/girl next door.
Geez, this person explained it all better than I'm doing but it was real interesting to read. All I'm saying is that FF7 had an interesting female cast at the time that many people nowadays misinterpret (including Square Enix unfortunately).
Xenoblade came with a new level of accessibility, which has been embraced by many new fans, but not so with a lot of the older ones. Xenoblade's story is much denser and nicer than any Final Fantasy game after X that I've played, but it's not as intricately documented as Saga or Gears' (although I really, REALLY wish it was!). I also find it an extremely fun and addictive game, and so do a lot of other people. I also think that Monolith was treated better at Nintendo, so it came off a lot more polished and a lot less rushed of a product.
True. Though, I think the "addictive" side of Xenoblade is a problem for me. What happened to engaging sidequests and varied mini-games (it's not just Xenoblade, it's an issue in many modern games) ? Because addictive things aren't necessarily quality things. And that's the case with Xenoblade's side quests. I heard it's the same thing in Dragon Age (the last one in particular). Someone with OCD like me can't help doing every single quest in Xenoblade... to the detriment of my general appreciation of the game (especially the plot... because the quests ruin the pacing... the story and characters end up getting diluted... just try doing the endgame sidequests, it's the perfect example... because you have to grind and pause the story before the last boss to do them... I stopped playing my third and last playthrough after I finished the last endgame quest *which was underwhelming considering how long it was* and while I could have felt the need to finish the story before those quests, I ended up not caring anymore after I did them).
Talking about Nintendo, wasn't Iwata's influence important when it comes to Xenoblade games ? It was sad to learn his death. I didn't exactly expect it despite knowing he was sick.
Some of my Gears friends still say that Xenosaga was like Xenogears Disc 2, sans chair.
I don't think that this comparaison is appropriate. Xenogears Disc 2 is not just "cutscenes and a chair". Disc 2 is more like reading wikipedia pages between boss fights than watching cutscenes. Disc 2's weakness is not that there are too much cutscenes. Its weakness is that there aren't even proper cutscenes during important story moments (returning to Kislev or what happens to humans for example).
The thing with PS2 games and beyond is that most of them lost the textboxes in favor of full directing with voice acting. Movies where you don't need to push a button to read the dialogue anymore. If Xenogears was remade... oh boy... Some dialogue scenes would turn into very long cutscenes... and the game would be wayyyy longer (based on the notes I took about the cutscenes, there are 4 hours of them until the Kislev part starts... now imagine this with full directing and voice acting, not to mention how it's not even half of Xenogears... jRPG's stories used to be longer than current ones). Same with FF7 and any jRPG from the PS1 era. I used to think FF7 was one of the shortest FF story but is it, really ? We'll see with the PS4 remake, I guess.
I don't know if Monolith started because of an angered Takahashi that was moved to create a studio with his own hands
, or if the split from Square was mutually respectful. I think the fact that Square hasn't done anything with the rights to Gears in such a long time even though they could have says something, especially contrasting how Bamco seemed to want to draw fans by sticking KOS-MOS into every other fighting game before Saga's corpse was even cold. I think Final Fantasy kinda lost a good bit of its soul when Xenogears was too dark to be FF7. Think of the Figaro Brothers, and think of the Fatimas, and the URTVs. Think of the art direction in FF6, and then the art direction in Gears, Saga and Blade - is that kind of direction present in FF8+? It's not, and I think Square lost a lot more talent than it realized. There hasn't been an FF game since 7 that's been up to Xeno's depth. When I was playing FF13, I thought..."wow, this is like watching an amalgamation of everything Squeenix misses from Monolith."
I'm not really sure how to end this paragraph, but uh, there's my spiel. ^^
I saw what you did there
I guess Takahashi wasn't too happy with Xenogears 1 not being greenlight. But I think he and Soraya Saga probably have more resentment towards Namco than Square these days. I remember reading an interview with Takahashi and Sakaguchi back when The Last Story and Xenoblade were released and they seemed to get along well.
Well, I'm really fond of FF9 myself to be honest. Replaying it is a great experience. As a story, it's told really really well. It's not too complex and it takes a lot from past FF (as it was meant to do) but it's just... very well done. Like some 3d Disney (or good Don Bluth) movie in video game form. Little details everywhere (like, Lani writing in the inn's journal at Lindblum and participating in the hunt festival long before you're introduced to her). Of course, there are WTF moments here and there but what kind of story doesn't have plotholes ? Not many.
I think Final Fantasy lost its touch with FF12. The characters were underdevelopped and the storyline's pacing was horrendous after a while. I don't dislike the game. I didn't back in the days. I quite liked Ivalice. The mature atmosphere. The voice acting. The basic characters (I just wish they did more with them). The strong StarWars vibes. And I appreciate the gameplay more now (the license board for example, I try to use it smartly in order to give my characters specific classes... back in the days however, I unlocked everything for everyone and it was boring... I guess playing wRPGs made me appreciate building characters on my own instead of unlocking every classes for them).
But I remember thinking, as I approached the end of the game, that the story felt much smaller than previous entries and when I beat the last boss, watched the ending and realized I didn't care... that's when I was like "wow, maybe this series isn't for me anymore". And then, I discovered and played Xenosaga 3 and Xeno became my main favorite jRPG series instead. Because unlike with FF12, I cared again deeply for characters and their stories in a jRPG.
As for FF13... yeah. I had the strange feeling that Square Enix tried to copy some stuff from Xenogears and Xenosaga (some endgame scenes with Fang and Vanille reminded me of some endgame scenes with KOS-MOS and Shion in Episode 3... you know, the torture scene). Then, they did FF13-2 and I was like "now, you're going Chrono Trigger?". And with Lightning Returns, I was like "yeah, Valkyrie Profile was cool, I want the series back by the way".
Little questions of my own I started asking myself lately (because of my project, which forces me to look deeper into the story) :
- Why/How do you think Elly managed to stay at Gebler as long as she did considering she failed her first mission (in various ways) and helped Margie and her rescuers escape the Gebler base (this one is weird... there is no way the base wasn't filled with cameras) ? The second one would be enough to brand her as a traitor... What do you think happened ? Did Elly replace some datas to cover herself ? Did someone else do that ? Miang ?
- Speaking about the first failed mission, do you think Elly reported Fei and especially Citan to her superiors ?
- Grahf in Lahan : was he on Kislev side or Solaris side here ? Did he accompagny Elly's team or was he the one chasing after her team ? Because it's clear that soldiers respected him enough to follow his orders and open fire on Timothy.
- What do you think each "country"/city of Xenogears is inspired from (besides having jewish names) ? Like, Bledavik and the desert towns seem very much arabic, Aquvy seems western (north american) inspired. But what about Lahan for example ? When I look at their clothes (especially Alice's wedding dress), I think of an asian country. I thought about Mongolian inspiration but maybe it's just old rural China. But then again, what about Lahan's houses ? In what part of the world do you see such houses ?
- talking about Dazil and the likes... do you believe that a variant of Islam exists on the Xenogears planet ? Do you think it may have been Sigurd mother's religion ?