Combat systems in action games are so important. It’s a part of what breeds personality into the video game itself, sometimes complimenting the story, environments, and characters. Final Fantasy Tactics is a game about military conflicts and kingdoms, so it’s a tactical role-playing game. Kingdom Hearts characters are very acrobatic and do combos in cutscenes, so it’s an action role-playing game. For as long as they have existed, JRPGs have played around with different kinds of battle systems. Action RPGs, turn-based, tactical, and even table-top. Some of them have made innovations to these systems, bringing new experiences to players.
Xenogears is one of the first JRPGs that chose to do that. Square Enix released the title in 1998, and it was directed by now Monolith Soft head Tetsuya Takahashi. Taking risks to innovate an already established turn-based system is what makes Xenogears‘ combat system so amazing.
Explanation of Xenogears’s Combat System
– Basic Attacks and Combos
Xenogears has a few similarities to other RPGs. You can use magic, items, attacks, and even defend. However, the attack portion shows the essence of Xenogears‘ combat. When you press the attack button, your character jumps forward and a command list appears. Shown are three attacks which are triangle, square, and X, with also the option to cancel. However, each of those attacks costs a certain amount of points. Triangle costs 1 point, square costs 2 points, and X costs 3 points. Starting out, you have 3 Action Points (AP) which means that you can only use 3 AP per turn. For example, if you use the X attack, that would end your turn because X costs 3 AP. The more you level up, the more AP you gain and this is where the fun begins.
The game starts to open up when you gain more AP. You’ll be able to pull off many different button combinations for each character. This is a huge part of what I love about this combat. Seeing these characters move so smoothly with spectacular animations is a sight to behold. For a game that came out in 1998, it still holds up 24 years later. But there is another attack in this battle system that you are sure to love.
There are powerful attacks that you can unlock in Xenogears called Deathblows. Unlocking them requires you to first know what is the button combination of the specific deathblow. You then proceed to do that combination in battle until you unlock it. Basically, the more you do the button combination, the closer you get to achieving the death blow you’re aiming for. It’s so satisfying unlocking the deathblow because you get to see firsthand the beautiful attack animation.
Another neat trick is after you attack, hit the cancel button. Doing this will store your remaining AP in your AP bar in battle. As a result, you will have enough AP to do many deathblows in a row.
– Gears’ Combat System Is Amazing As Well
The other small part of what makes Xenogears‘ combat system so amazing is the Gear battles. Gear battles happen when the cast members get inside their humanoid robot machines to fight foes. The similarities to the previous style are prevalent, but this time around you have a fuel gauge. You use this gauge to do your attacks, meaning that it depletes as you use them. Using a fuel gauge increases equipment rewards for longer fights without refueling so much. However, this comes at the cost of your strength. The other path you can take is using strength-increase equipment but at the cost of your fuel gauge. Do you want to take your time against foes and play more conservatively? Would you rather finish the boss as quickly as possible? The choice is yours to take.
– The Importance Of Music In Battle
Music in video games is an extremely important part of the experience. The entire goal of a musical composer is to evoke a certain emotion out of the player. When a sad cutscene is happening, the composer seeks to create music that makes the player feel sad. When a world map opens in an RPG, composers want to bring that sense of adventure out of you. This kind of process is no different when it comes to making music for combat.
– Why Xenogears’ Battle Music Is Amazing For The Combat System
Yasunori Mitsuda, the composer for Xenogears, put a lot of emphasis on making the battle music be very militaristic. You feel like you’re in an epic battle when the music plays. Utilizing drums and synthesized instruments, Mitsuda wants players to feel like they are fighting a battle to save the world. With the already smooth animations and voice-acting mid-battle, this makes an insane combat experience for a 1998 game. While he enjoyed the music himself, Mitsuda wanted to make sure that the player felt the same feeling. In a 2003 interview with the Japanese magazine “Game Hihyō”, Mitsuda further emphasized this. He states that “no matter how much you may love a piece of music yourself, it’s important how others will see it”.
As someone who only recently got into Xenogears, this game holds up extremely well 24 years later. I can’t even imagine how players felt when this game came out. With beautiful visuals, outstanding music, great characters, and a fantastic combat system, you are going to enjoy this experience. So after you played any of the Xenoblade games, get yourself into Xenogears!