Tag Archives: mother

Xenosaga Episode I Part 19: Let’s Review Episode I

Previously on Xenosaga: Everything. Everything happened. Let’s talk about that in vaguely listicle form.

What Happened Here?

I actually went back and re-read my introduction to this LP (written nearly five months ago now) before writing, and, to quote myself:

“Probably the best known feature of this trilogy was an inscrutable storyline full of religious imagery that could put Evangelion to shame…”

So let’s look at the plot first. Is it “inscrutable”? At this point, I’m going to say no. Yes, there is already an absurd amount of religious imagery (some of the first text in the game is directly quoting Genesis), but the base plot, as it currently stands, is still something you could explain to your deaf granny. To wit:

  • Shion built a robo-person, and is very concerned about that person. Complete with the X-Buster, this plot, at its core, is practically Dr. Light and Mega Man, and the gnosis are Robot Masters. It’s sci-fi 101. KOS-MOS even gets a variation on the typical robot, “What is love?” with her “What is pain?” query when she decided to go all genocide on the gnosis.
  • There’s a bad guy organization, U-TIC, and they menace the heroes in pursuit of some macguffin. Depending on the interpretation, they want a way back to (old, lost) Earth, and/or the Zohar, which is effectively the Holy Grail of space. Kidnap princess, get the treasure: typical villain motives.
  • Speaking of villains, there’s Albedo, who appears to be a wildcard in the bad guy power structure, but is basically there to be the evil twin brother of one of the heroes. His entire job is trolling the universe. Three guesses on how this plot is going to resolve.

And that’s basically it. On paper, Xenosaga Episode 1 is pretty straightforward.

However, the devil’s in the details, and that’s where everything goes a little… Albedo. This game seems to delight in generating minor mystery after mystery. Who is sending KOS-MOS orders? Why are Shion and KOS-MOS part of the Y-Data? What are the gnosis? What is Wilhelm up to? chaos? Testaments? What does the Zohar do? What did Ziggy “see” when he died? Why is Junior ageless? Why is Albedo invincible? Does Allen have more than one onesie?

These are all relevant questions, and, I assure you, I spent roughly ten million hours on Gamefaqs and alike discussing these finer plot points back in the day. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but for me, Xenosaga was my Lost, a series that I spent days pouring over the faintest glimmer of an idea and expanding it into a grand unifying theory of everything. There might not be any polar bears in this story, but those unicorn gnosis have to mean something.

And, come to think of it, that Lost comparison is more apt than ever, because the real show in Xenosaga Episode 1 is the characters. This is something I’m only able to identify with full knowledge of what comes next and not a four year wait for the finale, but the story of Xenosaga Episode 1 really cares about its characters and their interactions. It’s not perfect (“Ziggy? You’re still here?”), but it became abundantly clear over this playthrough that the gnosis, yes, are important, but what’s really important is the relationship between Shion and KOS-MOS, or how MOMO feels about her absent parents. Once you separate out the chafe of all the mysteries that will eventually be solved with varying degrees of satisfaction (“chaos is… an apostle of Jesus Christ? Did anybody guess that?”), you realize this game is much more concerned with the emotional state of its characters than if they ever learn anything interesting. In a way, that makes perfect sense, in another, well, it would be nice if Shion asked why, say, the ship just got covered in angel wings. Does everyone just assume that’s a typical feature of the Elsa?

Shion, actually, is a fine example of how Xenosaga Episode 1’s story sucks sodium. Shion would actually be a pretty neat heroine in nearly any other medium… but she’s the star of a JRPG, and, thus, pretty much the player’s surrogate. She’s terrible for that role. She’s an interesting, independent character with concerns and baggage of her own, but part of her own issues is that she very rarely looks for information below the surface level (because, ultimately, she’s afraid of being hurt worse by the truth), which is awful when your audience wants some stinkin’ answers. The epitome of this would be when Shion is running constant diagnostics during the “beach episode” to see if KOS-MOS was experiencing something like emotions earlier, but she never even attempts to determine exactly where KOS-MOS’s mysterious orders are coming from (which, spoilers, would lead to her undead fiancée, and is not something the good doctor wants to deal with right now). You, the player, are expected to just go with the flow of Shion’s (and the entire party’s) lack of curiosity, and it’s frustrating when every third character is spewing a nonstop stream of mysteries.

On two different occasions, Shion distinctly states that she has no idea what’s going on… and she never does anything about it!

In the end, I feel this goes back to Xenosaga’s original concept, and how this was supposed to be game one in a more-than-three part series, and Xenosaga “Episode 1” was supposed to include a lot of plot from (what we eventually received as) Episode 2, but the team ran out of time, money, or over-highlighted Bibles before “finishing” Episode 1. XS1 is crap for answers, but you’re expected to just go with that (like Shion and co.) because answers will arrive eventually. We promise! Everyone is fine with a complete lack of resolution, right?

So, long story short, as of Episode 1, the “prelude game”, Xenosaga has not yet become “inscrutable”… depending on your interpretation. There are mysteries, but there’s also a story that’s very human, and we’re supposed to just take it on faith that the big mysteries will be solved later. We’ll see how that goes as we proceed.

Points for presentation?

What is wrong with your faaaaaace!?

Aside from featuring PS2 era anime faces, I really have to give high marks to Xenosaga Episode 1’s overall production. Yes, there are something like ten hours of cinema scenes, but the direction does everything it can to make those scenes actually interesting. It was mentioned earlier, but, compared to the modern age of non-Final Fantasy JRPGs, I am downright impressed with how many scenes are more than two heads and a series of text boxes. Once again using “working late” scene as an example…

Or when Shion is affectionately caressing KOS-MOS’s space coffin…

There’s a lot of incidental “acting” from the characters that adds to the story. Shion is downright giddy when she’s working late with her fiancée/boss. Shion tenderly touches KOS-MOS’s bed in the same way a mother might stroke the hair of her sleeping child. It adds something to the scenes without requiring (even more) talky talk.

And, just to be clear it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…

Every damn thing Albedo does is creepy. I’m literally disappointed when he’s strapped into his mech, because when he’s out prancing around…

You know you’re gonna have a fun time. Okay, maybe fun isn’t the right word.

Point is, for a game so lousy with “put down the controller, it’s time to watch a movie,” there’s a lot of reasons to actually enjoy that downtime. So another mark in Xenosaga Episode 1’s win column.

In the “boo” column, however, we have Xenosaga Episode I’s music.

XS1 has a lot of great music… unfortunately, it’s primarily relegated to cutscenes. I’ll admit there’s a number of XS1 tracks that I have had on my playlists for the last fifteen years because, frankly, they’re good tracks. Unfortunately, I just did an inventory, and I realized that only two of those tracks (Last Battle and UMN Mode) are from actual gameplay. Additionally, I saved Battle (the battle theme, duh) and Life or Death (the song that plays through a number of “danger is happening” areas) not because those songs are particularly good, but because they’re practically drilled into my brain thanks to repeated usage throughout the game (This is also the same reason I have Chrono Cross’s abhorrent battle theme on my playlist). Everything else I enjoy about the soundtrack plays almost exclusively during cutscenes, which is a pain because, well…

Click here to listen to the main theme of the Cathedral Ship dungeon

Oh, I’m sorry, does that link not work? That’s because there is no music in the Cathedral Ship. It’s a nearly three hour dungeon (more if you have a lousy sense of direction), and, aside from the battles and cinema scenes, there is no music. None. Just silence and footsteps, the whole stupid dungeon. Sometimes there’s the sound of a door opening. Woo.

This is inexcusable, and I have to mention this is probably a contribution to the “worst dungeon ever” issue of this and a few areas. Xenosaga Producers, did you forget? Was there supposed to be music, and, whoops, never made it in there? And, no, the silent parts are not deliberately moody areas any more than Final Fantasy’s Marsh Cave. I think we could handle a little accompaniment.

Though, to close this section on a positive note, I really appreciate the voice acting in this game, and, more importantly, that it’s all in English. This is a problem I’ve had with some modern JRPGs and Fighting Games, but I get really annoyed when everything is in English… but battle quotes and victory cheers are untranslated (and worse, not even subtitled) (and even worse, KOF-esque lengthy battle intros that are completely incomprehensible). Everything is in English here, right down to the grunts and “Spell Blade!” shouts. In fact, stuff like signange…

Is also wholly in English. This is actually really important, as certain scenes…

Lose something if you can’t read what’s going on in the background. This flashback takes place on the planet Ariadne, which is never mentioned, but there’s a literal sign as to the location in the background. Show don’t tell doesn’t work if you can’t read what’s being shown.

Isn’t this a video game?

So, the presentation is overall good, the plot is bearable (YMMV)… but should Xenosaga Episode 1 be a video game?

Honestly… I want to say no.

Don’t get me wrong, Xenosaga Episode 1 isn’t a bad JRPG. I have played much worse. Much… much worse. Video game consoles as magical girls! Why did that happen!? Why does that keep happening!?! How are there nearly ten of those games? HOW!?!


What I mean to say is that, while Xenosaga Episode 1 might not be a trailblazer in any amazing JRPG innovations (its battle system, when you get right down to it, is barely distinguishable from Final Fantasy 1, and its town/dungeon structure is the same as it’s ever been… Hell, I’d argue that Xenogears is more innovative than Xenosaga), it’s still perfectly competent. Despite some really difficult areas that primarily arise because a boss might not exactly be balanced with its surrounding dungeon, Xenosaga Episode 1 pretty much (emphasis on the qualifier) goes down smooth.

That said, being a JRPG doesn’t really add anything to Episode 1.

As an easy example, I cannot imagine Earthbound or Mother 3 working nearly as well as anything but JRPGs. The conventions used and abused in both of those games come from a place of understanding the genre as a whole, and like Watchmen did for comics, both of those games are practically impossible to imagine working as effectively in other mediums.

There is exactly one spot in Xenosaga Episode 1 that I feel is enhanced by being a video game, and it’s the destruction of the Woglinde. Here, thanks to your fear of death (or a Game Over), the gnosis are perceived as just as deadly to “you” as they are to the common humans of the Xenosaga Universe. You’re panicked, fleeing from terrible, unknown creatures just like every other resident of this ship, and it does a lot to drive home the threat to everyone that is the gnosis.

… And then you spend the rest of the game slaughtering gnosis wholesale. But! In general, the threat of the gnosis going forward is their menace to the common man (like the Kukai Foundation town invasion), so, while you may become empowered, you understand why it’s up to you to rescue survivors.

Other than that, though? I just played through this whole game, and I can barely remember a moment that had to be in a video game. Say what you will about ridiculous minigames in Final Fantasy 7, but slapping around Scarlet did feel good, “resisting” Sephiroth did feel futile, and vrooming out of Midgar did feel appropriately tense. Here, we’ve got a (near) final boss that barely flinches after a heated battle, and it’s back to cutscenes, like nothing ever happened. No omnislash for you, Junior.

And, yes, I’m kinda downplaying the fact that you’re spending a minimum of twenty hours with these guys, so of course you’re going to be more attached to The Realian Justice Warriors and their various and sundry issues than you would with the cast of a 26-episode, 12 hour “passive” television series. But aside from the general attachment one gains through playing a video game, there’s not much cause for the “game” here.

Which circles back to…

Xenosaga Episode 1 and Me (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb)

As I’ve randomly alluded to, I adored Xenosaga Episode 1 at its release. No, I didn’t play the game through any more than once, but I did strive for 100% completion in the “post game”. All segment doors unlocked, all (non missable) equipment collected, and all techs leveled up. I also heavily analyzed the game, not from a “character” perspective, but in an effort to “figure out” all the mysteries of the story, and somehow generate answers before the next release. I truly believed there was some Xenosaga Master Plan at work here, and, with my friends from THE INTERNET, we all mined the game and minutia of random conversations and UMN database entries to attempt to grasp the whole picture.

It… was pointless. But, hey, I want to say this was my first “unknown” fandom. I was already a giant nerd for “complete” works like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and any given Final Fantasy game, but this was my first fandom for something that was ongoing and still a mystery. This wasn’t like the previously mentioned Sailor Moon where the series was already over in its native land, and it was just a matter of talking to some wizened old 30 something about that time he played the SNES RPG, no, we were all in the same pot for this one, with holy wars starting over whether Xenosaga would directly tie to Xenogears, chaos’s true motivations, or whether or not Great Joe was supposed to mean something. In retrospect, it all seems so very, very worthless, but in its time, it was like the most important thing on my mind.

Which brings me to that clear data save. Literally no one knew the purpose of that clear save. Like everything else with Xenosaga Episode 1, there was rampant speculation, but no one could say for sure. Some believed everything would carry over, others, nothing. I wasn’t taking any chances, and I already liked the game, but I wasn’t sure I’d want to revisit it by the time Episode 2 was released (and, in my fantasies, apparently Episode 2 would just drop randomly from the heavens, and I wouldn’t be privy to weeks and months of advertising touting its incoming release). So, in an effort to “be prepared”, I grinded that stupid card game to generate as much in-game cash as possible, bought every last item in every shop, and made sure everyone was leveled up to at least 50 to be ready for the challenges of Episode 2. Whatever that clear save transferred, whether it be items, weapons, or levels, I’d be prepared.

That clear data save… unlocks a pair of swimsuits in Episode 2. That’s it. Finish XS1 at level 1 or level 50, and you get the same, trivial thing.

That would likely be the exact moment I stopped 100%’ing games.

Next time on Xenosaga: The real, final post on Xenosaga Episode 1. For everyone curious about the plot minutia, I’ll analyze all the major players, where they started, where they are now, and what they seem to want. This will serve as a review of what happened that also doubles as a handy guide to anyone coming into Xenosaga Episode 2 without reading everything else, because, what, you don’t have hours to pour over XS1? Weirdo.

The Gaming 5 #5 Mother 3

Note that this post contains massive spoilers for Mother 3. I’ll warn you when they’re about to get rotton, but if you want to experience the game clean, you’ve been warned.

Go fridgeWhy is it on this list?

The four preceding games are all “games” first and foremost: yes, there’s a story, heroes that grow, and villains to be defeated, but the primary focus of all of these games is the actual experience of playing the game. In a way, they are a miniscule step up from sports: you can play a game of football, but that game won’t be about something, the best you can hope for is to win, or at least to improve your own skills. Give it a few playthroughs, and nobody cares about Sigma, he’s just the last obstacle before completing the challenge.

This, of course, isn’t to say that there can’t be intricate stories hiding within even the thinnest plots. Super Metroid stars Samus Aran, a woman who, to my knowledge, only speaks “in game” during the introduction of one game out of three, and even that “dialogue” could rearrange a few pronouns to make her a complete mute. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), even though Samus only had a total of three games between 1986 and 2002, she somehow acquired a number of apparently fan-attributed personality traits. Samus is brave and determined and solitary in her dangerous missions… uh…. like every video game character that stuck around long enough to topple the final boss. Regardless, look at the backlash against Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Other M for sullying the good name of Samus Aran… a character that had previously been little more than a player cipher. The reality is that Samus could either bulldoze everything on Zebes, or cower and never fire a shot to do anything more than defeat a boss or open a door, it was entirely up to the player.

But this is important, and it’s just as much a part of video games as jumping and shooting. More than any other medium, you are the protagonist in nearly every video game ever released. You may relate to Harry Potter, you might admire Schwarzenegger’s latest role, but it’s only in the realm of video games that you so totally inhabit a character. It’s no great surprise, really, as prior to the advent of cinema scenes, you controlled literally every movement of your digital hero for hours, so it’s only natural to feel a close bond with that tubby plumber or little metal boy you’ve been guiding all this time. Who needs virtual reality? We’ve been living it ever since the first person got into the headspace of that long, white paddle (no, it’s not just a vertical rectangle, that’s silly).

So if you get the same feeling from Super Mario Bros., why Mother 3?

Because Mother 3 knows.

For anyone that is reading this site exclusively because they like the sound of my voice in their head, and not because they like video games (hi, Mom!), Mother 3 is the sequel to Earthbound, aka Mother 2. Mother 3, like the rest of the series, was the brainchild of Shigesato Itoi, a name that Powmeans nothing to most Americans, but a fellow that has made quite a name for himself in Japan as a writer. Like… a for real writer, not someone who had to fill up a cutscene with words so “Over 40 hours of gameplay!” can be stapled onto the back of a box. Hey, I admire you, video game writers, it can’t be easy to get JRPG Protagonist #371 to prattle on about friendship for an entire scene and make it seem fresh (or at least not completely horrible); but Itoi was a writer first and foremost, which is very different from the rest of the video game industry where that skill appears to be valued somewhere below “guy who models armhair”.

Itoi started with Mother 1 (and, before I go any further, I want to be clear that I’m not claiming Itoi was solely responsible for these games, as Earthbound in particular was obviously a labor of love for other luminaries in the industry… there’s just an unmistakable tone that runs through all three games, and I find it hard to believe that kind of thing could originate from any more than one dedicated person), a game that was meant to emulate (the big in Japan) Dragon Quest series. It had its fun moments, but it was way too opaque for much of the game, and the charm that would define the following installments was buried under a crushing difficulty. Mind you, this was pretty much standard for JRPGs of the NES era, so whaddya gonna do?

Earthbound, Mother 2, still cribbed heavily from the Dragon Quest series (which, by the SNES era, was becoming about as relevant as Kabuki Quantum Fighter in the West), but anyone willing to deal with its “dated” graphics and gameplay was in for a treat. This was where the meta-elements of the Mother series really came to the forefront, and while it could all be seen as nothing more than silly jokes to a child player, a mature gamer might recognize the variety of components on display that, in their way, mocked the very concept of video games from within a video game. In order to read a sign warning of the dangers of stepping on the grass, you must stand on the grass. A city where everything is the opposite of how it should be proves how a simple switch between Cup o' Joeyes and no really means little when you understand what will happen. A village that caged itself in is convinced that their confinement is an illusion and it’s the outside world that is trapped. A statue gets you high, a stone calls to you, and a rock speaks words. I always disparage the thinking that someone “was so high” to create something creative, but the entire game feels like a trip: something just outside reality so you can return and experience life in a new way. Earthbound may reflect the real world, but it is a fantasy first and foremost, and its tone reminds you to just have fun with it.

Mother 3, though. Mother 3 is reality.

It’s amusing that Mother 3 is the Mother game most based in a fantasy world. Mother 1 & 2 were both set in a modern, suburban environment… albeit one with psychic powers, giant pencil statues, and invading aliens. Mother 3, meanwhile, is tucked into a rural village that has a few modern conveniences at the start, but there’s no reason this couldn’t be some corner of an early Final Fantasy world (or maybe Wild Arms. I do see a cowboy hat). But while the setting is absolutely important to the game, what’s more important are the characters, and, specifically, your character. Yes, you “play as” your entire party (and one mischievous monkey) at one point or another during this game, but the central protagonist, and the number one body you inhabit during this adventure is that of Lucas, a young boy with a mother, father, grandfather, and brother.

This is about where the spoilers get intense… so click to proceed.

FGC #063 Hybrid Heaven

Just turn it off when you see thisIf I had god-like powers and could view the whole of the past, find everyone involved, see all of their thoughts, and know all of their motivations, I would steer my omnipotence right in the direction of the people making N64 games back in the late 90’s, because, seriously, what the hell was going on there?

Final Fantasy 7 was a revelation for the entire console generation, for good or ill. Its repercussions are still being felt today (Cloud 4 Smash 4 Real!), but back in 1997, it shifted the entire paradigm of gaming. Yes, there had been six or so Final Fantasy games prior to Barret’s Big Adventure, but Final Fantasy 7 was the one that lit the gaming world ablaze, guaranteeing the fledgling Sony Playstation’s dominance not only for the remainder of the generation, but decades to come. JRPGs, with their wealth of FMVs and “mature” storytelling, became the dominant genre, and everything from platformers to board games started touting “RPG elements” and “eighty hours of gameplay”. The Playstation was flooded with every RPG you could imagine: the inevitable Final Fantasy sequels, the Western-themed Wild Arms franchise, the perpetual second banana Breath of Fire continuation, anime moon simulator Lunar, 108 Suikoden games, and even some more experimental nonsense, like the criminally underrated Legend of Legaia, or the “getting there” Koudelka. There was a half-finished JRPG with giant robots and a stuffed animal battling a cannibalistic god for the sake of a world where everyone was already dead, and it somehow sold like gangbusters. The JRPG was the defining genre for the generation.

Which begs the question: why didn’t anyone give that a shot on the N64?

Yes, there were technical limitations. For everyone that played JRPGs for their story and mechanics, there were probably a greater number of people that only showed up for the FMVs and voice acting, which wasn’t going to happen back in the House of Mario 64. And the N64 kind of demanded polygons, so kiss any idea of “cute” JRPG sprites good-bye, it’s all Nothing's onblocky square dudes, all the time. But beyond that, there’s no good reason a game copying the good ol’ Fight / Magic / Item / Run of classic JRPGs couldn’t pass on the N64. There’s nothing saying polygons can’t tell a good story, and that silly controller could certainly allow for quick menu navigation.

But, no, Nintendo’s home consoles went from blockbuster JRPGs like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger to the likes of Quest 64, a game that sucked the magic out of the very concept of magic. Ogre Battle 64 might have been the “mature” TRPG title that N64 owners were clamoring for, but when it was pitted against Final Fantasy 8, well, the battle was ogre before it began. I’d claim that the only good RPG on the whole of the system was Nintendo’s own Paper Mario, but that was a title that came far too late, and, for the predominantly “edgy teenage” JRPG fan club, too cutesy. And this was all amid the time period that Pokémon ruled the portable realm, so it’s not like Nintendo didn’t understand the appeal of a good, mechanics based JRPG.

So, while Square had wandered off to greener, disc-based pastures, you’d expect some company would decide to step in and fill the niche that so desperately wanted to be filled. Good ol’ Konami decided to give it a go in ’99, and created a confusing mutant of a game.

Hybrid Heaven has a lot of features that were associated with Playstation JRPGS. It’s got voice acting and cinema scenes, it’s got oddly shaped polygon people, and it’s even got a plot that is completely bonkers. I can’t help but feel a bit of nationalistic pride at the fact that the crazy plot is very America based, complete with a plot on the life of the (fictional) President, and a very important meeting on the White House Lawn for Big Fat American Christmas (and not Crazy Valentine’s Day Japanese Christmas). But back to its Japanese forbearers, this is a game featuring a super SOLDIER… err… soldier who suffers from random plot-based amnesia thanks to cloning another dude, and does its best to not clue the player in to anything that is happening until the Dude.villain decides to stop by and monologue about how everything is going according to plan and thanks for doing his job for him by helping a mysterious alien consciousness along in its machinations. It’s a pretty stock plot (in America!), but the public was eating that kind of thing up with a spoon at the time, so I can’t really disparage it for that.

But I can disparage Hybrid Heaven for its gameplay, because, holy cow, I can’t remember the last time I saw a game this… confused. I don’t know how much of it is an exaggeration, but I’ve heard many tales of Final Fantasy 13’s production, and how different areas were designed by different teams, and, when it was time to release the game, everything was just stitched together, so pretty crystal area was connected to dirty industrial area and then theme park world to haphazardly create a faux-cohesive planet (or two). I definitely played through the entirety of Final Fantasy 13, and I can say that, unlike every Final Fantasy before it, I could not ever get a feel for Planet Cocoon and its unusual geography, so the game did suffer for its seemingly random layout. Hybrid Heaven seems to suffer from the same issue, but this time it’s a constantly shifting gameplay that refuses to allow the player to “learn” the game.

To take the first area as an example, after falling off an elevator, Slater (in disguise as Mr. Diaz) falls into an installation that initially appears vaguely town-like. There’s a dude talking about keycards and changing codes and it’s all very relaxed and “opening town”. Then there’s these little security bot things, and they’re attacking you, and it’s pretty much like an action game: you can jump, crawl, sneak, and, most importantly, aim your “disrupter” (gun) at the little buggers, and blow them straight to robot hell. Complete with the little HP ring up in the top corner, by all accounts, this game looks like a 3-D action game, and the next area reinforces that by forcing Slater to literally jump up some steps and shoot some crates and panels. What!?Then, after some cryptic nonsense, a hybrid is released, and, yeah, it’s cool, I’ve got this, I’ll just jump over him and shoot my gun and… what? It’s a RPG battle system now?

The meat of the combat in Hybrid Heaven occurs in JRPG-like battle menus meant to simulate the same ol’ fight/magic/item of JRPGs. However, the significant difference here is that it is much more “action” based, which sounded good in Nintendo Power, but in practice, it means that while your ATB-wannabe gauge is filling up, you’re scampering around the arena trying not to get slapped around. Assuming you are tagged, you’re basically stuck playing rock/paper/scissors and guessing which direction that wily monster is going to attack. Once your gauge is full (or thereabouts) you can unleash your own attack (including a variety of fun wrestling moves, because I guess grappling with aliens seems like a good idea), and hope the AI isn’t reading your inputs and dodging appropriately.

In theory, this entire battle system could be something new and interesting. In practice, it’s Tekken, but with extra pauses. A lot of extra pauses. And if you think that comparison occurred in a vacuum, go ahead and look up Hybrid Heaven’s two player mode. Or don’t, and live in a better world.

Round and round...And the game continues in this way, neither fish nor fowl. The odd thing is that it never seems to take any one system too seriously: you can be horrible at dodging “action” robots or “RPG” aliens alike, and still survive on the bevy of healing items that are provided along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this game to be Resident Evil, I like having healing ready at a moment’s notice, but it seems to put the nuance of the rest of the game out to pasture the minute you realize you can likely just “tank” through a number of challenges. And you know what happens when that becomes a significant factor in the game? It makes a healthy chunk of the gameplay just seem like a waste of time between cutscenes. Good job, Konami, you just emulated the worst part of JRPGs.

There’s a trace of a good, interesting game here, but Hybrid Heaven is nowhere near the experience the N64 kids were clamoring for. The system that desperately thirsted for a Final Fantasy 7 “killer” was left with a wild action/JRPG hybrid (ha!) that tried and failed to please disparate masters. It’s a poor action game, it’s a poor RPG, and, really, this was never going to beat Final Fantasy 7 in any conceivable way.

Well, unless Final Fantasy 7 HD finally allows Cloud to piledrive Jenova…

FGC #63 Hybrid Heaven

  • System: N64, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for that Virtual Console release.
  • Number of Players: Two, thanks to a very odd Versus Mode. Just go ahead and fire that one up with a friend blind sometime. Don’t explain anything, and see what happens. Spoilers: you lose a friend.
  • A little bitter, aren’t we? I swear this is the last N64 game I complain about. I just… it was supposed to be yet another game that put those Playstation fanboys in their place, and this game is forever lodged in my memory as one of the first games I ever received (Christmas gift, incidentally), played, and then nearly never played again. I finally beat it years later when I had far too much time on my hands, but I want to say this was the first game that I “bought” based on hype and then barely touched. Wouldn’t be the last…
  • Whatever floats your boatN64 Woes: You can only save to a Controller Pak, and then you are prompted to switch out the Pak for a Rumble Pak at every single save point. It’s just as cumbersome and stupid as it sounds. Here’s a fun activity: write an essay persuasively arguing the case for the Controller Pak being at all a good idea for gamers. Submit your essay, and if I find it at all worthy of merit, I shall grant thee a boon of thine choosing.
  • Did you notice? All the captures are from the first half hour of the game, because I don’t have any idea where my save file for this game has gotten to (ever try searching through N64 Controller Paks?), and I wasn’t going to waste anymore of my life trying to find the proper keycards to progress or whatever. Those long, boring JRPG battles respawn when you leave a room, and, man, there are other games I could be playing.
  • Did you know? According to various preview sources, this game was originally intended for the 64DD, the doomed disc-drive expansion for the N64. Oh, I wonder if the lack of JRPGs on the N64 was because Nintendo was putting all its eggs in the eventually-migrated Mother 3 basket. Hm. I want to say a successful Mother 3 launch could have tipped the JRPG scales back into Nintendo’s favor, but, then again, Nintendo of America has never known how to market a Mother game, so it probably would have been another Mega Buster shot bouncing off the Met that was the Playstation. Probably worked out for the best in the end… assuming Mother 3 ever gets an official translation…
  • Would I play again? No.

What’s Next? Wildcat JF has chosen… Elevator Action Returns aka Elevator Action 2! Do I… Did this game even come out in America? Guess we’ll find out as we meet gaming legend Jad the Taff. Please look forward to it!