Monday, February 16, 2009

DFB - Xenogears Fraction IX

*The gloves are now off, in both the story summary and notes and observations. If you want to avoid spoilers at this point, just leave the damn page. Either way, the same rules apply. If you want to bypass the story summary, skip down to “Notes and Observations”*

Chapter IX: “Erudition of God”

Within Mahanon, the crew discovers a large grotesque creature known as “Deus”. Upon defeating a portion of it’s biological weapons system, they find their way into a gigantic section of the ship, which is seemingly big enough to house the entire capital of Aveh within it (*a clue?*). There, the team comes across “Razael's Tree”, a massive super computer with an extensive database of knowledge. Here they learn of “System Yaweh”, an interplanetary weapons system that was housed within the ship. They discover that within the core of the ship lies the primary control center for the project and that the power source for this area is known as the “Zohar”. As they’re coming across all of this information, Krelian and Grahf appear. The team attempts to stand against the two, but are swiftly defeated by Grahf. Krelian then advises Grahf not to touch the “bait” and everyone is taken into custody.

Back in Nisan, Elly is busy helping Margie heal the nation’s inhabitants when she’s suddenly struck with the intuition that Fei is in danger. Upon reaching Shevat, she finds that Krelian has left a message for her demanding she come to the Mahanon alone to ensure everyone’s safety. Her former Gebler crew loyally attempts to follow her, but Elly refuses to jeopardize the agreement with Krelian. Elly then takes Shevat’s last known omnigear, “Regrs” (which in a twist of fate, previously belonged to Sophia as well) and sets out for Mahanon. When she arrives, she finds the entire team’s gears crucified on gigantic crosses and Krelian patiently waiting for her, while holding everyone else in captivity. Krelian immediately demands that Elly use her new omnigear against two of his creations. Citan and Fei yell their objections, as it’s an obvious trap, but Elly does what she is told and proceeds to fight them.

Elly is nearly beaten to death, but is able to overcome the two henchmen, destroying them completely. Fei and Citan watch in horror as Elly demonstrates an immeasurable amount of power, Krelian then announces that Elly is indeed what he has been searching for all this time. He dismisses Fei and the rest of the crew, denouncing them for not having any real power. Grahf shares Krelian’s sentiment, telling Fei he is too pitiful to even be put out of his misery. Krelian then meets with the Gazel Ministry, who are overly pleased that the “fleshly body of god has been obtained”. They also announce the retrieval of all the Anima and Animus. As the Ministry vocally traces their plan’s next path, Krelian announces that they are incorrect. The Gazel furiously addresses Krelian, as he’s begun pulling all their memory banks (deleting them). Krelian announces that he only needed them alive because of the Gaetia Key, which only they had access to. He also announces that he created Ramsus as a clone of Cain to kill the Emperor himself, as he was the only one who truly stood in his way.

Krelian then deprecates the entire Gazel ministry for their impertinence and futility in attaining godhood. He goes on to announce that he will combine his nanomachine work with the “anima vessels” (Fei and all his friends). With this, he plans to further the existence of the human race and create god for himself (he denounces the idea of becoming god and instead chooses to create one). He proclaims this as his ark plan, “Project Noah”. Krelian tells the “ancestors of mankind” to rest in peace and completely deletes them from existence.

Fei is now seen wallowing in his failure to protect Elly. The Wiseman suddenly appears and announces that he can’t hope to defeat Grahf while relying on Wetall and pride alone. He tells Fei that Grahf’s power comes from his pure hatred and resentment of their world. He also tells Fei that Elly showcased true strength in that her resolve was only for their lives, even at the expense of her own. The Wiseman then departs, leaving Fei with his thoughts and choice. He decides to rescue Elly and after two weeks of searching, they find her aboard Krelian’s nearly completed “Merkava” ship. Upon arriving at the Merkava, Fei comes across the Elements. The women are now dead-set on fighting Krelian and Miang, as they tortuously manipulated Ramsus for the sole sake of killing Cain. The Elements refuse to fight on the same side as Fei, and tell him not to assume their intentions are to help him, but Ramsus, their commander.

As everyone makes their way inside the Merkava, they discover Ramsus waiting to confront Fei once again (whilst aboard Krelian’s loaned omnigear, Amphysvena). Fei furiously demands to know the reason of Ramsus’ persistent resentment of him. Ramsus then relates a time after which he was just created. Due to his artificial makeup, he was fully conscious of the moment, even as an infant. Krelian was viewing him within a test tube when an unknown woman appeared and curtly advised Krelian to abandon Ramsus as a project. She informs Krelian that “her name is now Karen” and that she has a child who is definitely a “contact”. She also informs Krelian that the child’s name is Fei. They both acknowledge there must be a corresponding antitype born somewhere now. They both acknowledge Ramsus as a useless endeavor now and the mysterious woman jests at the Ramus’ fetal form with in the test tube, eventually chasing after love it will never be able to have. Ramsus then furiously recants how Fei’s very existence cancels his own out, while Fei recognizes his mother as Karen. Dominia then appears to reason with her commander, but Ramsus is far beyond being reached now. Ramsus then leaps at Fei purely intent on killing him once again.

After Ramsus is beaten, he retreats further into the depths of Merkava. As the crew follows, they finally come across Miang and Krelian, who are holding Elly captive. Krelian announces that Elly is to be a part of resurrecting god, and Miang launches an amused attack aboard her omnigear, revealed to be the Solarian “perfect gear”, the Opiomorph. As the crew fends her off, they realize that Miang cannot be killed in any traditional fashion. This leads to Krelian activating another part of Deus, which consumes all the team’s anima relics. This results in all of their gears being shut down completely (also reverting them back to their normal state), leaving them completely helpless. As Krelian and Miang prepare to sacrifice Elly to truly awaken Deus, Ramsus appears. He demands to know the purpose of his existence. Miang coldly states to him that his sole reason for living was to slay Emperor Cain for their benefit. Ramsus, being an artificial life-form, was mentally unstable; Miang explains that it was necessary to focus his rage on a singular point (Fei) to control him. She then humorously denounces Ramsus as the very definition of trash, and advises him to leave immediately.

As Krelian and Miang comically contemplate aloud what to do with them all, Ramsus wrathfully plunges his sword into Miang’s back, killing her. Miang announces she prefers her death this way (while Ramsus utters regret from his byzantine relationship with her); Ramsus then lunges at Krelian, slashing him deeply across the chest. Meanwhile, Fei and Billy attempt to untie Elly. However, once she is safely on her feet, she removes a gun from Billy’s side and shoots Fei (as her hair turns a brilliant purple). As Citan holds a bleeding Fei, Krelian rises again and informs them all that his body is composed of nanomachines that will allow him to recover fairly quickly. He also tells everyone that Elly’s true purpose is the “mother of all humans”. Elly then expansively fills the crew in on what they began to surmise from Razael's super computer earlier.

Deus was a inter-planetary weapon created by humanity a very long time ago. It was an artificial life form able to act upon it’s own will and take control of entire planets. However, during it’s test run, instead destroyed a planet instead. This left it’s creators to forcibly try and shut it down, as it’s immeasurable power proved to be far too much of a threat. It was then disassembled and placed on an enormous transport ship to be escorted to another planet (The Eldridge). Deus however, awakened and resisted this fate by attempting to take over the ship (the opening scene of the game). As a failsafe, the creators self-destructed the ship, which caused Deus to detach from its core (The Zohar). Elly also explains that the Zohar exists as a massive generator which globally transmits it’s energy to all of it’s slave generators (i.e. Everyone’s gears, global ether power, etc). The Zohar is simply put, an object with the ability to produce infinite amounts of energy.

Elly then continues, telling them that Deus’ core (Biological Computer Kadomony) crashed onto their current planet. It then activated it’s “Persona System” which can generate organic material. It used this to set forth a plan which would ultimately culminate to it being resurrected one day. The first humans to be created were Emperor Cain and the Gazel Ministry from the “womb” of Miang. The Gazel sought the team’s bodies because Deus was originally composed of organic elements. The anima (female) and animus (male) elements have an added function to become mobile weapons by merging with machines designed as terminal interface weapons (the gears). The ministry (Animus) sought to become one with everyone’s Omnigears (Anima) in order to resurrect Deus (god). After losing their bodies in war, the ministry then set forth a plan to perpetuate their genetic material so they could eventually merge with their Anima again (which means the entire team is descended from the Gazel Ministry and Emperor Cain). The persona system was specifically designed to propagate a multitude of organic life-forms in order to serve as replacement parts for Deus eventually. This means the entire population of the planet was created to be new parts for “god”.

However, a hitch in Deus’ plan presented itself when “humans” began transmigrating to other bodies (dwindling the numbers of the race itself). Krelian eventually created nanomachines that made up for that deficiency. Elly then announces herself as Miang, the representative for their god, Deus. Miang explains that she was created to be the caretaker of humanity, guiding them towards an eventual return within Deus itself. Elly was taken over by her because Miang’s genetic material exists in all women ever created. Whenever Miang dies, her persona simply moves to another female body, as designed. Miang then departs with Krelian in order to awaken herself and become one with Deus, leaving Fei and his friends to watch. Suddenly, Fei leaps after them, pursuing Deus. Merkaba then activates and proceeds to absorb the entire human population. For those who didn’t mutate into Wels and thus could not be absorbed into Deus, they were deemed eventual threats by the self-aware system. A plan was then set in to motion to simply exterminate everyone who was left by use of Merkaba’s weapons which ascended from it, the “Seraph Angels”.

The team is eventually able to find Fei, but he is unable to regain consciousness. As they bring him back to what’s left of the human race (basically just Shevat), they decide it’s best that he be put into carbon freeze as initially decided. It is told to Citan by Queen Zephyr that Shevat froze Fei not because of fear of Id, but because of the nation’s guilt towards their own wrong doings. Zephyr tells Citan that Shevat made an agreement with Solaris 500 years ago that resulted in the war (most likely manipulated in secret by Miang), leaving Lacan (Fei’s fourth incarnation), Roni (Bart’s ancestor), herself, and Krelian facing imminent death. Sophia (Elly’s fourth incarnation) then appeared, and sacrificed herself so that they all could retreat to safety. However, Krelian and Lacan (who were both deeply in love with Sophia) were deeply scarred by Sophia’s death. Krelian renounced all of his faith and after spending his entire life worshiping a god he now knew did not exist, he set out to create god for himself…then mysteriously disappeared. Lacan on the other hand, was disgusted with his lack of power, as all he could do was watch Sophia die right in front of him. He began searching for the Zohar, as he found out it was a source of infinite power. After making contact with the Zohar, Lacan became Grahf. Zephyr reveals her excuse for freezing Fei stems from a desire to seal up a terrible power that was only born because of them.

Fei, who is in carbon freeze, meets with his “Id” persona (that appears in Fei’s subconscious as a small child version of himself). It introduces him to the “coward” persona, which is shutting the entire situation out so he won’t have to deal with it. Id then relates the memories of Lacan to Fei. It is then shown in an extensive series of flashbacks, how Krelian lost his faith (solely given to him by Sophia), and how Lacan’s inability to express his feelings for her ultimately end up in a state of perpetual anguish. Krelian’s love for Sophia was based more in worship itself, as she changed him as a person fundamentally. He was initially a violent assassin that most people feared, Sophia helped him gain a sense of peace and solace through studying and reading. Lacan on the other hand, was romantically in love with Sophia. He was an artist who spent a great deal of time purposefully stalling his job of painting Sophia’s portrait (he simply liked spending time with her). Roni Fatima (Barts ancestor) and Krelian point out to Lacan that his love is obviously reciprocated by Sophia, as she personally requested he paint her (noting her particular melancholic smile as one Sophia ONLY showed to Lacan).

The friendship is then shown between Roni, Krelian, and Lacan as the ensuing war escalates, threatening to involve them all. Krelian does however, harbor slight contempt for Lacan; not because they both loved Sophia, but because of Lacan’s inability to express himself to her. He already knows who Sophia wishes to be with, and is irritated she can’t be happy because of Lacan’s insecurities. The escalating war then comes to their homeland and Fei is forced to abandon his portrait of Sophia (leaving it infamously unfinished). Though Lacan unintentionally declared his love for Sophia (he thought she was asleep), the ongoing war then presented a situation, threatening the lives of Krelian, Lacan, and the rest of Nisan. In the midst of an oncoming assault, Sophia is shown piloting a cruiser by herself while leaving her final transmission for them. She successfully saves them by slamming her ship into the hull of the enemy’s main cruiser, sacrificing her life so that Lacan could live. After witnessing what he perceives to be a total lack of god, Krelian sets out to “create god with his own hands”. Lacan wanders off in emotional torment, and after desperate searching, he comes across the Zohar’s energy, buried deep within the arctic.

After this story is conveyed, the clock swings back to the present, showing Dan alive and aboard Shevat as well. As he wanders into Fei’s frozen chamber, he looks on his frozen body and realizes that Fei’s current state is Shevat going too far. Midori (Citan’s daughter) then enters the room and speculates that Fei will soon wake up (her slightly psychic nature allows her to see that Fei is “crying”). Suddenly Fei’s body begins to glow and as he awakens. He begins to scream at the two children, urging them to run from the room immediately. As they watch, Fei or rather…Id awakens and smashes out of his imprisonment…and immediately sets out to find the Zohar…

Notes and Observations

Consistency in The Quest
Something that’s easily definable in RPGs is how the main narrative always finds away to split itself into sidequests. Most games do this anyway (at an attempt for pacing), but RPGs run up front because of how much has to go into them. For 40+ hours of playtime, it’s to be expected, but it does disseminate one’s own immersion into the narrative itself (which in turn hurts the experience for most). Xenogears avoids this by simply not avoiding it at all. Of course I could argue that by defending that the game gets away with this because it answers all of it’s own questions at some point. I’m not saying Xenogears gets it right by any means, I am however saying that it gets a lot done by simply handling a lot more (insert irony badge here). I pointed this out in a previous fraction a few times before; the game does this by the having the player deal with Aveh, Shevat, Solaris, Nisan, and Kislev directly. Xenogears manages to maintain itself while the main narrative has no makings of stretches that “seem like sidequests”. There’s plenty of reasons I’m seeing this as a strength of the game (Citan, “Nation Juggling”, considerable length, etc.) The only thing that hurts it is most of disc 2, where as I previously described, the perception of time is hurt. Xenogears compliments it’s own crushing story with a cushy pillow, not something I expected, but it was something that almost perfectly held it’s own weight.

All is Eldridge
There's a lovely thematic here that further illustrates Xenogears' innovation in it’s thematic/visual/classic design. It’s actually "retroactively reworked"; where most RPGs try to operate off some medieval/classical period meshed with decorative futuristic motifs, Xenogears is actually the exact opposite (Men don’t become God, God becomes man). It started as a hyper-advanced civilization and regressed into the remnants of that fallen civilization; THEN it tosses the player back into that civilization building itself back up. Of course the game can all be viewed to be same as the rest of them in a very general sense I guess. However, something about the nature of the Eldridge starship caught my eye in a very positive way. The opening scene finally starts to make sense. The game also suggests that the entirety of the planet’s nations and cities are actually just pieces of the scattered Eldridge. Contrary to what I expected, this actually DOES capitalize on the Gazel’s formerly mentioned plot point I mentioned earlier in Fraction VII.

The Opening Sequence
This note is incredibly dangerous even to imagine, but coming off my previous one, it leaves me bloodthirsty for more. After the opening sequence was introduced in it’s full relevance, I began to wonder how clues could be scattered throughout the game alluding to it’s origin without giving anything too damaging away. Sure, one could make the argument that it is there (example: The Yggdrassil’s out-of-nowhere compatibility with Kislev’s capital). Any visual cues between the opening movies and the game’s structures are up for grabs (though I have heard that exact argument on Shevat’s saucer form being seen on the Elridge somewhere in the opening).

The Connection Gear
The awe that comes with transitioning from normal gear to omnigear is pretty much lost when the connection to the first gears wasn’t played up to begin with. Much like the correlation between the gear and pilot, the emphasis is only there in a visual sense. I suppose a lot of this can be attributed to the scaled back development in the game’s waning development phase (i.e. Emeralda had an omnigear in the designs but it wasn’t present in the game). With the awe that comes with aligning anima relics, this is something that should have felt wonderful when it simply became the next step up on a flight of stairs.

The Entirety of Flashbacks
The flashbacks centering around Lacan, Sophia, Krelian, etc. were all fine in the context of the story, but my usual complaint arises here…yet again. I’m not allowed any playtime with this area whatsoever and it becomes troublesome after a certain threshold of “view2play”. Even when looking at this in the context of Fei experiencing his past lives, it just simply makes more sense to actually play these areas rather than watch. There is also an issue of “linear absurdity” here as well. For example, I argue that the player should be allowed the feat of sacrificing Sophia’s life. The problem with that is the horrible disconnect that would occur if the action itself totally flew over the player’s head. The entire nature of her tragedy stems from the graphic finality of her solution and forcing a cue over the scene would kind of kill it (i.e. forcibly cueing it to happen if the player just “didn’t get it” for whatever reason). If they didn’t know where to go, where to crash, IF to crash, everything about the nature of the scene being playable would be lost (because a flashback is dictated by what HAS to happen). Of course my solution for that would be placing control over Lacan, simply to watch a scenic view of her crashing into the hull. There’s certainly a lot to consider for any moment one gives playtime to, but don’t throw up the big shield of cowardice (a.k.a. cutscene).

“Project - 0808191: Ramses” (Kahran Ramsus)
Now, Ramsus actually IS a character who is sad in the romantic sense, just barely though. What I did take from that was accompanied solely by the fact that Miang actually may have harbored some capacity of “feelings” for the man she twisted, dejected, and hurt for indirect purpose. The best line I’ve heard used to describe Ramus & Miang’s relationship in Xenogears is: “She loved him as much as she could”. Miang is only an amalgamation of every woman in humanity’s history, she’s not her own self, and whatever IS actually her is buried under ten millennia of other female personas. Going from how twisted I desired Ramsus’ flashbacks to be in particular, I thought it would have been nice to give control over him as well. This would tear down (or at the very least begin to blur) the black and white preposterousness of coloring out “antagonists” and “protagonists”. Ramsus is the character that the player sees in his/her most vulnerable state (anybody that argues Fei should be slapped).

The Nature of a Main Character
Fei truly earned his role in this game (the next entry explains his origins entirety). The problem I had with a lot of the Xenosaga games was that Shion Uzuki never established herself as a main character (other than running around whining about her astraphobia). In addition to that, it became troublesome when all the other characters could easily fill the spot (i.e. anyone can make the argument that Xenosaga is actually about KOS-MOS, chaos, or Wilhelm). Xenogears has a lot of interesting and memorable characters that easily compete with Fei, but he always ends up solidifying himself as the main character (the avatar I’m playing as is such an irrelevant point of argument in these games). My only issue is that he be given even more dialogue (or better…). Punching up this game’s hero or “slayer of god” is something the tale could have benefitted from greatly. As a closing statement that won’t make any sense until the next entry, is how I desired to be Abel first coming across the Zohar 9,999 years ago. That could potentially be a mind-blowing moment.