Friday, February 13, 2009

DFB – Xenogears Fraction VIII

*Warning, this is strictly a story-related summary. Skip down to notes and observations if you want to avoid spoilers and such.*

Chapter VIII: “Hello Disc Two”

Fei stumbles out of the destroyed Wetall with a bleeding and unconscious Elly in tow, but doesn’t make it very far before passing out. While sleeping, Fei has a vivid dream in which he experiences the romantic emotions of a man named Lacan towards Sophia, the past mother of Nisan. Elly also experiences the memories of Sophia as well, and they both recount very specifically a moment in which Lacan is painting the unfinished portrait seen in Nisan’s cathedral early in the game. It’s all but spelled out at this point that Fei and Elly are beings reincarnated (the game refers to it as “transmigration”) from the following people.

Fei then wakes up to find himself healing in tube. A man then lets him out and informs him that Elly will need more time to recuperate. As Fei follows the man into the next room, Citan greets him and the man who rescued them is introduced as Taura. Fei notices that the technology used to help him recover (by use of nanomachines) is the same technology that Krelian was using in Solaris. Taura tells Fei that this is because Krelian was a past student of his, which comes as a surprise to him. Not too long afterwards, Elly awakens and is let out of her recovery tube as well. Taura then tells them to go outside for some fresh air while he and Citan recount matters happening across Ignas.

While outside, Fei and Elly try and piece together what memories are left from their earlier dreams. They both acknowledge their budding emotions towards each other as Taura calls them back inside his cabin. Back inside, Taura states to the team that they can use a mass-driver to scatter Taura’s nanotechnology particles into the atmosphere. This will disable the population’s limiters. He also tells Fei that he can use a wristband given to him to suppress Id’s appearance as well. There is also a feature that allows Fei to tap into Id’s power (though they all acknowledge it’s use as a last resort). Suddenly, a Shevat emissary storms into the cabin and begs Fei for his help. Taura is furious at this act, as he knows they only request Fei’s help now because word has spread that Id can be suppressed (Shevat was just about to freeze him to death earlier). Elly then tells Fei to go help Shevat and she will proceed with the mass-driver scheme. Despite Shevat’s selfish actions, she acknowledges that innocent people shouldn’t be ignored for the actions of a few. Fei is worried about Elly going by herself, but Citan steps in and tells Fei that he will accompany her. Citan also states that he brought his own Omnigear this time (Fenrir), as he had always kept it in Solaris for safekeeping before the city’s fall.

As Fei departs, Taura informs him that he and Old Man Bal, restored and upgraded Wetall for him. Emeralda is also present, but suddenly rushes off to join Elly in her plan. As they all leave, Grahf can be seen conversing with Taura (and is acknowledged directly as Lacan himself). It is shown that most of Solaris’ high-ranking officials have escaped, and are regrouping to plot their next move. Krelian can be seen conversing with the Gazel, and when they find out that Fei is still alive, they officiously demand he be dealt with. Ramsus is still obsessively in pursuit of Fei and Krelian still expresses his top priority on getting Elly back. As Ramsus confronts Fei’s Wetall2 with Vendetta, Fei releases a newly acquired feature of Wetall known as “System Id”. This allows him some reign over Id’s strength without losing his will to his alter ego. With Wetall2, Fei is easily able to dispatch Ramsus, even aboard his own omnigear.

Elly in the meantime, travels with Emeralda and Citan and they release the mass driver into the atmosphere, which frees everyone from direct control of Solaris by breaking down their limiters. Meanwhile, the remaining force of Solaris launches the rest of it’s military might in the form of a Mobile Surface Supremacy Weapon. The MSSW decimates most of Nisan/Shevat’s troops and proceeds to launch an assault against Nisan itself. Bart on the other hand, has taken to fusing the Yygdrassil with Kislev’s main capital fortress (revealed to be designed specifically for such a purpose by his ancestor Roni Fatima). This fourth iteration of the Yygdrassil allows it to competently do combat with the Solarian MSSW. The defeat of Solaris’ final force, in conjunction with the mass-driver release, means that Ignas is free from Solarian control and finally achieves peace. Without Solaris’ manipulating the planet, Shevat, Nisan, Aveh, and Kislev are able to sign treaties, granting a window of solace to the ravaged planet.

Miang can be seen confronting Krelian, who reveals he had also anticipated the limiters being broken. As a result, he placed technology into Solaris itself to be dispersed, should it be necessary (though he acknowledges this as being a close call still with the nation’s destruction). As Krelian continues to denounce the Gazel and their aim (claiming the “ark of god” is his), Miang simply states she will just side with the “more certain side” anyway. As Krelian’s plan counteracts Fei and co.’s victory, the human population begins to mutate en masse into Wels. As a result, those who were only partially mutated sought out treatment in the abandoned Solarian Soylent facilities scattered across the globe. It is revealed that the Krelian manipulated matters so that human population would be forced into seeking help from the Soylent facilities, which is in actuality just a cover for the “M System”. This system is elaborately designed so that the human race would be transferred on a global scale into becoming “the body of god”.

As Fei’s team arrive at one of these facilities, they are forced to face the “Sufal Mass”, which was created when many Wels were merged together. Upon defeating the creature, they all help the remaining human population into the city of Nisan. With the help of Taura’s technology, they’re able to prevent these people from being lost entirely. Elly has taken a prominent stance here, helping what’s left of the planet within the city of Nisan (reflecting her past life as Sophia). As things calm down, it is decided that the crew should attempt to find the remaining anima relics to prevent them from falling into Krelian’s hands. As they scour the planet searching, they come across one and it merges with Billy’s Renmazuo gear, transforming it into the Omnigear, El Renmazuo.

Upon departing the site, the crew runs into all four of the Elements, acting under the will of Ramsus. Though not wanting to fight them, the crew is forced to defend themselves. After defeating them, the elements retreat to their gears and repeat their attack, but combine their gears into one massive mechanical monstrosity (G-Element), which proves a lethal force for the crew to deal with. After finally defeating their combined might, Fei and company set off, refusing the fight the Elements anymore (as at this point they’re not really enemies due to Ramsus’ haphazard loyalty towards Solaris). While retrieving the second anima relic (Transforming Rico’s Stier into “El Stier”), the team comes across Hammer, who is now merged to his gear (thanks to Krelian).Though he provided the crew with a challenge, he wasn’t able to defeat them. Upon his defeat, Hammer requests that Rico return to Kislev, as he secretly knew that he was next in line for Kaiser. He then falls into a nearby chasm to his death, content with having played a significant role in matters.

Meanwhile, the Gazel Ministry has been plotting to use the Gaetia Key (which only they can use), which will mutate all humans back into Wel form (so they can merge with “god”). However, Emperor Cain’s power prevents this from happening. Both the Gazel and Krelian decide to use Ramsus to assassinate Cain, as he’s the only one who can stand to nullify Cain’s defense (Kahran is secretly a clone of the Emperor). As Ramsus stands before Cain, Krelian appears and reveals that he has no intentions of letting the Gazel use Mahanon for their own ends. Emperor Cain is astounded by Krelian’s treacherous nature and reprimands him about his motives to further humanity’s existence. Before Krelian offers a response, he dryly orders Ramsus to kill Cain, and Ramsus thrusts his sword into Cain’s skull. The Gazel Ministry then proceeds to use the Gaetia key; this causes what’s left of the human race to revert to Wels. It also summons Mahanon from the ocean and the crew watches as the gigantic mass rises from the waters.

As the crew decides to set out to deal in order with this, Fei forbids Elly to accompany him. He recognizes her worth to what’s left of the population and decides that they can’t afford to lose her at this time. He even goes as far as coldly criticizing Elly, which sends her from the room in tears. As everyone in Fei’s party explain to him that he went about his actions in the wrong way, Fei leaves the room to apologize to Elly. After he relates his feelings regarding the situation, Elly agrees to stay back in Nisan. The two finally consummate their relationship, and the next morning Fei leaves with everyone else heading for the Mahanon.

As they pass over the gigantic landmass, they notice that it is actually the hull of a massive spaceship. The words “Eldridge” are still visible across it’s exterior and as the team begins venture into it, they speculate that they may indeed be the descendants of a crash-landed alien race.

To be continued...

Notes and Observations

I’m not suggesting something as ludicrous as Max Payne's dream sequences, but manipulating the degree of “sense” while playing with memory/dreams is not something to cast off. It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense and can be ambiguous enough to let people interpret their own takes on it. The object of Fei and Elly's dream is to convey love. That said, there's room, even with the at-the-time-technology to play around with such a setup. Particularly in that the scenes are focusing on Lacan painting a picture of Sophia (*hint hint*). Everything ranging from the camera to the actual action going on (which in the game is conveyed by the "textbox cutscene" as usual). I've now described this twice with Kahran Ramsus, and I'm sure I'll have to hit it again before I'm done with these. I don't like that the purpose of most flashbacks is to help the audience formulate an objective viewpoint anymore; empathy is more important here. Give me rage, give me passion, give me...bias.

To hell with play….Woe for the Creators
In some ways, this part of the game (Disc 2's sudden switch to cutscenes) doesn’t fundamentally bother me, because "it knows what it is". More importantly I KNOW what it is. It’s too obvious at this point that the creation of this game was suffering. Does that grant it my leniency? Yes, SHOULD it grant it my leniency? In my little world, my word IS god’s law, so yes. To detail specifically what I'm referring to is what I'll acknowledge as Xenogears' biggest and most detrimental weakness: The entirety of disc 2. Once disc two starts, the game takes all previous sequences of interaction away from the player, opting to tell the "relevant filling" portions of the story through pure storytelling (you only get access to the world map once or twice from this point to the end of the game). Fei or Elly is literally sitting on a chair while the text propagates itself on the screen overlaying a topical image in the background. The game still lets the player explore and play of course, making their way through dungeons and what not, but they're strictly controlled at this point of the game. It's so sad that it happened when one considers the future of this particular department at Square. They left with what they had to regroup in what eventually culminated as Xenosaga, another batch of titles crippled by their own narrative and sales figures.

Tightly Wound Narrative Strings
This is coming, I know it. The game has been busting it's ass trying to illuminate the player on how large the scale of the narrative actually is (i.e. reincarnation). What I'm already seeing is how it will all coalesce as it nears a conclusion. I'm particularly suspicious of how the role of Lacan and Sophia will culminate. As far as that goes, my only substance in this note is that I'm suspicious, nothing more.

Non-Engagement Scenes
I wonder how sensitive emotional scenes are in games. To be more specific, actions themselves (i.e. Fei kissing Elly) tend to cause me unease when I consider how it should be played. Everything about it seems like an offensive gimmick when considered otherwise. Subtlety in design would go a long way here I guess, as long as the action itself isn't trying harder than it should, I'm fine. Even something as simplistic as providing movement during a conversation would help me here.

I Can't Feel Time
This is another by-product of Disc 2's atrocities. It's a beautiful novelty that all games possess. When one is actually "playing" through something as epic as Xenogears, it's easy to extrapolate one's own perception of time into a set period of play. However, when the game specifically tells you through storyboards that "two weeks have passed" it's hard to wrap any grasp around that in the narrative arena. There's simply no playground to serve as a vehicle for that time period, so it's lost.