Xeno (series)

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Xeno
Xenoblade Chronicles logo.png
The logo for the Xenoblade Chronicles franchise. Each Xeno franchise has a stylistically distinct logo.
Genres Role-playing video game
Developers Square, Monolith Soft
Publishers Square, Namco, Nintendo
Creators Tetsuya Takahashi, Soraya Saga
Platforms PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Mobile, Nintendo DS, New Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Wii U
Platform of origin PlayStation
Year of inception 1998
First release Xenogears
  • JP: February 11, 1998
  • NA: October 20, 1998
Latest release Xenoblade Chronicles X
  • JP: April 29, 2015
  • NA: December 4, 2015
  • EU: December 4, 2015
  • AUS: December 5, 2015

Xeno (Japanese: ゼノ Hepburn: Zeno?) is a Japanese science fiction video game series created by Tetsuya Takahashi. The first entry was developed by SquareSoft, and subsequent entries have been developed by Monolith Soft, a company founded by Takahashi after he left Square in 1999. While no direct story connections exist between the various games in the series, they have common thematic links and all sport the "Xeno" prefix, which Takahashi has variously described as a means of identifying his games and a symbolic representation of the series. All the games in the Xeno series take place within a science fiction setting despite occurrences of fantasy elements, with its stories frequently featuring psychological and religious themes.

The first title was originally proposed as a storyline for Final Fantasy VII, but was allowed to be developed as its own project. After Square shifted its focus onto the Final Fantasy series, Takahashi and several other Xenogears staff founded Monolith Soft and began work on the Xenosaga games. Both Xenogears and Xenosaga were intended to be six-part series, but differing circumstances caused plans to be cut down. After premature end of the Xenosaga series, Monolith Soft began developing Xenoblade Chronicles, initially intended to be an original title. The series' western releases have been rife with problems, ranging from localization issues to delayed overseas releases. The games of the Xeno franchise have generally sold well and received positive press worldwide.

Games[edit]

Timeline of release years
1998 Xenogears
1999
2000
2001
2002 Xenosaga Episode I
2003
2004 Xenosaga Freaks
Xenosaga Episode II
2005
2006 Xenosaga Episode III
2007
2008
2009
2010 Xenoblade Chronicles
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015 Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenogears released for the PlayStation in 1998 in Japan and North America.[1][2] Set in an alien world where rival human empires are at war, the protagonist Fei Fong Wong is drawn into the battle against Deus, an ancient machine weapon worshiped as a god.[3] The gameplay uses a combination of the turn-based Active Time Battle system used in the Final Fantasy series, and large-scale battles inside mechs called "Gears".[4][5] Originally planned as part of a six-episode story, Xenogears represented the fifth episode in the saga.[6] Xenogears is owned by Square Enix.

The Xenosaga series is formed from a main trilogy of role-playing games for the PlayStation 2, alongside spin-off titles that form part of the main narrative. The games were released between 2002 and 2006.[2] The Xenosaga trilogy boast similar gameplay to Xenogears, although the balance of story and gameplay underwent drastic revisions for the second game.[2][7] As with Xenogears, Xenosaga was planned as a six-episode story. Due to various factors, it was cut down to a trilogy.[8] Xenosaga is not a direct continuation or prequel to Xenogears despite similarities, instead being a spiritual successor.[9] The Xenosaga series is owned by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

Xenoblade currently spans two games: the original Xenoblade Chronicles (2010) and its successor Xenoblade Chronicles X (2015).[10][11] Both games employ an action-based battle system, incorporating cooldown abilities and quick-time commands. Xenoblade Chronicles X also incorporates traversal using giant mechs known as Skells.[12][13] While Xenoblade Chronicles adopts a story-driven design, Xenoblade Chronicles X uses a non-linear structure within an open world.[11] No direct story connection exist between Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X. The Skells were also a deliberate callback to the Gears of Xenogears.[14][15] The Xenoblade series is owned by Nintendo.

Themes[edit]

The "Xeno" prefix, which means something strange or foreign to a group, was used in connection with the game's themes.[16] The Xeno title has been repeated throughout the series: in an interview concerning Xenoblade Chronicles, director Tetsuya Takahashi said that the prefix had become a symbol referencing the previous works of Monolith Soft.[17] Later still, the Xeno title was describes as a means of distinguishing Takahashi's work, phrased by the interviewer as a "director's signature".[15] All of the games in the series have made use of a science fiction premise, although this has sometimes been placed in the background within settings more common to the fantasy genre.[7][18]

According to Takahashi, each game in the series revolves around different themes.[15] Xenogears and the Xenosaga series, make extensive use of various religious and philosophical themes. Xenogears incorporated concepts from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. A particular reference is protagonist Fei, whose personality is split into multiple parts, one of which is a violent persona known as "Id".[5][19] In addition, Xenogears uses motifs and references to abrahamic belief systems, along with other concepts such as reincarnation.[3][5][20] During the development stage, main antagonist Deus' Japanese name was to have been "Yahweh", but the team were convinced by localization lead Richard Honeywood not to use it, and instead made the name a pun on a piece of Japanese slang.[21]

The Xenosaga series made heavy use of biblical elements, particularly the New Testament. There are also extensive references to Gnosticism, Judaism and Jungian psychology.[19][22][23] The games' principal writer said that the themes also paralleled many other world religions.[19] The works of Nietzsche were also referenced in the Xenosaga games: the first Xenosaga drew its main theme from the "Will to power", a concept coined by Nietzsche to describe the driving motivation of humanity.[24] The subtitles of each main Xenosaga also reference the ideas and works of Nietzsche.[23][24][25]

The themes of Xenoblade Chronicles focused on the main characters overcoming a pre-determined fate, along with what Takahashi described as "contrasting the realms of the micro and the macro".[26][27] Xenoblade Chronicles X was a deliberate move away from this style of storytelling and the incorporation of philosophical themes: according to Takahashi, the concept was to create a solid gameplay foundation on which to base a future work which would feature a stronger story. Despite this, it covered similar thematic ground to Xenoblade Chronicles.[14][28]

Development[edit]

Xenogears, the first entry in what would become the Xeno series, was first proposed to Square by Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife, known under the pseudonym Soraya Saga, as a potential storyline for Final Fantasy VII. While it was considered too mature for the Final Fantasy series, Takahashi was given the go-ahead to create an original work based on the premise.[19] After initially attempting to create a sequel to Chrono Trigger, Takahashi made the project entirely unique, beginning development approximately two years prior to its release.[29][30] While a second Xenogears game was being planned, Square decided to focus on the Final Fantasy series, a decision that Takahashi did not agree with. Leaving Square, he established Monolith Soft in 1999 along with multiple other Xenogears staff. Monolith Soft was founded so that Takahashi could continue developing the concepts of Xenogears, and with funding from Namco, the team began development on the first Xenosaga.[9][31][32]

The development cycle of the Xenosaga games was troubled: after the first game commercially underperformed, the development staff was changed, the proposed six-part series was cut down by half, and the second installment shifted focus from its story to its gameplay. After outcry, the third game shifted again in an attempt to balance story and gameplay while bringing the Xenosaga story to a close.[2][8] After the failure of Xenosaga, staff at Monolith Soft were in a state of low morale.[33] During the development of Disaster: Day of Crisis, Takahashi was struck with the idea of setting a game on the bodies of two frozen gods. After constructing a concept model for it with another member of staff, Monolith Soft began development.[27][34] While originally intended to be an original title called Monado: The Beginning of the World, Nintendo's then-CEO Satoru Iwata had the title changed to reflect Takahashi's previous games and hard work on the title, bringing the new game into the Xeno series.[35] Working within deliberate restrictions and moving away from the previous cutscene-heavy style of Xenogears, Monolith Soft worked hard to make the game a balance between gameplay and story.[27][36] For Xenoblade Chronicles X, the developers focused on the gameplay aspect, in particular creating an open world and online elements within a new set of self-imposed restrictions.[36][37]

If given the opportunity to make another game in the Xenoblade series, Takahashi hopes to create another traditional JRPG-style video game similar to Xenoblade Chronicles.[38] He hopes to continue the series by exploring many different settings instead of being confined to a specific genre.[38] He would also like to use the core system set up in Xenoblade Chronicles X to further expand on the story and thematic elements for their next project.[39]

Overseas release[edit]

At the time of its development, Square said that Xenogears would likely not release in the west due to the religious content.[40] The localization proved especially challenging, with the original translators either quitting the project or requesting transferral to other projects. This meant that Honeywood, was under heavy pressure to render the game into English, while both keeping it faithful to the original and stepping round some of the sensitive religious issues the title evoked.[21][41] Although all three main Xenosaga released in Japan and North America, the third game did not release in Europe, and the spin-offs remained exclusive to Japan.[2] Xenoblade Chronicles was originally not announced for an overseas release, and despite being announced for release in Europe, its North American release was doubtful enough that a fan campaign dubbed Operation Rainfall began working to have the game, along with two other Wii role-playing games, released overseas.[42][43] Later, during the run-up to the release of Xenoblade Chronicles X, Takahashi stated that Xenoblade Chronicles was designed with an international audience in mind, and that he was pleased Xenoblade Chronicles X was receiving a western release in the same year as Japan.[11]

The games have also undergone censorship. A sexually explicit scene featured in Xenogears in the game was also toned down for its western release.[44] The first and third Xenosaga games also received changes for their western release: in the first game, a scene between main antagonist Albedo and the character MOMO was toned down significantly; and the third game had all visible blood removed, which ended up making some scenes confusing.[44][45] Xenoblade Chronicles X also received censorship in the form of the character Lin, who had her clothing made less sexually provocative.[46]

Reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Xenogears 90.99%[48] 84[47]
Xenosaga Episode I 83.87%[50] 83[49]
Xenosaga Episode II 73.53%[52] 73[51]
Xenosaga Episode III 82.67%[54] 81[53]
Xenoblade Chronicles 91.74%[56] 92[55]
Xenoblade Chronicles X 83.88%[58] 84[57]

The series has been highly praised by critics and is regarded as one of the top 10 RPG series by WatchMojo.com in 2016.[59]

Sales[edit]

Xenogears shipped over one million copies worldwide by March 2003, with 910,000 being shipped in Japan and 280,000 overseas.[60] The first Xenosaga was a commercial success in Japan, selling 450,000 units. It was also reported by Namco as one of their better-selling games overseas.[61][62] The second Xenosaga sold over 256,000 copies in Japan by the end of 2004, and like its predecessor was considered commercially successful overseas.[63][64] The third Xenosaga sold 343,000 units in all territories by the third quarter of 2006.[65] Ultimately, the Xenosaga series was considered a commercial disappointment for Namco.[2] Xenoblade Chronicles met with strong sales in Japan despite being released near to the end of its console's life cycle, and was commercially successful in the UK and North America.[66][67][68] Despite low sales compared to other console titles, Xenoblade Chronicles X was also successful, with the majority of its sales coming from overseas.[69][70][71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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