Thursday, June 20, 2024

The entire Xenogears Story Analysis is now up

All parts of the Xenogears Story Analysis (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) are now up in the Story Analysis Section, including a fifth part devoted to material cut from the game.

Part 2 and 3 are mainly restorations of the old material, while Part 1 and Part 4 are almost entirely new writings with just a few bits moved to those sections to make Part 2 and 3 less long. But even Part 2 and 3 have considerable improvements, additions and corrections made to them, so the Xenogears analysis that was on the old version of the study guide should now be discarded and replaced with this version. Once I have restored something on this site, I would appreciate it if people do not keep spreading my old version of that material anymore.

Originally I was never satisfied with my "Plot Analysis" as I called it back then, since I never actually intended to make a complete coverage of the games' narrative. It simply seemed too big of an endeavor to summarize and analyze it all, and it was not something I had ever seen anyone else do either. But after getting requests to do something like that and seeing how it was probably necessary due to the many confusing parts of the story and dialogue, I eventually attempted it in the form of taking notes while watching the cutscenes. But the result was too disjointed and ranty. In the end I was only satisfied with some parts of it, and disliked the rest.

This time I have managed to construct the entire thing a bit better by examining it in the context of a narrative structure properly to provide better segments and focus. And the result is much better, to the point I can finally say I am mostly satisfied at last. There are a few parts I am a bit ambivalent towards, but I can't figure out how to write it better, so I leave it as it is for now. At first I did want to shorten the whole thing a lot more, similar to Part 1, but realized that there were a lot of details that I myself had forgotten about that I appreciate that I wrote down back then. So I did not want to discard as much as I thought I would.

But after working on restoring these articles I also remember why I got tired of analyzing Xenogears, with all the problems with the translation which is not just limited to the game but also the version of Xenogears: Perfect Works that is complete (the one by UltimateGraphics) which is also full of inaccuracies. Correcting all the errors out there is simply too exhausting. Even the transcription of the official English script that everyone uses (the one at GameFAQs) is badly transcribed and contains multiple errors. One of these errors even show up on the Xenosaga Wikia! Hence I urge anyone quoting the official script to instead use this new website I came across that ripped the script from the actual game files so that it is 100% accurate (apart from maybe the opening movie). Though who knows how long that website will be up. I used to use the script on Xenogears: God and Mind fansite which was also accurate, but that site neither exists anymore nor can it be accessed through the Internet Wayward Machine. This is the kind of tedious stuff Xenogears scholars have to deal with it.

Of course, it is precisely because of these problems that a study guide for Xenogears is necessary. But making one is not always fun. It took me several weeks longer to finish these articles even after I thought I was finished with them, due to the numerous things I had to double check with a translator to make sure I was not making theories based on flawed or inaccurate translations. Several rewrites resulted from this. I was hoping to be done by April with restoring the Xenogears Story Analysis, yet right now it is the end of June. I need a break from this so do not expect the Xenosaga Story Analysis to be be done this year.

But I will probably do some more work on existing pages this year. Already, both the Guide to translation errors and the Perfect Works section of the study guide have been given massive updates the last couple of days. And I am thinking of dividing the Translation guide into two pages, one for each disc of the game, to make it easier to find the lines you want to check. The History of Xenogears article is also overdue for an update.

Anyway, I have already made more updates to the study guide this year than I have the past four years so at least that's something. It was not something I planned to do this year but came as a result of me playing through Xenogears for the first time in over 10 years. I enjoyed the actual gameplay a lot more than I remembered, though some puzzles were surprisingly difficult and I had to look at some guides since I could not remember their solution at all.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Study Guide Update

I am currently in the process of fixing up some things around the study guide, having reorganized the interviews a bit, adding stuff to the Xenogears translation guide and Perfect Works sections (as you may have noticed if you are a regular visitor), and I also want to make updates to a few other articles. The story analysis pages for Xenogears are more or less finished but they need proofreading before I publish them, and since these pages are much longer than the first page it will take a few more days. I ended up dividing the whole thing into four parts, but the second part is already published now.

I am also looking to come into contact with Gwendal, Trexalfa, and Quiddity/Sheamon if any of you guys are reading this. It doesn't matter if you happen to read this in 5 or 10 years from now, contact me anyway if you can. My E-mail can be found in my blog profile here on Blogspot, or you can just reply to this blog post.

From now on I will also add a "[Last updated]" notice somewhere at the beginning of each article so that, in the case of people saving the study guide pages for their own personal archives like last time, they can check to see if they have the latest update saved for each page. This was something I originally had on the old website but for some reason did not retain when I moved to this blog. But hopefully it will not be necessary for people to save these pages since the reason I restarted the study guide project on this blog was to make sure it stays up this time.

And speaking of that, I decided to listen through Retrograde Amnesia's Xenogears podcast lately since I heard from people that they often reference this study guide, and I was a bit surprised by their first comments near the end of "Xenogears Podcast 4: Booze is My Life Companion [Dazil]":

Chris: "According to the translation notes on the, um, there's a great website I found called the Xenogears and Xenosaga Study Guide..."

Eric: "That sounds wonderful."

Chris: "Yeah. Somebody put... Whoever this person is I love you. Somebody put a bunch of interviews and translation notes and all kinds of things about this game on a old Blogspot site."

Eric: "Great. So it will be gone in a couple of years."

Chris: "Yeah exactly... With the intent of preserving this information. But anyway, according to the translation notes on this site, ..."

I don't know why they think this study guide might be gone in a couple of years because it is on Blogspot, but as of this year (2024) the study guide has been up on Blogspot for 8 solid years, which is longer than the brief 3 years it was originally around as a website hosted by XenoTen. 8 years is also longer than and many other big Xenogears and Xenosaga sites were around for in the past. Part of the reason I did not let someone else host the study guide was because I have seen how almost every Xenogears and Xenosaga fan site have disappeared from the net already. But moving the material to a free service hosted by a big global corporation like Google that has been around since 1999 and is still here will likely make it stay up for a long time, unless something seriously bad happens to Google.

I am also pleased to see that the Wayward machine has been saving this blog with all the images intact, should anything happen, although I suspect that the images on the Wayward pages are only visible because they link directly to this blog and if the blog disappears so will most of the images on the pages saved on the Wayward Machine.

Anyway, I'm not sure how this blog/website looks on all the browsers out there, but if anything looks strange or off let me know. If you have problems posting comments then try a different browser since that solved the problems I had responding to comments for a while. Most browsers also have a feature to zoom in and make the pages larger if you think the text and images are too small. When I first started this blog I was using a lower resolution and I am unsure I should make any changes to the size of the layout and text at this point.

Friday, March 1, 2024

An interview with Hirohide Sugiura from 2020 has been added

An interesting interview with the co-founder of MonolithSoft, Hirohide Sugiura, from the June 4th edition of Famitsu 2020, has been translated by Lugalbanda of Xenomira. The interview is not exactly news, but when I found out about it I knew it would be worthwhile to make it available on this study guide. Previously, only a part of it was translated by Oni Dino of Nintendo Everything. The part he translated was this:

Sugiura: It all started when I played Xenogears back then. I was in charge of another game at the time, but Xenogears really stood out prominently among the rest, and I fell in love with it. Afterward, we put together plans for a Xenogears 2, but Square at the time had a lot of financial investment in their movie division, so it was extremely difficult to get things put into production internally. Despite that, I knew somehow I had to make something from these ideas, so I chose to go my own way.

That must’ve been some impression Xenogears had on you.

Sugiura: Tetsuya Takahashi, Yasuyuki Honne and 27 others felt the same. So with the help of Masaya Nakamura (founder of Namco), we went ahead with establishing Monolith Soft. We did negotiate with other video game companies when going solo, but I was a big fan of Namco – so much so that I even applied to their new hires after graduation. Anyway, after meeting with Nakamura, it was Namco’s outstanding sensibilities that was the deciding factor for us.

So that’s how Monolith Soft came to be.

Sugiura: The number one motivation for me was because I loved the world that Takahashi created. And that fact still holds true to this day.

The interview focuses on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the company, and since the founding of MonolithSoft occured during the height of the company's interest in the Xenogears and Xenosaga series, basically creating the company for the main purpose of making a sequel to Xenogears in some way, it is a valuable source for future updates to the history articles. Since Sugiura is a huge fan of Xenogears, and the main patron of Takahashi, interviews with him have usually proven to be very interesting. He was the first person to publically express an interest in returning to the Xenosaga series one day, before both Soraya and Takahashi later did as well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Part 1 of the Xenogears Story Analysis is now up

Apologies for the long wait, but I have now added a story analysis section with the first part of the Xenogears Story Analysis completed.

Most of this article has actually been finished for a few years now, but I did not realize how long the section examining the narrative structure would turn out, so I decided to split the story analysis into two parts. It was originally intended to be just one long article. In hindsight I should have realized just having one article would make it too big since the original story analysis was divided into six parts, and most of the writing that has been restored from the original analysis will be included in part 2. There is also a possibility that it will be divided into more parts, but for now the plan is two parts.

So this is not merely a restoration of the old material, but a new article that I am much more satisfied with, since the one on the old website was very messy and also included references to debates I had with other fans and detractors at the time that are no longer relevant with the passage of time. Having been mostly away from the Xeno fandom for over 10 years now I feel I can approach this endeavor with more detached objectivity and better focus. A much more positive feedback loop has also taken place with new analysis of Xenogears by other people (such as Resonant Arc on YouTube) having improved due to being more competently informed by better resources (such as this study guide) than was available in the past, which in turn actually helps even me discover new and valuable insights every now and then.

Speaking of old debates becoming irrelevant over time, I have also been thinking of writing an entirely new article examining how fan perception of Xenogears, Xenosaga, and Takahashi's original vision has changed since the early days of Xenogears up till now. This from the perspective of Western fans only having access to limited information, and how much of the views younger audience currently have of the series is also transient and will change over time for similar reasons, since, although more information can be found today, there still exists laziness and some information is hard to dig up. I think such an article might be useful since the purpose of this study guide is to make people more informed, and the worst ideas and theories about the Xeno series (or about anything) always comes from the less informed. And unfortunately, a bad idea easily becomes a bad idea in the heads of many.

However, if I write such an article it would be better to wait until after more material has been restored. For now the focus will be on the Story Analysis Section.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Interview with Tetsuya Takahashi from KOS-MOSFIX has been added

An interesting new interview with creator Tetsuya Takahashi from CHOCO's new book KOS-MOSFIX has been translated properly by Lugalbanda. What is particularly interesting about this interview is that it answers a lot about Takahashi's thought process behind the design of KOS-MOS, why he went with something "fan-servy" rather than something more serious and appropriate to the more mature and dark setting of the original Xenosaga vision. It makes so much more sense that he originally wanted something more niche, inspired by artist Hans Bellmer, which would have given KOS-MOS a creepier vibe reminiscent of Deus in its initial form (something comparably creepy never ended up appearing in Xenosaga, though the Archetype version of KOS-MOS and certain aspects of Gnosis came close). Xenosaga: Episode I still had the creepiest, most moody atmosphere out of all the Xeno games thus far. Takahashi's various niche interests was always what made him interesting as a creator, and I think that it would be so much more interesting if Takahashi attempted some way of re-making Xenogears or Xenosaga in a medium that would be less expensive and can embrace a more niche audience and result in less compromises like this.

Here are some images of Bellmer's dolls.

The information revealed in this interview has, as usual, compelled me to yet again update the History of Xenosaga article, adding some of the new information and quotes. It kind of contradicts his earlier comment in the ODM where he said that "Mugitani-san [CHOCO] thought a sexual impression [for KOS-MOS] would be good, or so he said, and so he also researched underwear." - which ascribed the thought process behind KOS-MOS's design mainly to CHOCO. These sometimes confusing and contradictory statements are what made the history articles hard to write, and why inserting new info that puts a different light on something said previously isn't always very simple or easy.

Monday, July 9, 2018

New article: the Future of the series

I have added a new article that deals with rumors of a possible continuation or a remake of the Xenogears and/or Xenosaga series. The idea is that once something is said or appears in an interview by the creators, fans can add this in the comment field and in this way have new information pile up there in case I'm on a break from the fandom. I'm not really keeping track of things anymore and also have some skepticism that anything will truly come out of these rumors or talk among the developers, but I get that people would want a section on the study guide that deals with a possible future of the series. So here it is.

Most of the article is currently only the last part of the History of Xenosaga article that's been moved and then slightly expanded upon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Article: the "Merits of these works" added

Some more text has been restored and added to the study guide in the form of a new and updated article called "the Merits of these works." This is an article that incorporates various bits and pieces of texts from previous sections of the old study guide - including "A Brief Overview", "Why This Study Guide?", the intro of the "Plot Analysis", the last part of the old History article that dealt with Xenoblade Chronicles, and some bits from other places - into a more fully fleshed out and complete text that deals with the merits of Xenogears and Xenosaga in general. It can be regarded as an introduction or the first page of this study guide readers are encouraged to read, but for various reasons it got postponed.

One of the reasons it got postponed was that I wasn't happy with the writing, and because of that I feel the need to share something. I honestly don't think my writing is all that good, but since nobody has complained yet I guess it's passable. You could say that my ambition was to learn how to write better about the series or things in general, by examining how actual academics and the "cultural elites" tend to write about famous and classical works. Thus part of my writings on the previous study guide was to emulate a bit of their style. However, I'm not sure I'm suited to write in that style and these days I find the academic jargon to be less interesting than I used to think. The most important thing is simply to be able to get things across in an understandable way. Of course, reading stuff you don't normally read is good for expanding your mind and ways of looking at things.

I'm also not that knowledgeable or talented in writing about stuff like music, game design, and so forth beyond the plot or story. And since it has been a while since I thought about the series I have also started to forget things about the works in general. And when it comes to the themes and influences on these works, there's just too much to keep track of. For example, I never researched Gnosticism all that in-depth and I don't know if Takahashi knows that much about it either or just got the concepts through Jung (he said something similar in regards to Norse mythology in an interview, that he got it through his interest in Nietzsche). Then there's the issue I have with not being able to fully figure out what Takahashi's ultimate message with the works really is.

My wish was always to read texts like this written by an actual academic or similar who is more knowledgeable about literature and cultural history. The material on the study guide was sort of put together for that purpose, to provide other authors, academics, fans and journalists to have access to proper material so as not to get certain facts or ideas wrong in their essays. It's funny, but I never actually wanted to be the one to write some of the articles that I did. I always wanted someone else to write this kind of stuff, someone more suitable. But since it appeared that wasn't going to happen, I decided to just go ahead and give it a shot myself. I figured it'd be good for learning practice if nothing else, and for sure it has been useful and ended up being a sort of fun thing to do. But these days I find it hard to return to the series and fix up some of the work that needs fixing in my articles. Which is why restoration work on the study guide is going so slow and often put on hold.

The article may need to be cleaned up some more in the future, because I don't know how well it actually manages to get to the point. But I think it provides some food for thought and should at least be a useful resource for people discussing the merits of the series or works in general.