I have recently put the US demo through its paces, and here is the verdict: charming story, great battles, interesting characters, and spectacular anime FMV, and a decent graphical engine. Let me make something very clear, however. This demo does NOT have me sold out. I was impressed to an extent, but considering the mass amount of hype that Xenogears has received, I just do not see Square's master touch in the playable demo. The demo sequences are very chaotic (the end of the demo is obviously supposed to be a 'cliffhanger' of sorts, but I did not even understand what had happened until a second viewing), and although the graphics look pretty good at most points, up close the mix of 2D and 3D looks somewhat hideous. These bad points aside, it IS Square, and I am sure that the final product will redeem itself to me.
Now don't get me wrong here, Xenogears looks promising. I just wanted to pick apart the not-so-spectacular aspects, because I can almost guarantee you that all other websites and publications will be too busy praising every little detail, and not telling you what is hidden deep within the game's tightly squeezed ass cheeks.
The overall story has been a controversial topic for quite some time now, and was actually the reason that the game originally was not going to hit US markets. The usage of religion, blasphemy, and other mature themes almost secured Xenogears a death warrant over on this side of the pond. However, after huge public demand, and the definitive success of Square's recent work, they agreed to let the cat out of the bag. The character that you control is Fei, a nice young man who was raised in a small town after being left for dead as a baby. The demo starts with Fei running around town, collecting information on what is going on. Turns out that his best friend is getting married the next day, to a young adult named Timothy. After a chain of average role playing sub quests (like going up into the mountains to obtain camera equipment), Fei's village is burned pending the attack of 'Gears", huge mechanical beasts manned by humans at war. Fei hops in a Gear and defends his town, thus the end of the demo.
Probably the most impressive feature of XG is the battle system. Instead of the tried and true AT system used in most other Square games, Square resorted to using an intriguing combo system that works worth a charm. Input your command, and then have fun stringing together various combos (on the control pad) to slaughter your enemies. It works very well, and adds some life to the genre for people who were not fans of AT.
It should also be noted that Square has decided to go with beautiful anime cut scenes as their FMV source. The voice acting and visuals are great, making Xenogears a very hot prospect for anime lovers and hard-core gamers alike.
There is not a lot of other stuff to say about Xenogears. It is fairly familiar but unique in its own right, and I am eager to see more. Stay tuned.
Andrew the Game Master