Xenogears is a conceptually great JRPG that was published when Sony’s PlayStation dominated the console market. Among the Japanese RPGs that came out in 1998/99 such as, Brave Fencer Musashi, Parasite Eve, Tales of Phantasia, and more, Xenogears stood out for many reasons. One of them is the many praises it received for Yasunori Mitsuda’s work on its great and diverse soundtrack. Here is one of them, titled, “One Who Bares Fangs at God“, the final boss battle theme.
YES, THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD! Mostly about the game’s general idea and the themes presented through the game.
So, who made Xenogears? It is a Japanese Role-Playing Game by Square (now Square-Enix). Tetsuya Takahashi, who had created mechanical designs for Final Fantasy VI and done graphic works on Chrono Trigger, directed the game. Takahashi has since been one of the main driving forces behind the Xenosaga series.
What is the game about, you ask? The game is quite complicated to explain. One way to look at it is a game about a group of resistance fighters who are trying to break and expose indoctrination from entities that have been ruling for millennia. The battle systems are split into Human and Gears each with their own unique gameplay and statistics. Oh, Gears? Gear is the term used for the giant mecha/robots in the game.
Xenogears contains and talks about many themes that I will not go in depth about here. Some of which are: the relationships between man and deities, Judaism, racism, the role of technology in society, Jungian psychology, sexuality, war, slavery, and more. Due to the similarities in themes, some fans of the series have made comparisons with Neon Genesis Evangelion. That topic is another can of worms that I will not be opening.
Due to it’s sleeper hit status and the fan love of Xenogears, a reasonable amount of players have been wanting a sequel. Takahashi left Square to create his own company, Monolith Soft, after realizing that Square want to focus more on the Final Fantasy series. He then created the Xenosaga series (as mentioned above) as a means to further his wish of developing the story for Xenogears. Since Square-Enix owns the rights to Xenogears, Xenosaga only serves as the spiritual successor.
In 2010, Monolith Soft released Xenoblade Chronicles (known in Japan as simply Xenoblade) for the Wii. Monolith Soft was bought by Nintendo in 2007. Xenoblade was also directed by Takahashi. Though it shares the same Xeno– moniker, the series features very different gameplay from the previous ones. The Xenoblade series, to date, is also not related to Xenogears.
So, who is Yasunori Mitsuda and how did he become a composer beloved by JRPG fans? Mitsuda got into Square after submitting samples and getting interviewed by Nobuo Uematsu and Minoru Akao (Square’s sound programmer at the time). His biography states the interview did not go smoothly and Mitsuda has never played any of Square’s big games such as the Final Fantasy series. Despite that, he was given the position soon after.
If you are familiar with Mitsuda’s works, you will be able to immediately tell from the tunes, the compositions, and the “instruments” he chose to work with, that he was involved. After his big break composing the soundtrack for another acclaimed JRPG, Chrono Trigger, Xenogears‘ soundtrack was undoubtedly his second major impact on JRPG music. Another game that he is famous for is Chrono Cross.
Knowing that “One Who Bares Fangs at God” is a final boss battle, the song itself may not seem very fitting at first. Perhaps especially in contrast to Chrono Trigger‘s last boss theme, “Lavos’ Battle Song.” Lavos’ battle theme is ominous, with a faster beat accompanying the action in the middle and weaved with a more uplifting trumpet arrangement. Xenogears’ final battle theme is much more serene and lacking in the “epic” department.
However, the confrontation starts with a series of worldly philosophical and religious debates between Fei Fong Wong, the main protagonist, and the final boss. Only after each of them speak their minds and agree to disagree do they raise their fists. Perhaps in the same vein as why some filmmakers decide to omit music in scenes to elevate the actions, environment, and story, “One Who Bares Fangs at God” may intentionally be minimalist.
“One Who Bares Fangs at God” is a composition that successfully recedes to the background (hence BGM or background music) yet remains present throughout the sequence. The repetition of the beats, though noticeable, will eventually seem to disappear, leaving the chorus and harmony to work their eeriness. It is a song that I grew to appreciate the more I listened to it.
By the way, teleport over to Yatta-tachi’s Facebook page by clicking here to look through our collection of #ThrowbackThursday songs.