Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (2002 Video Game)
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Xenosaga starts off with the discover of a mysterious artifact in Lake Turkana, sometime during our century. The game then quickly moves forward in time, to approximately 4000 years in the future. In that distant future, man's technology has evolved to the point that would appear to us as nothing short of magic. However, even with man's technology, they have yet to unlock the secrets of the mysterious golden artifact that was discovered at the start of the game. To complicate matters, a very brutal and lethal species of ethereal beings called the Gnosis are eager to take the artifact away from man. Our weapons are useless against the Gnosis. The central character of the story, Chief Engineer Shion Uzuki, has been given the mandate to develop a humanoid Anti-Gnosis fighting system called Kos-Mos. As the story progresses, Kos-Mos goes through a development process that in the end, made her more than just a weapon of destruction into a totally unique and living being.
The battle system is fabulous. You, the player, will have option of engaging the enemy directly. Each of the main characters have a set of attacks, from the physical, martials arts type attacks to long range attacks involving the use of some very special abilities. Some of your main characters will have the ability to "pilot" giant, mechanical humanoid fighting systems called A.G.W.S. (Anti-Gnosis Weapons System). You have the option of outfitting your A.G.W.S. with a variety of weapons, such as Gatling Guns, Rifles, Grenade Launchers, Swords, Drill Claws, and Lancer Arms. Each of your main characters are also highly "customizable". You earn points during battle. It is your choice how to use those points to acquire skills, and to increase attributes for your players. Strategy plays a big role in battles. Also, unlike the typical RPG, in Xenosaga there are no random battles. So you are not subjected to fighting the same enemies over and over for the 99th time. The enemies are visible, and you have the ability to use "stealth" to avoid them in most cases.
The soundtrack is composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, who is the equivalent of John Williams in the world of RPGs. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed the soundtrack.
By the way, do not expect all of the plot lines to be resolved at the end of the game. Most will not. This is only part I, of a six-part story. I highly recommend this game. Especially for those players who demand more from their RPG than the typical, mind-numbing, overly-repetitive random battles that you usually find in the Final Fantasy series. I have also played FFX. And while it is also good, the story simply does not even come close to the size and scope of that being told in Xenosaga. I believe that a well-made RPG can do a much better job of telling a story, compared to a movie. In an RPG, you do actually get to be the main character and interact with the story. An RPG can immerse in the story to th extent that a movie could never hope to do. If you like complicated plots, epic story, fun battle system, and lovable characters, then I highly recommend this game to you.
But believe me when I say, those cut scenes make the game.
For someone first playing through the game, the concepts and stories introduced are hard to follow and understand. It takes a lot of imagination and analyzing to follow a particular storyline. Basically put, Xenosaga does not spoon-feed you the story and what is going on. It's up to you actually put everything together. For some people, that's nice. Others though, will get frustrated with the lack of explanations in the game. I had to play through the game twice before I scratched my head and said "Oooh! So that's what happened! I get it!"
Graphics in Xenosaga are not spectacular; but then again they aren't hard on the eyes either. The characters all have different and distinct personalities. And surprisingly, they all have equally intriguing past histories. The game really does not focus on one main character.
My only real complaint with Xenosaga would have to be the sound. Vocals are fine enough throughout game (and when I say that, I mean they won't make your ears bleed), but the music gets irritating, especially during battles.
Xenosaga's battle system makes the game much easier to play in my opinion. You can see your enemies and avoid (most of the time) the annoying random battles. Tech attacks help make the battles go quicker. It's especially nice that a 1/4 of your EXP points you gain go to your reserve combatants. So no one is left behind at level 5.
All in all Xenosaga is a great RPG. As said before though, this game requires a lot of time and patience. If you are looking for a fast paced, simple story, then stay away from Xenosaga. Otherwise, you'll probably enjoy it!
Personally, I think the RPG realm has been in a great decline ever since Squre and Enix combined, considering they used to be big competitors, it gave them a reason to make games, but considering that there isn't a real challenge anymore, they can do whatever they want.
Supposedly XenoSaga was this deep intricate RPG with a mature plot and scope, but I didn't see any of that when I played. It came across as an ensemble of goofy or cliché characters backdropped by a collection of typical plot gimmicks getting stuck in `clever' dungeon sequences.
I stopped playing because I found myself waiting for the damn cutscenes to end, and if not that I was playing just to get through the dungeon/towns as quickly as I could to advance the plot since nothing was grabbing my interesting and making me want to play. I wanted to get to the `deep wonderful RPG' I'd heard about. After getting a good 75% into the game, I flat out gave up wishing I had stopped much earlier but everyone kept telling me it gets better.
I didn't like nor could I buy into hardly any of the characters (supporting or playable). Everyone came across as childish avatars of what's supposed to be individual traits, like Namco's team talking down to its audience, `Allen is the nervous geek you're supposed to pity and sympathize with,' `Virgil is the pointless guy you're supposed to hate who rambles for 15 minutes in the middle of life-or-death situation,' `chaos is the character you're supposed to like because he's quirky and powerful.'
Namco, I can make decisions for myself. Give me non-hideous character designs, please. MOMO, Ziggy, 'Little Master' (aka Jr), the Elsa & Durandal's crew. No thanks.
I didn't mind KOS-MOS so much despite her being equally as cliché as the rest of the cast. She actually came across as believable with her mechanical, webster's dictionary-defining all key terms in her speech, actually fit (every character talked like that, but only KOS-MOS had reason to). And I don't now why, I just found her straight forward programming and resulting naivety providing desperately needed comic relief, and fortunately, Namco opted not to explore KOS-MOS too deeply. I have a feeling that would've ruined that character for me as well.
The plot was explicitly explained, leaving no room for individual exploration and interpretation; thus, no real room for intellectual stimulation. Nothing important implied for the gamer to figure out for themselves; if anything, they leave irrelevant details to the gamers. And not only do we get a giant glossary of used terms but in mid-conversation characters will stop and define things for us. People don't talk this way. If you're going to have a glossary let the gamer view it, and most terms the gamer already knows or can figure out what it is by the context of the conversation. Wake up, Namco. You have intelligent people playing your games.
Maybe it would've helped if XenoSaga I didn't come across as a children's book that looked at a Stephen King novel for a few buzzwords and a plot point or two to create the illusion of sophistication.
In the end, I didn't find the characters likeable, the plot did not intrigue me, and the gameplay bored me. And it just goes to further discourage me from playing RPGs anymore and wasting 20+ hours on an unimaginative plot with boring game play. And once the Suikoden series loses its shine, I have a feeling this RPGer will hang up his Role Playing controller for good.
Yes, this is a game that fancies itself as a deep, provocative Sci-Fi epic. And not only that, it fancies itself as a deep, provocative Sci-Fi epic movie. This is one of those games where, every five minutes or so of gameplay, you are jarringly pulled from control in order to watch a 10 minute cut-scene. And often, it's a cut-scene filled with pretentious "sciency" dialog that you won't understand, and a plethora and onslaught of intrigue, twists, turns and double-crosses that make it difficult to follow the overall story lines. You can tell at heart, this would have made a better movie (or anime) series than a game, because the creators clearly have an agenda to tell a vast story that just isn't able to be supported by the confines of a JRPG video game.
But even still, this isn't a total loss of a game. In fact, there's plenty to like here. It's just that everything is betrayed by the constant interruptions and the forced, and often contrived storyline they force-feed you.
The game seems to predominately follow Dr. Shion Uzuki, a cute-as-a- button scientist in the future, who is working on a project to develop "KOS-MOS", an android, to help combat a vile alien force known as the "Gnosis." However, there is much intrigue and much going on amongst various other characters, and a mysterious device discovered nearly 4000 years in the past may be the key to the entire story.
At least, I think that's what the story is. As I said, I have never completed the game, and to be honest, what I have completed suffers a very confusing mass of different story lines, sub-plots, characters and themes. It's exceedingly hard to be able to follow what is going on for much of the game that I've played.
The game itself is competent and very well-made, to it's credit.
The graphics are very nice. They have a stylized, almost anime-like feel to them, which I quite liked, and the visual design, while arguably a bit tame and repetitive, is very interesting and feels true to a futuristic style. The voice acting is very, very well-done from what I've seen, in particular from Shion Uzuki, who is just so sweet, kind and well-meaning. Every time she speaks, you want to leap through your television and give her a big hug. The music is also very strong, atmospheric, and theatrical, making the game feel very epic in scope.
And though simplistic, the controls, both on-screen and in battle (this is an RPG, meaning that general gameplay and battle scenes are controlled through different mechanics) are great. And while pretentious, over-written and hard-to-follow, the storyline and characters are interesting and generally well-developed.
Unfortunately, the decent gameplay and interesting story and ideas just suffer so badly from the onslaught of overlong cut-scenes, and the conflicting, confusing storytelling. If this game didn't suffer these faults, it would have easily warranted an 8 out of 10. Maybe even a 9.
But those pesky cut-scenes and the confusion and frustration they cause almost all but ruin the experience. However, there is too much to like to completely dismiss the game, so I am giving it an ever-so-slightly above average 6 out of 10. Give it a shot. It's far from perfect, and there's much to flat-out hate here. But there's also enough to like that it may be worth playing for some gamers.