Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Boese - Review  

Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Boese
by Matthew 'Redbeastmage' Foster

Moderate to Difficult


Rating definitions 

   Xenosaga: Episode 2 continues the 'Xeno' tradition of gaming: immersing players in a world of intrigue and questions. Episode 1 of Xenosaga introduced gamers to a new set of characters, a brand new story, and spent a lot of time developing them, yet never reached a culmination, simply leaving gamers with unanswered questions. Xenosaga 2 picks up the pace almost exactly where the first game left off, but the real question is whether or not the game steps up to give some answers and closure to the story.

   The interaction in this game, while involving a large number of cut scenes, does manage to put the player in control enough to not make it feel like a movie. The game is divided into two discs, and there is a noticeable difference in control between the two, as the first disc is heavy with story and cutscenes, while disc two offers the freedom of character control and a lot of side-questing, which includes a substantial amount of post-ending material to play around with. Moving your character around on screen is mostly a simple affair. Occasionally, this is made more challenging by the addition of puzzles, which mostly involve breaking or moving objects in a certain order. While this sounds rather trivial and monotonous, there are a few puzzles that make you stop and really think out your moves. The biggest gripe with the interface is how ungodly slow the E.S. mechs move when you are forced to use them. The battles are initiated by touching an enemy while exploring an area, supposedly giving you the chance to avoid a battle. However, there is little chance of this as the enemies move incredibly fast compared to your character, and, in most cases, the areas are too narrow to avoid them. Fortunately, there are not too many enemies in a given area, but almost none of the battles will be quick or easy.

   Speaking of it, the battle system in this game is top notch. While character battles will feel familiar to players of the first game, the elements of battle have all been fine tuned and create a rather in-depth system. Paying attention to all the details is an absolute must in this game, at least if you plan to ever complete it. Learning the enemies' break points and their weaknesses to damage types, as well as your own characters' strengths, is the only way to prevail through the battles; and even if you think you really have it down, don't be surprised if you fall in defeat during a standard battle encounter. A huge difference in battles, however, is the implementation of the E.S. mechs to replace the AGWS of the first game. The E.S. system feels very fleshed out and complete, with the ability to customize the mechs with different pilot pairings for different special attacks.
Margulis Margulis gets down with his bad self

   To put it simply, the game doesn't really deliver where everyone expected it to. The storyline in this game is rather weak and poorly developed. While some of the questions from the first game are answered, the game fails to answer far too many and gives you even more on top of the unanswered ones. By the time you complete the game, you might end up shaking your head, wondering what just happened, or you will be screaming at the screen, frustrated at the lack of information you received. The story in this game is very centered around Jr. and his relationships with the other characters. While you learn a lot about his past, which happens to include quite a bit about MOMO and chaos, the game does stop every now and again to give you some insight into Shion, her now playable brother Jin, and KOS-MOS.

   Visually, the game's characters have undergone heavy cosmetic surgery. The rounded anime-style faces from the first game have been replaced by much more proportionate and realistic features. Some characters also have new voice actors, which is both good for some and bad for others. The new character models fit well with the various backgrounds that you travel through in the game. Also, it can't go without mentioning that the cut scenes are absolute masterpieces, each and every one being a true feast for the eyes.

   One thing missing from this game is the score of memorable music. Having changed composers, from Yasunori Mitsuda to Yuki Kajiura, there is a noticeable change in style and approach, although not for the better. The music in this game ranges from upbeat electronica to somber orchestral, yet most of the music is pretty dull and unmemorable. There are a few exceptions, as the ending song is definitely a winner, and the changes Kajiura made to 'Nephilim' are very well implemented. These are just a few positive examples, but by and large, the music in this game is disappointing.
Jr Jr always has backup with him

   The game itself offers a fairly linear play through, although there are moments where you can step out of the story and into some side-questing. The majority of the alternate play in this game involves looking for secret keys to segement address doors, the grandiose GS campaign, and post game material. The segment address system allows you to take keys that you find across the game world and use them to open hidden doors. The doors often hide valuable, unlockable skills for your characters, as well as keys for other doors. The GS campaign is a series of missions you can go on to help out the random, otherwise generic, characters that fill the game's locations. Ranging from trivial, monotonous messenger quests to solving puzzles, the quests offer a way to kill some time away from the plot for decent rewards, but offer no insight into any meaningful story elements. Skipping all this, the game is beatable in about 15-20 hours, but if you choose to tackle all the GS campaigns, segment addresses, and post-game dungeons and bosses, this game can easily take 30 hours or more.

   All and all, Xenosaga 2 fails to deliver the epic story that loyal fans craved, offering instead a mediocre story with more questions that we can only hope will be answered when Xenosaga 3 rolls around. However, the entertaining interface and amazing battle system make this game a trip worth taking for people who aren't necessarily fans of the series.

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