When Xenosaga Episode I, the first of the surprising extensions to
the story of Xenogears, was released in 2003, it caused quite a stir
throughout the gaming community. Composed of a sci-fi RPG, paired with
hours of in-game cinematics, it achieved success in its own right. Now the
second installment, set for a release ten days shy of Xenosaga's two year
anniversary, is poised to make waves once again as it advances the
intergalactic plot and brings several changes to the series.
Geared towards players both new and old, Xenosaga II: Jenseits von
Gut und Bose (Beyond Good and Evil) can be played with no knowledge of
the previous game. However, it does continue the story of Shion Uzuki
and her companions in their adventures to prevent the powerful Zohar
from falling in to the wrong hands, beginning from their arrival at Second
Militia. While Shion still remains the main focus of the story, this
installment is said to reveal much about the mysterious Jr. as well. The
goals of the characters carry over from Xenosaga as Ziggy, Jr. and the robot
MOMO travel to the U.M.N. to have MOMO's precious Y-data extracted, Shion
enjoys some self-discovery and a reunion with her brother Jin, and of
course, KOS-MOS receives some spiffy new weaponry. Also making a return are
the high and mighty forces behind the U-TIC: Margulis, Pellegri and Sellers.
As expected, the Gnosis remain an everpresent threat in the Xenosaga
"Xenosaga II can be played with no knowledge of the
The most drastic, and indeed, the most obvious change between
Xenosaga I and II is the graphics. Gone are the large-eyed,
anime-style character models in favor of far more realistic profiles. The
general look of the characters has definitely been preserved and improved,
although Shion's apparent lack of glasses is amusing. As well, the overall
quality of the graphics is proposed to be quite smooth.
Battles have also been the subject of various changes between the first
and the second, with small improvements being made to the general system,
and a whole new way to wreak havoc with giant robots–an activity any
self-respecting sci-fi fan should enjoy. Up to three characters may be
utilized in battle, and points must be stored up to perform various attacks.
However, the attacks have been weighted differently than in the original
Xenosaga, and new team attacks have been included, allowing two
characters to combine their attacks for a combo. Major enemies now
have three zones that may be hit, mainly Low, Middle and High, that signify
weak and strong points, allowing players to discover and exploit the
weaknesses of the enemies they may encounter. The original Boost system has
also been extended across multiple battles, allowing damage to build from
battle to battle if players strategically chain their attacks. But perhaps
the most inventive change is the overhauling of the A.G.W.S. robots for use
in battle. Newly developed A.M.W.S.'s are smaller, higher powered versions
of the Anti-Gnosis Weapon Systems, and extra-spiffy models called the E.S.
series can also be utilized. Anima Relics may be attached to the E.S.
models for extra power and customization, acting as a brain, and two
characters may power the robots, a pilot and a co-pilot, allowing for many
permutations of skills and abilities available for your metal monstrosities.
For those who hate random battles, the general system of Xenosaga
II should be pleasing. Players must trek through futuristic
environments, avoiding the enemies that appear on the map. If players stray
too close to an enemy, it will give chase. This provides the opportunity to
dodge or encounter enemies at will. Objects on the map and throughout the
environment can be interacted with, and often some objects must be moved or
destroyed to allow passage from one area to the next. These mechanics would
be very familiar to the players of the original Xenosaga.
One of the biggest concerns for players of Xenosaga Episode I was the
sheer length of the in-game cinematics. Though the quality of these movies
was unmistakable, taking up seven and a half hours of a game estimated to be
20-30 hours in length caused some players anxiety. Perhaps that is why the
developers of Xenosaga II opted to use these videos more efficiently--the
game will contain about five hours of cutscenes, and they will contain more
ounces of storytelling per minute (or however else you would measure such
things) than the original. In other words, more plot, less movie.
Lastly, players have a couple small bonus tidbits to look forward to.
Cleared data from Xenosaga I can be loaded at the beginning of a game to
unlock as-of-yet unspecified bonuses or extra scenes. As well, the Segment
Decoder doors make a reappearance, providing keen players with extra items,
and the parts to make several ultimate robots for use in battle.
By the looks of things, Xenosaga II treads on familiar ground and
has the potential to carry the momentum of its predecessor. Bringing in
several fresh changes, this game could easily generate as much excitement as
the first. Get ready to sample it with the last of your Valentine's