Review by Kouga
"It's all about great storytelling."
Xenosaga is yet another great RPG. It makes you wonder why Square got rid of the team that made Xenogears. While more simplistic in ways than most RPGs, it is overall a much more entertaining experience than any of the current Final Fantasies. While those games may have more flash and better graphics, they have of late been lacking the core of their being: the story (that is, since it's linear like that...). The story is really what makes a good linear RPG, and a little less gameplay, unless the gameplay is just totally awful. Xenosaga certainly doesn't fall short on story, what with all the cutscenes it has in it. Many people dispute that it has too many, but only in the beginning is it any bad. But anyway, more on this later.
Note: I have not played Xenogears, despite how much I wish to since I've been told of all the similarities.....
While Xenosaga's gameplay is certainly solid, it also fails to make anything groundbreaking in the linear-RPG battle style. The battle system consists of using AP (Action Points) to use your abilities, and even more powerful death blows. Spells don't necessarily play as much importance in this game as others, which IMO is a good thing. They are used typically for healing and not any offense. On top of that, spells aren't randomly rolled (yay!), so you are guaranteed whatever damage you get each time. Anywho, there's the event slot system too, which lets you get extra bonuses if you take your turn on the right event slot. And finally, you can use your A.G.W.S (Anti-Gnosis Weapon System) Mechs for backup if you're taking a beating or need to slap a boss down real quick. All in all, the battle system is decent, it's nothing ground breaking, but it's fun to play. After all, plain and simple is often better than complex :). It's nice how the boss battles in this game ACTUALLY HAVE DIFFICULTY, unlike certain other games *cough cough* Final Fantasy x *cough cough*. On your first play through, you will likely have to actually try to beat the boss, and even retry a couple of times. Sure it can be frustrating to play the same place over and over, but it's better than just gliding through it with ease... Maybe it's just me too, but it seems like the enemies actually have AI and attack the weakest and use the best fitting spell. But that's just sheer speculation on my part.
Xenosaga has four minigames to play, and they range from mind-numbingly boring, to quite entertaining. I won't spoil what the minigames are like, since it appears they are supposed to be hidden, but let's just say you need to talk to everyone and explore in order to find them all. Though, only two of them will actually make an impact on the main game, the others are still at the least nominally entertaining, but entirely skippable. I like how it doesn't make you try out the minigames automatically, but that's just a minor detail.
Xenosaga's story is awesome. I will even dare to say that it's better than Final Fantasy 7's (naturally some will dispute this, but I still think Final Fantasy 7 was overrated anyway :P). There are a lot of cutscenes in Xenosaga. And when I mean a lot, I mean A LOT. Some are probably even half an hour. And the cutscenes are decently dubbed, at least compared to FFX. But it's not just the large quantity of cutscenes that makes its story rich. On top of them, you have a glossary and can win some concept art in the gambling mini-game. They show you how truly developed this story is. It makes you want to play all 6 episodes right now.. too bad there's only one out so far... As for the plot holes that have plagued other games, It's too early to tell, but as of yet it seems that there are no discrepancies in the story line, yet. Though it's been said to have a strong similarity to Xenogears (Though I wouldn't know since I haven't played it). Also, if you don't particularly care for the long story, yet for some reason bought this game (or you don't like seeing certain scenes on your way back through the game), you can simply skip the cutscenes, which is a great feature to have (FFX should have had it :/).
A lot of people haven't liked how it has so freaking many cutscenes and are turned off by this. It is kinda bad in the beginning how many there are (cutscenes over little irrelevant things to the story and such), but as the story progresses, you'll love the cutscenes more and more.
Some people might not like that there is no solid love story in this Episode. Sure there are little hints, but nothing big with the main female and the main male character, since there doesn't seem to really be a clear one as of now anyway. Frankly, I think it's a good thing since a lot of the love stories have turned out to be super corny; so corny that you're unable to bear them.
I'm not terribly picky about graphics, plus I prefer the way that the characters are modeled in this game over FFX better. Though it's not got graphics like FFX, it's graphics are pretty nice. Especially the FMVs. The FMVs are better than FFX's in some respect, since it's much harder to tell when they are actually used than FFX (ex. how Tidus looked more asian in FMVs). It only doesn't get a ten because of Squaresoft... lol. The music and sound is excellent as well. However, I have two minor qualms about the sound. First of all, there is no music on the area maps (usually). Even though in a sense I like it without the music, but on the other hand it is nice to have background music while you're on the area maps. But when there is music, it definitely adds to the mood of the game, from light and happy, to dark and gloomy. The second thing about sound I dislike, is sometimes the sound of the characters walking/running can get on my nerves. This is mostly if you use a male besides Jr. as your lead though. The girls make nice quiet steps :).
The enemy designs are kind of bizarro to me, though this isn't necessarily a plus or minus. Even the mechs and the human-type enemies are kind of odd. But it's especially the Gnosis-type. The Gnosis are all weird with no face and taking various shapes, some humanoid, some like flying fish.
Play Time/Replay Ability/ Extras: 7/10
Don't listen to the back of the box. It says it has over 80 hours of gameplay. ROFL that's lies. Maybe if cutscenes aren't taken into account when figuring this it would be 80 hours, but it's still not gameplay hours. Unless you're like me and play over and over, max out all your stats, and get everything there is possible. But if you play it and do all the sidequests, but don't level up or anything, it doesn't even come close. But don't get me wrong, the time I played beating it was awesome. Personally, I'd replay it if there was a New Game+ or something, since the story is such a strong part, but it is kind of annoying to fight all those bosses all over again, especially considering how there is actual difficulty in Xenosaga as compared to other games. I guess it would be more replayable if you had a gameshark or hacked save game file, but otherwise, it's kind of annoying. Replayable, but annoying a little bit.
Extras in this game are a concept art gallery, a glossary (sorta), and ads for other Namco games (lol). Nothing special. But supposedly you will also be able to carry your saved game file over to the next episode, though it's
not confirmed yet.
The thing I love best about this game is its story. It just counts so much for me. I would give this a higher
mark, but other people do not particularly care for the story as much as people like me do, and would rather the
graphics enhanced and gameplay more complex instead :P. This will stay one of my favorites for a long time to
come. I'm not likely to forget such a magnificent story. Of course, if you're the type of person who could care less about the story, this game is not for you (though you can skip the cutscenes if you want).
Rent or Buy?: Buy!
As with all RPGs, I strongly suggest you buy them, rather than renting it. It just does not feel right to rush an RPG, especially one of this caliber of storyline. Maybe you could rent it if you have one of those Blockbuster cards, but other than that, stick with buying it. After all, it is only thirty bucks now, the same price as the typical anime DVD. It's a steal for such a great game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/30/04
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