Review by KayvenXI
"A diamond, flawed, but still priceless."
I don't think Xenosaga III actually deserves a 10. Truly: What does? But when I think about the evolution this game has gone through, the bumps it has taken and the place it is at now, I think it deserves that ten with every ounce of its being.
Xenosaga had its low points. The first game was intriguing to your average RPG fan. Above all else, the story is incredible. Even if it utilized some common selling points, it still was an incredible venture into "deep" plots. Then controversy: People got angry, motives changes, and hands were switched. Backstage, the Xenosaga series was getting quite ugly and it showed on stage. Xenosaga II met too just above warm reviews, but fans were not so generous. Generally, XSII fell below all our expectations.
Then III. Originally, I was not going to purchase this game. But I did. It was the right choice, believe me.
Xenosaga III is the final saga saga in the Xeno universe. Arguably, this unfortunately takes an original script made for six episodes and concludes it (regardless of where it was at) in a single episode. Hard work? Perhaps. In a single span of fifteen minutes you can learn much. Who was behind the Miltian conflict? What is the secret of the E.S. craft? Who are the testaments? Perhaps the answers are not grandiose, but they are there. Nonetheless, everything is well wrapped up, and you are at the edge of your seat for most of the game.
The biggest flaw of the game is that what was once a series abundant with lush FMVs is now berated with text on-screen in boxes content. Similar to the narrative style of Tales of Symphonia and Suikoden, Xenosaga III does NOT break into full FMV for all movies. It is incredibly unfortunate. At first it is a sudden and hard to take realization but after the first five or so, the concept begins to settle in. Before long you honestly will not, and shouldn't mind the cutscenes. However, I can say easily that what FMVs remain in Xenosaga are nothing short of incredible. Many fight scenes, well done, almost the point of sheer brilliance.
Analyzing both story and narrative brings us to the point of content and how satisfying it was. Again, story is perhaps the most subjective thing a video game can have to offer, but I feel that if you are playing Xenosaga III to begin with you are thirsty for some intense book-like plot. It delivers. People have been arguing that despite the ever evolving plot, the characters remain stoic and there is little focus on relationships. My first point against this is: Shion. The BIGGEST evolution of character is not in any one episode, but over the span of all three. Look at Shion in game one, then look at her in game three. She has undergone such a change both of personality and outlook it was almost touching. Within the game you see such a more human side to her, more then the text-bookish Shion you saw in Episode 1. You will embrace it and even cheer her on. She may not be the strongest but she is the protagonist, like it or not.
As for the other characters: perhaps it is true. However, Ziggy has recieved his own mobile game, MOMO and Jr. recieved most of Xenosaga II to themselves, and Jin sort of is developed along with Shion. And KOS-MOS? Well, that is a whole other issue entirely. What I can say is that there is a grave amount of character development, for mostly Shion, but everyone shines. You have to remember, many of these characters have already done their growing up, for game three, it is now Shion's turn.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. You can see the shine on T-Elos's head-gear and it is just priceless to behold. RPGs are usually the flagships for any graphics engines and XS really delivers. It can often be repetitive (The future is plagued by monotonous, pointless streaming texts across lasers, apparently) but what is there is done well if not excellent. Sometimes, when characters interact within a movie, the "interaction" is somewhat laughable, but video games are still working out anatomical kinks, and it will be that way for quite some time.
So! Gameplay: Sure brilliance. I didn't expect Monolith to pull a 360 and completely redo their gameply. The old system was tossed out for a new system almost identical to Final Fantasy X's. You can see the order of characters and you can individually select abilities such as Techs, Ethers, Attack, Special Attack, Items, Guard, Change, and now, finally, Escape. "Techs" are now "Special Attacks" which now rely on the boost gauge. Ether's power has been significantly increased, you now have a reason to use Thunder Bolt and Beam Bolt, and the characters all recieve EXP even if they do not participate. I have NEVER switched out characters so much. I know I can do it safely and it makes the gameplay more flavorful. In addition, you will also see some fresh faces (temporarily) join the party including Miyuki, Canaan, and one other...
There is still a great amount of lineality to this game. No, there aren't many quests. But the Xeno world is in such a way that the events of the game really brings characters AROUND the universe. How are you going to skip back to Planet 1 if you are stranded on Planet 2? There is still the Segment Address quests, some minor fetch quests, and Erde Kaiser makes a more glorious return (in fact, one of our good friends is now fitted with Kaiser parts...). For the hardcore RPG fan, yes, there are some quests. But this isn't Oblivion IV.
The music really blew me away. The first level I heard a jazzy, upbeat piano tune, something no Xenosaga has really done. I really liked the level of soul and rhythm the song had. It wasn't the monotonous techno rejects we are so used to in this game, and it wasn't the silent coridors that plagued XSI. It was fresh, crisp, and pretty. Still, its video game music, it is isn't Mr. Uematsu-San. So, don't get too excited.
Voice Acting is fine, I like it. This is such a touchy issue, however, it is pointless to argue. Truthfully, the only characters who ever bothered me was MOMO. I simply believe her first Voice Actress was the best.
The game, as a whole, has come such a long way. But I think it is a true PS2 gem. There were some scenes between KOS-MOS and Shion that choked me up a bit, actually. I think a game that has an effect on the player is worth note and merit. The game is fun, engaging, and the return of the "Xeno Bible" aka the Database makes a complicated story slightly easier to understand.
By standards of what an RPG typically is, I think XSIII succeeds in everyway. By far, the worst flaw is the lack of FMVs, but I believe their removal was significant to getting the game out before PS3's release: and that was something Sony is responsible for, not Monolith, not Namco-Bandai. Get the game. (But make sure you play the previous first!)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/18/06
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