[XS1 LOGO]



[THE MIRACLE]
Console: PS2  

Company: Namco/Monolith Soft 

Release Date: February 2003  

Genre: RPG 

Number of Players: One  

Save Feature? Maybe I should just remove this 
option for RPGs. The answer is a resounding "YES!!" 



It doesn't happen all that often but for once, I am truly at a loss for words when discussing a video game. I went into Xenosaga: Episode One expecting...you know, your typical/average RPG fanfare. Well, about the only thing I predicted correctly was that Xenosaga was a role playing game. Beyond that, I didn't have a clue what I was getting into. The first episode of what would later become a trilogy turned out to be one of the most awe-inspiring and thought provoking video games that I have ever had the honor of playing! If you've been itching for an incredible cinematic experience with an outstanding soundtrack, intuitive gameplay, and an unforgettable atmosphere, look no further than Xenosaga: Episode One. Not only this game but the trilogy as a whole is far and away the most underrated series of games to ever grace the video game market in this reviewer's mind. Xenosaga: Episode One certainly got things rolling with a thunderous clash!

Overview: As you can tell by my drool-infested intro, I have become quite the fan of the Xenosaga series! I can't even begin to tell you how enjoyable this incredible trilogy is! I enjoyed it so much in fact that just recently, I decided to take the plunge once again and dive into the world of Xenosaga once again! Let's just say that there's some serious "WOW" factor here and leave it at that.

Ahem...sorry about that. Sometimes, the fanboy in me simply comes out. ;) In any case, I'm assuming that if you've never played the Xenosaga series and just happened to stumble onto this review out of sheer curiousity, you're probably wondering what all the excitement is about, right? I mean, the only significance of Xenosaga is that it joins that small list of games that start with the letter "X" right? Besides, if the game wasn't a huge hit with the mainstream video game community, it can't have been that good right? My friend, this is one of those rare occasions when the mainstream gamers completely dropped the ball and allowed a simply legendary series of games to slip through the cracks.

Xenosaga: Episode One is such a special game for a whole plethora of reasons and believe me, I'll be attempting to convince you of this game's greatness throughout the course of the review. For one thing, the incredibly complex/deep story is completely unique and is very intriguing. Also, the gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of Xenogears yet intuitive enough to keep things fresh. Other important factors are the impressive aesthetics (i.e. the graphics and music) and the incredible atmosphere that permeates this game to the core. Hopefully, I'll be able to touch on all of this without boring you to tears.

Before I get to the meat of the game, however, there is some background information that I'd like to cover beforehand. Although you'll notice that Namco's name is listed on the box cover, they weren't the ones who actually created the game. Monolith Soft was actually the company that developed the wonderous world of Xenosaga. This is important to know because Monolith Soft was also involved in the creation of the cult hit, Xenogears for the PSOne. It didn't take long for me to recognize this because Xenosaga: Episode One just feels so much like Xenogears in terms of feel and atmosphere. The atmosphere is full of suspense and can be very dark at times, the music was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda (composed the Xenogears soundtrack), and there is a heavy emphasis on the game's background story. One reason why Xenogears was such a huge hit was the amazing depth and thought-provoking nature of the game's story. Xenogears truly felt like a cinematic experience at times with its sometimes overwhelming use of dialogue. Its heavy emphasis on spiritual themes was groundbreaking territory for a video game as well. This trend continued with the Xenosaga series so if you're searching for a game/series that relies heavily on the story/atmosphere for its success and you just enjoy a really deep, well-thought out story, you've found the mother of all gold mines!

The use of giant robots/mechs throughout the Xenosaga trilogy is also going to rekindle some fond memories of Xenogears. Dubbed the acronym "A.G.W.S." in Xenosaga (standing for Anti-Gnosis Weapons System for those of you keeping notes), the wise useage of these monstrous monstrocities will prove to be very helpful...especially during some of the more taxing battles. The A.G.W.S. are stronger than your characters in virtually every respect (except for their ridiculously slow agility) and allow you to essentially use a second, separate life bar. The only real drawback other than low agility is that an A.G.W.S. cannot be revived in battle. In other words, if your hit points fall to 0 while in A.G.W.S. mode, you're pretty much screwed for the rest of the battle. Definitely jot this down somewhere safe because it can be simply cataclysmic to lose one of your characters for good in one of the many unescapable boss battles! Still, with a little practice and some of the more powerful equipment, you'll have a blast (literally and figuratively) learning to use your A.G.W.S. in addition to fighting straight up with your human/non-human characters.

Speaking of characters, I thought that Xenosaga featured one of the most impressive and diverse casts of characters to date. I can't tell you how enamored I was with not only the characters themselves but the high-level of character development that takes place throughout the trilogy. Too often, you have cool, flashy-looking characters that you enjoy using in battle but you never really get to find out who they are! Well, you don't have to worry about that with Xenosaga because over the course of three games, I thought that Monolith Soft did a fabulous job in this area.

The only character that most gamers will recognize initially will probably be the humanlike android, KOS-MOS. Since she is on the cover of not only Episode One but Episodes Two and Three as well, there is a very good chance that even newbies to the series will instantly recognize her. Not only that but she has dazzling blue hair and wears an awesome suit of armor so it's hard to miss her!

The funny thing about this is that, technically, Shion Uzuki is the main character in the Xenosaga series! Shion is the brilliant scientist/inventor who, along with her late lover, Kevin Winnicot, was responsible for the creation of KOS-MOS. Although Shion is one smart cookie, she can be a little reckless at times and is naturally overprotective of KOS-MOS. In other words, she's human. :) Her attempts at keeping KOS-MOS from having to fight real-life battles can be understood though. I'd probably be the same way about my creations.

Other main characters include the friendly yet mysterious Chaos, the fiesty yet loyal U.R.T.V. Jr., the 100-series prototype Momo, and the powerful cyborg Ziggy. I could elaborate on all of these characters in great depth but I've got to give you some reason to play the game right? ;)

On a different note, I know that I have already hammered this point into oblivion but it is important for me to mention that the Xenosaga series consists of three completely related, completely interconnected games. This was truly revolutionary at the time and has yet to be equaled in the RPG genre to my knowledge. The original plan was actually for the series to span six games but unfortunately, due to the games not selling nearly as many copies as Monolith Soft originally anticipated, we ended up with three games instead. Why this series wasn't more popular is beyond me but that discussion is for another time.

Okay, it's finally time to move on to the game's juicy battle system! Another aspect of Xenosaga: Episode One that will give Xenogears fans fits of nostalgia is certainly the battle engine. Remember how you used various button combinations and eventually learned those ultra-snazzy Deathblow moves in Xenogears? A somewhat similar system is in place here. You'll be using combinations of the X and Triangle buttons along with the Circle button to attack enemies in Xenosaga. It's nothing overly complex by any stretch but it's innovative enough to keep things interesting. A few of the more important elements of any battle in Xenosaga: Episode One include character/enemy placement, ability points, and boosting.

[A FATEFUL BATTLE]


One somewhat unique feature is that when you set up your battle formation, you are able to place your characters in either the front row or the back row. That affects the attacks you can use along with the amount of damage taken. Many ether abilities take placement into account so keep this in mind when setting up your battle formation as well. One example of this is Jr.'s Dandyism ether ability which can only be used if a female character is directly behind him. Note that you can move your characters during any battle so don't panic if you want to change your formation at some point. As I am sure many of you RPG vets know, being in the front row means that you can cause a normal amount of damage to enemies while taking a normal amount of damage in return. Being in the back row is beneficial because you only receive about half as much damage and if you are directly behind a character, you will be shielded from most attacks. This is important to know because some of the weaker characters like MOMO are unable to withstand much damage at the beginning of the game. By placing a strong character like Ziggy in front of Momo, Ziggy will be the one to take the damage while Momo is, for the most part, unscathed. Of course, being in the back row does have its drawbacks. While you can still use any ether attacks/abilities, you'll be unable to perform any physical attacks while in the back row.

Ability points (simply known as "AP") are another factor that will affect your battle strategy. Think of ability points as your characters' stamina. The amount of ability points available during any given turn dictates what you can and cannot perform. With the normal allotment of 4 ability points, you can attack an enemy, use ether abilities, transform into your A.G.W.S. (if you have one equipped), or use an item. However, for the really cool Tech Attacks and Special Abilities, you'll need 6 AP. By defending or using items two consecutive turns (items only use 3 AP and the AP you haven't used carries over), you can make this happen. Tech Attacks are basically glorified attacks that contain special characteristics (Slash, Spirit, Beam, Lightning, Fire, and Ice to name a few). They are essentially the same as those uber-powerful Deathblows found in Xenogears and you'll want to use these attacks...A LOT! By using the Analyze ability to discover an enemy's weak point, you can see which Tech Attacks will really pack a punch (e.g. Chaos' Heaven's Wrath attack has Slash/Lightning properties which will render any foes suspect to those characteristics incapacitated in a hurry!) There are also a few special abilities unique to KOS-MOS and Ziggy like KOS-MOS' ultimate G-Scythe attack that aren't specifically Tech Attacks yet require 6 AP to operate as well. Note that as the game progresses and you earn Tech Points in battle, you will eventually be able to increase the speed on your favorite Tech Attacks so that you can use them with only 4 AP! This will be critical later in the game when every turn really counts!


[CHAOS UNLEASHING HIS LUNAR SEAL TECH ATTACK]


Lastly, boosting is an important element of battle that allows you to cut in turn! By using the Boost 1 ether ability or simply attacking enemies with physical attacks, you'll notice the Boost gauge slowly (or quickly as the case may be) rising! Other than using the Boost 1 ether, physically attacking an enemy when the field effects bar is on the Boost+ symbol (The field effects bar changes during every single action in a predictable manner: Critical Hit+, Boost+, Skill Points+, and Nothing) is a great way to raise your boost gauge. As long as the character you want to boost doesn't have a turn coming up within the next 2-3 turns, you'll be boosting away with the best of 'em! Do keep in mind that some enemies will counterboost when physically attacked. These boosts override yours so this is important to remember when you're boosting ahead in order to heal an ailing character. Sometimes, it's best not to attack an enemy during this time.

Amazingly, I've only touched on a few of the more important elements of battle. I could continue but frankly, I think that I've already overdone it! After all, this is a supposed to be a review...not some friggin' walkthrough. ;)

[NOTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY. JUST YOUR TYPICAL BATTLE. :)]


Personally, I really enjoyed this battle engine. Granted, the sometimes slow, meticulous nature of the battle system may not appeal to everyone. However, I would expect most purists to really enjoy the strategic elements and the glorified Tech/Ether attacks. At any rate, you can tell that Monolith Soft didn't spare the details.

Graphics: It doesn't happen very often but every once in a while, you come across graphics in a video game where you can just tell that the creators poured their hearts and souls into creating the most impressive, aesthetically pleasing visuals imaginable. Well, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Xenosaga: Episode One has the best graphics to ever grace a video game but dang...the overall effort and attention to detail was as impressive as I could have hoped for! It's a completely different style than Final Fantasy X but the overall presentation reminded me a lot of FFX. Everything throughout Xenosaga: Episode One just feels smooth, crisp, and polished all the way through. I really liked the style of the graphics as well. While they look realistic and beautifully-rendered, something about the overall style whether it's the shadowing or the little cartoonish features like many characters having huge eyes (I couldn't help but laugh during one scene when Virgil was literally in your face with his eyes bulging!) kept the graphics from being ultra realistic. It's really hard to explain but I hope that the screenshots throughout this review help you to understand what I mean.

It's also worth mentioning that the character models looked incredible throughout the game (making the legolike models in games like FFVII look even more ridiculous), the animation is among the best that I have ever seen in a video game, and the ridiculous amount of movies throughout the game are of the highest quality. Honestly, you will feel like you're watching an epic movie while you're playing this game! If you're just dying to know what the movies look like, feel free to check out this link at YouTube.com. It's a collection of scenes from the game and is relatively spoiler-free. My favorite movie sequence has to be the game's incredible ending though. It was so impressive and powerful that I found myself having to literally lift my jaw off the ground! Okay, I'm kidding about the jaw part but you know what I mean... ;)

However, even with all of the praise that I have given the game's graphics so far, it would be a grave injustice if I didn't mention what truly makes the graphics throughout Xenosaga: Episode One click. In one simple word...atmosphere. The greatest strength of Xenosaga: Episode One as a whole might not be the game's graphics or beautiful music or even the incredible story. The element that seems to encompass all of these areas and make the game a truly great game is one of the more unforgettable atmospheres that I have ever witnessed. This truly is the ultimate game to play at night. It's very dark for a "T" rated game and those eerie undertones and the constant suspense just never seems to let up! This can be unnerving at times and I guarantee that you will literally jump out of your chair once or twice throughout the course of the game. In any case, the unique style of the game's graphics and that elusive "It" factor is definitely present here.

[ONE OF MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS: JR.]

Music: Back around late 2001/early 2002, I discovered that one of my favorite video game composers, Yasunori Mitsuda, had recently composed the soundtrack to some weird, unknown game entitled "Xenosaga." ;) I had no idea what the game was about but just seeing Mitsuda's name was enough to pique my curiousity. Once I saw that the music itself was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, well...it just wasn't fair anymore! I simply had to snag a copy of the soundtrack! After purchasing and listening to the game's soundtrack approximately 100 times, let's just say that I don't regret buying the soundtrack nor the game itself!

After playing Xenosaga: Episode One all the way through in 2006 and recently completing a second playthrough, I've got to say that this game features one extraordinary sountrack! You can instantly tell that it's one of Mitsuda's compositions because the feel/atmosphere of the music strongly resembles his previous soundtracks such as Xenogears and Chrono Cross. Heck, the music that plays during the intro movies contains several identical sequences from the Xenogears intro movie! The ominous undertones and suspenseful feel of several of the game's early tracks sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game.

Although the beauty and dynamic nature of the game's soundtrack are two of its greatest strengths, the atmosphere that the Xenosaga: Episode One score created is far and away its overwhelming forte. While the graphics added a great deal to Xenosaga's atmosphere, the musical score had an even larger impact in this area. I mean, there were several occasions when I would feel the hair on the back of my neck rise and turn around just to make sure that a Gnosis wasn't standing behind me! Geez...it's not even fair for Mitsuda to do this to us!

In terms of my favorite tracks, just pick and choose because virtually all of them are fantastic! The game's main battle theme was intense and upbeat and seemed to fit the mood nicely. I also liked "Life or Death" which plays during some of the more choatic scenes in the game. It was upbeat and really gets the juices flowing after the game's slow start. Some of the more serene/thought-provoking melodies like "U.M.N. Mode," "Nephilim," and "Warmth" are peaceful and very easy on the ears. There are quite a few piano solos in this game which I thought was a very nice touch. It's amazing how eerie a piano solo can be when played in minor key. I also thought that the tracks that played throughout the countless hours of cutscenes such as "The Miracle" helped to create the perfect mood. Mitsuda has always preferred to use background voices in his compositions and I thought that he really utilized the symphony well. Whether the atmosphere needed to be peaceful, suspenseful, or simply one of utter insanity, the compositions throughout the game certainly catered to these emotions.

Speaking of suspense, the "Song of Nephilim" track has to be one of the most eerie, goosebump-inducing tracks that I have ever heard in a video game. It consists of nothing more than a soft melody with a young boy's voice in the background but dang...it was incredibly eerie and a perfect fit for that area of the game! "Proto Merkabah" was another good, somewhat ominous track although it could get monotonous after a while.

Last but certainly not least, I thought that the final battle had a great feel to it. Granted, it wasn't the best one that I've heard but it was still very good. And the two ending songs ("Pain" and "Kokoro" respectively) were amazing, emotional pieces sung by Joanne Hogg (who also sang the Xenogears ending song). The whole ending sequence definitely pushed this game way up in terms of the overall impression it left on me.

Even with all of the praise that I have given the game's soundtrack, however, there is one minor detail that I have held back so far. While the music itself is terrific, for some odd reason, there are long stretches throughout the game when you will hear, basically, no music whatsoever! You might be running around on the Elsa (a cargo ship that you travel on throughout the series), visiting the Durandal (another means of transportation) or simply journeying through a key area of the game with nothing in the background except for sound effects! While this didn't seem to be a cop-out by any stretch, I felt that the lack of music was simply unnecessary. Granted, the sound effects were actually outstanding throughout the game but still, the lack of music, especially in a Yasunori Mitsuda production, was a bit odd. Monolith Soft seemed to make an adjustment late in the production stages as the final two areas of the game feature background music but it might have been a little too late to please some gamers. Frankly, I didn't really mind because the atmosphere was still very sound and you're still hearing battle music when you fight enemies. It just seemed really odd to me.

I actually had more of a problem with the lack of a boss theme. While the main battle theme was very good, it is the only battle theme that you will be hearing until the game's final boss. Once again, this flustered me to a great degree because you've got to have a unique, powerful boss theme in an RPG, right? The lack of a unique boss theme was certainly a disappointment.

One final aspect of the game's music/sound effects that I need to touch on is the voice acting. I had no problems with this area because I thought that the voice acting throughout Xenosaga: Episode One was nothing short of outstanding! Seriously, I thought that the voice acting was very impressive and even jaw-dropping at times! All of the voices are crystal clear and easy to understand, the tones/inflections are genuine and believable, and the sheer variety of the voices is remarkable for a video game. What you've got thanks to the superb voice acting is a diverse set of characters with completely different personalities! This is very difficult to achieve especially in terms of making everyone believable. KOS-MOS is very matter-of-fact/taciturn and her constant references to probability in any situation make sense for an android. Chaos has a soft/gentle voice, Albedo's voice/laugh reek of insanity/madness, and Shion is your typical, down-to-earth female. Granted, MOMO (the game's "cutesy" character) has a somewhat annoying voice but overall, it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Also, I have to mention that some of the game's villains/minor characters like Margulis and Commander Cheronkov had incredible voice actors as well!

Play Control: Finally...an aspect of Xenosaga where I don't have to write a book. ;) The play control throughout Xenosaga: Episode One is pretty much your standard RPG fanfare. The only real difference is that you use the O button to accept commands/talk to people/search an area while the X button cancels everything. If you have recently played a game like Final Fantasy X in which the controls are reversed, it will take a short amount of time to make the adjustment but you'll get the hang of things soon enough.

Everything feels very smooth/fluid/responsive overall and I can't really see anyone having problems with the controls. If you do, you might want to consider giving up video games. :p


[MARGULIS AND PELLIGRI]


Challenge: In terms of overall difficulty, I thought that Xenosaga: Episode One was actually the most challenging game of the trilogy...especially during my initial playthrough. I somehow managed to beat the game without losing once which I still consider to be one of my greatest video game accomplishments. The reason being that this game can truly punish you at times!

Monolith Soft did a great job of incorporating enough variety in the game's many battles to keep you off balance and the strategy would often change in ways that you wouldn't expect. This was especially the case with the boss battles. For example, during one particular boss battle, you fight the main enemy along with his two minions. As you dispatch his minions, the main boss actually becomes stronger...a LOT stronger in fact. If you make a few adjustments in battle, you'll find that targeting the main enemy and not his minions can actually be a smart strategy.

A second, probably better example is the battle against Tiamat. Against this menace, you have to essentially defeat him twice with Shion administering the killing blow once and Jr. dealing the deathblow on one occasion as well. When I first fought Tiamat, I of course didn't realize this and had my third party member (who happened to be Chaos at the time) deal what I thought was the finishing blow. As a result of this major blunder, I wound up being in a major dogfight and barely survived in the end.


[ZIGGY AND MOMO ATTEMPTING TO ESCAPE FROM PLEROMA] [CHAOS FIGHTING THE DREADED TIAMAT]


These are just a few examples but you can see that the standard strategies aren't going to be enough to win in Xenosaga: Episode One. You really have to plan your strategy ahead of time. It is important to equip your characters intelligently and learn the right skills. Since enemies have different weaknesses and can cause a myriad of status problems, having a well-balanced party able to adapt to almost any circumstance is a major plus. If you're not meticulous and rush into battle unprepared, you're in for a difficult time. Don't say that I didn't warn you! ;)

Although I felt that the challenge level was very solid for this type of game, I was a bit disappointed that you couldn't switch characters in battle like in FFX. Granted, you could escape from regular battles and make adjustments in terms of who you wanted (and didn't want) in your party. For the boss battles, however, you would be stuck with whoever you had in your party at that time. I know that you could reset the game after seeing the boss' weaknesses and whatnot but I'm a purist at heart. I don't do things that way! In any case, that's just a minor gripe on my part. Episodes Two and Three allow you to switch characters in and out so it's forgiveable.

Also, another very minor gripe that I have is that, while the challenge overall felt very balanced to me and I personally have no problems with it in general, there are one or two areas where I noticed a dramatic shift in terms of the game's challenge. The one that sticks in my mind is the Song of Nephilim. I remember during my first playthrough waltzing in and thinking that I was all prepared and nearly getting blown away in my first battle in that eerie area. It's not even much of a gripe but just be prepared for sudden, larger-than-normal leaps in the game's challenge level when entering a new area.

As far as replay value is concerned, I thought that the game scored very well. There are a few optional bosses to be found (in two playthroughs, I've actually missed one of them twice!), successfully receiving all of Shion's emails can be a taxing process, and there are a whole host of mini-games to enjoy such as a Card Game (which I haven't even tried yet...I've heard great things about it though), a surprisingly addictive Drill Game, A.G.W.S. Battles, and the Casino (my personal favorite...yippee!!). In addition to all of that, you also have the option to revisit any areas that you have previously visited. For the most part, you don't have to worry about missing any rare items in Xenosaga because the game allows you to backtrack at your leisure. Enemies still abound so if you're hurting for experience or need just a few more tech points to learn that cool new Ether ability, you'll have every opportunity to make that happen.


[THE ORIGINAL ZOHAR]


Storyline: There are plenty of great games out there that feature very enjoyable, engrossing background stories. And then there's Xenosaga. In my humble opinion, the Xenosaga series as a whole is truly the holy grail in terms of that elusive, meaty, "perfect" background story I've been searching for these many years. This is one of those rare series of games that even adults can truly appreciate due to the high level of intelligence it takes to even understand what the heck is going on half the time! (and that's a compliment btw)

Everything that you could possibly want is here. A great cast of characters, an intriguing background story, a whole slew of flashbacks/subplots/unknowns to really develop the characters and the story simultaneously, and plenty of surprises/shocking revelations along the way. The believeability and genuine nature of the world of Xenosaga is something that I found to be refreshing and the emotional attachment that I experienced over the course of the trilogy is unlike anything I have ever felt in a video game series. Trust me; You'll be pulling so hard for the characters in this game to triumph in the end. Like I mentioned earlier, Xenosaga truly feels like an authentic, cinematic movie experience and it takes something special to create this kind of an atmosphere in a video game.

Regarding the story itself, I could literally write a full-fledged novel on the first game alone...let alone the entire trilogy. You literally have to play each game in the trilogy multiple times to get the full experience because there is so much that you'll inevitably miss/not understand the first time through. Much of the story; especially the Episode One story, is not truly/fully understood until you play Episodes Two and Three. It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle and to truly comprehend the puzzle, you need to possess all of the pieces (the final piece being the conclusion of Episode Three). If you're like me, you'll notice some of the more subtle elements of the game the second time through and be like, "Oh my gosh! That's so-and-so! I didn't realize that he was in this game! Those are the T-ELOS schematics?! Wow...I never noticed those!!" The fact that several characters are completely concealed and their identities shrouded in mystery until Episode Three epitomizes this point. Hindsight is certainly 20-20 when it comes to the Xenosaga series.

The Xenosaga series itself takes place approximately 4,000 years into a future when mankind, having left the Earth long ago, now lives scattered across a cluster of planets in a far off region of the universe. If you're into space trilogies and the "futuristic" genre where spaceships and mechs abound, you'll really enjoy this series.

The game actually starts off quite slowly with the brilliant scientist Shion Uzuki and her greatest creation KOS-MOS journeying through space in the spaceship Woglinde. The reason for this journey is to investigate the cause of a planetary disappearance and to retrieve one of the Zohar emulators in the process. The focal point of the series is the Zohar (a golden object resonating with power) so this is certainly important to keep in mind. Anyway, everything seems to be going smoothly until a sudden attack by the Gnosis. Not only are these strange yet deadly enemies incredibly powerful but they are essentially invincible at first! The Gnosis are actually capable of appearing in the real world and causing destruction without materializing in reality. However, KOS-MOS and the 100-series prototype MOMO (introduced later in the game) are able to use the "Hilbert Effect" which causes any surrounding Gnosis to materialize rendering them vulnerable to attacks. This is important...otherwise, you'd be fighting an invincible enemy!


[THE MYSTERIOUS GIRL SHION ENCOUNTERS THROUGHOUT THE SERIES]


In any case, the battle on the Woglinde is just the tip of the iceberg. It is hard neigh impossible to really discuss the game's story without unloading spoiler after spoiler so I'll just have to refrain from elaborating like I usually do. Without giving anything major away, let me just say that the main story in Episode One does what you would expect the first game in a trilogy to do. It involves all of the major characters coming together thanks to a unique series of events and us being introduced to a whole plethora of other key characters. In addition, it focuses on the true nature of the planetary disappearance previously mentioned, the 100-series realian MOMO and the mysterious Y-Data hidden within her, and the history of two important structures: The Song of Nephilim and Proto Merkabah. There are also Shion's encounters with a mysterious girl, a journey into the subconscious domain of KOS-MOS, and an ominous vision of the future to consider. As I mentioned before, I can't really delve into any of this without totally spoiling the game. I'll just close this section by saying that many adventures and incredible surprises await you and leave it at that. ;)

Funfactor: As you can tell by my obvious excitement throughout this review, Xenosaga: Episode One turned out to be far beyond what I ever expected. Everything about this game just seems to scream "quality" and I have had a great time playing through the game on two occasions now. Like any game, Xenosaga: Episode One certainly had a few scattered flaws here and there. But overall, I was very pleased with what I got. Let's just say that it was $20 well spent. ;)

As I have hammered on time and time again, the atmosphere was what truly made this game stand out from the pack. Of course, most of this can be attributed to the unique style of the graphics, Yasunori Mitsuda's grand yet suspenseful soundtrack, and one heck of a story. But as I have seen on many occasions, games that score very well in these areas can still lack that special atmosphere...that "IT" factor that makes Xenosaga: Episode One such an intriguing game. Overall, Xenosaga: Episode One is a very enjoyable, well-balanced video game. Unless you don't like video games that feature a lot of movies and dialouge or simply don't care for the RPG genre in general, I don't see how you or anyone else could possibly not enjoy this great video game.

Negatives: The blatant lack of music throughout long stretches of Xenosaga: Episode One was probably its most noticeable flaw. It's so bizarre too because this game featured one of the most outstanding video game soundtracks I have ever heard! The saving grace was that the sound effects were exceptional throughout but still...It was just a very curious, odd omission in my opinion.

Speaking of music, the lack of a boss battle track or a second battle theme at all (with the exception of the Final Boss) bothers me. Once again, the main battle theme was very good which is a major plus but I'm a stickler for any RPG needing at least three battle tracks: a main battle theme, a boss theme, and a final boss theme. Xenosaga: Episode One has two of the three but really fell flat for lacking a boss theme.

Another gripe I have is the Erde Kaiser attack. It bothers me because it has the potential to completely destroy the game's challenge level if the gamer decides to use it. As much as I enjoy seeing this ultimate attack, the fact that it causes 9999 damage every time it is used (even against bosses!!) just doesn't make sense to me. You can actually defeat the final two bosses in one hit if you want! It isn't all that hard to get this ability either. I'm a purist and have never brought myself to use this attack against the final boss but the sheer possibility of doing so just doesn't feel right.

Lastly, I thought that Xenosaga: Episode One leaned just slightly on the short side. It is a jammed-packed game and should offer 50+ hours of gameplay to most gamers (I've beat it in 80+ hours on both occasions but I know that I'm a slower gamer than most.) but it just felt one or two dungeons too short. Granted, I am fully aware that Monolith Soft had to end this game prematurely due to budget constaints so it's not really their fault. At least there are two other games in the series right?

[SHION AND KOS-MOS]

Ratings: Graphics: 4.8 Music: 4.7 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.7 Storyline: 5.0* Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 28.5 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!

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Last Updated: January 5, 2008
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