[XS2 LOGO]


[ENTER JIN]
Console: PS2 

Company: Namco/Monolith Soft

Release Date: February 2005

Genre: RPG  

Number of Players: One  

Save Feature? Yes!  



After enjoying every single moment of Xenosaga: Episode One, I was crushed when I heard from several sources that Episode Two was a disappointing sequel. However, after having played the second game a couple of times myself, I've got to say that this is actually a very enjoyable, underappreciated game! Granted, it was the weakest installment of the trilogy in my opinion but that's not to say that it wasn't still a very good, respectable game (take into account that Episodes One and Three were otherworldly anyway). The story was still very captivating/intriguing, some of the new gameplay elements like the updated battle system and insane amount of sidequests were actually quite fun and intuitive, and some of the graphics were outstanding! If it wasn't for the disappointing character models and the spotty soundtrack/voice acting, this game certainly would have been as good as the other two Episodes.

Overview: Along with Final Fantasy X-2 and Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Xenosaga: Episode Two broke new ground in the RPG genre in that is was essentially a direct sequel to Xenosaga: Episode One. To be honest, I don't know why the "direct sequel" formula hasn't been attempted more often (especially with the Final Fantasy series). I thought that it was so cool to have that continuity in Xenosaga: Episode Two and to basically pick up right from where Episode One concluded. I would certainly expect this trend of interrelated/interconnected games in an RPG series to continue because Xenosaga really set the tone (just wait until Episode Three when everything really comes together).

If you've already played Xenosaga: Episode One (and I would strongly recommend that you play that game before tackling this one), you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Episode Two. If you enjoyed the incredible cinematics and the engrossing yet sometimes overwhelming story of Episode One, you're in for more goodies because Episode Two doesn't let up in these two areas! There is a lot of dialouge throughout the game and once again, a lot of meat in terms of the game's background story. If you're like me and you really enjoy an emphasis on the cinematics/story in a video game, you'll dig Xenosaga: Episode Two.

That's not to say that the actual gameplay is chopped liver because Xenosaga: Episode Two is loaded to the teeth with it! You'll be engaged in countless battles, searching the world over for treasures/secrets, and hopefully enjoying the enormous amount of optional sidequests (some of them won't be unlocked until you beat the game!) There is also a greater emphasis on puzzles/strategy in Episode Two than its predecessor so if you enjoy a thinking man's game, you should be satisfied with what Episode Two has to offer.

First, let's tackle the battle system! While several aspects of the battle engine in Episode Two resemble the one found in Episode One, there are several important changes to discuss! Battles remain turn-based and boosting is once again an important feature. The Event Slot also returns with a few new characteristics! You still have the Critical+, Boost+, and Skill Points+ slots but the fourth one is now random and rotates between Ether+, Enemy Turn Cancelled, Enemy Boost+, and Nothing. Your strategy will often change depending on this Event Slot. The Boost+ and Ether+ squares are my personal favorites although you'll want to end battles, especially boss battles, on the Skill Points+ bar.

While you will continue to use combinations of the triangle/square buttons to use your normal attacks with the circle button being your more powerful tech attacks, there is a unique Zone Attack/Zone Break system that you will need to master to become truly successful in Episode Two. It's a bit confusing to explain/understand on paper so do check out some of the battle screenshots if I confuse you. Basically, zones refer to the height of your attack. The zones in Episode Two are A, B, and C (with A corresponding to the highest zone and C the lowest). For simplicity, just remember this little tip that I have used to keep track of zones. Any attacks that involve the square button fall into the B zone. Likewise, all triangle button attacks fall into the C zone. Now, the circle button is where things get a bit tricky. Basically, the corresponding zone to your circle button attacks depends on the character you are using as well as the height of the enemy. Some characters such as MOMO and KOS-MOS always hit the A zone while Shion can hit the A, B, or C zone depending on the enemy's height. You'll definitely want to use trial and error at first but eventually, you'll figure this out. (As a side note, BB, CC, BC, and CB are some of the more common weak zones so try to exploit those first!)

Of course, this would all be unnecessary if there wasn't some special tradeoff for taking the time to figure out an enemy's weak zone, right? As you can probably guess, by consistently hitting an enemy in its weak zone, you will cause a higher amount of damage. However, it goes beyond simply hitting weak zones over and over again. By initiating break status and learning how to use Air/Down attacks effectively, you can potentially cause thousands of hit points of damage to your enemies in one turn!

Once you have exploited an enemy's weak zone (Warning: It takes at least two characters to hit some weak zones such as ABBA and BCCB.), you will have to react quickly to form a chain of attacks on the enemy. The reason for this sudden sense of urgency is that once the attacked enemy reaches its next turn, it will completely recover from break status.

While the enemy is still in break status, however, you can use those aforementioned Air/Down attacks to cause a ton of damage! Air attacks actually knock an enemy up into a vulnerable, suspended position while Down attacks simply smash enemies into the ground! (the circle button for KOS-MOS and Jin causes Air Status; Ziggy and Chaos can create Down Status with this same button). A good tactic to use when you are unable to boost and an ally's turn is coming up right after yours is to knock an enemy into Air Status. What will happen is, during the next turn, the enemy will fall into Down Status (since you didn't boost to attack the Airborne enemy). However, since it is still an ally's turn and enemy hasn't had a chance to recover, it will remain in Down Status even though you didn't boost! Pretty cool, huh?


[THERE'S NOTHING LIKE FIGHTING ENEMIES IN THE SNOW!]


Another way to cause some serious damage is to use the same element repeatedly. Although it is recommended that you aim to do this while the enemy is in break status, you can still cause a reasonable amount of damage regardless. Ether skills like "Ice Sword" and "Aura Sword" definitely come in handy here. In addition to using ethers like Ice and Aura consecutively, you can have characters with no particular element (Jin and Jr. in particular) also attack with that same element! By playing your cards right and setting everyone up with the same elemental attacks, you can cause some major pain to your foes! Just take note that some characters like Chaos (Aura), Ziggy (Fire), and Shion (Beam/Thunder) have elemental proporties already. You would hate to have a nice Aura combination going and have Ziggy break the chain with a Fire attack!

In addition to the traditional character battles, you will also be spending a lot of time enjoying the thrilling E.S. battles! The E.S. battles are essentially the equivalent of using your A.G.W.S. in Episode One except that instead of summoning these awesome mechs in battle, these battles are specifically designed for use in your E.S. mechs. It was a nice move because I didn't think that the A.G.W.S. in Episode One were utilized all that well. These E.S. specific battles really brought to light what I knew to be true as I played through Xenosaga: Episode One and even Xenogears. The gears/mechs had a lot to offer in terms of originality and just a freshness not found in other RPGs. Monolith Soft just needed to find a way to really integrate them into the series. I thought that the E.S. battles were definitely a positive start.

I thought that it was really cool that the three mechs you use throughout the game (the E.S. Asher, E.S. Dinah, and E.S. Zebulun) would level up separately than your characters. Also, I like the fact that the E.S. Zebulun is able to use Ether skills. This added an additional element of strategy and kept the battles from feeling too limited. Note that only MOMO's Ether abilities can be used so you will definitely want to give her as many skill points as possible.


[ONE OF THE MORE INTENSE E.S. BATTLES]


Granted, the E.S. battles are still very straightforward but in a way, they can be a refreshing hiatus from the more cumbersome character battles as well. You won't have to worry about zone breaking or using Air/Down attacks here. The main perks of E.S. battles are the glorified Special Attacks that can be used once your EC (Energy Charge) Gauge has reached a certain level as well as the ability to intercept enemy attacks. By attacking enemies or simply stocking (stocking adds 100 points to the EC Gauge and gives you an extra attack in character battles btw), you can quickly increase the EC Gauge. By simply attacking enemies repeatedly, you will notice that your IA level increases as well. The IA level shows you the probability of intercepting an enemy attack (e.g. an IA level of 50 means that you have a 50 percent chance of intercepting an enemy attack). However, it is important to know that by stocking and only by stocking can you intercept an enemy attack. For this reason, it is typically a good strategy to focus on attacking enemies early in battle then stocking repeatedly. With any luck, you'll intercept an enemy attack and have the EC gauge fully charged to boot! This strategy works especially well against bosses with loads of HP. Just keep in mind that enemies can intercept attacks as well!

As you can see, there is a lot of meat to digest in terms of Episode Two's battle engine! Although I enjoyed the battle system during my first playthrough, I have found myself really appreciating it the second time through. Although I do miss the awesome/unique Tech Attacks and the ability to really customize your characters (the characters in Episode Two follow the same skillsets), I thought that Monolith Soft did a nice job of keeping things fresh and not following the Episode One formula too closely. It truly is a one-of-a-kind battle system and I thought that it was executed very well. Not to sound too redundant but this game is definitely a thinking man's game.


[PREPARE FOR BATTLE!]


Graphics: If you're one of those people who needs some impressive eye candy to keep your gaming experience satisfying, you should be very pleased by Episode Two's aesthetics offering. Granted, I have some mixed feelings about Episode Two's visuals as a whole but we'll get to that later.

First, let's concentrate on the positives. Compared with the colorful yet dark feel of Episode One's graphics, Episode Two's visuals are much more bold and feature vibrant, dazzling colors throughout! If white or grey is one of your favorite colors, you might want to wear some sunglasses while playing this game! This is especially apparent of the game's many surroundings/backgrounds. I don't care what system we are discussing; the background graphics in Episode Two are awesome! I was absolutely enthralled with the lush, detailed-to-the-core trees and the smooth, realistic flow of the streams in the game's forest area. When you visit this same area during winter, it is equally impressive with falling snow, a grey sky overhead, and a cool atmosphere (no pun intended). I really enjoyed the trek through Old Miltia as well with its crumbled buildings, surrounding water, and orange sky overhead.

I also thought that the animation was superb throughout Episode Two. Whether it was the impressive Chase scene (check out this YouTube link to see it...it plays very early in the game and is spoiler-free) or the plethora of explosions that occur when you use your Connection Gear to clear a path (this feature also returns from Episode One...yay!!), I was very satisfied and then some!

However, this brings us to my main gripe. As I briefly mentioned in the intro paragraph, the only real problem that I have with Episode Two's graphics are the character models. For some reason, Monolith Soft had the bright idea that it would be best to make the characters more realistic in Episode Two to appeal to the more mainstream audience. I can understand trying to appeal to a broader range of gamers but, unfortunately, I don't think that this went over very well at all with any gamers. I absolutely adored the character models in Episode One with their realistic feature yet sploches of anime sprinkled in (like the large eyes). I just felt that Monolith Soft got it right the first time and was playing with fire. Why change anything? While the characters in Episode One were realistic in some ways, they were just cartoonish enough to keep them from looking like your average Joe. That distinct style found in Episode One was one of several facets of the game that kept it from looking like one of the billion Final Fantasy clones out there.

It would be one thing if the newer character models were more appealing but that just isn't the case at all! Although Shion is almost unrecognizable and Chaos isn't as well-proportioned as he was in Episode One (Now, he's even more tall and lanky!), the cardinal sin in my mind was the transformation of KOS-MOS. Instead of being the sleek, powerful yet sexy diva she was in Episode One, KOS-MOS now looks (and sounds) like your average teenager girl. I mean...she was simply stunning in Episode One in so many respects! Why transform her into a bland, average, humanlike character? Ugh...


[JR., ALBEDO, AND NIGREDO]


Music: Anyone who has read my Xenosaga: Episode One review knows how much I adore that game's soundtrack. Filled with grandeur, hope, despair, and suspense, I thought that Yasunori Mitsuda did an exceptional job and that he was the perfect fit for the Xenosaga project.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I discovered that he had decided to leave the project after Episode One. This was a huge blow to the series because I felt like we had something very special in place in terms of the music. The Xenosaga series was just beginning to feel like some of the other all-world RPG series like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger/Cross, and Dragon Quest in this regard. Not only that but Episode One set an impossible standard for anyone other than Mitsuda to match. After hearing the news of Mitsuda's unexpected departure, I was just hoping against hope that someone proficient could step in and at least give Episode Two a nice atmosphere.

Well, the Xenosaga: Episode Two soundtrack certainly didn't come close to matching the Episode One score, but you know what? It wasn't as bad as I expected either. Okay, that didn't sound like much of a compliment. Let's try again. While the soundtrack is certainly a mixed bag and is clearly the area that took the biggest nosedive in Xenosaga: Episode Two, there are some pleasant surprises scattered about. And some of the tracks, most notably the ones that play throughout the game's many cut scenes, are very impressive! By the same token, there is a lot of mediocrity to muddle through as well.

The Xenosaga: Episode Two soundtrack was actually orchestrated by two, relatively unknown composers. Shinji Hosoe was chiefly responsible for the in-game music that plays throughout the many locales and battles found in the game while Yuki Kajiura was in charge of the cut scene/movie music. Between the two, I thought that Kajiura came through with the better performance and it wasn't even close.

At this point, I should probably mention that you will be listening to music at all times, all throughout the game in Xenosaga: Episode Two. This is unlike Episode One where there would be long stretches of silence with only the sound of your footsteps or ominous sounds in the background. Of course, after listening to some of the in-game music in Episode Two, perhaps Mitsuda was onto something with the silent treatment. ;)

First, let's discuss the positives. Although I may have led you to believe otherwise, some of the in-game music is actually quite good...very good in a few, isolated cases. The Subconscious Domain - Winter track that plays while you venture through a forest-like region during the, you guessed it; WINTER, was a very good, atmospheric piece. I particularly enjoyed the melody that plays towards the end of this track. Another decent track worth mentioning was the reflective yet upbeat Labyrinthos track that is heard as you venture through the ominous U-TIC fortress. My favorite in-game track might have to be the Old Miltia - Submerged City track, however. Serene and thought-provoking, I thought that it was a perfect fit for this nostalgic/memorable area of the game. The music on the Durandal, the Fishing Lab, and Vector's Second Division, while nothing extraordinary, were all decent.

Regarding the game's battle music, I thought that the various battle themes were nothing special but good enough to get the job done. Yep, your ears (eyes???) haven't deceived you! Unlike the two battle themes in Episode One, there are a total of four battle themes in Episode Two. You have the character battle theme, the E.S. battle track, one boss theme, and a final boss tune. That's the good news. The bad news is that the main battle theme in Episode One is probably still better than these four battle tracks combined! That's not to say that I didn't like the battle music in Episode Two because I thought that the boss theme in particular was actually quite good. The other battle music definitely leaned on the mediocre to utterly forgettable side though.

Regarding the movie/cut scene music, I actually thought that Yuki Kajiura did a fantastic job! We're not talking Mitsuda-level music here but gosh; she's a pretty accomplished musician! I was actually very optimistic during the game's opening movie when several of Kajiura's compositions play one after the other. Of course, then we got to some of Hosoe's duds which kind of spoiled the mood but oh well. In all seriousness, I thought that the multitude of tracks that play during the Opening Movie were terrific. It was once again an orchestrated performance so if you enjoy strings, flutes, bells, and whistles (okay, I'm kidding about the bells and whistles), you should enjoy what you hear in Episode Two.

"Fatal Fight - Jin & Margulis" was a great, high-powered battle theme that played during an intense battle sequence between the two arch-rivals. Featuring voices and plenty of intensity, I thought that it fit the mood nicely. "Chase" was another notable track with its high-strung nature, a great beat, and a cool drum solo about halfway through (The YouTube link I gave earlier in this review shows this scene of the game. Definitely check it out if you haven't already.) "Communication Breakdown" was another solid, fast-paced melody that plays during a key moment in the game. Once again, Kajiura incorporated voices into this track as she did many others. I really liked this facet of Kajiura's music because it reminded me somewhat of Mitsuda's style.

Even though I enjoyed the above music a lot, I felt that Kajiura saved the best for last. "Presentiment-Jr. #3" is definitely one of the finest pieces with its thought-provoking piano solo. About halfway through, however, it makes a dramatic shift and becomes more lively with violens carrying the tune. Not to be outdone, I thought that the game's ending theme (entitled "I am Free") was exceptional. There was so much feeling in this piece and it was very appropriate for the situation. The "Sweet Song" track that plays during the Credits was also very...uh...sweet...? :) It couldn't match up to "Pain" and "Kokoro" from Episode One but it was still very nice on the ears. Although Margaret Dorn did a nice job singing this song, I still can't help but wonder why Joanna Hogg (from Episode One fame) wasn't chosen. Maybe she and Yasunori Mitsuda had strong ties.

Unfortunately, even with all of the positive elements of Episode Two's soundtrack, I've got to keep it real. While I genuinely enjoyed a lot of the music; especially the cut scene music, there is a lot of forgettable music in this game. Not only that but I actually felt that some of the music affected the game's atmosphere in a negative way. Tunes like a lot of the ones that play at Second Miltia, the Kukai Foundation, and the Subconscious Domain are way too happy/cheerful for a Xenosaga game. As I listened to Sakura's theme from the Subconscious Domain (not her main theme which is fantastic but the happy one), I couldn't help but think I was playing a Kirby game! Now I'm a big Kirby fan and all but in Xenosaga, that style of music is truly a detriment. One of the strengths of Episode One was the dark undertones and just the serious nature of the game. While you had plenty of hopeful, encouraging music in Episode One, I wouldn't classify any of that game's music as happy or joyful beyond reason.


[CANAAN AFTER HEARING TOO MUCH OF XS2'S HAPPY MUSIC]


Not only was this "happy" music a problem but none of the music even came close to generating that incredible, suspenseful feel that was prevalent throughout Episode One. Even Yukiura's compositions, great as they were, couldn't match that atmosphere. Although the music did have some strong points in Xenosaga: Episode Two, it feel flat on its face in terms of providing the game with a dark, suspenseful atmosphere.

Like the music, I thought that the voice acting in Episode Two was actually a mixed bag. The primary reason is that Shion, KOS-MOS, MOMO, Chaos, and several secondary characters had new voice actors for Episode Two. It would be one thing if the new voices were an improvement. However, that is definitely not the case here...at all! Shion's voice just doesn't do it for me, MOMO sounds even more annoying/cutesy than in Episode One which I didn't think was possible, and I simply preferred Chaos' voice in Episode One over the new one. The main gripe, however, is once again regarding KOS-MOS. I have to admit that I took KOS-MOS' voice somewhat for granted in Episode One but once I heard her new voice in Episode Two, I was clamoring for the original voice to come back! I'm sorry but to me, KOS-MOS sounded terrible in this game. She sounded just perfect for an android in Episode One but now, she sounds like your normal, generic girl. For all of the praise that I have given Monolith Soft, the design and voice for KOS-MOS in Episode Two was a problem...a major problem in fact. I don't know what the heck they were thinking.

On the bright side, several voice actors did return from Episode One and overall, I still thought that the voice acting was solid for the most part. At least Ziggy, Jr., Albedo, and Margulis sound exactly like they did in Episode One which is a blessing. Many of the new voice actors (e.g. Jin and Sergius) were impressive as well.

Also, I thought that the sound effects throughout Episode Two were exceptional once again! From the countless explosions to gears gliding on water to the rhythm of footsteps, I have to applaud Monolith Soft once again. I don't know who was in charge of the sound effects throughout this series but they did a remarkable job!


[CAN IT GET ANY MORE MAJESTIC THAN THIS?]


Play Control: Like Xenosaga: Episode One, the controls are very straightforward and easy to learn in Episode Two. However, for some odd reason, the characters seem to be a little "squirrelly" when moving around. I'll be going a certain direction and suddenly, the character I am controlling will be drifting off in a slightly different direction! Maybe it's just my perfectionistic ways noticing something like this but the controls did feel a bit loose in Episode Two compared to the tight controls in Episode One. For some reason, I didn't seem to have this problem when moving around in E.S. mode though. Weird...

I also noticed that to search an area or open a treasure chest, you have to hold the analog stick in the direction you want in addition to pressing the search button (which is the circle button like in the first game). This might sound minor but it is possible to miss some treasure if you don't know this.

Other than a few minor complaints, I had no problems with the game's play control. Controls during battles seemed to be spot-on and some of the intuitive functions you would engage in during the various GS Paths utilized the PS2 controller nicely.


[A BATTLE RAGES IN THE PAST]


Challenge: Like its predecessor, Xenosaga: Episode Two can be a challenging game...very challenging in fact. If you're looking for an RPG that you can breeze through without having to make adjustments or use quick battle strategy, you might want to try another game. Although the challenges are different due to the new battle system, the formula remains the same. You once again have to learn to adapt quickly...especially during the intense boss battles. Since every enemy now has a unique zone weakness in addition to attack/elemental weaknesses, you'll have your work cut out for you when encountering new enemies and bosses in particular.

The E.S. battles can be quite challenging as well! Since two of the three E.S. mechs cannot use ethers (and none of them can use items), you will have to be extremely careful not to die during battle. You can pretty much forget about reviving in E.S. mode although the E.S. Zebulun can learn the Revert ability. As a result, you'll feel more pressure to put away enemies quickly in E.S. mode than in character battles (where you can switch characters in and out at your leisure).

Is this a good thing? Well, the additional pressure didn't bother me too much although some of the ultimate attacks that bosses can unleash can be really cheap. One hit kills are possible and if you lose the E.S. Zebulun to one of these attacks, you can pretty much say "Good night." Definitely shore up your defense with ethers when you sense an onslaught of attacks coming your way!

Completing the multitude of sidequests laid out in Episode Two will also prove to be a tremendous challenge. The GS Path, which I neglected to discuss earlier, involves a whole plethora of unique tasks/goals to accomplish. Think of the GS Path as an assortment of bonus games. You might need to locate/unlock traps in a previous stage/area, clear an area of faulty nanomachines (by blasting them away with your Connection Gear), or do something as mundane as cleaning windows! Completing all of these optional tasks with a high success rate will prove to be quite difficult and time-consuming!

There are also non-GS Path extras like organizing the bookshelves in Jin's home or trying to collect sunken treasure at the Fishing Lab. All of these mini-games reward you with some of the better items in the game. The question is, do you want to spend the necessary time to complete these tasks? Granted, there are a lot of challenges in Episode Two that wind up being more tedious than challenging. Going from the Durandal to Second Miltia to the Foundation back to Second Miltia to the Elsa to accomplish one little task can get tiresome after a while. Thankfully, these tasks are optional. Of course, to get some of the better items and attain those one-of-a-kind Double Attacks, you'll have to complete these tasks.

In addition to everything that I have just mentioned, Xenosaga: Episode Two is actually the first and only game in the series to feature a New Game+ option. Once you complete the game, the "Dark Professor" sidequest will be unlocked. While this sidequest offers very little in terms of the game's story, these three new areas are loaded to the core with some of the game's most difficult enemies. Eventually, if you're able to withstand the onslaught of enemies/bosses, you will come face to face with an incredibly difficult ultimate boss. And get this. If you are able to defeat this boss, several optional bosses will be unlocked and will appear in remote locations throughout the game. And trust me; these bosses are ridiculously tough! There's even one boss that I haven't beaten despite being as an extremely high level! (it's the Mikumari boss you fight in your E.S. if you must know)

So as you can see, Xenosaga: Episode Two can pretty much be as challenging as you want it to be. While the main game is probably slightly easier than Episode One, all of the optional stuff swings the balance heavily to Episode Two's side. And in terms of lasting interest, I thought that Episode Two actually scores the highest in the series due to a plethora of new tasks becoming available after beating the game.


[JR. AND SAKURA SHARING A PRECIOUS MOMENT]


Storyline: Even with all of its flaws, at least Xenosaga: Episode Two didn't seem to slip up in terms of the game's story. Although the atmosphere wasn't up to snuff, I still found the story throughout Episode Two to be very engaging and well thought out. If you enjoyed the hours of cut scenes and the sheer depth of Episode One's story, then prepare yourself for another extravaganza!

Although there is an intriguing flashback at the beginning of Episode Two, the game essentially starts off where Episode One ended. Having survived the unbelievable battles at The Song of Nephilim/Proto Merkabah and successfully escaping from the latter, the main party lands on Second Miltia and briefly go their separate ways to take care of multiple objectives. Before too long, the party comes back together in an attempt to finally decipher the Y-Data hidden within MOMO. However, as you might imagine, unforeseen circumstances rear their ugly heads and before too long, there is more going on than you can shake a stick at! Without giving too much away, let me just say that the main focus for much of the game is the relationship between Jr. and Albedo. After a certain key event, Jr. and company decide to venture into someone's subconscious domain (like when everyone went into KOS-MOS' subconscious domain in Episode One) and here, we see flashbacks of the Yuriev Institute where Jr., Albedo, Nigredo, and all of the U.R.T.V.'s were born. We also learn of the girl Sakura whom MOMO was modeled after.

Through another series of events, some major event unfolds causing the path to Old Miltia to be reopened for the first time since the Miltian Conflict of 14 years ago. Once this occurs, two new characters join your party! They include the master swordsman Jin Uzuki (Shion Uzuki's brother who lives on Second Miltia) and the Observation Realian, Canaan. I thought that Jin was a tremendous addition to the series and gave people clamoring for new characters someone to get excited about.


[ALBEDO]


Anyway, by this point in the game, it's readily apparent that several unique forces are making a beeline to the suddenly accessible Miltian star system. With Old Miltia on the horizon, Shion & Co. desparately try to locate an ancient power source before the enemy finds it. In addition to this, a few of the shadows from Episode One make a startling appearance...especially by game's end.

As I said before, I still found myself really enjoying the game in this department. The atmosphere of Episode One was sorely missed but the essence of the story still came through I thought. We discover a lot about Jr.'s past and his relationships to several key characters, and the presence of Jin gave us something new. By the game's conclusion, you can really see some of the key pieces of the puzzle starting to come together. And as the second part of any trilogy should do, the ending to Episode Two has you literally drooling to see/play Episode Three.


[JR. AND CHAOS]


Funfactor: Even though Xenosaga: Episode Two remains my least favorite game of the trilogy, it is a still a very intriguing, enjoyable video game. I thought that the new E.S. battles and GS Path tasks were positives to be drawn from Episode Two and the story was still as intriguing as ever. I think that one of the reasons why Episode Two gets such a bad rap is that it is literally sandwiched between two masterpieces in Episodes One and Three. If Episode Two was a stand-alone game, I think that it might have been received differently.

I have read countless reviews/critiques of this game and many gamers have actually suggested playing Xenosaga: Episode One and skipping directly to Episode Three. I feel that this is a huge mistake because there is a lot of meat in Episode Two in terms of the game's story and several unique factors like the battle system, the GS Path, and the New Game+ bonuses make it worth playing in my book. It might not be a masterpiece but the game itself is still fun and is certainly better than many other RPGs out there. Besides, if you rush into Episode Three, the series will be over before you know it! Just play Episode Two already! ;)

Negatives: The atmosphere throughout this game just didn't come close to matching the unbelievable feel of Episode One. Whether it was the newer, more realistic character models, the large amount of mediocre/forgettable/happy music, or the new voice actors (none of which were better than the original ones), Monolith Soft was unable to recreate what had transformed Xenosaga: Episode One from an already solid game to a true masterpiece!

As I have already mentioned in great depth, I was appalled at some of the updated character models. The emphasis on more realistic characters backfired if you ask me...particularly with KOS-MOS. Also, while the voice acting as a whole was exceptional, Shion, KOS-MOS, and MOMO in particular took a major hit thanks to Monolith Soft replacing their Episode One voice actors.

On a lesser note, I didn't feel like the play control was as tight or crisp as it was in Episode One. The battle/E.S. controls were just fine but the character controls seemed a bit loose for some odd reason.

And while the GS Path was a success in some instances, some of the tasks that you had to undertake could get very tedious. It's almost like Monolith Soft felt that they had to add all this fluff to compensate for the game being much shorter than Episode One.

Which brings me to my final point. While it didn't bug me due to my meticulous nature and the fact that Monolith Soft was literally forced to end Episode One prematurely (resulting in Episode Two), Xenosaga: Episode Two is an extremely short game by most standards. A typical playthrough seems to run about 25-30 hours although mine are usually twice that. Of course, one of the all-time greats in Chrono Trigger runs about the same in length so who am I to complain?

Ratings: Graphics: 4.5 Music: 4.0 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 4.5 Funfactor: 4.4 Overall Score: 26.1 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!

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Last Updated: October 23, 2007
WebMaster: Matt Hull tigmo55@yahoo.com
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