Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Ville Zur Macht

Developer: Namco

Price: $5.99 at Gamestop

Players: 1

Save file size: 165 KB

Rating: Teen, for Blood and Gore, Violence

When Xenosaga first came out on the PS2, it received a perfet 10 out of 10 from Game Informer Magazine. The reviewers loved everything about it, and it was recongized as a well-polished PS2 RPG. I had friends in high school who played it and loved it. Now that the price on it has come way down, I figured I'd give this "gem" a spin in my PS2.

In case you were wondering, the subtitle for this game is German for, "do as you please." It is the first part of a series of three games. The game is set approximately 4500 years in the future, in which humanity has left earth and gone on to colonize other planets. As they explore, humanity runs into a hostile alien race called "Gnosis," which are bent on destroying these "invaders." Humans have fought back, with their own Anti-Gnosis Weapon Systems, or A.G.W.S. (pronounced "Ags") The main character, Shion, is working with Vector industries to produce a new humanoid weapon to fight these Gnosis. Shion has named this weapon "KOS-MOS," who doesn't quite understand human logic. As the game progresses, Shion and KOS-MOS meet other characters who join them as the story progresses.

One of the things I noticed right away is that the visuals are gorgeous. Everything is very detailed, and the cinematics are beautiful. It really feels like you're watching a movie sometimes.

The battle engine in Xenosaga is a rather fresh take on what's been considered a very overused system. characters get Action Points, or AP, which they can use to attack, use items, defend, or use special abilities called Ether in the game. Players can also charge up their AP to six in order to use a special "Tech Attack" against enemies. The "Boost" system is rather interesting, as well. Characters can jump ahead in turn order, which can mean the difference between life and death in some battles.

One of the things that really bugged me with this game was the sheer number of cinematics. There were several moments where I'd be stuck watching cinematics for twelve to fifteen minutes before I could resume gameplay. Thankfully, you can skip the movies by pressing start and then the triangle button, but then you risk missing some important plot detail. This drove me up the wall. In addition, there were several instances in which I had to spend time battling enemies just so I could defeat the boss at the end. I wasted a good hour and a half in this manner for just one boss. If there were more ample opportunities to level up my characters, this wouldn't be as big of an issue as I'm making it out to be. Also, I did not like the english voice-overs. I would have preferred the option to switch to Japanese dialogue, something that would make the game much more enjoyable for me. I know I tend to nitpick over these sorts of things, but that's just something that matters to me.

If I were one of the reviewers for Game Informer, I probably wouldn't have given it a perfect 10. While this game is very well polished and has a well-written storyline, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I probably would have given it an 8.5 or a 9, but that's just me. Overall, if you eat, sleep and breathe RPGs, this game is worth checking out. If you're not one of those types, you're better off skipping it.

Parental information: This game does feature several scenes which may be disturbing to younger audiences, and the storyline is relatively deep. Depictions of blood are unrealistic, in my opinion. I'd recommend this for persons over the age of 11 or 12. As always, this depends on maturity level of the child.

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