Earlier installments:
· Xenosaga Episode I:
Der Wille Zur Macht

· Xenosaga Episode II:
Jenseits Von Gut Und Bose

· Xenosaga Episode III:
Also Sprach Zarathustra

· Xenosaga I & II (DS)
Last seen in: 2006
Publisher: Namco Bandai



By Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Xenosaga is a series with a short, but interesting, legacy. The series more or less started with Xenogears, a sci-fi RPG from Square directed and written by Tetsuya Takahashi back in 1998. This title paved the way for a world of mechs (or gears, as they are called here), deep religious undertones, and philosophical points of view. While Xenogears was a critical success for Square, many from the team behind the game, including Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife Soraya Saga, left to join Monolith Soft. It was there that the Xenosaga series, the PlayStation 2 spiritual successor to Xenogears, was created.

With Monolith Soft at the helm and with Namco Bandai publishing the series, it was originally envisioned as a six-part series with loose ties to the Xenogears world. The first episode, Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht, hit Japan in 2002 and North America in 2003 and was met with a divided reception. There were many who complained that this PlayStation 2 RPG was too heavy on exposition, mostly in the form of cutscenes. With over fifteen hours of cutscenes, some lasted around forty minutes, though thankfully those scenes could be paused. Despite those complaints, the game did a solid job of blending two sets of battle mechanics, had a wonderful soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda, and a wide selection of characters pitted into a deep story that just barely scratches the surface in this first episode. It had flaws, but nothing that wasn't easily fixed.

The sad part is that very little was fixed for Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits Von Gut Und Bose. In fact, a lot went wrong with this game. Not only was Episode II much shorter than the prior game, it also featured an awkward, new combat system, a total change in art direction and voice actors, and just felt like less of a game all around. While lots of questions were opened in Episode I, few were answered in II. The game really did little to progress the plot, which might be due in part to the removal of scenario writer Soraya Saga in the middle of development. So many things went wrong with this game that it wasn't long after its North American release in 2005 that Namco announced that the series would end after Episode III.

Despite the wrong track taken during Episode II, Monolith Soft was able to cram together some great ideas into 2006's Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, also for PlayStation 2. This game did lots of things right. It balanced gameplay and story much better than the prior two, even offering a database of details about the first two games for those who didn't play them or needed a refresher. Though the game had a lot of ground to make up, it was mostly well paced and wrapped things up quite nicely. Episode III's combat was a highlight of the series, being much faster paced and straightforward than in the prior games. Many fans, me included, feel that Episode III was the pinnacle of the series. It was just overshadowed by Episode I's pretentiousness and Episode II's half-hearted efforts.

But that's where it ended. The series is no more. Japan did receive a DS release of Xenosaga I & II, though it was a much edited and scaled down compilation. The only thing to even come close since has been Monolith Soft's 2010 Japan-only (currently) Wii release Xenoblade. Xenoblade offers no ties to the series in anything other than sharing some of the same development staff and part of the name. No, Xenosaga is over. The chance of this returning in any shape or form is merely a pipe dream. One can only hope that someone else comes along to create something to match Xenosaga's grand scale and sci-fi setting, but whoever even considers such a thing should make sure to keep the scope in check. Xeno games are generally flawed by trying to be grander in scope than is possible within a reasonable time and budget, a trap that both Xenogears and the Xenosaga series fell into. RIP Xeno. Ye shall be as gods.

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights


Xenosaga Episode III,
Xenosaga Episode I's OST

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