PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 07/30/2003


Xenosaga is the first episode in a six-part series. Xenogears, which is part of the fifth episode, hit the original Playstation in 1998, published by Squaresoft. Now, developer Monolith looks to Namco to play the publisher’s part.

The first Xeno outing on the PS2 was plenty hyped, and Monolith was looking to steal the 128-bit RPG spotlight with Episode I. Unfortunately, the team’s efforts only amounted to a game that barely hurdles the “average” mark.

The first thing one notices when playing Xenosaga is the visual splendor. The in-game graphics are already above most RPGs, and the CG cinemas are (obviously) even better. However, pretty as they may be, Final Fantasy X clearly outmatches Xenosaga is every graphical aspect possible. Most of Xenosaga‘s character models have some lines on them that look out of place, and some very harsh creases. These things detract from the quality of the graphics, and leave something to be desired.

The music, however, is not quite as up-to-par as the graphics. For most of the gameplay, there is no music playing. This is fine, but it makes the battle theme all the more annoying, since it is the only music one will hear for long amounts of time. Speaking of which, there is only one battle theme in the whole game; There’s no boss battle music…not even for event bosses (only the final boss has a theme). Thankfully, the few tracks that are present are decent. The ending music seems a little unfitting, but it’s tolerable, since there is spoken dialogue happening.

Sceen Shot
Halt! Present Hall Pass!

The voices given to the characters fit them fairly well, with one exception…the main character. Shion’s voice does not fit her look at all…it doesn’t even come close. You’ll get used to it, but I couldn’t fathom what Monolith was thinking in assigning that voice to her. Not only is the voice itself unfitting, but her acting is terrible. Gamers should start hoping and praying now that this problem is fixed before Episode II is upon us.

One of the game’s biggest redeeming points is the amount of customization available. After battles, 3 types of “points” are gained: Tech, Ether, and Skill. The first can be used to do 2 things. One can use them to give any stat a slight boost (like, raising a fighter’s HP by 10 may cost 150 points, or an extra point of strength could cost 170, etc.). Alternatively, players can choose to use the Tech Points to strengthen a character’s “Tech Attacks,” which are comparable to the “Deathblows” in Xenogears. Ether Points are the key to learning magic. Characters gain points, and use a system somewhat similar to FFX’s Sphere Grid to learn and evolve magic, or transfer the spells to other characters. Finally, the Skill Points are used to draw special abilities out of equippable accessories. For example, if an accessory bears an ability to resist poison, then a character can draw that skill from it, and equip it (and up to 2 others), so that s/he can have that enhancement without equipping the accessory.

What hurts the customization is that the interface is absolutely horrible. When buying parts for your mechs “called AGWS,” you can’t see how items will change your stats before purchasing them! This means you must leave the shop menu, go into your menu, select AGWS, pick the robot in question, look at its strength etc., and then go back to the shop menu system. That’s just not right. Other such things plague the game through its entirety.

Now we arrive at the story. As you may know, Xenogears is a game for those who value plot as much as anything else. Xenosaga made an attempt to do the same, but just didn’t have the gripping effect or emotional hold possessed by Xenogears. The story is good, and the CG sequences move it along rather well, but the exciting/compelling/sad/memorable moments are few and far between.

Screen Shot
Unleashing all hell upon the enemies

Complaints are often made about the game comsuming too much time with CG scenes, and that not enough gameplay is present. Frankly, this reviewer can’t see what these complaints are based on. Yes, there are some pretty long movie scenes, but that’s exactly what Xenogears drove from, except that the story had to be moved by pressing a button. So pressing a button means there’s more gameplay? Pah-lease. The CG scenes only make the game better.

I just realized that this is one hell of a long review. That in mind, I must shorten the battle paragraph. To sum up, it’s similar to Xenogears, but much is different at the same time. Ether, special attacks, and giant robots are present, but the system works in a different way. It’s kinda cool…I’ll stop there.

Suffering from a case of “Dot-Hack-Idous,” the game’s ending doesn’t really resolve much. Playing 40+ hours to see hardly anything meet resolution kind of puts a dent in the overall experience. When the game is all over, Xenosaga only leaves the slightest aroma of satisfaction. It’s a solid game, but some things should’ve received more attention.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Good
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: 6