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Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Previewed on 8/01/06

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Namco Bandai Games America is currently working to bring Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, the final installment of the Xenosaga series, over to American shores. While fans of the series may be disappointed that the series is apparently being cut short, Namco Bandai has assured them that the game will tie up the loose ends.

The game takes place a year after the events of Episode II. Shion has left Vector Industries because she is troubled over their possible connections with the Gnosis, and has joined an organization that is trying to discover what Vector is really all about. There are certainly a great many questions left from the previous games as to what is going to transpire with the story, but fans will be pleased to hear that there are over eight hours of cutscenes to help flesh out the story.

The battle system has been overhauled into a more traditional one. The need to constantly stock and then unleash a massively long attack is gone, and the commands have been simplified this time around. Characters can still boost ahead of enemies and other characters to perform "deathblow attacks," and ether attacks have returned as well. This time, however, every character has individual skills and abilities, which is a welcome addition after Episode II's linear pooled progression. E.S. battles have returned as well, and are fairly similar to the on-foot battles, except that they occur with players controlling massive mechs.

Dungeon exploration has a new feature as well, allowing players to place traps for enemies in order to attempt to get advantages at the start of battle. It seems that overall Monolith Soft has made an attempt to individualize characters more after failing to do so very well in Episode II with equipment and attacks. Shops have also made a return, after a strange reprieve during Episode II. There's also a minigame called Geomix that players can access early in the game, allowing players to test their skills at some platforming-style gameplay and even design some levels of their own.

Xenosaga Episode III's graphics are on par with the quality of the first two titles. The character animations look pretty good, and the environments, while being rather simple, are clean.

It would be hard to say now whether or not newcomers to the series will appreciate the last installment, but it seems some series followers might pick it up just to see how the story ends. Hopefully Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra can live up to the quality and expectations of its fans. Look for the game to come out August 29th.



-Joseph Wartick