Mullenkamp's Xenosaga Review
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To truly, truly appreciate Xenosaga, I believe you should know a small bit about Xenogears, though it's not neccessary by any means. You see, Xenosaga seems to follow up on Xenogears but also is completely seperate from its counterpart. The easiest way to put it, is that Xenogears was a love it or hate it game. Indeed, there is no game in my knowledge that polarizes a gamer more than Xenogears. You either love it for it's intricate storyline, three-dimensional characters, well-done anime sequences, and (let's be frank) simply beautifully composed music, or hate it for it's seemingly and thourhoughly rushed second disc, outdated graphics, ungodly high encounter rate at some points, and the fact that the seriousness of one scene is completley obsucred by the fact that a giant pink fluffy mascot is being cruxified. Xenosaga follows in Xenogear's footsteps; and does it with style for the most part. The characters are still involving and show a wide range of believeable emotions, and there's a storyline that I found myself enjoying as it unfold before my eyes. If that wasn't enough, it sports the best voice acting I've heard on the PS2 so far. From our spectacled heroine, our the timid MOMO, nothing really seems to push the envelope. Xenosaga is sleek, Xenosaga is engrossing, Xenosaga is what Xenogears should have been. It has things Xenogears desperately needed: a style that never truly fades away, a certain aspect to respect it's characters and what serious a situation is, it has a sexy feminine robot that's destined to spawn countless amounts of hentai-like fanfics on Fanfiction.com.
Yes, I love me some Xenosaga.
But Xenosaga don't love me.
But what a job it does to make it seem that way. Monolith Soft does it's best to make me believe that, and it worked. It worked for several reasons. One of these being the sheer shock at how well they dealt with a rare female lead character that doesn't have the same chink in her armor as Suikoden 3's Chris, the other at how wonderfully done the story is told (no, weaved) into something of epic porportions. Then, at how much the game cares for it's characters. But there's one thing that really annoys me about the game, and it's the same thing that really kinds of makes me kind of angry: the game's arrogance, or more specifically, Monolith Soft's arrogance.
You see, I see the real reason why so many people dislike Xenogears so much now. They couldn't deal with how the game treated it's players at times. Oh, and Xenogears is an arrogant bastard at times. It's like a girlfriend who you love, but is always cheating on you..and yet you come back. Xenogears is the same way, it shows you what it is, then expects you to like it. It really, really wants you to like it, it want's you to like it so much that you'll spend hours upon hours debating over plotlines and figuring out just how many biblical refrences it has. But it never really says this openly, it only demonstrates this as you walk through torrent after torrent of random battles..and in other subtle ways.
But I forgive Xenogears for that, because I have a tendency to let my opinion of installments of a series seep into what I believe of the last game of that series I played. But Xenosaga's arrogance is near unbridled, almost to the height of the .hack series. It stuns you with it's graphics, plot, and character, and thinks that's enough. It thinks that's enough to allow it to bury you in Keywords for you to scrounge for in the Database, it thinks that's enough to make up for it's quickly tedious battle system.
It thinks that's enough to make up for Yasunori Mitsuda's twelve song soundtrack. In a strange way, Yasunori Mitsuda's soundtrack is a lot like Xenosaga. It played by the London Symphonic Orchestra I believe it's called, forgive me if I'm wrong. However, while it adds a certain "extra" to the game to hear such proffesional, enthralling music, having a mere 12 tracks is just..arrogant. There are only two battle theme's people, two. It's a beautiful theme, indeed, it really is. But I don't care how well composed a song is, it starts to grate my ears after the 80th time I have to hear it. When I'm bringing my characters against one of the major villains, or a huge boss after a drawn out cinematic, it kind of cheapens the scene, lessens the drama in a way when the same battle theme I hear when I'm fighting a regular enemy plays.
I wouldn't surprise me if I'm gravely wrong in my opinion. But the simple truth is, Xenosaga made me feel like it expected more out of me than I did of it. Oh yes, I love me some Xenosaga, but I don't enjoy playing it. Some people say it's the long drawn out cinematics, that notorious near hour long scene after the first battle against the Gnosis that destroys Xenosaga. But that's only a part of it, I can handle all that, but not when the game expects me to handle flaws it should have dealt with after Xenogears.
It's the first episode, I realize that, but I don't think that'll be a fair excuse for Episode 2. I only hope it works...
...But does anyone besides me think KOS-MOS looks less sexy now with that new character design? I mean...geez.
Editor's note: It took me eight full months to post this review. I sincerely apologize.