Xenosaga

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Xenosaga
Xenosaga logo.jpg
Genres Role-playing video game
Developers Monolith Soft
Publishers Namco Bandai (previously Namco)
Creators Tetsuya Takahashi
Platforms Cellular phone, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
First release Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
February 28, 2002
Latest release Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra
July 6, 2006

Xenosaga (ゼノサーガ Zenosāga?) is a series of science fiction video games developed by Monolith Soft and published by Namco Bandai. Xenosaga's main story is in the form of a trilogy of PlayStation 2 video games. There have been three spin-off games and an anime adaptation. The Xenosaga series serves as a spiritual successor to the game Xenogears, which was released in 1998 for the PlayStation by Square. The creator of both Xenogears and Xenosaga is Tetsuya Takahashi, who left Square in 1998 along with Hirohide Sugiura. Using funds from Namco, they started MonolithSoft and the Xenosaga project.

The first game in the trilogy, Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht was released in February 2002 in Japan, and in February 2003 in North America. Xenosaga Freaks, a lighthearted game with a playable demo for Episode II, was released in April 2004 in Japan, but was not released elsewhere. Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse was released in June 2004 in Japan and February 2005 in North America. Xenosaga: The Animation, an anime based on Episode I, premiered on TV Asahi in Japan on January 5, 2005. Xenosaga: Pied Piper, a three chapter-long cellphone-based game depicting the history of cyborg "Ziggurat 8" 100 years before the start of Episode I, was released in Japan in July 2004. Released on July 6, 2006, Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is the final title in the Xenosaga series, effectively cutting the initial projection of the series in half. A retelling of the first two episodes titled Xenosaga I & II was released on the Nintendo DS in March 2006 in Japan.

All three episodes of the main Xenosaga trilogy are named after the books of Friedrich Nietzsche. The first episode is named after The Will to Power, a book published posthumously by his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Several Nietzschean concepts and references appear throughout the series. The music of the series has sparked a number of albums, including soundtrack albums for each of the three main games. There are plans to make it a download on the USA PlayStation Network as a classic download or HD download with quality stereo sound options.

Setting[edit]

The Xenosaga series begins in the year T.C. 4767. Earth is seemingly gone; it has been erased from starmaps and renamed "Lost Jerusalem" while mankind exists on distant planets and artificial colonies. The capital of all known space is Fifth Jerusalem, where the Galaxy Federation keeps watch over mankind. The Xenosaga universe is not divided into galaxies and solar systems, but rather is divided into UMN columns. Although initially host to humans, science and the paranormal have given birth to several quasi-lifeforms, including androids, cyborgs, Gnosis, Realians, and U.R.T.V.

Besides the main story arc, various characters are featured heavily in sub-plots. Shion Uzuki's arc involves her overcoming the tragedies in her past, including the brutal deaths of her parents, which she witnessed as a child, and her lover. The other arc involves Gaignun Kukai, Jr., and his anger with his twin brother, Albedo, as well as his father, Dmitri Yuriev. Episode I primarily deals with Shion's arc, while Episode II primarily deals with Jr.'s. Episode III brings a close to both arcs, in addition to the main story.

Main games[edit]

Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht[edit]

Since its discovery on Lost Jerusalem (Earth), an artifact known as the Zohar has been highly sought after. The aforementioned Galaxy Federation wishes to harness its power. Both groups believe that the Zohar's significance is threefold, as a power source, the cause of the Gnosis appearance, and the key to rediscovering Lost Jeruselem. Since the age of Lost Jerusalem, many researchers have studied and attempted to control the Zohar. Among the results of this research was the development of several Zohar Emulators. However, the original Zohar's power still far surpasses the energy output of any known emulator, despite the fact that one of the emulators caused the disappearance of the planet Ariadne. No emulator is capable of the true function of the Zohar.

As a result, the Ormus society and the Galaxy Federation attempt to find the Original Zohar that was sealed away on Miltia at the end of the Miltian Conflict. However, the key to unlocking Miltia and the Original Zohar is contained within the Y-Data, which is hidden within the mind of a Realian named MOMO. To retrieve the Y-Data, Ormus hatches a plot against the Galaxy Federation and its allies by using a series of dummy organizations and insiders, as well as its military force, the U-TIC Organization and an enigmatic figure known as Albedo. In turn, the Galaxy Federation employs a cyborg named Ziggurat 8 to rescue MOMO and act as her bodyguard.

Meanwhile, Vector Industries, the largest corporation in existence and the primary arms manufacturer for the Galaxy Federation, is currently researching new ways to use nanotechnology to build an unstoppable anti-Gnosis battle android, code-named KOS-MOS. This is quite unusual, since androids have been replaced for many years by artificial life-forms known as Realians. However, Vector Industries and their head of First R&D Division, Shion Uzuki, have other ideas. Shion, a simple software researcher traveling on the starship Woglinde, becomes involved in a conspiracy not only to control the mysterious Gnosis and Original Zohar, but to reshape the destiny of all mankind.

Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse[edit]

Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is a role-playing video game for the PlayStation 2, and the second installment in the series. The subtitle Jenseits von Gut und Böse translates to "Beyond Good and Evil", and is taken directly from the title of a book by Friedrich Nietzsche. Episode II continues the storyline started in Episode I but focuses more on the character Jr. The backstories and significance of Albedo, Gaignun, and Jr. are developed. Multiple organizations are uncovered, including Ormus and Hyams. The Gnosis take a back seat for Episode II and instead, the main plot focuses on the search for the Zohar, which culminates in a crisis at the location of Old Miltia. The cast from Episode I plays an important role in the events that transpire on Old Miltia. Although there are several loose ends and characters unaccounted for in Episode II, it concludes without a sudden cliffhanger. This is underscored by the fact that Episode III will take place a full year later. Episode II changes some of Episode I's elements, including different graphics, a modified battle system, new music composers, and shorter cutscenes. These changes led to mixed reviews from critics. Moreover, after the release of Episode II, several Monolith Soft employees were removed from the project.

Despite the fact that Episode I had never been released in Europe, Sony and Namco released the Xenosaga series in Europe starting with the second episode. To explain the events prior, the title was released in a special "Collectors Limited Edition" box that contains a 3-hour DVD featuring the cut-scenes from the first game.[citation needed].

Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra[edit]

Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is the third and final game of the trilogy. It was released on the PlayStation 2. Also sprach Zarathustra, literally "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", is also the title to Nietzsche's most famous work of philosophy, which introduced the Übermensch (overmen) and popularized the phrase "God is dead". In September 2005, it was officially announced that Episode III would mark the premature end to the series, which was originally expected to span six titles.[1] Episode III continues the storyline using the current cast of characters, with the addition of several playable characters (Allen Ridgeley, Miyuki, and Canaan). Episode III was released in Japan on July 6, 2006 and in North America on August 29, 2006 by Namco Bandai. Due to the fact that the first episode never received a PAL release and the second episode sold poorly, Sony and Namco decided against a PAL version of Episode III.[citation needed]

The battle system was changed, forgoing the button-combo interface style of the two previous games in favor of a more traditional menu-based system. This new system does retain some traditional Xenosaga features, such as Ether spells and Tech Attacks. The plot of Episode III picks up a year after the events in Episode II. After having left Vector, Shion is pulled into events concerning the testing of several new weapon systems that apparently obsolete KOS-MOS. The story attempts to weave together the remaining open plot points, including the origins of the Gnosis and of Ormus. It also revisits the past, where Shion learns of her lover's and her family's own involvement with U-TIC.

Spin-offs[edit]

Xenosaga Pied Piper[edit]

Released on cellular phones in Japan, Xenosaga: Pied Piper is set one hundred years prior to the start of Episode I. It explores the past of the cyborg character Ziggy when he was a human named Jan Sauer and working for the Galaxy Federation's counter-terrorism task force. The events take place on planet Abraxas a.k.a. Michtam. Notable characters include Dr. Sharon Rozas, who becomes Sauer's wife and Joaquin, Sauer's stepson. His team of subordinates consists of Melisse Ortus, who witnesses Jan Sauers's suicide and later founds Scientia Lactis, an early model Realian equipped with "Canaan", Erich Weber or as later discovered, Voyager, and Mikhail Ortmann, an experienced U.M.N. operator. The purpose of Xenosaga: Pied Piper is to develop the back stories of some of the most important yet rarely felt presences in the Xenosaga universe, including Ziggy, chaos, Wilhelm, Voyager and Dr. Dimitri Yuriev. The plot itself spans three chapters. It centers on Sauer and his team as they track a serial killer known only by the hacker alias "Voyager", who kills his victims using the U.M.N. network. The game was also Soraya Saga's final contribution to the Xenosaga project. A translation script can be found at [1]

Xenosaga Freaks[edit]

Released in Japan on April 28, 2004, Xenosaga Freaks contained four separate parts: Xeno Komi, which plays like an illustrated, voiced text adventure, a word game called Xeno-pittan, an encyclopedia of Episode I terms, and a playable demo version of Episode II. The Xeno Komi scenario is credited to Yanesaka Norihiko and it was directed by Yuki Mitsuhiro. Though uncredited, some of the music scored by Yasunori Mitsuda for Episode I was used in the game. Set sometime during Episode I, Xeno Komi follows the usually humorous intertwining adventures of the six major characters from Episode I and Allen. The main plot involves the seemingly unexplained rampage of a cat-ear wearing KOS-MOS as she destroys significant portions of the Durandal and the Elsa while chasing an imaginary cat. After playing through the scenarios for the six major characters, Allen's scenario is unlocked. His story reveals the events that lead to KOS-MOS' going out of control. Professor and Assistant Scott cornered Allen and after dubbing him Assistant #2, convinced him to help them install a remote control device on KOS-MOS (who has been named Assistant #3). The program to accomplish this was called Schrödinger and the cat-ears that were installed on KOS-MOS were actually antennae.

Other notable Xeno Komi events that foreshadowed Episode II or referenced other Xenosaga side stories included a nightmare Ziggy had of Sharon and Joaquin Rozas after KOS-MOS knocked him unconscious and MOMO briefly meeting Jr. and Sakura in her subconscious domain. Xenosaga Freaks was never released in North America and Europe, and currently there is no English translation for it.

Xenosaga I & II[edit]

Xenosaga I & II was released in Japan on March 30, 2006. No mention was ever made of an international release. It received an overall score of 31/40 in Famitsu (individual reviews: 8/8/8/7).[2] Originally under the working title Xenosaga DS, Xenosaga I & II is a retelling of the first two episodes of the game for the Nintendo DS handheld system. The game's script (with ideas from Tetsuya Takahashi) is by Yuichiro Takeda, who worked on Xenosaga: The Animation. Hiroshi Takeuchi, of Cowboy Bebop fame, is responsible for the character art. Music for the game was composed by Kousuke Yamashita, who scored the soundtrack for Xenosaga: The Animation. Other previous work includes the Hana Yori Dango and Mahou Sentai Majirenjaa Tabidate live-action television series and Nobunaga's Ambition video game series. Yamashita is the fourth composer to score a Xenosaga video game, following Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuki Kajiura and Shinji Hosoe.

Xenosaga I & II is not an exact retelling of the previous two games. Some major changes have been made to the storyline of the game without changing the pre-existing elements the first games have already laid out. Some scenarios have been edited and some new but minor characters have been included in these new parts. The Episode II portion of the game, originally told through Jr.'s perspective, will now focus on Shion, much like Episode I and Episode III. The Episode II portion of the game has been completely rewritten by Xenosaga creator Tetsuya Takahashi, which expands and enhances the storyline. This fills in some of the holes caused by Episode II, allowing for a better understanding of the plot and reducing the amount of questions that will be unanswered in Episode III. The game plays out on the DS' top screen from an isometric perspective while the bottom touch screen is used to issue commands and navigate menus. The game's battle mechanics follow Episode I's style as opposed to Episode II.[3]

Crossover appearances[edit]

Namco × Capcom[edit]

Shion, KOS-MOS, and MOMO appear in the crossover tactical RPG Namco × Capcom. Taking their appearance from the first game, they appear in modern-day Japan after an attempted Encephalon dive, where they encounter Reiji Arisu and Xiaomu, two special agents trying to fight off some Gnosis. After a complication involving Street Fighter characters, they decide to help the agents figure out the reason for their appearance, as well as many other visitors from other dimensions.

Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier[edit]

KOS-MOS also appears in Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier. In this game, she appears in her pod after being rebuilt into her Ver. 4 body, but not having officially been activated. Her pod, along with T-ELOS and a number of Gnosis, was transported to the Endless Frontier and was discovered deep within Dorothy Mistral's Esmeralda fortress by a group of adventurers including Reiji and Xiaomu, who were separately transported to the Endless Frontier. KOS-MOS recognizes the two and travels with the group in the hopes of finding a way back to her own dimension. Along the way, they engage in battle with T-ELOS and the allies she has found. At the end of the game, KOS-MOS is separated from the team and is presumed to have returned home.

KOS-MOS and T-ELOS again appear, along with Reiji and Xiaomu (however, they were separated prior to their arrival in Exceed), in the sequel Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier EXCEED. MOMO is also in the sequel as well.

Soul Calibur III[edit]

Completing Chronicles of the Sword in Soul Calibur III allows players to unlock KOS-MOS' armor and a wig resembling her hair.[4] These parts could then be used in Soul Calibur III's create-a-character mode. Using the grieve edge allows the created character to fight unarmed, like KOS-MOS does in Xenosaga.

Development[edit]

Relation with Xenogears[edit]

While the timeline of Xenosaga does not correspond to that of Xenogears, the two share a common origin. Episode I of both Xenosaga and (according to the Xenogears Perfect Works book) Xenogears take place in T.C. 4767. However, Xenosaga does use several elements, themes, and plot lines from Xenogears. It has been suggested it best to refer to Xenosaga as a re-imagining of the early chapters of Perfect Works. On several occasions, developers of Xenosaga, including series creator Tetsuya Takahashi, have maintained the two stories are not meant to exist in the same timeline or universe.[5][6]

On the connection between Xenogears and Xenosaga, Takahashi has stated:

It's probably more suitable to say that it follows the direction and style of Xenogears. […] Now that we are under a different company, we figured we should start everything from scratch all over again. Though there are familiar faces that serve as important characters in Xenosaga, others are more like self-parodies, so we don't really want Xenogears fans to overreact. Like movies, sometimes you have the director of the movie or friend of the leading actor appearing as cameos, so it's similar to that.[6]

Staff[edit]

In recent years, the Xenosaga project has seen the removal and resignation of staff who were contributors to the game Xenogears and/or the first episode of Xenosaga. As of Episode II, scenario writer Soraya Saga was removed from the Xenosaga team. According to a column by Saga, the original draft of Episode II was drastically altered. This information has since been removed from Saga's website however, most if not all of the plot details removed from Episode II, as originally described in Soraya's FAQ, were incorporated into Episode III. While Soraya Saga did not return to work on the series herself Tetsuya Takahashi continued to be involved as a supervisor and oversaw both the scenario as well as the database in Episode III. After these events, Episode III was declared to be the last primary Xenosaga episode.

Composer Yasunori Mitsuda also left the Xenosaga series after the first episode, and while the character designer Kunihiko Tanaka re-illustrated the characters for Episode II he distanced himself from the project as other artists credited as production designers took over the character designs.

Future of the series[edit]

With the cancellation of the series at Episode III, several other Xenosaga projects ended their development cycles. Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI and two games being developed for an unknown platform known as Xenosaga: Frontier and Xenosaga: Exceed were all similarly cancelled when Namco pulled the plug on the series.

Namco Bandai expressed some interest in continuing the Xenosaga series past the original trilogy. As noted in a FAQ with IGN, their answers suggested a willingness to fund additional games, hinging on sales results of Episode III.[7]

Question: If Xenosaga Episode III is the last game of the Xenosaga series no matter what, would that change based on fan requests and sales? Is there a chance that Namco Bandai will make more games based on the Xenosaga universe (RPG or not)?
Namco Bandai: Yes, the Xenosaga universe is a grand concept and the number of ways we can think of to expand on this is infinite. We look forward to seeing player's reactions to Xenosaga III, and if reactions are good—who knows!

Since this statement, however, Namco Bandai has sold 80% of Monolith Soft's shares to Nintendo. On May 1, 2007 Namco sold the rest of the 16% of shares, making Monolith Soft one of Nintendo's first-party developers. There are also plans to make it an official download on the USA playstation 3 store as part of the series which can be download separately. The Xenosaga series could have a revival as a Playstation 2 download on the PS3 store as classic download or as HD download, for which conversion may be easier for a profit.

On September 11, 2014 Katsuhiro Harada expressed the will to make a HD collection of the trilogy, if there's enough support from the fans, it was confirmed on October 27, 2014 by the staff.[8]

Other media[edit]

In 2004, an official Japanese manga adaptation for the series was written by Atsushi Baba and serialized in Monthly Comic Zero Sum. As of 2006, Baba has finished development of Episode I's adaptation and is currently working on Episode II.[citation needed]

An anime based on Xenosaga, titled Xenosaga: The Animation, premiered on TV Asahi in Japan on January 5, 2005. The anime itself follows the story of Xenosaga closely, albeit removing several scenes and adding others. Some scenes were entirely re-written for the show's purposes. The pacing has the viewer running through the first ten to fifteen hours of gameplay of Episode I in the first five episodes. The series was licensed by ADV Films in June 2007 for $120,000.[9] The first volume was released on September 11, 2007.

A web series titled A Missing Year was started by Monolith to bridge the one year story gap between Episode II and Episode III, or appropriately between Xenosaga I&II and Episode III. The series has seen the reappearance of Shion Uzuki, KOS-MOS and Juli Mizrahi and also introduces Episode III's Doctus and a young girl named "Nephilim". Please note that this is not the same "Nephilim" that Shion has seen in previous games. However translation of further chapters has been put on indefinite hold due to the announcement by Namco USA that the Missing Year will be translated and posted up on the Official English Xenosaga III site. Although translations were produced by Namco USA and sent to Namco Japan for approval, there was never any response and thus it was never uploaded to the main website.[10]

Soundtrack albums for each of the three main games have been released; two versions of the soundtrack album were released for Episodes I and II as well as a single for the theme song of Episode I. Xenosaga Freaks and Xenosaga: The Animation have also sparked a soundtrack album each.

Reception[edit]

Each game in the Xenosaga trilogy earned generally favorable reviews, with Episode II receiving more mixed scores. Metacritic scores for the games are 83% for Episode I, 71% for Episode II, and 81% for Episode III.[11][12][13] Critics often cite Episode II as the worst of the trilogy. Gaming Target explained that "Namco, in trying to fix what wasn't broken to begin with, ended up loosening a few screws where the job wasn't needed", comparing its battle mechanics to the previous installment.[14]

The games did not receive reviews as positive as those given to their predecessor Xenogears, due to the removal of the philosophical elements and epic scale which many reviewers and gamers praised in Xenogears.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chris Woodard (2002-08-10). "Import review: Xenosaga". Insert Credit. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  2. ^ "Latest Famitsu review scores". GamesAreFun.com. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
  3. ^ IGN DS Xenosaga I & II preview Used for most information regarding Xenosaga I & II.
  4. ^ GameWinners Soul Calibur 3 cheats, retrieved 2010-07-08 
  5. ^ Hayden, Bill (2002-04-29). "Xenosaga Episode I Preview". Gamer's Logik. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  6. ^ a b Sato, Ike (2001-11-08). "Xenosaga Interview". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  7. ^ Jeremy Dunham (2006-08-09). "Reader Q&A: Xenosaga Episode III". Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  8. ^ http://www.siliconera.com/2014/09/11/xenosaga-hd-collection-might-possible-needs-tens-thousands-fans/
  9. ^ "ADV Court Documents Reveal Amounts Paid for 29 Anime Titles". Anime News Network. 
  10. ^ Namco Nation Forums Announcement by "NamcoTara", a site admin, that the Missing Year will be translated for English audiences.
  11. ^ "Xenosaga I at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  12. ^ "Xenosaga II at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  13. ^ "Xenosaga II at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  14. ^ Reiter, Chris (2005-04-05). "Xenosaga Episode II review". Gaming Target. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 

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