Xenosaga Episode II
|Xenosaga Episode II|
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (ゼノサーガ エピソードII 善悪の彼岸? Zenosāga Episōdo Tsū Zen'aku no Higan) is a role-playing video game for the PlayStation 2 and the second title in the Xenosaga series, created by Namco and developed by its subsidiary at the time, Monolith Soft.
Jenseits von Gut und Böse, literally "Beyond Good and Evil", is taken from a philosophical work by Friedrich Nietzsche of the same name. Episode II was originally written by Tetsuya Takahashi, director of the previous game and Xenogears, a game that critics associate with the Xenosaga trilogy; it was directed by Koh Arai, who worked previously on Radical Dreamers, a visual novel set in the Chrono Trigger universe, Xenogears, Chrono Cross, and the first Xenosaga game. This is the only Xenosaga game to be released in Europe, so the European released contained a DVD movie featuring the cutscenes from Xenosaga 1.
The second installment to the series features the same cast from Episode I, still focusing on Shion, KOS-MOS, and their friends. Episode II differs in that the plot follows the characters Jr. and MOMO closer than previously, exposing much of their past, which was kept secret during the first game.
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Episode II begins with a flashback of the Miltian Conflict, where Helmer orders chaos and Canaan to pilot E.S. Asher to Old Miltia and retrieve the U.R.T.V. units from the Realian rioting near Labyrinthos, the U-TIC Organization headquarters. Along the way, the two men encounter Federation officer Jin Uzuki, who is investigating the root of the Conflict. Uzuki believes that the entire Conflict is a set-up to turn U-TIC into a scapegoat, which, in turn, will keep the larger organization hidden in the shadows. He has data that he believes can prove this, but the data can only be decoded at Labyrinthos. The trio encounters U-TIC operative Margulis along the way, who demands that Jin return the U-TIC's encoded data. Uzuki defeats Margulis in a sword fight. Canaan is then entrusted with Jin's data before parting ways with Canaan and chaos, who then rescue U.R.T.V.s Rubedo and Nigredo.
In the present day, Margulis talks with the Patriarch of Ormus, explaining that Albedo will unlock the safeguard on the Y-Data and lead them to Old Miltia. The two also discuss the motives of Heinlein, Ormus's second-in-command. On Second Miltia, Canaan leaves the investigation disappointed once again; he must continue to be burdened by carrying Jin's undecoded data. Meanwhile, Shion Uzuki and the rest of the party arrive at Second Miltia, where they part ways. Jr., MOMO, Ziggy, and chaos are chased by U-TIC operatives wishing to capture MOMO once again. However, the attacks are thwarted. At Second Miltia's Vector Industries headquarters, Shion, Allen Ridgeley, and KOS-MOS are briefed of the increasing Gnosis threat. Soon after, Shion is reunited with her brother, Jin Uzuki, who is now running a bookstore. Eventually, both parties are reunited during the Federation's analysis of MOMO in order to retrieve the Y-Data at the U.M.N. Administration Center. During the analysis, a trap planted in MOMO by Albedo during his time with her on the Song of Nephilim is tripped and MOMO shuts down to prevent the Y-Data from leaking. The party performs an Encephalon dive to try to revive her personality. The party witnesses some important parts of Jr.'s past as a U.R.T.V. unit at the Yuriev Institute. They follow Jr.'s memories of himself, Albedo, and Nigredo on a mission to cure a disorder of Sakura Mizrahi, Joachim Mizrahi's daughter on whom MOMO was based. They eventually meet the real Albedo, who has also dived into MOMO's subconscious. In order to try to protect Jr., MOMO lowers her defenses and the Y-Data leaks to Albedo. Albedo uses the Y-Data to open the path to Old Miltia.
Seizing the moment, both the Federation and Ormus ("Immigrant") fleets launch their invasion into Old Miltian space with a mutual goal of seizing the Original Zohar. The Immigrant/Ormus fleet gains the advantage and quickly descends to Old Miltia. Meanwhile, Shion and Allen return to the Dämmerung to continue their duties with Vector Industries. On Second Miltia, Representative Helmer decides to launch an attack on Old Miltia in conjunction with the Kukai Foundation, Vector Industries, and S.O.C.E.; this way, the Original Zohar is apprehended by a neutral party. Shion has a vision in which Febronia once again asks her to free Febronia's sisters, which she suggests are on Old Miltia. Shion and Allen escape from the Dämmerung. Wilhelm, Vector's CEO, watches the escape and states that Shion is an important figure that cannot be lost, and KOS-MOS will be the key to absolute knowledge. Therefore, he decides to activate KOS-MOS secretly to assist Shion and Allen at Old Miltia. KOS-MOS merges her craft with the craft Shion and Allen stole to form the E.S. Dinah, which fights off an Ormus attack and rendezvouses with the rest of the party on the Elsa.
Reunited, the party launches another strike into Old Miltian space by flying between the two black holes of the Abyss, destroying an Ormus Stronghold along the way. After weaving through the space battle between the Federation and Ormus fleets, the Elsa lands on a mostly-underwater Old Miltia and the party ventures to Labyrinthos. Inside Labyrinthos, Jin Uzuki analyzes the data he stored in Canaan and confirms his suspicions: Joachim Mizrahi was being used during the Miltian Conflict, the U-TIC Organization, Immigrant Fleet, and Hyams are all fronts for the Ormus society, and Joachim Mizrahi closed off Old Miltia in order to prevent the re-awakening of U-DO, a powerful wave existence related to the Original Zohar. In other words, Mizrahi was a hero who was initially manipulated by Ormus, the true organization behind U-TIC and the Immigrant fleet.
At the core of Labyrinthos, Margulis and Jin Uzuki face off once again. Afterward, Shion notices that Febronia's sisters—Cecily and Cathe—have been deformed almost beyond recognition as humanoid and have been built into a system attached to the Zohar. The Ormus Patriarch appears, and explains that Ormus are the original guardians of the Zohar and that Ormus must continue to guide humans for eternity. The Zohar begins to glow, and KOS-MOS aims to destroy Cecily and Cathe. Shion at first stops her, but then realizes what Febronia meant by "free", and allows her to destroy them. Even with this control system destroyed, the Patriarch still merges the Zohar with a giant mechanical form, Proto Ω—a weapon that could strike anywhere in space when combined with the Zohar. The Patriarch explains that he will use Ω to destroy the Gnosis and command the galaxy under Ormus. The party is then forced to escape as Old Miltia crumbles and is morphed into the Ω System. Meanwhile, the spirit of Dmitri Yuriev, the creator of the U.R.T.V.s, takes control of Gaignun Kukai's body. Margulis and a Hyams scientist, Sellers, betray the Patriarch in favor of Heinlein. The Patriarch is left in the Ω System to fend for himself.
Shion and her allies enter the Ω System and confront the Patriarch, who had previously defeated Albedo with Proto Ω. The Testaments defeat the Patriarch and revive Albedo so that he can morph Miltian space into a space-time anomaly. After Albedo does this, Jr. decides to confront his brother personally; he dives into the anomaly and is talked to by Albedo, who eventually asks Jr. to destroy him. Although the space-time anomaly is destroyed, the Original Zohar remains floating in space. Before the Durandal and the Kukai Foundation can rush to acquire it, a star system-sized Gnosis referred to as Abel's Ark appears. Abel's Ark retrieves the Original Zohar and vanishes. Both chaos and Wilhelm observe with deep interest; the latter also addresses the former as "Yeshua" (the original Aramaic name of Jesus Christ). chaos said he wouldn't hold back anymore while standing outside on the Durandal looking at the Dämmerung, apparently addressing Wilhelm. After these events, the party separates to try to lead normal lives, although Jin worries that the chain of events is not over. The game concludes with Wilhelm and his Testaments welcoming a new White Testament to the fold. Wilhelm calls this man the "Weaver of the Eternal Circle of Zarathustra."
One year later, Episode III begins.
In June 2004, Namco released the long-awaited Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse. Player continue the story line of Xenosaga Episode I, once again assuming the roles of chaos, Jr. and Shion Uzuki. In true sequel fashion, Xenosaga Episode II answered some of the questions that Episode I introduced, including mysteries surrounding the U.R.T.V.s and the Miltian Conflict. However, most major questions were not answered or explored. Some examples include the true identities of chaos and Nephilim, the significance of Abel's Ark and the true nature of U-DO. These questions were saved for this episode's sequel, Xenosaga Episode III.
This episode introduced significant stylistic changes from the Episode 1. Of note are changes to the character designs, which deviated from the original anime style. Characters' change physically, too, as every playable character except Ziggy received costume changes. Other characters, like Shion, also received dramatic physical makeovers in the progression. In addition to the stylistic changes, Xenosaga Episode II's battle system was modified from the one featured in Episode I. Episode II featured the "boost" command and introduced the "stock" system. The last significant change in Xenosaga Episode II from its prequel was game music. Composition of cutscene music was performed by Yuki Kajiura, a newcomer to the Xenosaga project. The in-game music, including battle themes, was composed by another newcomer, Shinji Hosoe.
This episode also marked several changes that bridged the gap between itself and the series' uncredited ancestor, Xenogears. A.G.W.S. units were replaced in Episode II by different robots known as E.S., which are equipped with Vessels of Anima that are similar to the Anima Relics which were featured in Xenogears. Battles in E.S. units were also separated from character battles, like most of Xenogears, and players may also use E.S. to explore dungeons as well.
Episode II sold below expectations. Several months after Episode II 's North American release, it was revealed that scenario writer Soraya Saga, was removed from the series. Monolith's management elected not to continue using the services of Saga, who worked freelance for them on Episode I, Episode II and Xenosaga: Pied Piper. It was also revealed that Saga's contributions to the original script for Episode II had been heavily altered by the new team of writers and editors that Monolith Soft had hired on for Episode II's production. Saga described certain scenes, primarily the ones involving Albedo's childhood, as being edited to the point of being unrecognizable from her original work, while others like the scenes at the UMN Administration Center survived more-or-less intact. Most elements that were removed from the original Episode II script as described in Soraya Saga's online FAQ do appear in Episode III. The original chief character designer, Kunihiko Tanaka, also distanced himself from the project since Episode II's production. He was given a "character illustration" credit for Episode II. Shortly after the American release of Episode II, Monolith Soft announced that the main Xenosaga series would be stopped at Episode III.
Episode II features a soundtrack with more contemporary sounds; compared to Episode I, Episode II features a large amount of synthesizer usage as well as vocal tracks. The development of Episode II's music was split between Yuki Kajiura (cutscenes) and Shinji Hosoe (in-game music). Kajiura's soundtrack consists of 40 tracks and features vocal pieces by Margaret Dorn, Deb Lyons and Yuriko Kaida. The ending theme "Sweet Song" is sung by Margaret Dorn. The Image theme and its arrangements are sung by Deb Lyons all of which are composed by Kajiura.
Episode II received mixed reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the game has an average score of 73 out of 100, which indicates "mixed or average reviews" based on 45 reviews.
With many changes being made between the two episodes, many reviewers that the developers had fixed some parts, while making other parts worse. Gaming Age complained that the game is shorter than Episode I. The new voice actors for Shion, MOMO and KOS-MOS were considered a downgrade by IGN. The site was similarly disappointed with the music, and that famed videogame composer Yasunori Mitsuda did not return to score the music of Episode II, despite his music in Episode I and Xenogears being generally well received.
Episode II has also come under serious fire because of distinct changes with the battle system. Some others argued the changes increased strategy required to win battles, others found that it was both unnecessarily slow and complicated. At the same time, the new skill tree was considered by some to have been vastly "dumbed down" from the skill system in the first game. Many of the skills are left unexplained as well, often leaving many players confused about their use.
Episode II sold over 256,000 copies in Japan by the end of 2004.
- Xenosaga: Episode II - Jenseits von Gut und Böse (2004) PlayStation 2 credits - MobyGames
- Giant Bomb.com- Koi Arai credits
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