First of all, if you didn’t know already, Xenosaga is NOT a prequel to Xenogears (which was #5 in the planned six-part series). Both games are within the same universe, though. After Xenogears was made, Squaresoft sold the license to Namco, so the plot had to be changed around a bit, and the approach to it was different.
Xenosaga, to sum it up, is a role-playing game within a sci-fi movie. It starts off with a movie of an excavation in our current time. The excavation party finds a huge relic called the Zohar, and it starts an Armageddon-like change to the Earth. Then you are zoomed many years to a huge spaceship called the Woglinde, and you control the young scientist Shion Uzuki, who bears many similarities to Scooby Doo’s Velma. Shion has been working on a major military project called KOS-MOS, a weapon/android meant to prevent these space monsters called the Gnosis. The ship gets attacked and the Gnosis find their way onto the ship, and the story begins…
Xenosaga has the normal walk, talk, search, and put together clues on where to go, but to break up the monotony, Xenosaga throws in an e-mail system that can change events in the game if you act upon them, and you can get e-mails from events happening. I find this useful, since you are given essential tips on how to play, along with much needed weapon upgrades for KOS-MOS.
Since this is a linear role-playing game, it would seem like there’d be no access to past areas, but that speculation is quickly diminished when you get e-mailed holographic simulation programs that allow you to go back and get any item you missed, or just to level up. This leads into the next thing that makes an RPG an RPG, the battles!
You are given a similar battle system to the one in Xenogears involving combos. Instead of having specific combos to use, you can customize the button combinations with the new moves you’ve acquired. With the tech points gained at the end of each battle, you can increase the power of the combos and the versatility of them as well. With E. points that are earned the same way, you can learn spells on XS‘s skill tree system. Along with fighting with regular characters, you get to fight in mech-like vehicles called A.G.W.S. (Anti-Gnosis Weapon System), but it’s not really necessary.
And about the fluff, the graphics are stunning. It is hard to tell the difference from the movies and the actual game. The voices are top of the line and done by numerous notable anime voice actors. Don’t forget the music; it’s a totally original score performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and it will make your jaw drop to hear it on a great sound system.
Overall, it’s a great game that is worthy for play, but it doesn’t measure up to Xenogears; just don’t let that sway you away from it.