Xenosaga Episode I Part 13: Memory Lane

Previously on Xenosaga: The Kukai Foundation stands accused, and their only hope is Shion performing a routine procedure to grab some recorded data off KOS-MOS’s hard drive. Because this is Xenosaga, the future equivalent of popping in a USB stick breaks all of time and space and pulls everyone into… Something. Somewhere? Somewhen?

We now resume our freakout already in progress, with Shion a little confused about what’s happening.

Here’s Shion and her dad. It’s good to see sweater vests last another 2,000 years.

Kiddy Shion wants to visit mom, but that’s going to have to wait. Is mommy sick?

Adult Shion is paralyzed at this entire encounter. Frankly, I don’t blame her. Right brain wants to give everybody a hug, left/scientist brain is worried about the space time continuum. We’ve all been there.

Hey, when did you get here? Red is chilling on a nearby slide, and narrating childhood suffering.

“Hey! Eyes over here, Shion. Don’t get distracted by your silly, traumatic past.”

Yes! We’re finally going to get some answers! Guys! Answers! This is going to be great!

Whoops, scene change. Better go check on some other party members. MOMO, Junior, and Ziggy were transported to… looks like a street?

A street with goose-stepping, heavily armed Junior lookalikes. Junior, you got some splainin’ to do.

As you’ve likely guessed, they’re URTVs, same as Gaignun, Albedo, and Junior. Short answer: it’s the clone wars.

Ziggy, I guess, was assuming this was a mass hallucination until Junior started recognizing people. This raises a lot of questions about Ziggy hallucinating that I am just not prepared to address.

Junior is in and out of one of those Shion trademark PTSD comas, but Ziggy wants answers, dammit.

Oh, good, we’re on a planet that practically obliterated itself 14 years ago. I guess armies are still stomping around?

Oh, even worse. More time travel.

Junior runs off to do… something? MOMO is concerned.

Ziggy understands that sometimes a clone has to go off and fly with the rest of his people. Butterfree will be happier now, Misty.

Or not. Yeah, I guess we better help the squirt out.

Oh, right, back to answers. Note that Junior Squad and Shion get totally different daylight.

Oh, thank God, we know Allen’s status. chaos is also here, and, given his nigh-omnipotence, you have to figure he’s the only one that actually chose his team. I am forced to assume he doesn’t like to hang out with Junior, or he realized that Allen was such a tremendous handicap to Shion, he’d better get his super powered butt over there to help out.

“I may have gotten a little drunk and accidentally programmed my entire childhood into KOS-MOS’s mainframe. Sorry.”

I want to say Shion asked this question before, but didn’t get an answer. What makes her think this time is going to be…

Oh. Good. Red’s got a name. Nephilim. Swear I’ve heard that somewhere before.

“That’s what I have been called ever since I existed in this form” is exactly what I’m going to tell anyone that ever asks for my name. Accurate, and just enough extra information to be creepy.

Dammit! I was promised answers! Now we’re back to Team Junior… but we actually have control for once. Welcome to Xenosaga Episode 1 Giant Dungeon #2. Like Big Scary Dungeon #1, this trek will be intercut with various story scenes and plenty of battles. As is my wont, we will not be viewing every damn battle.

Here’s our opening save point. 14:10, just for posterity.

Junior and pals are stuck in a ruined, urban area. Instead of the usual wandering enemies, there are searchlights patrolling the area, and if you’re spotted, then you’ve got a battle on your hands. The searchlights, as you may expect, follow pretty specific routes, so it’s not all that difficult to avoid unnecessary fighting. For the record, I’d appreciate this more at the end of a dungeon when you’re already drained, as opposed to the start.

Team Junior faces a lot of soldiers and helicopters in their opening area.

The mobs are numerous, but both Ziggy and Junior have powerful multi-hit attacks, so there’s not much to worry about. With MOMO on healing duty, Ziggy/MOMO/Junior is a pretty balanced party.

Despite the fact that this area is pretty much as “mundane” as the hallways of the Durandal, this part of the game is shaped like a dungeon, so there are treasure chests, and paths that are obviously more risk/reward than others.

After some dungeoning, an unusually ominous tower is encountered.

And in its shadow, some of Junior’s buddies are… not making this conflict any easier.

Infected with a bad case of “my machine gun has too many bullets, let’s share”.

But one dark-haired URTV is bumping off the infected URTVs, and shouting for Rubedo.

Yep, that’s a 14-years-ago Gaignun gunning down his former comrades. I can see why you’re still having nightmares about this place, Junior.

Speaking of, Junior flashes to another scene of Kiddy Gaignun backing away from an apparently super saiyan Kiddy Albedo. I’m assuming this does not end well. This environment appears to be the same place Junior was dreaming of cradling an apparently deceased Gaignun.

Junior: not having a good day.

But it’s all a daydream, and MOMO is here to…

Geez, shortpants, maybe you want to lay off on the girl?

That’s better. Just because you’re reliving your most horrible memories doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it.

Junior would like some answers about this nonsense.

And back to Team Shion. Junior gets a warzone, Shion gets to play on the swings. I do appreciate that Shion is the kind of heroine that just rolls with being at a playground.

Nephilim is here to explain what’s going on here, apparently. See, you’ve all got memories of Miltia…

And KOS-MOS went ahead and created an absolutely perfect virtual reality for everybody. Thanks, KOS-MOS!

Erm. What?

Shion might not have any idea how the robot she built works, but she knows the android wasn’t running around during her childhood.

And it’s hand-waved with, I don’t know, she borrowed some memories or something.

But…

Finally we get some closure on that “Cherenkov makes KOS-MOS murder everybody” flashback from way back when we were tossing curry around. Let’s see how that bit of fun ended.

Oh. Shion shot KOS-MOS in the head (presumably with some sort of anti-KOS-MOS weapon designed just for the occasion). Oh. This… Huh.

And Nephy gently reminds Shion that, yes, KOS-MOS killed Kevin beforehand. Sorry, killed Kevin while he was protecting Shion with his bullet-riddled body.

Hey, Shion, ya know how you’ve been repressing everything ever up to this point?

Please stop.

“You’re not alone, though. I hear Allen is repressing something he calls ‘the pudding incident’.”

And Nephilim claims that Shion and co. must return to Miltia once again. Presumably the real Miltia.

This causes a brief flash of memory in Shion of… less than happy times.

Shion springs from her swing and demands to know why.

What? No, she’s like a five day old robot.

No she’s not, she’s on the Durandal. Nephilim, you’re terrible at geography.

So I guess Shion is going to tromp off and face her past by herself… but don’t worry, Allen is here to help! Actually, that might be cause for worry…

chaos and Nephy hang back. I presume chaos called next on that swing.

Nephs asks chaos if this is what he wants, though it’s no coincidence that the camera chooses to frame Allen chasing Shion. Clearly, chaos has the hots for that hunk of man jell-o.

Or… that? Whatever chaos just said.

It’s cool to admit you have feelings, omnipotent godling.

Nephilim is like the only creature in this universe that can ask chaos a question or two.

But she’s not going to stick around to provide an answer. Better go catch up with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Weenie, chaos, your ride is leaving.

Alright, we now have control of Shion, chaos, and (technically) Allen. Allen, of course, will not be participating in any battles, but he is here for emotional support if anybody needs a hug. Allen is also carrying a chocolate bar, but he will not share with anyone. You go on and fight that gnosis, chief, I’ll be right here.

This area, to say the least, seems a lot more… friendly than Junior’s area. Still, it is a dungeon, so it’s time to blow up this adorable penguin statue for a minor, consumable item. It’s not like it’s real anyway.

But the gnosis are real. While Team Junior tackles soldiers and mechs, Shion and chaos get to battle gnosis like bugbear here.

Incidentally, this side of the dungeon is horrible. First of all, you’ve only got two characters, and you haven’t had that handicap since back during the ZigMo days. Second, chaos and Shion are both primarily “support” type characters, and really require a more offensive third character to be effective. Third, neither of those dorks have a multi-hit attack, so any battle against more than one enemy is going to be a pain and a half. And to top it all off, specifically on this side of the dungeon is the bugbear gnosis, which will frequently counter an attack with a multi-heal spell cast over the entire enemy party. None of these gnosis do too much damage, and Shion/chaos have a lot of healing abilities, so you’re unlikely to actually die… but battles take absolutely forever. This would be a tedious area with just White Mage and Red Mage attempting to conquer a dungeon alone, but the added “always heals everybody” monster is crap frosting on the shit cake.

This… I don’t know. Shion must be talking about the overturned Bunnie here, right? Like, the fact that he’s fallen over bothers her? Because otherwise Bunnie himself creeps Shion out, which can’t be right, because Bunnie is Shion’s PDA AI assistant. Unless she’s talking about Bunnie’s… secret other face.

Anyway, as we leave the distinctly playground area, the gnosis seem to multiply, and what this area needs is more bugbears!

See this? This is just terrible. Bugbear has a whale of a lot more HP than the little kobolds, so if you try to take out his healing first, you’re going to suffer a number of flesh wounds that are going to add up fast. If you ignore the bugbear, however, the kobolds will last twice as long, and every miss will basically make the turn useless. It’s… very annoying.

Hey! Another human! … Or not.

This Larva Doll gnosis has one stupid trick for surviving adventurers. Basically, it’s in “reverse” mode, so any damage done to it is calculated as “healing”, and any healing is calculated as damage. It would be kind of clever if these creatures were encountered with bugbears, so you could see the trick before you risk “wasting” a potion on an enemy, but, nope, they only ever show up in groups of themselves. Boo.

Incidentally, if you take the long way around, you may find yet another Hidden Red Door hiding on past, KOS-MOS generated Miltia. That android is really thorough.

Eventually, Shion’s path leads into the sewers. How are there so many sewers in space!?

Gremlins stalk the underground, and they’re interesting for a couple reasons. There was a pack of gremlins on the Woglinde back in the day, and if you bothered them there, you’d wind up dead in a heartbeat. Now, a few levels later, Shion and chaos can take ‘em without much trouble. The trouble, though, is that gremlins counter with an acid rain attack that heals the gremlins and damages the party… but also damages any other gnosis that may be around. You can use this to your advantage, and have the gremlins eliminate any extra gnosis while focusing exclusively on the rainmakers. It’s a shining glimmer of strategy in a dungeon that is mostly “just keep attacking”.

There’s an entire “lower path” to this sewer, complete with treasure, but, try as she might, Shion has no access to that area.

Oh well, let’s not worry about it and get out of this sewer.

And as Shion exits, we rejoin Junior and his mechanical friends.

They might be increasing in strength, but this side of the dungeon is still mostly mechs and humans. And, given all of our firepower is over here, there’s not much to worry about.

Eventually, the streets lead down into an underground, subway area.

This area actually has some neat architecture, and is slightly more interesting to “explore” than the streets above. There are also a few gnosis enemies mixed in with the mechs, which I suppose is a subtle hint that Junior is catching up with Shion.

By about the time Junior is waist deep in sewer water, it should be obvious.

Yep, same sewer area as Shion and pals, but now Junior is in that lower area.

Yes, you face the exact same gnosis as Shion and chaos here, and, yes, you have absolutely nothing to worry about because Ziggy and Junior can obliterate mobs with ease.

Shion seemed to continue through the sewers, but Junior finds a ladder on his path and climbs back up to street level. Sewer water (“water”) cannot be good for that coat.

Topside, it appears we’ve discovered something interesting.

Really, U-TIC? You named your home tower “Labyrinthos”? Do you guys know you’re living in a JRPG? How many treasure chests did you allocate for each floor? You guys got a minotaur watering your plants?

Bah, no time for questions now, there’s a happy fellow singing praises up on the roof.

And he’s quoting Revelations. What a joyous occasion!

Looks like a pretty alright bloke, if a little excitable.

MOMO seems to recognize the dude that is shouting way the hell up a building in the middle of a battleground. Selective hearing.

Joachim Mizrahi, you are the father!

Concerned Dad Ziggy is immediately threatened by Fake Real Dad Mizrahi.

MOMO has a pretty understandable freak-out at encountering her father, alive, for the first time since her activation (reminder: she was pretty much just a brain in a jar while he was alive). Ziggy keeps a handle on her, though, because, I don’t know, she could have jet boots or something.

Remember how Junior said he was there when Mizrahi died? Probably sticks in his memory.

Mizrahi doesn’t notice the party… or anything, really. He’s just gleefully preaching to nobody in particular.

And then he exploded.

And fell off the building.

Going to go ahead and guess that this is that death of Mizrahi that Junior witnessed. MOMO isn’t taking it well.

MOMO attempts to catch a full-grown man that fell, flaming, off of a skyscraper, but he dissolves into nothingness as he hits the ground. Sorry, MOMO, no touching reunion for you.

Just a reminder, in the last week, MOMO was kidnapped by terrorists, navigated a deadly dogfight, watched an entire planet dissolve into nothingness, watched an acquaintance transform into a monster, beat said monster to death, and now watched her father die. Bad news? It’s only going to get worse.

Ziggy, the, like, one guy in the party that has nothing to do with Miltia, kind of can’t believe the level of horrible that is this planet-destroying war. I’m assuming that fourteen years ago, Ziggy was on… New Maui?

And then reality decides to throw in the towel.

Here’s… some… thing? Mayan calendar?

And, poof, infinite crisis’ed.

Aaaaaaand back to Shion, exiting a sewer pipe into some kind of forest area.

The forest is naturally overcrowded with more gnosis. At least they’re different gnosis, and a few less bugbears.

Ah, chaos finally learns a multi-hit attack. Shion won’t do the same until practically the end of the game. This doesn’t turn chaos into a powerhouse or anything, but it does allow us to cut battle time in half.

Again, no one thinks to ask why chaos can just randomly sprout wings for his attacks. Though, at this point, I’m not complaining, either.

Honestly, this whole forest area is a little strange. If you’re trying to showcase the ravages of the Miltian Conflict, sure, show me the urban area that is a battlefield. You can even focus on the playground/hospital area that is crawling with malevolent monsters. But the forest? There’s barely any signs of life here, and even something like this, this strange, abandoned campfire, doesn’t do nearly enough to imply… anything. Maybe they’re trying to say people are out surviving in the woods to avoid the battle? But… it’s a log and some fire, not like, I don’t know, a damaged and abandoned trailer or something. Maybe I’m just spoiled by all the post-apocalyptic games we have in the modern world, but this forest does nothing for me. I’m inclined to believe that someone on the staff made some really great forest graphics, and there wasn’t anywhere else in the game to wedge ‘em in.

And now, let’s spy on Bunnie grabbing carrot juice.

Yep, that’s Bunnie alright. Grabbing some canned carrot juice.

Oh no, he heard us!

And away he goes.

Yep! And now he’s alive and grabbing supplies. What the hell is even happening?

In the next area, you find Bunnie’s home, and can sneak behind and see he’s got a lovely little shack, complete with a fireplace and a TV with rabbit ears. Har har. But the front door is locked, so no entry.

But you can double back to the area where you first saw Bunnie, and grab some carrot juice of your own. Actually, it’s –S. Carrot Juice-, and I’ll assume the S stands for “simply insane”.

Go back to Bunnie’s house, place some carrot juice on the stump…

And Bunnie will leave his front door open to collect the juice.

Quick! Run in there without being spotted! The trick here, as we’ll see shortly, is that Bunnie has a pseudo-face, and his real face/eyes are on the back of his head, so you have to “sneak” around his front, not back.

Bunnie is acknowledging Shion’s B&E skills.

There’s the real face! What a looker.

Your reward is a door decoder and the knowledge that the Xenosaga crew will break all concepts of grounding their story in hard reality if it means playing with a bunny through a confusing minigame. No, Bunnie is never acknowledged as anything more than Shion’s AI. In fact, Bunnie is confirmed to be a fictional character in the Xenosaga universe, albeit one that is as ubiquitous as the modern Mickey Mouse. That said, it’s never confirmed, but the best anyone can figure is that since this whole area is based on Shion’s childhood memories, maybe KOS-MOS tossed in a few childhood fantasies to entertain her mom while battling waves of gnosis. Or maybe the designers had a terrible idea for a “cute” mini game, and stuck it in the middle of a dungeon based on the horrors of war, because, really, why not?

That’s the last interesting thing in this area, time to plow through some more gnosis and move on.

Back to the other party. It seems the all-encompassing whiteness (not Allen) spit these guys out in some wooded area.

For everybody that understandably forgot while they were bunny bopping, MOMO just watched her dad die.

Shion and co. have cleared the forest, and now…

Found religion. ‘Bout time.

Oh, hey, you guys!

Good question!

Good answer!

Allen asks what Nephilim already answered, but I guess she didn’t specify that everybody wound up in here. She was using a lot of plurals, though…

Allen explains that the tachyons and the anomalies and bob’s your uncle, yes, this all makes perfect sci-fi sense.

Even with all the pseudo-technical jargon being tossed around, expert scientist Shion claims there’d have to be something else to pull everybody into this virtual world.

Oh, right, yeah, this was already explained. Guess Nephilim has some juice to her.

“Silly mortals, can’t you just get over it.”

The explanation that this is everyone’s memories gets tossed out again, but Allen calls bullshit because he distinctly remembers masturbating fourteen times in one day opposite the Miltian Conflict, and was never anywhere near that cluster.

“I wonder if perhaps memories – in other words, events that occurred in the past – become stronger, more selective, and gain a higher priority when they resonate with others that share identical axes in time and space. If you think about it in those terms, it isn’t quite so odd that both my memories and those of Allen are not reflected here.”

Basically, chaos is saying that Junior and Shion experienced such powerful traumas during this same exact time period, that their memories are overriding everybody else’s. Also, I guess MOMO is part of that, because Mizrahi stuck his memories into MOMO as a backup… theoretically wirelessly as he dove off a building. Try not to think about it too hard.

Did… did you think we were really in the past? Alright, fine, stranger things have happened in this plot.

Shion says something that is absolutely not true. I mean, I guess it’s technically true, but… dangerous thinking. Xenosaga isn’t real!

And Shion recounts Nephy’s advice as she gazes at that church.

Back to actual control, for all the good it does you. The party is reunited, but the dungeon is basically over now, so you don’t really get to utilize your complete killing squad.

You can either backtrack into the forest or hit this black hole if you want to go back and explore some Junior areas, though. You know what? I will die a happy man if I am ever seriously asked about jumping into a space-time disturbance.

Looks like the “default” combined party is Shion, Junior, chaos. Let’s toss Ziggy back in there, as I’m tired of looking at chaos.

Sunday morning, guys.

Here’s the church. Looks pretty nice, if a little abandoned.

Allen employs his amazing observational skills. Legitimately, this is the first non-hostile, non-ginger human anyone has encountered since they landed in this freaky world.

Wait, not human, Realian. Same diff.

You are in a virtual reality wonderland here. I’d be surprised if you sensed anybody that was distinctly normal.

Shion has checked out.

Ziggy is not exactly a conversationalist, but he is ready for this nonsense to be over, so he decides to get the ball rolling.

Hiya, Feb.

Here’s an out of sequence screen shot. Remember back on the Woglinde, when Virgil bit the dust? Here was the last thing on his mind. Just, ya know, reminder.

Anyway, back to right now, Feb is apparently a Realian Rights Activist.

Durandal to Shion, come in, Shion.

Yep, Shion knows her… corpse.

Eureka, breakthrough!

Dammit. Thiiiiis close.

Starting to get the impression that Feb is more than meets the eye (oh my God, no, she is not going to turn into a truck).

Neither Feb nor the magically appearing Nephilim are particularly good at advertising.

“This is going to suck, but we’re going to enjoy it.”

Could somebody please reboot Shion? We’re going to need her to be shocked by something again in like five minutes.

Let’s call it gameplay, but you, player, have to make the choice to walk through that door. You can also talk to everybody involved, and use that convenient save point, because you can guess what’s coming next. Come to think of it, this may be the only save point that is distinctly located before a major boss in Xenosaga Episode 1.

Inexplicably, there’s a side door to the church that you can unlock.

And it just leads outside to the exact same spot you can explore before entering the church. I guess… someone just really wanted that church to have a side door? Maybe it will come in handy in another few games.

Alright, quit yer lollygagging and get in there.

Upon entering the door, Allen makes a pretty bizarre, if accurate, leap in logic.

Nephy will narrate Shion’s memories for the good of the audience.

Acute neurosis… hospitalized. Oh! Shion’s mom is really, really sick. Aw.

You ever visit a sick friend or family member in a hospital? Nursing home? Insane asylum? Want to relive that experience for any reason?

Particularly when it involves horror lighting and bodies scattered about?

And your dad, slumped over with a significant bloodstain behind him?

Not good, either.

Mommy is not getting out of bed today, dear.

Shion, literally now facing her worst nightmares, is a tweak taken aback.

Doesn’t help when some spiky looking fellows start thrillering into the room.

And do whatever is going on there.

Junior, meanwhile…

Is watching Kiddy Albedo do his whole song and dance back at the metallic place of his nightmares.

Something stuck in your head, Albedo?

We get to watch the exact origins of Albedo’s insanity before we actually see that insanity in action. Guess it’ll save time later (no it won’t).

Well that’s just super. (Yes, this makes a certain amount of sense, but, no, it won’t during this Episode.)

Just back away slowly, Rubedo.

You’d think that, after working with Shion for so long, Allen would be able to instantly recognize a good PTSD coma.

Both hallucinations coalesce into… that?

Yes, that. Boss battle time!

Behold Tiamat, and her weird, scissor arms.

Aside from just being a generally hard hitting boss, Tiamat has a gimmick or two. Chief among them is, like the DOMO Carrier back on the Elsa, you have to manage your turn order through boosting to avoid Tiamat getting a turn directly after Shion or Junior. If she acts after Shion…

You’ll be hit with a crippling, party wide attack that could drain over half your HP in a blow.

If she moves after Junior, she’ll hit a single character for a quarter of their HP… which isn’t too bad, but it can certainly sting.

Additionally, she’s got the capability of confusing a party member, which is a giant pain for a three person party. Confused character likely loses a turn, and another party member has to waste a turn on healing. Really can mess up that all important turn order for this battle, too.

And the kicker is that Junior and Shion both have to land a killing blow on this beast. Junior or Shion “kills” the gnosis, it revives with 1500 HP, and then the other trauma victim has to score the final-final blow… or else the damn thing heals again until you get it right. Hope you’re not already spent at that point!

I clocked in around ten minutes on this battle, and that was with a buffed up party and (mostly) knowing what I was doing. Must be fun for anyone on their first time through the game.

Anyway, turns out punching your problems until they go away solves nothing, so Shion and Junior are still in mid-freakout after Tiamat slaying.

And then… art?

Oh, guess we found the Mana Tree.

And all your friends are here! Congratulations!

Ah, this certainly seems nice.

“Good job slaying the dragon that was your past. Or at least acknowledging it a little bit.”

“Yeah, that’s great, Feb. Do you have a twin?”

Well, thanks for the update.

Oh, good to hear that this isn’t just Allen’s memory of a tree.

Cecily and Cathe: happy children in a happy world.

KOS-MOS can break into any mind she wants, apparently.

Guys, I think Allen finally snapped.

Okay, yes, they look happy.

Oh no! Their virtual reality is actually pretty crummy! How is that a bad thing, again? Can’t we just toggle the happiness back on? What’s that? It’s a metaphor? Oh, fine.

“So, what, that stupid tree really loves frolicking, and forces them to do it, forever?” “No, it’s not the tree.”

Man, we almost got through one whole update without mentioning the damn Zohar.

“So the Zohar is an angry tree?” “Ignore the tree!”

“Okay, I got it, we’re gonna fight that tree.” “WHAT DID I JUST SAY!?”

The Zohar is oppressing Realians? I guess? Whatever you say, Feb.

Oh, wait, humans are threatened? Now I’m invested!

“So I’m going to need you to go on a quesadilla run for us.”

Wait, what? I thought we were in the past.

Oh, now we’re in space. Hiya, space.

Gotta give Shion credit for identifying her old planet from orbit. Not sure I’d be able to do that.

Alright, I would be able to identify her. You finally find those Dr. Light capsules, KOS-MOS?

Oh snap, it’s our favorite nebulously gassy U-DO. And He’s shooting off some kind of beam.

And KOS-MOS is returning a beam in kind.

Their DBZ-esque encounter detonates the entire solar system. Lotta collateral damage, and I’m pretty sure Old Miltia didn’t make out too well either.

Good to know.

One where your stupid robot destroys a planet, Shion.

Perhaps the same could be said of all religions.

Junior is back on track and concerned about U-DO like a good lil’ URTV.

Usual prophetic backdoor policy, blah blah blah, even the tiniest wave, yada yada yada, save the cheerleader, save the world…

“Yet, before it all begins… I wanted you to…face your pants. Wait. I meant pasts. $%&^.”

Buuuuut you failed.

“Or Allen? Why specifically Allen at all?”

Whoops, someone is out of the closet.

“Which is convenient, because no one is making you another character model.”

Lies.

“Gotta go be mysterious somewhere else! Don’t forget the chips and salsa!”

Oh, here’s a door from nowhere.

And here’s the KOS-MOS inside KOS-MOS. Anyone notice that it seems a little extra… ancient crypt-y for the mind of a week old robot?

“Naw, it’s cool guys. I programmed her to see her inner-self as an android crucified by random wiring.”

Hiya.

You would think that Shion would have dived into KOS-MOS’s internal mainframe before now at least once.

Not only does Shion use that same passcode from back at the start of the LP, she also makes a little hand motion that is totally the sign of the cross. The second layer of encryption on KOS-MOS involves reciting your favorite Bible verse.

As the scene fades, let’s acknowledge the fact that nobody in the room is going to ask about the ornate coffin chilling in KOS-MOS’s brain.

Aaaaaand reality.

KOS-MOS awakens with everybody else.

Nothing good about it.

Call and answer.

“Alls well that ends well, I always say. Junior, why are you shivering, sucking your thumb in the corner?”

And we close on Allen spontaneously hugging Shion. No touching!

So, lot to unpack here.

First of all, our dungeon du jour. Overall, I rate Big Dungeon #2 higher than #1, but still needs improvement. If I’m being generous, Xenosaga is pulling a very neat trick by sticking the player with chaos and Shion for half a dungeon, as it makes you feel that something is wrong, and you miss KOS-MOS in this virtual environment of her creation. She’s, technically, always there with you, but her physical absence is felt. Practically, however, it means every time you have control of Shion/chaos, battles take forever, and, again, the addition of monsters that can frequently heal is salt in the wound. Then there’s the forest section that has no business being in this game at all. At best, it feels like padding, at worst, it’s a betrayal of the remainder of the dungeon’s measured “this is what a disaster looks like” aesthetics. The forest could easily be a “connecting dungeon” in any JRPG, from Final Fantasy to Breath of Fire, and thus feels completely removed from the planetary battlefield that is the rest of the area.

Also, can’t stress this enough, you play tag with an imaginary rabbit shortly after watching MOMO’s father’s suicide, and right before you watch Shion’s parents’ murder.

All that said, the rest of the dungeon ain’t half bad, and, particularly in Junior’s ruined areas, you really get a feel for how devastating the frequently-referenced Miltian Conflict really was. Given the importance of the area, you’re encouraged to poke around and explore the shared past of your protagonists, and you may be rewarded with material treasure while sating your curiosity. So, basically, it’s more fun than a crummy gnosis planet.

And, for the record, our first save was at 14:10, and our pre-boss save (in the church) was at 16:09…

Post boss (and a whole lot of cutscenes, some of which we haven’t seen yet) was at 16:40. Depending on how you want to count the boss/cinematics, this dungeon averages out to a little over two hours. Pretty large, but it goes down smooth, because you’re learning an awful lot about your heroes, and not cruddy ol’ Cherenkov.

This dovetails nicely into an excuse for me to type out a lot of character analysis, because, without exaggeration, this is the most interesting single segment in Xenosaga: Episode I. Depending on how you count Nephilim (who is more like a spirit guide here than a “real” character) this entire area doesn’t introduce anyone outside the party until the finale with Febronia. This is wonderful for exploring the characters and their relationships, so let’s take a closer look…

Ziggy and Allen had nothing to do with the Miltian Conflict, so they’re pretty much the outsiders of this whole adventure. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t give a damn, because both care about MOMO and Shion, respectively. Interestingly, this makes both of them, basically, the “girlfriends” of the group; that is to say, they’re those characters that pretty much only react as proxies to their opposite gender main characters. This will continue through the series for Allen, while Ziggy will eventually find a plot sometime around when he gets his own spinoff.

MOMO got to watch her dad die. After hearing about Mizrahi being a bad guy from pretty much everybody, MOMO finally sees her father as others (specifically Junior) see the man, and, yeah, it sucks. If it wasn’t already obvious, this will basically be MOMO’s thing for the rest of the series: grappling with the practically immaculate image of her father that she holds in her heart, and the possible reality that he’s the suicidal madman that brought the gnosis down on the entire universe. Also, this is the first we get to see Mizrahi at all (give or take a blurry JPEG), and I’m assuming his explosive entrance left an impression on the audience.

Junior gets some backstory shaded in, but, honestly (and this may be just my own personal bias) Junior isn’t that interesting. He’s got a plot (which is more than Ziggy can say at the moment) but it’s pretty typical… Hell, it’s practically one of the oldest stories straight out of the Bible. Two brothers, one pious and good, the other slightly murderous, conflict ensues. It’s, obviously, a little more nuanced than Kane and Abel (incidentally, two characters that already popped up in Xenogears), but it still boils down to that easy emotional resonance of brother against brother… just everybody involved has super powers. Here we see a little more about why Junior regrets his past, though we don’t get any details on the whys of it that are actually important to his story.

Just to be clear, I don’t think Junior’s story is bad or anything, it’s just, without the details, very… obvious. Here’s a spoiler: eventually good brother is going to have to confront bad brother, because bad brother is threatening the universe, and good brother is going to have to do “what he has to do”, but he’ll feel bad about it. Good story. Everybody cries.

And chaos, we can infer from these scenes, stands on the side of the vaguely omniscient characters like Nephilim and Febronia. No, we don’t “know” his deal yet, but if there was ever any doubt before, yes, we now know chaos is a lot more than a random Elsa employee.

KOS-MOS is where things get really interesting. KOS-MOS is now officially a force of nature. Notice what happened here? Neph/Feb could have woken up KOS-MOS, spoken to her, told her to lay off the planetary obliteration, and maybe take up knitting; but, no, rather than speak directly to KOS-MOS, the warning about KOS-MOS potentially destroying a solar system (and God) goes to a collection of six people that happen to have been pulled together by circumstance. Recognize this scene? The Ancient One gathered together the heroes to face the Ancient Evil… and it’s KOS-MOS. This, like Shion’s potential gnosis-ification, is a sharpened blade to dangle over the heads of our heroes, because, even though KOS-MOS rejoins the party with the next area, she’s not just a helpful murderbot anymore, now she’s a potentially genocidal God-slayer. And, what’s more, this is a problem our heroes can’t just hit with swords until it goes away (though it is kind of amusing that no one suggests dismantling her, like, right now): KOS-MOS is a problem with an emotional solution, not a physical one. Which makes things difficult when an emotionless robot is involved…

Oh, and if you’re wondering why Neph didn’t try talking directly to KOS-MOS (metaphysics of it aside), consider that maybe she doesn’t want to get vaporized.

Then there’s Shion. I realize I’ve been making references to her problems all along this LP, and, in a way, I apologize for that. Up to this point in the game, for the average player, there has been very little reason to believe that Shion is anything but the typical “genki” heroine, practically a female version of (Silver Age, not cover-based) Superman or Goku. Yeah, she’s “powerful” (still not a gnosis, bumps off a lot of enemies), but she’s almost pathologically friendly and supportive of all people, Realians, androids, etc. She (metaphorically) embraces Cherenkov as he dies, even though he was always a pain in the ass, and had a similar reaction to Virgil. And, of course, she has had no qualms this entire game about being the first into the fray when someone is in trouble, even when dealing with complete strangers like Ziggy and MOMO (boarding the Elsa). Shion helps people, and, complete with the astraphobia, comes off as another, “simple” character like Rikku of Final Fantasy 10. I help people because it’s right! Let’s stay positive!

And then there’s this section, where, in rapid succession, we learn that Shion had a sick mother, watched her parents murdered, and apparently watched Feb die, too. Couple this with earlier, “It’s nothing, I’m fine” events, and you realize that Shion really is just a walking bundle of neurosis. Oh, wait, almost forgot about Kevin’s murder, too. Shion practically bleeds trauma, and this isn’t the kind of story where there’s a sad, dead Uncle Ben and then Spider-Man gets back to his quipping, this is a story that’s constructed to remind you that someone who suffers through that kind of thing(s) and then just pushes it all down to an “it’s nothing” is going to have more than a few issues. Now, even without the gnosis problem hanging over Shion, we know that our heroine is basically a tightly stuffed powder keg. Considering her “position” in the universe at large, that… can’t end well.

Which brings us back to the most important relationship in the game: KOS-MOS and Shion.

Shion is KOS-MOS’s friend/creator/mother/(secret lover). KOS-MOS killed Shion’s fiancée. Shion killed KOS-MOS. Shion revived KOS-MOS. Shion wants to guide KOS-MOS to being more human. KOS-MOS doesn’t have feelings. KOS-MOS’s literal first act upon activation was to find and save Shion. KOS-MOS obliterated an entire gnosis fleet to save Shion. Shion cares more for KOS-MOS than anyone else, human, Realian, or otherwise. And now Shion has been tasked with, somehow, stopping KOS-MOS from destroying her home planet.

Relationship status: it’s complicated.

This is the kind of conflict that could make this series memorable. Albedo and Rubedo need to shut their gobs and make way for a conflict that isn’t going to get solved with a literal and figurative magic bullet. This is the promise of a plot that’s interesting and innovative for a JRPG, and not just another cackling villain attempting to conquer the world.

This is Xenosaga.

…. And we’ll see if they can keep it up.

Next time on Xenosaga:
What happens when emotional support needs emotional support?

3 Responses »

  1. Pingback: Xenosaga Episode II Part 01: Past Beginning | Gogglebob.com

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