Previously on Xenosaga: MOMO became a vegetable, so it’s time to go brain farming.
Actually, come to think of it, Xenosaga Episode 2 itself provides a “The Story So Far” screen every time you boot up the game. If I were cool enough to coordinate my saves with my post breaks, I could just use these silly things every time.
But I won’t.
“Now get back in the combat party where monsters can whack you around some more.”
So here we are, “Subconcious Domain”. This domain has a bunch of areas to it, and a few of them are “one (or two) visit only”. This little shack will only be visited once, and then never again.
But who cares, because The Brews are back together again! With a virtual simulation of KOS-MOS and an effectively brain dead MOMO, we’ve got the full Xenosaga Episode 1 battle party back together. Time to play with everyone’s Skill Allotment for a half hour!
Alright, back to the funky little shack.
Not much to find on the first floor of this place. There’s a jewelry box, but it’s like the one thing in the game you can’t take with you, so moving right along.
The second floor contains one small girl. Everybody get their leering pants on!
As you’ll see in the next shot, Sakura is basically a hair-swap of MOMO. Given we were told that Juli finds the 100 series eerie for this very reason, it makes sense that Sakura is a dead ringer for our favorite Realian.
And there are voices coming from her closet…
“Oh a wise guy, eh?”
Albedo, “Junior”, and “Gaignun” tumble into the room.
Always the way: you’re supposed to hang out in some girl’s room, but you just wind up stuffed in her closet. … You never forget your senior prom.
This is going to get confusing… “Current” Junior acknowledges that, yes, you’re watching his awkward adolescence. I realize I could use the URTV’s other names (Junior/Rubedo, Gaignun/Nigredo) to distinguish the children from the adults-that-look-like-children, but this plot is labyrinthine enough as is.
Lil’ Gaignun seems the most composed, and Junior and Albedo bicker like they always do.
Is she supposed to ignore the funny little men that fell out of her closet?
Sakura says hi, and the Three Stooges excuse themselves…
But Sakura is unusually excited.
Good move guys, stop talking, she’s probably cool with that.
And the scene ends with Sakura literally crying tears of joy at having new friends.
And then everyone disappears, and you’re welcome to explore the empty room. Bunnie Doll is just as disturbing as Real Bunnie from last game.
The three amigos head out to a glowy spot on the lawn, so it’s time to follow along.
INCEPTION NONSENSE! The party was just inside a simulation of Sakura’s brain, which itself was inside a simulation of the past that is occurring within MOMO’s brain. This is going to happen a lot this update.
So here’s a younger, tremendously more caring Juli Mizrahi, and to her left is Yuriev, the creator and “father” of Junior an’ the boys. Notably absent is Dr. Joachim Mizrahi, who has presumably already given up on his real daughter and is building a hundred different Realians.
Anyway, a brief conversation about these new fangled UMN terminals and how they’re giving our kids the diseases.
Here’s the trio awakening from their Sakura dive.
Junior immediately reports back on seeing Sakura. Guess there was more to that conversation than we saw.
Oh yeah, guess it’s good we didn’t steal that from her memories. … Or however that would work.
Juli is elated. Obviously, we have quite the contrast from her modern, stoic self.
“… #666, because being a URTV is pretty much like being born into a cult.”
Juli actually calls #666 “Rubedo,” though, and is instantly on her knees with happiness. Now, recall their relationship fifteen years later…
Shion gets a little nostalgic.
Junior gives a quick recap for the slow ones in the back: this is the Yuriev Institute, and we’re basically Ghost of Christmas Past’ing around.
Stay on point, people!
Let’s follow the ghostly trio and see where that leads us.
The Yuriev Institute is effectively a town, and you can wander around and talk to the NPCs for random gossip on Junior and his bros. For instance, here’s a reaffirmation that Nigredo/Gaignun is kind of a weirdo among weirdoes.
Oh, speaking of which, let’s introduce the namesake of this place, Dmitri Yuriev. Yuriev is a unique and interesting character. He’s a mad scientist…
Oh? I guess we already have a few of those. Well, the twist is that Yuriev is secretly a super-powered immortal…
Ugh? Really?… Alright, this is distinctive: Yuriev is a genius manipulator, and he’s perfectly willing to sacrifice his own children to achieve his goal of destroying God and ascending to…
Oh come on! He’s not even in this game! Bah! Fine! Yuriev is lame!
Good, glad to see that Albedo was always disturbing. And it’s only going to get worse!
The Yuriev Institute has a pretty neat design for a place that is basically a Cutscene Delivery System (CDS). It seems to be half hospital, half FUTURE SCIENCE lab. At no point do you see anything that looks like an inviting school for gifted youngsters.
At the far end of the place, you’ll find Young Junior leering into a window.
Aw, it’s a mother/daughter concert.
Full report on Sakura: she’s pretty much in some sort of walking coma, and can’t speak, but she can do a few things, like play the piano with her mother. As we’ll hear a little while later, this has been going on long enough that Juli literally doesn’t even know Sakura has a personality.
Juli also mentions that this whole “send mutant children into her brain” thing is the only thing that works. I’ll admit, it wouldn’t be my first choice of treatment.
And Junior interacting with Sakura is somehow rebuilding her brain. Yay!
Flash..back? Sideways? Whatever, to Junior and Sakura hanging out in Sakura’s head. Reminder: this is exactly where we found MOMO.
Sakura is talking about how Joachim Mizrahi is building MOMO, and Sakura is supposed to get plugged into MOMO. As ghoulish as this all sounds, Sakura is totally into it.
Ah, dramatic irony.
Sakura asks about Junior’s parents, and he replies that he doesn’t really know his mother, what with her being little more than an egg donor. Yuriev is biologically Junior’s father, though, because he’s a creep like that.
Junior is already hardcore emoing about his “boo hoo I’m a weapon” origins. Newsflash, Junior, in about fifteen years, you’ll be hanging out with an entire crew of human(ish) weapons, and you’re gonna love it.
But it’s cool, Sakura says you’re not a weapon, weapon.
Hard confirmation that Sakura definitely considers MOMO to be her sister. This isn’t some “I found my dad building a life-sized doll of me and I’d really rather he didn’t” situation. Assuming that’s a situation at all.
This is, of course, the origin of that promise Junior alluded to last update. Also, let’s recall that he didn’t keep that promise for fifteen years.
And Junior gets a kiss! Aw, to be young and doomed and in love.
This is about the only place in the whole stupid flashback that we get some actual evidence for Sakura and MOMO having different personalities. MOMO would never sneak a kiss and then giggle off into the sunset. I’m pretty sure MOMO would smile politely for hours and then maybe submit kiss requisition form #241 (chaste kiss with intent to hug) for approval.
Skip around the garden a little more and you’ll trigger another cutscene that apparently occurs a little later. Seems Junior grabbed a harmonica and is now playing sweet music with his virtual girlfriend. But this symphony is not for free, and we don’t ever get to see Junior actually doing that.
The brothers do not approve.
“You used to be cool!”
Thankfully, this doesn’t trigger the millionth flashback to Junior failing totally on Old Miltia.
Albedo has a massive dependency on Junior. Gee, wonder how that turns out.
In case you missed it, this is confirmation that Junior, Gaignun, and Albedo are different from the other 665 URTVs crawling around the place. Sorry, no one else has creepy mutant powers… unless you count the fact that they’re all telepathically linked.
Incidentally, as this scene ends, I’ll note that this whole bit is likely a rare case of Xenosaga subtlety. Albedo is jealous of the relationship between Junior and Sakura, so, a decade or so later, Albedo picks up the habit of torturing 100(ish) Series Realians, because they all look like the girl that took his brother away. MOMO, of course, is the queen of Sakura simulacrums, so she’s Albedo Enemy #1.
Note, again, that if this was all intended from the first episode, I want to say Albedo would have mentioned something…
Find your way back into the institute proper, and you’ll find the boys shocked to discover…
A girl! Yes, if you’re paying attention, Junior is #666, Albedo is #667, and Gaignun is #669. The missing number now stands before you. Meet Citrine, the orange-haired head girl URTV.
This is stupid, as girl type URTVs are wandering around the grounds just like boy types… but sure, let’s go with this.
Citrine has attitude to spare, and seems to hold fast to the old adage, “girls rule, boys drool.”
Note that this implies that Yuriev bred boy and girl URTVs… and then sent the girls off to their own clone colony. Where are the girls? They sure ain’t at the Yuriev Institute.
Looks like there’s a high mortality rate for the girls. The backstory for this involves something like URTVs are “naturally” male, and their chromosomes have to be modified to be female, which leads to genetic instability, and… eh, it’s all just an excuse to justify the complete lack of girl URTVs in Episode 1.
Citrine seems to be all about the mission, and… that’s it for her for this episode. Like Sellers, Citrine will reappear in Episode 3. For now, though, she’s just a little caterpillar of a plot that never flies.
Alright, finally, a scene where the kids are back in the tubes. Albedo admits that he’s not too fond of his older URTV brothers.
Seems like there’s a lot of… is there a word for clone racism? Specisim? Whatever it is, it’s hardwired in to the URTVs.
Except Junior. Junior loves everybody.
Alright, as opposed to just chilling with Sakura, this time they’re going to climb into her brain and shoot down whatever is causing this problem. That’s how medicine works, right?
This will work because Sakura’s problem is caused by the UMN, and U-DO is the OS of the UMN, and URTVs are trained to fight U-DO… does that wash?
Oh, we’re not going back to the porch swing and happy house? Boo. Guess we’re going to a beach.
“Or maybe buy an entire space colony and build our own!”
But the lesser URTVs decide to be revolting.
See? URTVs are dicks.
Fiercely protective, this one.
D’aww, that’s what you get for defending your lessers.
And time to dive into Sakura… that came out wrong.
So the inside of Sakura’s head is a beat-up gas station, a forest, and, eventually, a beach? How does this make any sense for a girl that’s barely left her house in the year 4750!?
Welcome to Xenosaga Episode 2’s first big dungeon! Hope you survive the experience!
Looking at the clock: 4:42. Reminder that we hit XS1’s first big dungeon at 8:43, almost exactly four hours later. Xenosaga Episode 2 moves at a much better pace… but… well…
“MOMO’s Subconscious” is easily the worst dungeon in Xenosaga Episode 2. The good news is that it’s terrible for reasons that are completely independent from XS1’s Cathedral Ship. The bad news is… everything else.
First order of business: like the Encephalon Dive (Virtual World) of XS1, this place is crawling with gnosis. The gnosis are exclusively for our benefit; there is no indication that the URTV children encounter any monsters (for now). This is kind of amusing, as, while we just had a big speech on how the gnosis are destroying the galaxy, this is literally the only dungeon in the main plot of the game that features any gnosis. From here on out, it’s all mechs and biological entities, so enjoy the “monsters” while you can.
Like these lizard wizards. I want to say their little “taunt” indicates that they’ll counter whenever attacked by the indicated character… but I was never able to pin down exactly what they mean. Like… I guess this goomba is talking about Ziggy? But KOS-MOS is an unstoppable killing machine…
Speaking of, this is the first we get to use KOS-MOS, and she basically operates like Jin from the opening dungeon. Ziggy and chaos are likely to knock a monster to the ground, Jin and KOS-MOS knock monsters up into the air. Just something to remember.
And, yes, this is her swimsuit. For a swimsuit on a character that would eventually appear in the Namco X series, it’s pretty reserved.
Anyway, back to why this dungeon sucks. First and most important reason is that a LOT of this dungeon is superfluous. Like there’s this whole road that goes north to… nowhere. There’s a box and a lame treasure after three separate battles, and then you have to double back to the start. It sucks, and it’s all in service of a sidequest that comes later in the game. For now, there’s just a bunch of dead ends where you’d think there’s some reason for this area existing, but, nope, you can’t do anything because the right sidequest hasn’t been activated yet. Way to waste the player’s time, Xenosaga.
This path through the trees is the actual way you’re supposed to go.
Come to think of it, this is the first Shion is in a combat situation, assuming you didn’t try to reenter old stomping grounds back in Miltia town. She works almost exactly like MOMO, except her long range attack is a different element (I want to say… electric? Maybe beam? Both?). Like MOMO, she’s useful for the monsters that are weak to ether (as opposed to physical) attacks.
Speaking of elemental attacks, you should start using the elemental sword ethers around now. This is your typical “mystic knight” buff, and allows you to add an element to any character’s physical attacks. Given many, many monsters are specifically weak to particular elements, this can cut down battle time dramatically (and gives your physical-based heroes an excuse to use their EP pools, too). Added bonus: if a monster is weak to an element, and everyone hits that weakness, you get a damage multiplier for stacking on the pain.
And KOS-MOS is the only member of your party to use the Special command (outside of an ES… does anyone remember those at this point?) She can perform a special attack (like summoning her chain guns of doom) at the cost of some stock… but the special attacks aren’t that great. Like a lot of the Xenosaga Episode 2 Battle System, they’re extremely situational, and most of the time you’d be better served using your stock on actual, regular attacks.
A little ways into the dungeon is this inconspicuous shed.
Destroy it, and you’ll find a Forbidden Encephalon Device. This is one of three (kinda four) in the universe, and we already saw #1 back in the real world of Second Miltia (with Other Professor). What this device is doing two levels down in MOMO’s subconscious is anybody’s guess, but remember its location for after the game is over.
Alright, let’s talk about the battle system. Remember when I said that battles seem to move faster in Xenosaga Episode 2? Well, that was a bit of a… perfect situation assessment. When battles are straightforward and everyone is comparable levels, yes, XS2 battles move much faster than in XS1. However, starting with this dungeon, that ceases to be the case.
You may have noticed that, with the “Break Zone” concept and various elemental/situational weaknesses, there a number of ways to kill your enemies. This is good! Unfortunately, the designers of XS2 noticed this, and started inflating monster HP and defenses to ridiculous levels. Now, to be clear, this isn’t a Working Designs situation where the monsters last well past the point of being boring thanks to modified values; no, what’s happening here is that you’re basically expected to find the “trick” to every monster, and then repeat that trick for every encounter. If a monster is weak to ice and has a break zone of AB, you’re supposed to ice-up your weapons, hit that AB break zone, and then boost in some more super blows. If you ignore that strategy, you’re pretty much asking for the battle to double or triple in length.
Sounds simple enough, right? It’s like Pokémon, only use Super Effective attacks, and you’ll be fine.
The only problem with this whole thing is that all your best moves require a lot of windup. To boost you have to accumulate boost in the first place, and you’ll want to stock your stock gauge, too. Casting elemental sword ethers takes time, and, ultimately, to attack the enemy with the optimal load-out, you need to spend about three turns “preparing” every battle. Every battle. And this is all assuming you know the enemy’s weaknesses in the first place…
I can see the appeal of this system. As you can see in the GIF above, when you get everything flowing, you feel like a badass knocking around a monster like a ragdoll and scoring massive damage with every hit. But the drawback is obvious, and some of the most monster-infested dungeons (every one from this point on) are exhausting thanks to the time involved.
And this dungeon is where that all starts, so I’m bitter.
Continuing on a little, there’s this suspicious rock wall, but we’re not allowed to blast it from this direction for completely arbitrary reasons.
La la la, fighting battles and wandering through nondescript forests. I don’t think we ever needed another generic wooded dungeon after the 16-bit era of JRPGs. It’s pretty much unforgivable to stick such a boring one in a game that takes place a few millennia after Earth. And we had one last game, too!
Oh yeah, pincer attacks continue to be a thing, and they continue to happen, like, all the time.
Just to spice things up the tiniest bit, you get to fell this tree to cross a river. I’d be upset about the heroes destroying nature to cross a stream that appears to be ankle deep… but it’s a double virtual world, so the environment is safe.
Here’s a big tree, and it seems like it should be relevant to something, but it’s just another piece of that sidequest you can’t start right now. But feel free to investigate around the thing trying to find the trick to it.
The next area has a stream with rocks…
And another tree to turn into a log-bridge.
The trick here is that the log will float downstream if you destroy any “obstructing” rocks. Obviously, each log stop/rock has a different reward, like if you destroy all the rocks before this one…
You’ll score a decoder key.
You can also let the log float down as far as possible to… see a really cool rock. It is, once again, another damn useless part of a sidequest.
The next area has a good log and a bad log. You can easily fall off the bad log.
And if you do, you’ll find a canyon wall that can be blasted…
And we’re back at the start(ish) of the dungeon. This would be a convenient shortcut on a revisit.
Back in the bad log neighborhood, there’s a secret path through the foliage that leads to a treasure chest. Amusingly, no one made “jumping” animations for Xenosaga Episode 2, so every time your character “jumps down” the cliff, the screen just fades out and back in.
The next area, finally, has some plot to it.
Yep, big wad of U-DO stuck in Sakura.
Albedo really missed his calling as a football star.
Incoming bad stuff!
The generic URTVs are being cut down by the U-DO waves…
And that never ends well.
By all accounts, these “monsters” are abstractions of infected URTVs. There’s evidence a little later that infected URTVs still look the same to the past-URTVs.
But we still get to fight the Monster URTVs. They’re speedy and likely to use poison attacks, but they’re not so bad.
Incidentally, as mentioned previously, Xenosaga Episode 2 is a lot more generous with savepoints. This is our third one for the area, and, depending on how you traverse the dungeon, you might loop back on the middle savepoint a couple of times. Glad to see this improvement over XS1.
Anyway, at this point the dungeon is just a straight hallway to the final boss of the area. There’s roaming packs of Monster URTVs, but it’s nothing too difficult. You should still be pretty healthy by the time you reach…
This supposed to be the beach? It doesn’t look very beachy.
This is also not something traditionally seen at the beach.
Boss fight time! Meet Level 4, which presumably stands for “Level 4 Infection” or something.
Level 4 is Xenosaga Episode 2’s ultimate expression of the whole “stock in the beginning, then pound it when it gets dicey” boss thinking. Level 4 is practically comatose when the battle begins, but he’ll ramp up as his health goes down, and become a real nuisance if you let the battle go too long.
His Break Zone is CCBB, which means you need at least one boost just to break Level 4 in the first place (first ally performs CC, second BB). Since Level 4 is effectively the Regigigas of Xenosaga, you can chill, build your stock, fill your boost with an item, and then murder Level 4 with a series of boosted break attacks right at the top of the battle. If you don’t do that…
He’ll eventually summon Monster URTV minions of his own, and they’ll all boost and work together to break your party. Here’s Level 4 attacking a “down” Ziggy, and scoring some major damage on the poor cyborg. Combine this with the URTV’s tendency to poison your party, and, oh yeah, the fact that Level 4 can eat his minions to restore health… just kill him early.
With Level 4 down, we resume with Albedo throttling an infected URTV. See? The URTV is normal looking, so the monsters were probably just all part of MOMO’s imagination. Probably.
Albedo is ready to kill the “lesser” URTV, but Junior makes him stop.
Albedo does not like being profiled as a maniac. Dude, you’re nuts, own it. Wait, that’s bad advice…
And back to the Yuriev Institute. Uh… I guess the mission failed?
Ugh, back to ghost chasing.
Oh yes, dungeon over, and we’re at 5:58. Little over an hour for that entire area. Keep that in mind for later.
We now resume our story with the kids hanging out by the local monolith.
Looks like there’s still a little animosity lingering over that whole strangulation incident.
Yep, remember Albedo’s hyper regenerative ability? He thinks everyone has that power.
“Can we get an example?”
That’s some pretty heady stuff.
Junior is pissed at Albedo’s little trick.
He’s an angry kind of concerned.
If you watch closely, you can see the exact moment Albedo’s sanity snaps.
Just about there…
Here we are. Albedo suddenly realizes that Queen was right about living forever.
And the scene ends with everyone having a good cry.
“I don’t know, chewing on tree bark? I’m his brother, I’m not psychic. … Wait.”
“The boy ain’t quite been right.”
chaos chuckles to himself for no particular reason.
Welp, guess we have Ziggy’s take on the situation. By the by, if you’re keeping track, Ziggy, chaos, KOS-MOS, and MOMO all have… let’s say unusual expected lifespans.
KOS-MOS hears something interesting for the first time this episode.
Also a reminder that Junior was just telling the century old cyborg that he should upgrade his parts to live a lil’ longer just yesterday.
Oh… that’s… sweet?
Eh, still kinda gross.
Here’s where we try to science up a reason for Junior and Albedo’s powers. Junior has the ability to “stop” cell growth… which I’m pretty sure would be instantly fatal. Your cells are doing stuff for a reason, Junior! Anyway, that’s the reason Junior is still a “kid” while Albedo and Gaignun grew up: he is literally and metaphorically in a state of arrested development.
Albedo, meanwhile, has the ability to stimulate cell growth. This makes sense for all of five seconds, and then you realize that if someone is decapitated, their head doesn’t grow back slowly because of “slow cells”, it just doesn’t grow back at all. Or maybe our cells are just lazy? And then there’s the matter of Albedo’s clothes and hairstyle returning after each fresh maiming…
Xenosaga, you should have just called it magic ether and called it a day.
Shion gonna Shion. Even though Albedo tried to personally murder her and blow up her home planet, she still just wants to see the estranged brothers reconcile. Ziggy, meanwhile, is checking the UMN for diseases that will kill a mutant with accelerated cell growth.
Ah ha ha it’s funny because the entire universe is in danger.
Back to the lab. Looks like Helmer decided to swing in for this one.
Aw, he’s such a good dad (no he isn’t).
And it’s Helmer’s first day seeing the URTVs.
Juli has some child-endangerment concerns.
And Helmer expresses similar reservations about a child mutant army. For the record, he seems most concerned about the kids themselves, and not the obvious concern a military man might have about sending literal children to fight an unknowable, god-like force (that is God).
But let’s push past that. Looks like the kids are going on a playdate (last time this led to how many mutant freakouts?).
Wait, this looks familiar…
OH U-DO, WE HAVE TO DO THIS STUPID DUNGEON ALL OVER AGAIN!? That was an hour of my life! And we have to do it again? Screw this noise, I’m going home!
Next time on Xenosaga: A farewell to arms.