The full name of the game is Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut. Once again, we have a German Friedrich Nietzsche quote. The English translation is “Beyond Good and Evil”. The original Nietzsche book of the same name is predominantly a tirade aimed at previous philosophers, based generally on the concept that far too much of the old guard was wrapped up in faith and absolute concepts like good and evil. Nietzsche posited that Man should look past these outdated moralities, and that “the evil man” is no different than “the good man”, they just have different expressions of their needs.
The most obvious villain of Episode 2 is a religious figurehead (good man) who, incidentally, destroys an entire planet in pursuit of conquering the universe (evil man).
Additionally, Shion is asked to save the universe (good) by killing children (bad). Similarly, Junior saves the universe (good) by killing his brother (bad). In both cases, the “hard” morality of good and evil does not apply, as murder is made to be a kindness, and fratricide averts genocide.
And, as we’re reminded when Wilhelm literally calls the title out during his intermission soliloquy, Albedo is at the center of this fuzzy morality. Shion is able to rescue Cecily and Cathe… because Albedo unlocked Old Miltia in the first place… because he effectively raped MOMO, twice. An evil man did an evil thing and a good thing was able to be done by a good woman. Technically, Albedo may have the blessing of U-TIC, and The Brews the blessing of the Miltian Government, but both are operating in a legally undefined area according to the Federation Government as a whole.
In short, Xenosaga Episode 2 asks the player to consider that the good guys aren’t always good, and the bad guys aren’t always bad.
Now let’s look at the characters.
Dr. Shion Uzuki
Where we started: Shion, somehow still Chief of Vector R&D, took a week off to test out the new KOS-MOS android and maybe save a world or two in the process. After meeting the rest of the Xenosaga Episode 1 players, Shion landed on Second Miltia, now with the mission of returning KOS-MOS to Vector.
What we learn: Did you know that Shion is really attached to KOS-MOS? After Vector pried ol’ blue hair from Shion’s grip, Shion decided to visit her last surviving family member, Jin. Actually, Jin kind of snuck up on her, and it turns out that Shion can’t stand her brother. Then Shion helped out some friends, stole a prototype ship from her employer, and, eventually, came face to face with the concept of “acceptable losses”. In the end, Shion set Feb’s sisters free (via machine gun), and then helped defeat their tormentor. Oh, and she seems to tolerate Jin a little more, too. Maybe because he saved her life? Again, I mean.
Where are they now? Shion was last seen back at Vector HQ telling KOS-MOS, “It’s time to go home.” I don’t know if this means that Shion has come to terms with her own self enough to let KOS-MOS go, or if she’s just going to permanently kidnap KOS-MOS and make her a maid or something. Actually, if this story were at all realistic, Shion would be fired about ten seconds after she returned with not one but two stolen “universe buster” class walking weapons… but her boss seems pretty understanding, I guess. Comes with the immortality. Shion needs her job right now, anyway, as she’s going to blow a lot of credits on therapy after this adventure. At least she won’t have to go back to Old Miltia again! … Right?
Best Moment: Shion finally comes to the realization that the universe isn’t all unicorns (not the gnosis) and rainbows, and sometimes your deathbot has to cause a little death. The death of Cecily and Cathe is basically the entire point of two games worth of character development, and it’s just plain a well-directed scene, too. All Shion wants is universal peace, but sacrifices must be made to get there.
Where we started: Good job saving everyone’s lives, KOS-MOS! KOS-MOS was instrumental not only in disassembling the Death Star du jour, Proto Merkabah, but she also nearly killed herself guiding the Elsa back into safe reentry. KOS-MOS was definitely MVA (Most Valuable Android) of Xenosaga Episode 1.
What we learn: So I guess she could use a game off. KOS-MOS is barely present for most of XS2, and only asserts the ol’ unstoppable android pride during the middle of the game when Shion is in danger. Other than that, KOS-MOS dodges her world-exploding prophecy through no choice of her own, and eventually gets to use her armor upgrades to repel U-DO in a completely justified situation. And those blue eyes didn’t pop back into focus once.
Where are they now? Back with Shion. There was much talk at the beginning of the game about the gnosis becoming more and more of a galactic threat, so anti-gnosis weapon KOS-MOS is likely due for an upgrade and more field work. Then again, while KOS-MOS has been very valuable to the crew of the Elsa, she’s been kind of crap at actually doing her job on a universal scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if a company as large as Vector has other anti-gnosis answers in the works.
Best Moment: I’ve made a website or two in my day, and I’ve coded each and every one to, in the event that I’m in danger, transform nearby objects into bitchin’ space motorcycles and fly across space to my rescue. It’s the best thing any AI can do.
Where we started: Allen is Shion’s second. Actually, that’s probably inaccurate, Shion seems to consider KOS-MOS as her most reliable friend. Allen is Shion’s third. No, wait, I think Shion listens to Nephilim, cryptic red headed ghost, more than Allen. Allen is Shion’s fourth. No, I think Shion’s arm thingy ranks higher. Allen is Shion’s friend. Actually, she kind of treats him pretty lousy. Allen knows Shion. Yeah, that sounds right.
What we learn: In a game where KOS-MOS barely gets any screen time, Allen doesn’t have a prayer. Actually, this is a lot like Sailor Moon or Dragonball Z: once we’ve got all the sailor scouts or saiyans or whatever running around, we don’t need to deal with Usagi’s mundane best friend or Krillin ever again. Yes, Allen is the Krillin of Xenosaga…. Sorry, Krillin. As such, we only really see Allen on the occasions that Shion is separated from the party, and even then, Jin kinda steals the show. Allen spent most of this game as wallpaper, but there was that stretch on the Dammerung where he left a sweat trail from Shion’s room all the way to the ES Dinah hangar.
Where are they now? Do you even understand how much paperwork you have to do when you’re covering for your boss/crush that stole gigantic weapons and was then involved with the destruction of an entire planet? And try to explain Shion’s actions without using the phrase “angry ghosts”. Allen is gonna be busy for a while.
Best Moment: Allen was actually complimented by Shion on a few scarce occasions. I’m pretty sure he now routinely Encephalon dives into his own memories to relive those precious ten seconds.
Where we started: Jin is the supreme badass that singlehandedly took out entire AMWS with his bare sword. Then he defeated Margulis, a man that nearly killed Ziggy during XS1, in a wicked awesome swordfight. This guy is amazing!
What we learn: He’s also Shion’s brother. And, bad news, turns out there isn’t much of a call for rad sword skills in the day-to-day world of Xenosaga, so he’s just been kind of a layabout since Old Miltia. But, despite his years of idleness, Jin comes out of retirement (well, he was running a bookstore) for one last score, and winds up saving everyone from another Margulis attack in the process. Good job, Jin!
Where are they now? Jin decides to join the Elsa crew officially at the end of Xenosaga Episode 2. It’s unknown what will be the Elsa’s next mission, but it seems Jin joined to further investigate Ormus and U-TIC, the organizations responsible for the destruction of Old Miltia. This sounds noble until you recall the crew of the Elsa… so Jin is probably just going to spend the next six months drinking while chaos cleans up the empties.
Best Moment: Which Jin vs. Margulis swordfight would you like? I want to say the second one wins, since, ya know, it saves the party from almost certain death, but the original is the first clear sign that Xenosaga Episode 2 is going to be much more action-packed than its predecessor, so either works.
Ziggurat 8 aka Ziggy
Where we started: Ziggurat 8 was hired to rescue MOMO from the clutches of U-TIC and return her safely to Second Miltia. Ziggy did that, and, along the way, started to develop an endearing father/daughter relationship with MOMO. Is this newfound joy enough to keep the previously overtly suicidal Ziggy truckin’?
What we learn: Yep! Ziggy (rather inadvertently) further slots himself into the role of surrogate father to MOMO, as he deepens his relationship with MOMO even further (holding her hand during the scary procedure that is the Y-Data extraction), and coming to compare parenting tips with MOMO’s mom, Juli Mizrahi. It’s not a very traditional family unit, but century old cyborg dad, grieving mom, and artificially created daughter all seem to be pretty dang friendly by the time the credits roll. Also, Ziggy discovered the guy that killed his real family is still alive, so that’s important, too.
Where are they now? Ziggy now has an official job with the Kukai Foundation, compliments of his friend and occasional rival, Junior. In the event that MOMO needs a bodyguard, though, Ziggy will be loaned out to MOMO as first priority. Mom, I wanna go to the mall, can Ziggy come? Please?
Best Moment: Ziggy gets a lot more moments to shine in this game, but I’m going to go with something a little more solemn. The conversation between Juli and Ziggy while Ziggy is undergoing maintenance is probably the saddest, most real thing in this game. Juli and Ziggy are both parents that lost children, and they have a very frank conversation about how difficult it is just to be a survivor in such a situation. But it’s not all darkness, it’s this conversation that seems to turn Juli around on her feelings for MOMO, so Ziggy actually accomplishes something really important to him that would have been impossible without his grief. There’s a subtle moral here, and it’s that even when your life is at its absolute worst, if you persevere, you might be able to help people through talking about your own experiences. Also, it’s one of the few scenes in a JRPG that I feel like was written by real, live adults.
Where we started: MOMO is the Realian child of Dr. Mizrahi (both), and contains the Y-Data, important information that Joachim Mizrahi squirreled away for a rainy day. As a result, MOMO is the number one kidnap victim in the universe, though she’s had a pretty good run of freedom thanks to her new bodyguard, Ziggy.
What we learn: Turns out MOMO was built to replace Sakura, Dr. Mizrahi (both, again)’s daughter who was mentally paralyzed and died young. Despite this rather creepy origin, Sakura and MOMO consider each other to be sisters, and, while they never really got to interact, they seem to have similar optimistic outlooks and taste in boys. MOMO went through a harrowing ordeal as Albedo once again tore the Y-Data from her brain, but she recovered, and eventually learned that Joachim Mizrahi is not actually a mad man, just a guy that was used by some evil organizations and maybe made a few poor life choices.
Where are they now? Despite some troubles, MOMO made out really well this episode. One parent got vindicated, and the other, Juli Mizrahi, decided she was going to love MOMO like a second daughter, not an artificial replacement. As a result, MOMO now has real home with Juli, and seems to have wrapped up any dangling threads. MOMO pretty much has everything she ever wanted, and would likely only have to return to active duty if a certain redheaded boy was in danger.
Best MOMOment: She doesn’t really do anything at the time, but I can’t help but feel happy for MOMO when Jin finally discovers that Dr. Joachim Mizrahi was actually a pretty nice guy. MOMO spent two games grappling with the idea of her beloved father being the most hated figure in the galaxy, so it’s a nice release when MOMO learns her feelings were not misplaced. Aside from one really bad day, MOMO has a pretty worthwhile Episode 2 experience.
Where we started: chaos is a member of the Elsa crew, and the only crewman that can vaporize gnosis with his bare hands. Also, only human in the galaxy that can do that. Also, relatedly, maybe not human. Anyway, at the end of XS1, this deeply mysterious young man decided that he was going to start being more active, and seemed to save the Elsa with the help of KOS-MOS.
What we learn: Not much! It seemed like we might be in for a lot of chaos info when he headlined the opening area, but from then on, chaos slinked right into the background, maybe playing poker with Canaan and Allen when no one was looking. chaos was his usual supportive self to anyone in the immediate area, but, for the majority of the game, chaos was a major nonentity. I guess we learned, thanks to the opening, that chaos is ageless, though. That’s something.
Where are they now? Like last time, we don’t really get any chaos information until the very end. There, we learn that Wilhelm and chaos definitely have a relationship, and chaos once again affirms that he’s going to take a more active role in future events. Fool me once, Yeshua…
Best moment: There’s some kind of understated glory in the opening scene when Canaan is repeatedly insulting chaos for being a “normal human” and chaos replies that he’s nowhere near normal. Ha, this is another game where chaos is only interesting at his absolute start and end.
Wilhelm & The Testaments
Where we started: Wilhelm is the president of Vector, and clearly up to something. We don’t know exactly what, but a guy like that doesn’t have creepy undead hooded henchmen for nothing.
What we learn: Another resounding “not much”. Wilhelm seems to play even less of a part in this game than the last, and only really appears during the game’s “intermission” to sit back and talk about how everything is going according to plan and bwa ha ha and whatnot. The Testaments show up to ruin Patriarch’s plans (presumably on Wilhelm’s orders), and we learn that Black Testament is an old acquaintance of Ziggy, but that’s about it. Oh, and Shion totally recognized Red Testament’s voice, so if there was any doubt about Kevin, Shion’s mostly-dead fiancée, being under that red hood, it’s gone now.
Where are they now? Wilhelm was last seen having a psychic (?) conversation with chaos. Hey, Wilhelm has finally interacted with a party member! Actually, no, he was last seen reviving Albedo to round out his henchmen with White Testament. Apparently, Wilhelm is seeking a route back to Old Jerusalem (aka Earth) to awaken KOS-MOS. At least someone cares about KOS-MOS!
Best Moment: I will never get tired of Wilhelm watching Shion steal the ES Dinah. Like, did he create this entire giant company just to let one random “chosen one” run around and steal stuff? Does he, like, cover for her? I bet the Vector rumor mill is just ablaze with gossip about these two.
Junior aka Rubedo aka Gaignun Kukai Jr.
Where we started: Junior is the VP of the Kukai Foundation, a company that has a general goal of obtaining all the Zohar emulators and keeping the galaxy safe from events like the Miltian Conflict. Junior also has a twin brother named Albedo, and he’s kind of a handful.
What we learn: Everything! Between repeated “random” flashbacks and a dive into MOMO’s head that somehow becomes all about Junior, we are now about six baby photos away from knowing everything about Junior’s life. Let’s see here: he was once a conjoined twin (with Albedo), he grew up under the watchful eye of the Yuriev Institute, he has the ability to “halt cell growth” so his agelessness is entirely self-induced (albeit probably subconsciously), his first (only?) love was Sakura Mizrahi, and his relationship with his brothers is… complicated. Also, he’s got a sister named Citrine, but I’m sure that’s unimportant.
Where are they now? Junior spent the whole game getting up the nerve to kill Albedo… and then he died. Then he came back!…. And died again. But the Testaments brought him back, again! Now, this time, Junior finally got to give a bullet to Albedo. Junior did the deed, but was not very happy about it. Junior is really good at repression, though, so he bought a puppy and named him Alby. He also seems to have missed that his other brother hasn’t been around a lot recently…
Best moment: Can you really say “best” when it’s brother shooting brother? It’s sad for everybody involved, but at least Junior and Albedo get to toss their philosophies at each other. It was very cathartic for everybody.
Where we started: Albedo is a complete maniac that wants to reconnect with U-DO, and will do anything to see that goal met. He already threatened an entire planet once, and now it looks like he’s going to pick up his pursuit of MOMO and the Y-Data.
What we learn: And he did it! Albedo left a trap in MOMO’s brain, stole the Y-Data, and then unlocked the path to Old Miltia, apparently disintegrating in the process. But he got better! And was then obliterated by Proto Omega. But the Testaments brought him back to life! And then reconnected with U-DO, and became a giant swirly mass of red or something. Albedo was apparently going to use this power to “elevate the universe” or some such thing.
Where are they now? But he didn’t get to do that, as Junior flew in and shot the guy. Considering the majority of Albedo’s final dungeon was a giant taunt to get Junior good and mad, I want to say that some part of Albedo was suicidal, or his anti-U-DO “programming” reasserted itself to “trick” Junior into banishing U-DO. Whatever the case, Albedo was killed, and lifted off to heaven by Realian angels. Oh, and then Wilhelm revived Albedo again, so I guess he’s back, just with a snazzy new cloak. That thing is going to be a pain to keep clean.
Best moment: Albedo schooled the heroes at pretty much every turn, and only went down when at least one part of him wanted to go down. With that in mind, I want to say his absolute best moment was toward the end of the MOMO dive, when Albedo casually strolls into the chaos and sticks Junior in a headlock. Brotherly love, right there.
Gaignun & Yuriev
Where we started: Gaignun is Junior’s supportive little brother and president of the Kukai Foundation. Dmitri Yuriev is father to Junior (and all the URTVs), and coincidentally, was shot dead by Gaignun. Now, they share a body! Oh, what whacky hijinks are these two going to get up to?
What we learn: Yuriev didn’t even seem to exist in the Episode 1 materials, but now we know that he is the mad scientist responsible for cloning himself almost 700 times. He seems to have done this in order to kill U-DO, but why he would put so much effort into such a thing is anybody’s guess. When Yuriev was killed by a young Gaignun (Nigredo), Yuriev jumped bodies, and took fourteen or so years to reassert control. Now, Gaignun, whom Junior trusts implicitly, is switching back and forth between his own personality and that of Yuriev, who incidentally just took over the Galactic Parliament. That’s probably going to be important.
Where are they now? Did Yuriev just take over the Galactic Parliament with one pistol? That seemed to be the implication. Anyway, I guess no one thought to call Gaignun about his dead/genocidal brother, because The Brews just got the memo that Yuriev was alive at all, left alone sneaking around in Gaignun’s body. If there are any overt sequel hooks in Xenosaga Episode 2, here we are.
Best moment: I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself, but I just love that Yuriev took over Space Government while everybody else was worried about the Zohar. This is the kinda guy that encourages everyone in the building to take a simultaneous vacation, and then you come back to find out all the locks have been changed. Major villain potential.
The Elsa Crew & Helmer & Canaan & Mary & Shelley
Where we started: Here are the good guys’ support staff. Let’s see here… The Elsa crew is there for transport and general amusement, Helmer is the one friendly government figure, and Mary & Shelley are support for any Kukai/Durandal business. Canaan is the newbie, and… what did he do again?
What we learn: When the main cast barely gets development, you better believe Hammer doesn’t have a chance. Everyone just kind of carried on their separate but generally well defined roles for this adventure. Did you know Tony is an ace pilot? Mary & Shelley are great with computers? Helmer is helpful? That’s all I got. Canaan was also a mobile maguffin that had to be ferried to Old Miltia, but, aside from a few snide comments, he barely existed past the opening.
Where are they now? Just hanging around their respective haunts, hoping to help in any way possible. Actually, come to think of it, I have no idea where Canaan wound up. Like, he’s got the data out of his head now, does he have any reason to hang out with Helmer or Jin?
Best Moment: It turns out Mary has been trying to get a comedy duo together with Shelley for years, but Shelley is not having it. I’d buy that for a dollar!
Margulis & U-TIC
Where we started: U-TIC was responsible for the most villainous acts in Episode 1, and Margulis was the apparent leader of the organization. They even hired Albedo to steal the Y-Data, which he was apparently going to do anyway, but it makes things simpler when bad guys work together. Anywho, U-TIC’s ultimate goal appeared to be obtaining the Zohar, for whatever reason, and weren’t afraid to crack a few eggs to do so.
What we learn: It was generally clear that U-TIC was a religious organization (their main base contained a chapel, after all), but the connection became a lot more apparent in XS2, as U-TIC appears to be an unofficial branch of The Immigrant Fleet. That said, while Margulis and U-TIC generally followed the orders of The Patriarch for most of the game, they withdrew their support when The Patriarch gained Proto Omega. This was apparently at the behest of U-TIC’s true patron, Heinlein, who is certainly not secretly Wilhelm.
Where are they now? The Immigrant Fleet proper is probably in deep doodoo after having their pope attempt to take over the universe, so I doubt U-TIC will be getting much support in that department. That said, Margulis, Pellegri, Sellers, Richard, and Hermann all survived and are ready for new challenges, so I’d expect to see this villainous organization make a comeback. They seemed to be operating fine without padre before…
Best Moment: Margulis gets his ass kicked by Jin, and then up and quits on this whole cheesy religion thing. Look, Patriarch, it’s not that I think the organization is going nowhere, just, you have a super weapon now, and I’m a guy with a sword? What am I supposed to offer? I’m gonna take off.
Patriarch Sergius XVII & The Immigrant Fleet & Ormus
Where we started: Patriarch is new to the Xenosaga Universe, and he’s apparently the head of a major religion that looks an awful lot like Christianity. He’s convinced that, since The Immigrant Fleet has been responsible for the Zohar for ages, he is entitled to Old Miltia’s greatest treasure (that can incidentally power super weapons). Unknown to the public at large, Patriarch is also the leader of Ormus, an organization… that is apparently exactly the same as The Immigrant Fleet, but more overtly evil.
What we learn: The Patriarch is about as evil as it gets. He might play the kindly old space pope card for the public, but the minute he can make a play for power, he destroys a planet and awakens a universe-destroying super weapon. Apparently, he’s got some sort of beef with the fact that the kids today wear their pants too low or something, and wants to bring back good ol’ fashioned family values. With his death laser.
Where are they now? Scattered into a million molecules across the vacuum of space. The Testaments were none too happy with Patriarch’s plans, and they showed up to vaporize the geezer. Interestingly, I believe this means that The Brews didn’t even have to participate in this battle, it was just going to work itself out anyway.
Best moment: Let us have a moment of silence for Patriarch’s most loyal underling, Orgulla… Orgulla… is that right? Really? I thought her name was “Manes.” Okay, we’ll stick to Orgulla. Remember all the good times we had with Orgulla? Good times. Good times.
Where we started: U-DO is a malevolent force trapped on Old Miltia, and if it ever gets out, we’re doomed. DOOMED!
What we learn: Well, turns out that U-DO is the central power battery for the UMN, the space internet of Xenosaga. This seem like a bad idea to anybody else? U-DO is also, apparently, a big red blob that never does anything. Like, everyone is always afraid of It escaping and ravaging the universe and whatever, but all It seems to have done is create a spiderweb or two in U-TIC’s basement. Get off Your maroon butt and do something, U-DO!
Where are they now? Hell if I know. Albedo had linked up with U-DO, Junior killed Albedo, and then… U-DO disappeared? Or did it get sucked into the Zohar? I have no idea. Like, It’s not an immediate threat, so I guess we’re in the clear.
Best moment: Vector Boss explains what U-DO is all about… and we still have no idea what’s going on.
Where we started: The greatest threat to the universe since U-DO! Angry space monsters are ravaging the universe, and there’s a mad dash to create something that will stop them! KOS-MOS was designed for this purpose, as well as MOMO and the AGWS (remember those?). We have to do something to stop these gnosis before more lives are lost! Also, Shion might become a gnosis.
What we learn: Noooooooooothing. Okay, we learned that the gnosis have destroyed a whopping 120 star systems… and that’s the last they’re canon mentioned until the absolute end of the game. We fought a few gnosis as part of MOMO’s subconscious domain, but they were just battle fodder, and didn’t mean much. And I guess there were a few sidequests that involved gnosis that had clearly been humans (RIP Rod), but that’s all we got.
Where are they now? But the gnosis make a big splash during the ending, when a gnosis the size of a solar system identified as Abel’s Ark makes the scene and steals the Zohar. Gawrsh, I wonder if we’re going to revisit that plot point in Xenosaga Episode 3.
Best moment: See above
Professor, Assistant Scott, and Erde Kaiser
Where we started: Professor and his pals were a handful of optional characters in Xenosaga Episode 1. Professor and Assistant Scott built the best damn giant robot in the universe, Erde Kaiser, and… that’s about it. They brought love, friendship, and 9999 attacks to a universe desperately in need.
What we learn: Despite the fact that his old digs would have been easily accessible, Professor and Assistant Scott joined the crew of the Elsa. And Professor has an evil twin, Dark Professor! And Dark Professor might not be all that evil, he just… goes to extremes. Sounds familiar. In the end, Dark Professor was defeated by the Realian Justice Warriors and Professor’s latest creation, Erde Kaiser Fury.
Where are they now? There seems to be no indication that Professor and Assistant Scott left the Elsa before it took off with new crewman Jin. Amusingly, if you consider “booting up a clear save data” to be standard practice, Professor is no longer an entirely optional character, as you’re guaranteed to at least have one conversation regarding Dark Professor. Hopefully he sees a similar promotion in time for XS3.
Best moment: Seeing Dark Erde Kaiser on its knees, groveling at the pain of a thousand crotch-blows.
Episode 2, complete
Once again, I’m going to take a brief, fake hiatus before starting Episode 3. What’s today? Let’s say Episode 3 is guaranteed by August 1, but it may come earlier depending on how bored I become. Related: I’m not even going to pretend there won’t be an intermission or two this time, so I’m pretty sure this thread is going to update sooner than later…
Next time on Xenosaga: But what if Xenosaga was released ten years earlier?