Xenosaga Episode III Part 01: Begin Again at the End

I’m not going to lie: I’m excited about this.

Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is the final entry in the Xenosaga trilogy. After two previous PS2 RPGs, a DS remake of those same games, an anime series, cell phone tie-in, flash series, and one visual novel/game of scrabble, Xenosaga was finally ready to throw in the towel. This was not the original plan.

As has been randomly alluded to, Xenosaga was initially supposed to be a six part series, but that was cut down to a more manageable trilogy pretty quickly. Accounts differ on whether or not this was simply the action of a cautious Namco, something inspired by the fact that Monolith Soft couldn’t even finish Episode 1 in a timely manner (so what were the odds of another five being practical?), or simply that the franchise never performed as well as expected (the next Final Fantasy 7 this ain’t), but the end result was the same: three games became 2.5 (with a sprinkling of spinoffs). Incidentally, I use that 2.5 number because, as we all know by now, Episode 1 & 2 were initially planned as one cohesive game, so it wasn’t like “real” Episode 1 & 2 were the initially planned, separate Episode 1 and Episode 2.

Which already leads to a weird kind of trilogy issue. Xenosaga Episode 2 picks up immediately after the end of Episode 1, much more like a “continuation” than a proper “sequel”. Episode 2 does not stand on its own in the same way that Kill Bill Volume 2 requires a viewing of Kill Bill Volume 1. Meanwhile, the original plan was something more akin to the Nolan Batman Trilogy: similar themes, familiar characters, but a different “story” every time. Albedo had his turn as the villain, now let’s get a (different) Testament in there, and maybe we’ll save Wilhelm himself for the end.

Unfortunately, as it stands, Episode 2 (the real one) set a dangerous precedent for the series. Episode 2, the “continuation” sequel, made it seem like Xenosaga was interested in telling one solid story across its trilogy, and that’s it. The Brews saved the world from Proto Omega and the Space Pope, and now they’ll take a week off, maybe pick it back up when Margulis leaves an inappropriate comment on MOMO’s twitter, and we’re back in business and busting gnosis all over again.

Episode 3 had other plans.

And there’s another fly in the ointment…

As randomly mentioned during XS2’s bonus content posts (which, if you haven’t read ‘em for some reason, go ahead and click back and read at least A Missing Year. You’ll thank me), Namco, in advance of XS3’s release, made it clear that Xenosaga was done. The official word was that Xenosaga might continue if Xenosaga Episode 3 sold particularly well, but, even before its release, it was clear Namco was totally over this whole “JRPG epic” thing. We have no way of knowing how this impacted the production of XS3, but, if the game itself is any indication, apparently Monolith Soft made a focused effort to tie up every loose end it could find before the finale. In a way, I almost envy the attention to detail and care for the characters that sees the entire cast (almost) find resolution before closing time. On the other hand, though, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to start a whole new plot when barely anything had been answered about the old plot.

What am I getting at here? Basically, Xenosaga Episode 3, practically from its inception, was always destined to be a glorious train wreck. Old and new slamming into each other at maximum speed, and we’re left to sort through the bodies.

And I can’t wait.

Xenosaga Episode 3 was released in America on August 29, 2006. That would be three years, six months, and three days after the release of Xenosaga Episode 1. That’s a lot of time to remember the details of the original game that, by the finale of XS3, is referenced once every 22 seconds. Remember KOS-MOS’s blue eyes? Shion’s flashback to her awful childhood? Old Miltia minutia? Some of this nonsense wasn’t even whispered in XS2, but it’s going to be super important for the reveals of XS3. I’ve devoted a lot of time to this project, and I have trouble remembering the particulars of posts I wrote six months ago, I didn’t have a prayer when there was three and a half years involved. When I first played XS3, I could recognize, “oh yeah, that was supposed to be important, wasn’t it?” but still not recall exactly why such a thing was important. I always wanted to replay this trilogy “continuously” without years of interruption between games, but… memories of trudging through Cherenkov hell again….

I’ll remind you that this project would have never started without a cheat to avoid a healthy amount of drudgery.

But now here we are at the beginning of the finale. Now it’s all going to make sense! The hours of foreshadowing and foreboding are going to pay off with interest! We’re going to find out how all the pieces fit together! KOS-MOS is more than meets the eye, and we’re going to face that truth right in the peepers. This is it, people!

Or it’s all going to turn out to be a sixty hour con.

Let’s find out, shall we?

Here we are at the beginning of the end, Xenosaga Episode III Also Sprach Zarathustra. Again, we’ve got the German philosophy major dictating the subtitle, but now it’s a little more specific than the past allusions. Who or what is Zarathustra? Somebody remind me to look into that.

Excerpts from various cutscenes throughout the game play behind the official logo. Amusingly enough, one of the scenes is of Red Testament unmasking, but the logo obscures his face. Who could Red Testament be!?

We’ve (naturally) got Episode 2 clear data, so we receive the bonus item, Shion’s Vector uniform. Bonus costumes work a little differently in this game, so we’ll cover that when it seems relevant.

We open about (exactly) two decades before the start of Xenosaga on the humble planet of Michtam. You may recall this planet was, about a hundred years ago, home to one Jan Sauer. He probably hasn’t been home in a while.

At least, let’s hope he hasn’t been home in a while. Property values have really taken a hit recently.

Hey, nice necklace.

Mother and child in the middle of a gnosis warzone. I’m sure this is going to end well.

I believe the official story here is that everyone tried to run their clothes dryers at the same time.

That building is the least on fire… let’s go there.

Mama loads the poor boy into what appears to be some manner of escape pod.

And gives him her lovely necklace as a memento (mori).

Sorry, kid, mom’s not joining you in the pod. You kinda smell.


Hm?

Who gnoes what just happened. Oh, I know this one!

Doomed planet…

Last hope…

Superma…. Wait… uh… Red Testament? Oh, whatever.

This spot look familiar to anybody? If you have a particularly good memory, you may recall that this location looks a lot like the inside of KOS-MOS’s brain from waaaaay back around the middle of Xenosaga Episode 1. We’re starting with the deep cuts here, and it’s only going to get worse.

Alright, here’s the deal: there was either a budget cut or someone noticed that making every damn scene a fully acted polygonal performance was a giant drain on resources (or both!), so the majority of chatty scenes in XS3 are now (voice acted) dialogue boxes. By and large, the characters don’t really move that much (or naturally) during these scenes. When something -important- is happening (like the prologue we just saw), we get full production value, but otherwise, get used to seeing these talking heads. Frankly, it’s kind of a letdown after I spent the previous two games complimenting the “little things”.

Note that I’ll try to help out with the script whenever my own slothfulness allows, but generally read whatever you see in a capture, and the darker text (the bottom box in the picture above) is what came first chronologically.

Any questions? Okay, moving on.

As usually goes with these guys, the Testaments are discussing something that won’t make sense for another ten hours.

The Testaments are completely incapable of using proper nouns, but Blue Virgil here is basically taunting Red Testament about his Shion obsession. WHO COULD RED TESTAMENT BE!?

Blue Virgil is calling the (presumably) woman in the coffin a “princess”. Another deep cut… recall that KOS-MOS was called the Princess of Vector First Division back at the absolute start of XS1.

Also recall that Virgil is a damn freak.

I really have to question Wilhelm’s hiring policies.

Now we cut to actual things happening! A mysterious AMWS flies through what appears to be some kind of futuristic city while other AMWS pursue.

And a certain someone is piloting the ES Dinah. Our heroine is here, and she decided to start kicking ass!

Her new sidekick is Miyuki, the nerd that invented Shion’s arm thingy.

Like the beginning of XS2, we’re starting (after all the preamble) with a giant robot fight. I approve.

In the absence of Allen (who is presumed to be stuck in a rabbit hole after eating too much honey), Miyuki is going to have to be Shion’s abuse victim for the update. Dr. Uzuki is not the best manager.

The other friendly AMWS is piloted by…

Doctus of Scientia. I guess I should give her an official introduction now that we’re in a real game.

Maybe it’s just because of her late introduction to the series, but Doctus really feels like that mary-sue type character everyone is always complaining about. She’s a kick ass cyborg that defeats KOS-MOS in her first appearance, eventually unearths secret truths the party seems to have missed for years, and has a tendency to dual-wield heavy weaponry. She basically spends all of her time being impeccably cool. That said, beyond her obvious plot facilitation, she (and by extension, the never otherwise seen Scientia) doesn’t really do much. In fact, her combat prowess that was so ludicrous in A Missing Year is never seen again, and she’ll basically stand around and fill that “good guy plot exposition machine” role Helmer and Gaignun seemed to share in earlier games. That’s convenient, considering she’s a machine.

Also, yes, her name/organization is the dumbest thing ever. I look forward to meeting B-Ball, Agent of S.P.O.R.T.

And Doctus’s co-pilot is Canaan. You might remember Canaan as the Realian that spent most of XS2 whining about his brain.

Doctus and Canaan might be a little more adept at this piloting thing than the Science Sisters.

Alright, last stop, time to leave the unstoppable giant robots and walk around like dorks.

Miyuki is impressed with Canaan’s abilities. Also, side note, Miyuki and Shion should not wear the same outfit. Or maybe I’m just anime racist.

“We don’t have time to compliment our teammates, Miyuki. Always insult your underlings at all times!”

Doctus warns everyone that this mission is going to be life-threatening and will probably get everyone locked up in super Vector jail. Reminder that Shion just met a guy a few months ago that Vector had digitized and imprisoned for centuries…

Doctus isn’t going to get out of her AMWS, and will leave this mission to a proper three person party.

Because Allen isn’t here. I thought I made that clear.

So we’ve got Shion, Miyuki, and Canaan. A party that is 66% “new” characters. Neat! And we’re infiltrating Vector’s S-Line Division for… something. Data? That sounds good.

Top secret data. And, yes, Doctus is going to stay in the car and catch up on her magazines. Have fun, kids!

No matter the (real life) region, Doctus has a tendency to randomly spout Latin. I’m sure that sounds a lot more interesting in areas where people didn’t have to grow up with that one kid that was always bragging about how he was going to become a doctor and was constantly quoting philosophers and dammit Nick why did you beat me out on the class rank and get to… Erm… uh… What were we talking about?

Hey, why does Canaan get his own costume? We tried to coordinate our wardrobes here…

Miyuki notes to the party (player) that she prepared a wiki for Shion.

Aw, our last first menu open.

The database works just like the UMN command during XS1 (and the DS game), and contains a whole host of information on Xenosaga and the game world. At the immediate moment, it’s filled with a summary of Xenosaga Episode 1, 2, and the A Missing Year flash movie.

The database provides a pretty good summary of AMY, though leaves out a lot of the more interesting flourishes, like how many asses Doctus kicks at any given moment. It also kinda makes it sound like some people other than Jin accomplished anything.

Miyuki alludes to the fact that your database is going to update constantly throughout the game, but who has time to sit around and read? It’s time to infiltrate Vector or something!

Gameplay… start! I timed it, and Xenosaga Episode 3 has the quickest introduction of the trilogy, even if it did seem to cram more scenes in there.

Now that we’re on solid ground (sorta), let’s talk about voice actors. My absolute first reaction to this opening cinema was, “Oh, Shion sounds like Shion again.” I didn’t know if this was because I got used to the XS2 voice over the course of that game, that VA changed her tone, or if the original voice of Shion returned. Turns out it was that last choice, as XS1’s Lia Sargent returns to voice Shion after taking XS2 off. Bridget Hoffman of XS1 also returns, and she gets to voice not one but two KOS-MOSes. Kind of three. I don’t blame Hoffman for ignoring XS2 (as KOS-MOS had like six lines in that entire game), but it’s weird that Shion switched actresses, as it certainly wasn’t because she didn’t have enough of a role in any of these games. Even if her role is reduced in XS2 by Junior/Albedo, she’s the narrator for the game. So, really, who knows what happened there.

“Original” Virgil also returns from XS1 after ignoring XS2.

Regarding the rest of the cast, Ziggy, Junior, Albedo/Gaignun, Margulis, and Allen all have the same VAs throughout the entire trilogy. MOMO, chaos, Jin, Juli Mizrahi/Nephilim (yes, same actress), Miyuki, Yuriev, and Wilhelm retain their Episode 2 VAs, and now Yuriev’s stellar Keith Szarabajka is pulling double duty and playing our third Helmer (and at least one other important, if new, voice). D.C. Douglas, probably best known around here for playing Wesker in a number of RE games (and MvC3), joins the cast to voice Black Testament/Voyager and Shion’s dad (that’s a bad sign). The venerable Steve Blum also joins the cast to voice Canaan, Dr. Sellers, and Professor (!). This also means that Assistant Scott gets a VA, so Brian Chase will forever have an IMDB credit that reads …

Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Video Game)
Assistant Scott (English version, voice)

Awesome.

Like every XS game except XS1, save points will restore HP and EP automatically. This will be more important than in previous games…

Oh, and remember those “The story so far…” blurbs from XS2? Well, they’re back for XS3, and you may access them at any time by opening the menu and hitting L2. They’re not just for loading screens anymore!

By the way, I’m still a cheating scoundrel, but I got slightly more creative with XS3. For instance, Shion is completely normal, except she’s got max ether attack, so if I want a battle to end, she can just bust out a spell. Incidentally, the stat is “EATK”, but it also impacts the strength of healing magic, so, ya know, that’s good.

Skipping ahead a bit, I also arbitrarily maxed KOS-MOS and Jin’s strength, MOMO’s ether attack, and Ziggy’s defense. I figure that should cover all the bases, and allow chaos and Junior to be the “normals” of the party.

I also maxed out money and consumables. There is exactly one sidequest way the hell at the end of the game that I did that for, so look forward to me saying “this is why I cheat” again.

So, about the costumes. In the previous Xenosaga games, the swimsuits were crap defense for extra skill points, and the character’s model only changed during combat. Now, the costumes have “for real” stats, no point bonuses, and the character model changes during normal gameplay (battles and dungeons/towns), but not during cutscenes. I find it very off putting when the models change from moment to moment, and, considering how many cutscenes are in any given Xenosaga (note that those dialogue box volleys count), it gets annoying fast. So, unlike the previous LPs, I won’t be hitting the swimsuits, Vector uniforms, or any other costumes that pop up.

Well… mostly. I like Jin to look like a dork whenever possible.

Alright, enough bumbling around menus, let’s hit the infiltration.

First up is a quick tutorial on the fact that you still have the ability to blast random objects into oblivion.

Please destroy two pillars to proceed.

Here are two more pillars. Can you press the square button twice?

I guess we ran out of Swaims to explain ‘em, but we’ve still got Red Segment Doors to deal with. Everyone! Start looking everywhere in the universe for keys! Giant robots are at stake! Unlike the previous two games, you’re not just given the key to your first door, and will have to wait and return to the area.

Still nothing much but walking and blasting in the first area, but there is a minor branch in the path that will earn you a little treasure. Always go in the most innocuous looking door first.

The capper for the first area is a puzzle that involves Zohar-looking objects.

A series of colors flash on the floor, and you have to destroy the objects in the proper color order.

Vector security is provided by Simon, who says things.

Sector 2 is where the combat begins.

Time to break the robots!

Yep, this party isn’t just for show, we’ve got Miyuki and Canaan (and of course Shion) as actual combatants.

Let’s talk about Xenosaga Episode 3 combat! It’s… surprisingly boring.

Episode 1 impressed me because it found a “solution” to the mage problem. Actual “spells” in that game are kind of crap, but elemental effects are tied to what is traditionally interpreted as the Fight command. More complicated special attacks branch out from there, and, if an enemy is weak to fire, you don’t have to worry about MP (EP), you just have to have your strongest fire-user in the party (in that case, Ziggy). Honestly, again, I like that whole system just for the way it allows everyone in the party to have a place without sticking an emphasis on “this is the fighter, he has one move”.

Episode 2 was a complete mess, but it was an interesting mess. I’ve spoken of the break system’s problems at length, but it also emphasized knowing your party’s strengths and generally ignoring spells for all but combat augmentation (like casting Fire Blade on your party for a fire weak enemy). Some battles took for-friggen-ever, but you couldn’t say it was derivative.

We’ll talk about it more as this update goes, but Episode 3’s combat system is, basically, Fight/Magic/Skill. For the first time in the franchise, the “magic” command is actually offensively viable, and the more physical characters get a host of “techs” with generally remarkable effects. Other than that, you’re only other choice is the Fight (Attack) command.

There’s also a break system (that is very situational), special attacks (limit breaks), and Xenosaga’s signature Boost System.

So, basically, Xenosaga Episode 3 has the most traditional, Final Fantasy-esque battle system. Probably closest to Final Fantasy 10, overall. The tension of this system is similar to Persona 3/4, though, as the main issue is budgeting your EP for spells/skills as according to how long it might be between save points. So your greatest combat companion might be a map…

Shion has her silver arm thingy at the ready. As you may probably guess, she’s most powerful when casting spells (ethers). She’s also really powerful in my game, because I cheat.

But you don’t have many ethers/skills when the game starts, so we’re stuck with the basic attack command. Whammo!

Miyuki appears to be using Shion’s old, original arm thingy for attacks. Ah, arm thingy nostalgia.

And Canaan is a physical attacker. I believe that many of Canaan’s attack animations are recycles from Ziggy (or, because Canaan is technically in the party first, Ziggy is using Canaan’s animations? Hm…), and he’s obviously the physical heavy on this team of mages.

Class points are gone, now it’s just EXP and SP. Skill Points will be applied to gaining new skills/spells/abilities when the guest characters have shuffled off this party coil. Yes, sorry, Canaan and Miyuki will not be permanent battle buds. More’s the pity.

Sector 2 presents a number of stationary targets so you can get your battle legs a-movin’.

We all understand Boost at this point, right? All the Xenosaga episodes have a system for dropping a character anywhere in the battle order you’d like at the expense of the Boost Gauge, which fills up for doing practically anything. The boost gauge is shared (like in Episode 2), but the random event slot wheel thingamabob has been dropped, so it’s slightly less exploitable than previous entries. That said, boosting is still quite worthwhile.

Special Attacks also use the boost gauge, and they’re basically limit breaks: stylish, high power attacks. Special Attacks gain power the more you use them, so it’s a pretty good idea to forsake boosting and devote your boost gauge to leveling up these “super attacks” during random encounters. I want to say every character gets three different special attacks over the course of the game.

In the absence of the slot wheel thingamabob, the best way to accrue extra EXP/SP/money is to finish a monster with a Special Attack. This will net you 15 times the original amount, so, ya know, do that a lot. It adds up. It’s also a splendid reason to watch boss monster HP…

Incidentally, the guest characters do have their own victory animations. Canaan is, as ever, rather stoic.

After two games of smacking into enemies meaning absolutely nothing, XS3 actually pays attention to your position when a battle starts, and you may initiate a back attack if you sneak up on a monster’s rear. In general, the definition for an enemy’s “back” is rigidly defined and will often appear annoyingly miniscule, but it’s better than XS2’s method of having your party back-attacked every ten seconds for no reason. Oh, I think pincer attacks and the in-battle “move” command are both gone, too.

Miyuki is just happy to be here.

Here’s a fine example of using stealth on a security robot that is probably legally blind.

Practice battle area over, time for Sector 3. Now we’ll put together our movement/blasting and fighting tutorials.

Sector 3 is a series of hexagons that…

Well, okay, yes.

Occasionally, treasure chests will contain Update Files. These Update Files are unique items, and, technically, there’s a sidequest at the end of the game that requires you find all of them over the course of the game. They’re not that hard to find, but if you miss one, and you’re not looking at a FAQ, you’re pretty screwed. As you may expect, Update Files update your in-game database. Oh boy, more words!

The monsters (robots) were pretty docile in the previous area, but they’re a little more active in Sector 3. This is still a tutorial dungeon, though, so it should be fairly painless.

New skills and ethers are acquired via using skill points, but occasionally a character will “naturally” learn an ability. It’s kind of like Terra/Celes in Final Fantasy 6, but for everybody. Here, both Shion and Miyuki have learned new offensive skills.

The basic gist of this area is to flip random switches to activate new paths and navigate the hexagon jungle. New paths are color-coded, so it’s hard to get lost.

Last stop for Sector 3, time for some new shapes.

Sector 4! What new tutorials await us?

Technically, I could turn this off and go play Pokémon Go

Sector 4 is all about using traps. Remember traps from the previous games? They were always pre-placed in random locations around dungeons…

Now you have the ability to place your own traps wherever you want, and then activate them at will.

As you can see, traps will automatically increase your boost gauge (sometimes to max), and give you the initiative in battle. Good deal! The downside is that traps are limited in quantity (you can buy them, if you’re that big of a fan), and, very often, if you can see an enemy, it will start barreling down on you immediately, so you won’t have time to place a trap. But if you know dungeon/monster layouts, they’re pretty boss.

The next stop has a very obvious “place trap here” spot.

That’s how you do it!

Moving on to Sector 5, the finale. Note that nothing about this will be a “hard part”.

This area is devoid of monsters, and just involves pressing a few switches and assembling some giant metal ball.

Oh, that thing is the main Vector server. Wow, computer maintenance in the year 4768 has got to take forever.

Let’s teleport on over there!

Shion will learn the mysteries of the UMN! Guess she’s drinking the Scientia kool-aid.

Oooooh giant monoliths of glowy computer information. Shion, I will give you ten credits right now if you start skateboarding around this server room.

You’d think Canaan would be leery of downloading data from strange Uzukis after his last experience, but, hey, why not? Canaan Mnemonic is on the case.

Other than “she’s Lassie-level obedient,” I don’t think Miyuki is ever given a reason to sabotage Vector along with Shion (former employee) and Canaan (they built him, but he’s on Helmer’s payroll). Miyuki still works for Vector, and wants to “expose Vector’s crimes” because… they stopped selling Vector Brand Ding-Dongs? Let’s go with that.

Shion asks Miyuki if she knows what the UMN is. Everyone knows the UMN is a series of tubes.

Have you ever considered that maybe the UMN is made of… chemtrails?

Alright, you’d think that if the UMN was responsible for all space travel and communication in the known universe, someone would have at least tried to write a fake history of the thing, just to keep the rabble quiet. Wilhelm, did you forget Phase #4,251 of your millennia old evil plan?

Vector doesn’t even have some fake “UMN Explanation Division”? Really dropped the ball there, Willy.

Shion’s theory is that the UMN…

Right, that.

Canaan brings us all back to reality. Well… a reality that includes giant salt monsters.

Shion wants to be wrong, but she’s become jaded ever since she had to kill… let’s see here… three little girl Realians because of mad scientists. That does something to a person.

Shion is annoyed at Miyuki not being specific, but I think it’s just transitive anger over Nephilim never being precise about anything.

That’s me! I’ve been here for two episodes! Pleasure to meet you all!

Or, wait, might be someone else.

Or some thing else. First gnosis of the game! They’re back in the plot, guys!

It might be a boss battle, but we still get a tutorial to start things off. The break system returns from Xenosaga Episode 2… sorta. Break is now really optional, and is basically just a status ailment. The short of it is that if one combatant (your party or theirs) is attacked, they will eventually “break”, and will be stunned and vulnerable for a round. This is a giant pain for you (as nobody likes to see their healer taken out of a battle for a round) and rarely a problem for bosses (that tend to have insanely large break gauges). It can be utilized for random encounters, but, like a lot of status effects in JRPGs, you’re probably better off just killing the monsters and being done with it.

If you squint, you can see Shion’s break gauge circled in the capture above. It’s just about that difficult to see/read over the course of the regular game, so that’s special, too.

Perhaps as an evolutionary ancestor to Xenoblade, enemies in Xenosaga Episode 3 often have pre-set attack patterns. Most annoying is probably the Healer Killer, but Break Killer can also be a pain. Beefy Characters like Canaan or Ziggy can use a command called “heat” that will draw enemy attention away from their usual target… but most bosses just ignore that anyway. Nice try, Xenosaga!

There’s an Analyze spell in this game, but there’s also an item called Analyze Ball that anyone can use to scan an enemy. Meet Sigrdrifa! You can see this boss’ (lack of) weaknesses over at the right there. In order, we’ve got the elements of physical, fire, ice, thunder, and beam. Jesus Christ element is sitting this game out, as the Big Guy is waiting in the wings for His big number later in the game.

Shion has a skill called Break Bash that is supposed to do a lot more break damage than health damage. It’s practically made for this battle, and will put Sigrdrifa into break status almost immediately. Again, don’t get used to this working well on practically any other boss.

In 4768, it’ll still be controversial to have an all women & Realian Ghostbusters team.

Canaan lands the killing blow with his strongest physical skill. Say goodnight, you robeast wannabe.

As per Xenosaga tradition, defeating the boss doesn’t do much, and there are still a pile of gnosis streaming into the Vector server area. The party decides to get their run on.

Hey, it’s Doctus! Glad to see she was able to fly here, and didn’t have to participate in a five part dungeon for some reason!

“Remember your assigned seats from the ride over!”

Nobody cared in Episode 2, either, Canes.

Doctus: too cool for school.

Allen is with us in spirit as Miyuki somehow hops into ES Dinah upside down. You have to really try to screw up that badly.

But she rights herself just in time for a rollercoaster of an escape sequence.

A door starts to shut, Shion is ready to blast her way out, but a ghostly, pony-tailed boy materializes in Shion’s vision. Kid looks kind of familiar…

Shion, random child ghosts have been kind of a pain in the past, but they’ve never lied to you.

Hm?

Through the door, and then… it’s turned off? Hey, isn’t this how the Episode 2 intro ended?

Aaaaaaaand paradise.

Shion pops out of the ES Dinah on what appears to be a tropical island. She’s also clad in a bikini. Gonna be a long game, gotta get that fanservice out of the way early.

Yep, that whole opening area took place in the UMN. The teleporting and unique environments should have been a clue. Oh, also that the gnosis were just floating around, as we learned during AMY that gnosis basically live in the UMN.

You ever have one of those friends, that, like, you leave a party, and then five minutes later, they txt you asking if anything’s new? Miyuki.

Miyuki compliments Shion’s attire. She is immediately chastised for it.

And then Shion yells at her some more for being generally bungling during the mission. It won’t happen again because we’re never doing this again, Miyuki!

But, hey, mission success!

For anyone that didn’t read the reports or watch AMY, I think this is the first hard confirmation that Shion has officially left her previous (iconic) position.

Shion just incidentally insults Miyuki again, and Doctus alludes to her previous playtime with Jin. If you recall, Shion was basically a kidnapping victim for that mission…

These two are obviously going to be making out by the third act.

This is like the best burn in the franchise. “Oh, I just made a mistake because I’m human. Oh, you’re not human are you? Ha ha. Nerd.”

After spending the last hour or so insulting Miyuki constantly, Shion claims she doesn’t fuss over the details. On one hand, this is a sign that Shion does care about Miyuki, and isn’t so much mad as a tweak annoyed. On the other hand, it’s a complete lie. You built a robot woman, Shion! You’re detail oriented!

But Miyuki does have to do her homework to make up for it.

Maybe Miyuki just wanted to be included? And now she’s a little bit concerned about stealing secrets from her employer.

“Hey, you want to save the universe, you’ve gotta break a few eggs/laws.”

And, yes, this all comes back to Shion worrying over KOS-MOS. I mean, duh.

Oh, and there’s that whole “Papa Uzuki was involved in weird experiments” thing from AMY. But, sure, it’s about KOS-MOS.

Ah ha ha. Miyuki? Shion doesn’t get over anything.

And, yes, Shion finally cracks and reveals that she’s hard on Miyuki because she knows she’s in danger. Miyuki the mole. Kind of has a nice ring to it.

Conference call over, and Shion is muttering to herself.

That doesn’t look good.

Shion is having weird headaches and blaming it on Nephilim/exhaustion. That’s a bad sign.

Alright, Pedea Island. For the curious, Pedea Island is a vacation spot on Second Miltia.

I guess because Shion performed all those mind numbing sidequests last game, Second Miltia granted the woman her own private island. Nice! There’s not much to do here but blast/shake palm trees and run through the ocean.

Decoder 8 may be found out in the ocean area. This will unlock that door we saw back at the start of the Vector dungeon, and will lead to some lame, early game accessory.

Speaking of doors, there’s a locked door emblazoned with a “D” at the other end of the cove. Do we know anyone that has a name that starts with a “D”? Dork Professor? Does that sound right?

While we’ve got the island to ourselves, let’s check that database. Here’s the entry for U-DO. Not very helpful.

Note that the database was supposedly loaded by Miyuki, but it contains information The Brews (Miyuki is an honorary member) have no way of knowing. Only chaos has directly interacted with Wilhelm over the last few adventures, but here’s a detailed explanation of that thing on his desk in his private office.

Nope. No idea what the title means. Let’s just move on…

The idea for this area is to simply circle around the beach and wind up back at Shion’s base camp. This spot is technically a cliff down from where the area starts.

You’ve got mail!

See? The ES Dinah is so big that you have to basically hike down from its chest to its feet.

There’s our guy! Miyuki just gained 80 IQ points, and she doesn’t even know why.

Allen delivers some pretty bad news: Project KOS-MOS is getting cancelled! … Anyone else wonder if this maybe a little meta?

Long story short: KOS-MOS is being replaced with a new KOS-MOS-alike, so screw #000000001.

“When you’re not around, everybody makes fun of me, instead of just you. It’s terrible!”

Allen describes KOS-MOS like someone describes a cat to an absent master. “She’s been clawing the furniture a lot. I think that means she misses you.”

Allen wants Shion to swing by to… watch KOS-MOS die? Uh… this email probably makes more sense if you remember that Shion is the woman around which the universe pivots. If she’s just a normal ex-employee… come watch your life’s work go to the scrapyard? Yeesh.

That was email draft #56,281.

Flashback! Yes, we actually get to see Shion quit (it was just stated in passing in AMY). Note that this room is that exact control room in the Dammerung from Episode 2.

There is discussion regarding AMY, but no one goes into any real details. “An incident like that” and “that Grimoire guy” has to be really confusing for anyone that missed AMY (aka all of North America).

You’d think Allen would just learn to roll with any weird Shion thing at this point. Reminder that the last time they stood in this room (on camera), Shion convinced Allen to steal an experimental robot on behalf of a ginger ghost.

At least she apologizes… Though she’s probably talking to KOS-MOS in her mind, not Allen. Never Allen.

Double flashback! Let’s go back to when KOS-MOS was first being built, and she hadn’t yet murdered Kevin. Kevin reveals that he’s making a lady-bot not just because he’s a giant pervert.

Well, not all men. Okay, agreed.

Shion really had it bad for this guy. Kevin reveals that he’s building a robot with heels because of some unresolved parental issues or something, and Shion is like, “Oh, you’re so cute.”

“Is it to protect humanity?” “Yes, I want to protect humanity like the ancient heroes, Skynet and HAL 9000.”

“I want to find that truth, and build a robot that can destroy it with a gatling gun.”

“You can do anything, Kevin! Me, for instance!”

Yes, Shion, you’re doing this all for KOS-MOS. Right.

“No, I’m the one who’s not satisfied. I can’t go on leaving things unfinished like this. I have to go see KOS-MOS.”

Wow, we get an honest-to-U-DO Shion breakthrough here. Shion admits that she’s the one who wants to see this through, so she vows to… do something. That’s better than nothing!

Hey, it’s that compass I was just reading about!

Wilhelm, President of Vector, is informed by Red Testament that someone made off with some Vector data. Wilhelm, naturally, is not surprised.

Wilhelm, as usual, thinks everyone in the universe is a baby. Probably a side effect of living for a few thousand years.

Ah, yes. Allen’s email mentioned that KOS-MOS was officially getting scrapped on Fifth Jerusalem, and apparently Red Testament is up to something there, too. Coincidence? In this universe?

Red Testament asks about Rennes-le-Château, which is apparently that tomb from earlier in the update. Red says everything went well there, so now it’s empty, and Wilhelm is just going to leave it alone for Ormus/U-TIC to play around there. Plans within plans… or… something.

KOS-MOS is taking a toll on “her”? Wonder what that could be referring to… (Protip: Anyone seeing red recently?)

Is wavelength a euphemism for something, or…?

Oh well, end of chapter. Like the DS game, Xenosaga Episode 3 is divided into ten not-at-all even chapters (okay, technically nine chapters and a prologue). At the end of each chapter, you get a picture of a random Xenosaga woman and her height and weight. Oh…kay? Oh well, let’s save.

Wow, almost exactly an hour. Looks like a good place to take a break.

Let’s talk about A Missing Year a little more. If you watched AMY, the only “odd” thing happening is perhaps Canaan’s involvement. Doctus/Scientia and Shion working against Vector is basically the obvious conclusion of AMY, and Miyuki assisting makes sense in a “frequent toady/inside woman” kind of way. Again, Canaan is a weird choice for the third man (particularly when Doctus showing off her skills in-game would have been fun), but I suppose he has some kind of “must appear in introductions” clause in his contract. Shion and co. do exactly what you’d expect from the conclusion of AMY (hack Vector), and her separation from the rest of The Brews is expected. She’s capable of adventuring on her own, after all.

If you missed AMY, though, this is all confusing as hell, and pretty much never gets explained.

It actually reminds me of something you see a lot in comic books. This just happened recently with the Marvel Universe rebooting and taking an eight month sabbatical, but what always sticks in my mind as a fine example of this phenomenon is the DC event “One Year Later”. About the same time XS3 was released, DC soft rebooted its comic book universe, and then published a series of stories that took place a year after the reboot. Among some of the “whoa, what happened” events were Batman taking a year off and leaving Two Face in charge, Hal Jordan: Prisoner of War, and Catwoman had a baby. Also of note, a number of random heroes and villains were missing random body parts or had interesting scars. Obviously, the hook of these comics was “what the hell happened?”

But comic books don’t work “backwards”. Every one of these “One Year Later” stories hit the ground running with the new status quo, and, thanks to how comic books are published, those stories generally took six issues/months to tell. Then it was time to look back and reexamine what happened during that missing year… but it was half a year later in the real world, so people had generally stopped caring about that “lost time”. Thus, a number of these stories “revealed” their “exciting” backstories with, “Oh? Catwoman’s baby daddy? Yeah, that was… let’s say… Moe.”

This is basically what happens at the start of Episode 3.

This game begins with an exciting new status quo, but by the time we get through all the new setup from the upcoming updates, we’ll have forgotten that Shion was ever basically a cyber-terrorist. She’ll slot herself back into The Brews, reunite with KOS-MOS, and it’ll be just like old times before you know it. In fact, I’m writing this whole screed now because I’m convinced I’ll forget about all this by the time that actually happens. Doctus, you’re still here? Right! That whole AMY thing!

So, long story short, for better or worse, if you care about the little things of Xenosaga, A Missing Year is absolutely essential, because XS3 does not want to retread that Grimoire/Nephilim story in the least. It’s clear that the overall plot hinges on you at least reading the cliff notes version of that story (available from the start of the game, when I’m sure you just want to sit down and read data off your TV screen), and you’ll have a much less confusing time with AMY knowledge.

Though, again, considering AMY was never released outside of Japan, it’s a very odd choice. XS3 barrels forward without regard for anyone just trying to catch up.

Guess we’ll see if Xenosaga Episode 3 continues with that kind of philosophy…

Next time on Xenosaga: You know what this franchise needs? A whole lotta exposition!

2 Responses »

  1. Pingback: Xenosaga Episode III Part 05: Storm Castle, Save Princess | Gogglebob.com

  2. Pingback: Xenosaga Episode III Part 22: Love in the Time of Testaments | Gogglebob.com

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