Xenosaga Episode III Part 13: Heaven or Hell, Let’s Gawk

Previously on Xenosaga: Allen confirmed that he’ll be a hidden character in Xenosaga Episode 3: Advance, and Shion got rescued from the clutches of U-TIC/Ormus/her dad. Also, Old Miltia started its descent into a flaming pit, which isn’t very good for…

Virgil and Feb are chilling at church. I feel like Feb’s little jaunt to the Elsa was some kind of non-canon writing shortcut to get the party off its ass. I just don’t see Sister Feb here leaving Virgil alone with the fine china.

“Awww! I was supposed to fight in that! And I’m missing it!”

Virgil admits that, prior to meeting Feb, he was literally indoctrinated against Realians. Remember the Federation saying: “Death is disguised: don’t gamble with Realians.”

I’m just trying to picture MOMO being ordered to kill…

Don’t worry, we won’t come back to the fact that Feb is “half-human”. I guess it’s just further justification for her organ harvesting from earlier.

And Kiddy Shion shows up.

With Friends!

“Except that one with pipe! He might be a plumber!”

Right in the cojones!

Feb leaps to defend Virgil and Shion. She’s not exactly fighting fit, but she is the only non-grievously injured, non-child here.

I’m not immortalizing the moment with a GIF, but Feb is whacked sideways with that pipe about a second after saying this.

Virgil is not happy with the situation.

This is not one of the many censored scenes from this and the coming update. Feb is impaled on a pipe, and you can hear a lovely “slorch” sound as it tears through her abdomen, but there is no blood in either version, and her wound is juuuust out of frame. So, anyway, Feb ain’t making it out of here.

We don’t get to see Feb impaled, but an eight year old does.

And then she’s devoured by berserk Realians. The… uh… “crunching noises” really sell the scene.

So Virgil decides to kick their artificial asses.

Now here’s where the censors kick in. As mentioned in previous updates, Xenosaga Episode 3 decided to tone down the violence for the American release. This… didn’t actually involve stopping any of the violence, there’s just notably less blood when, for instance, an injured soldier starts clobbering humanish fellows with a metal pipe.

This, unfortunately, significantly detracts from the scene, because “clean” Virgil doesn’t quite give off the same “absolutely should not be near a small child” vibe as “bathed in blood” Virgil.

Still plenty traumatic, though.

“Here, I got you this key item, now get outta here.”

OH MY GOD THE CHURCH SIDE DOOR FINALLY PAID OFF! Run, Shion, and enjoy the XS1 continuity as you flee!

Outside, Shion somehow misses Shion running past. Time travel is rough on narratives.

“Hey! Did I make it in time to save… Oh.”

This is quite the sticky wicket!

This isn’t outright stated, but with Kiddy Shion out the side door, Virgil is fighting a battalion only to protect Feb’s lifeless corpse. Dedication.

“Hello, trauma, my old friend.”

Shion leaps into the fray…

With the rest of The Brews. This collection of Realians isn’t much more difficult than a regular random battle, but at least you, player, get to help Virgil.

This is what helping looks like.

One quickie battle later, and Virgil is not taking this well.

It’s time for Shion to deal with someone else’s breakdown for once.

Oh, and (further) bad news: Virgil realizes that the Realians, crazy or no, all have wi-fi, so they probably noticed a defenseless human escaping the church. But, hey, Virgil remembers Shion’s name now!

“Yeah, protecting my younger self sounds like a good idea.”

“I just kind of assumed you were a dick thanks to every single interaction we’ve ever had.”

Hey everybody, remember Xenosaga Episode 1? Remember how, about 75% of the way through the prologue, Virgil detonated a bunch of Realians like suicide bombers and it was like the worst thing Shion had ever seen?

Shion has had a rough year.

“Did we all have to crowd into the church at once?”

Another plot/gameplay disconnect. We just took out four Realians like it was no big deal. The whole “we’re surrounded” thing doesn’t exactly ring true when we’ve fought through three games worth of monster infested dungeons. Remember when we fought Albedo’s ES? On foot? How could this be worse?

But Shion is going to get this Virgil out and to… uh… somewhere?

“Come on, Virgil. Don’t quit on me. We both know that’s not like you.”
“Heh! Not like me, huh?…”

“You got that right!”

And Virgil shoves Shion out of the church.

He was kind of a burden, Shion. Not like you could have used any of your 99 Med Kits on him.

“Please! Just promise… that you’ll protect her.”

“You’re the second person to ask me that in the last hour!”

“You can be in the battle party, again! I promise!”

Good news, Virg, I bet you’d find it easy to remember.

And the church explodes. Virgil used the Realian self-destruct code on the surrounding army of Realians, and that caused quite a blast. Note that this isn’t a stable time loop: it’s been established that there is an “original timeline”, and Virgil somehow got the Realian destruct code on his own in that universe.

Shion dashes back into the church. Looking around, by all accounts, Virgil was obliterated, though Shion does linger on looking at the side door, so maybe he made it out?

“Jin, if we just broke the timeline, and all of space and time collapses, would we feel it?”

And, as it begins to rain on the church’s new sunroof, Virgil shows up.

Uh, that is to say, Next Sunday AD Virgil.

Virgil is back to being a dick! Everything makes sense again.

Technically, I think this means Virgil is better at moving past things than Shion. Actually, I think most turtles are better at moving past things than Shion.

Tools can protect people!

And, like in XS1, Virgil calls Shion out on the whole Realian “built to be bombs” hypocrisy. And now he’s got even more ammo to drive our heroine nuts.

Reminder: Virgil has been hanging out with Kevin for a year. And Voyager. And Albedo.

“What are you embarrassed about? That’s basic human instinct. Humans are driven by impulse to destroy. Destruction serves as a way to feel out others and confirm your own existence. Then you try to find atonement to comfort yourself after you’re unable to deny your instincts. I tried to live exactly like that. And you’ve lived for that same purpose! You disassembled Realians and dreamed of giving consciousness to inorganic matter. Comforting yourself for the hatred towards your father and anger over your mother’s death. You’re doing things you don’t want to do, just to escape your own feelings of guilt. ‘Hypocrite’…the word doesn’t even begin to describe you. Be more true to yourself!”

Oh! Oh! Do Junior next!

“I’ve been reading your Facebook updates! That week you tried to be paleo? Ha!”

“One could say we’re not so different, you and I.”

“Chiefly because we seem to be in some kind of time loop and… Hey! Did my younger self just explode?”

Shion rejects Testament Philosophy 101.

“You know you love us. Well, at least one of us.”

It’s okay to admit you like that your dead fiancée is less dead.

“And at least two of you guys have actively tried to kill me!”

“Pssst. Ask him to call me later.”

Jin gets tired of this nonsense.

“Hey, I was just trying to talk to the lady. Buzz off, dweeb.”

Boss fight!

We fought Virgil’s ES earlier, and now we get to fight Virgil and his big purple buddy. Like the Voyager fight, this is one enemy that attacks you in tandem with his Shadow Pokémon.

Virgil starts the match with a taunt and uses that overdrive thing that T-elos used halfway through her boss fight. This is meant to be intimidating, but it’s basically just the flow of this battle: Virgil is tough, you’re tough, let’s punch each other until somebody falls down.

He’s weak to fire (Testaments appear to be pretty flammable), and strong against ice. He predominantly uses ice elemental for his attacks, so that makes sense. Like Voyager, he isn’t human, so you can’t use any “human only” attacks. He’s also really tough to break, so don’t count on BP-focused attacks.

This isn’t a difficult battle, and, as I mentioned a moment ago, it’s pretty straightforward. Stay healed, attack when possible, and, if a super attack is telegraphed, switch in your most resilient fighters to defend. Because you’re coming straight from a save point and going to another save point, feel free to dump all your EP into fire attacks to speed things along.

And down he goes.

Do I even need to mention that the battle means nothing to the narrative?

A disembodied voice rings out to defend Shion’s sanity.

Yay! It’s Ghost Feb! Presumably, this isn’t “just died five minutes ago” Ghost Feb, but the Ghost Feb that has been assisting the party since XS1. Well, “assisting” the party.

Raise your hand if you remembered Virgil even had a first name.

"You’re so… salty."

Virgil retorts with the “I know you are, but what am I?” defense.

“Please. You must accept who you really are. You don’t hate anyone. You just want to reject yourself, because you can’t feel hatred.”

Feb has spent the last fifteen years of her ghost time fretting over her sisters and watching her ex-boyfriend be a dick. The afterlife of Xenosaga is dismal.

Sound familiar?

“Mostly through eating us. But I think that counts.”

Why do I picture all the testaments just hanging out at Hot Topic, talking about how commercial it’s gotten, and how cool it used to be? Then they try to convince the clerk to play their demo tape.

Literally the last person you saw when you died, Virgil! Well, the first time you died, not counting broken timelines.

“That’s not true, and you know it, Luis. You have returned to this place for a reason. You chose to become a Testament, so you could return here. Because this moment proved who you once were.”

Good times. Good times.

Junior, Ziggy, MOMO, and chaos are in the back of the church, playing Old Maid. I think MOMO is going to win.

“I regret absolutely nothing. I am here precisely because I have finally accepted myself and this world! Those of you who reject this world, you could never understand!”

“I’m too awesome, and you know it!”

“We do not reject this world. We just want to believe in a new order that can be born from discord. We just want to believe that a single thought can change the entire world and shape the future.”

Feb has been spending too much time with that ginger ghost from down the street.

These two are just upset they never got to join debate club together.

And there’s your breakthrough, folks. Virgil misses Feb! Everybody look surprised!

There’s just no getting’ over you.

“KOS-MOS, get the machine gun ready.” “No!”

Hugs!

Well duh.

We all saw the replay on that one, Virg. You literally didn’t have a chance.

“No. You’re wrong. You did save me. You taught me that by sharing all of our feelings that we would be able to change the world. And that alone was more than enough.”

“Change the world into a smoking crater, but, still, that’s a kind of change.”

He kinda trails off on this one, but presumably he wants Feb to get a new hat or something.

“Let’s go now, Luis. She can show us the way… to a future for both Humans and Realians.”

Hope you’re not counting on Shion for directions, Feb. That girl needed a map just to find her own bedroom.

Xenosaga works off of The Frighteners rules.

“Do you have any more siblings you need me to kill?”

“Feb! I’m so bad at making decisions! Feb!”

“Feb! What am I supposed to decide? Feb!”

Great, another ghost telling Shion to do whatever the hell she wants. Prematurely Dead Young Virgil disagrees with this plan.

Well, there are only two other female party members. So… MOMO?

“Don’t try to call me, Shion! I’m going to let it go to voice mail!”

You never did, and you know it.

“I’m pretty sure the timeline is fubared as is, Shion. I don’t even want to know what happens if younger you dies.”

Right beside you…. It is MOMO!

Alright, let’s go ahead and talk about what just happened, and knock a few characters off the board while we’re at it.

Luis Virgil is dead now, forever. I have this signed note from the writers of Xenosaga that he is not coming back. I guess dying twice in ten minutes did the trick.

Once again, this is just Goggle Bob conjecture, but Virgil seems like a failure of a character thanks to various “context clues” throughout the series. Clue #1: his name is bloody “Virgil”, so you know there was some metaphorical “trip through the underworld” thing planned. Second, it’s clear from the very beginning that Virgil is meant to be tied into the grand Xenosaga/Shion story. He’s basically Shion’s ideological opposite when it comes to Realians and (the value of) life in general, and he saw Feb as he died way back on the Woglinde. And recall, back then, he was an actual playable character. It’s obvious that there was a lot planned for this auxiliary character.

But it didn’t work out so great.

Here’s Virgil’s path through the series: he’s integral to the start of XS1, and then tragically and poignantly (if only for the impact on the KOS-MOS/Shion relationship) exits, then he stays dead for a few hours before resurfacing as a Testament that both clues the player into Red Testament’s undead identity, and triggers some relevant memories in Ziggy. He is last seen in XS1 commenting on Albedo’s plans and “next time…”’ing into the night.

Then, for XS2… he shows up for like one scene.

But then in XS3, he comes back to reprise his role from the end of XS1 as a general jerk, and gets an entire love story all to himself. The story of Virgil and Feb shares screen time with Shion’s own trials during this flashback zone, and you’ll note that, say, Junior has maybe six lines through this area. Again, you’re asked to care about Virgil and his star-crossed love, but, man, talk about unearned.

This is one of those rare cases where the Xenosaga spin-off materials actually seem to pay off. Surprisingly Alive Virgil of Xenosaga: The Animation makes the case for a “better” Virgil that was still gruff and marginally homicidal, but could sit down and have a beer with the rest of the crew. This Virgil had a little more time to breathe before being KOS-MOS’ed, and comes off as much more of a human as a result. That Virgil would be more interesting as an antagonist for the party, because he actually knew the party (recall that Real Virgil died before even the Elsa flew into the picture), and his “change” into a Testament would highlight what changed about the man after his first death. Animation Virgil might actually stay true to the name “Virgil”: a guide that shows the party (and audience) what it’s like to walk through literal Hell.

Similarly, Xenosaga DS keeps Virgil as an antagonist for the XS2 portion of that game; he battles the party on their way to Old Miltia instead of what’s-her-name with the lightsaber. This at least keeps Virgil in the limelight, and allows him to maintain his status as a rival, so his appearance as such in XS3 is less of a “who dat” moment.

In short, Virgil is a character with an arc that had a lot of potential, but it got squandered somewhere along the line.

Feb, meanwhile, is fairly one dimensional. Like Virgil, Feb was clearly intended to be an important character from day one, but she’s never really shaded in. For two games, she’s “Omniscient Ghost #2” (Nephilim holding top rank… and how many creepy ghosts does this franchise need?), and then, when she finally gets a full backstory, it turns out she’s Mother friggen Teresa. As I mentioned before, I really respect that Xenosaga decided to have an outright religious robot, but, once you get past that, Mai Magus practically has more character depth than this Realian. She’s sacrifice and fealty personified, which can make for a good supporting character (see Pennyworth, Alfred), but I wouldn’t go hanging Romeo and Juliet on it.

So, combined, this makes for a really weird scene. Feb and Virgil talk about how much they mean to each other for ten minutes, and the party just chills and watches, maybe employing a few med kits before heading back out into a warzone to save a little girl. It barely makes sense from a plot perspective, and, for us, the audience, it’s a little much to expect rapt attention for “that guy” and “his girlfriend, I guess”. Virgil and Feb had the potential to be interesting, integral characters, and even if that went out the window a few episodes ago, we’re still stuck watching their tragic resolution.

All that said, though, this scene does tie into the greater theme and message of Xenosaga, so keep it in mind going forward. It wasn’t a complete waste of time.

And now we’re back outside the church. Hey, remember when there used to be exploration in this franchise? No?

Leave the area, and you’ll find yourself teleported back to where Shion first arrived after the T-elos incident. This means that, hooray, we don’t have to re-explore that silly forest area.

Time to save a slightly shorter Shion!

This battle seems familiar from, oh, ten minutes ago.

“We only have to kill another hundred or so people to get out of this place.”

Kiddy Shion is running off to save her mom. Shion: strangely consistent.

Xenosaga Missed Opportunity #4,217: Aside from Allen’s comment about her being a cute kid, no other party members interact with Kiddy Shion. This is a shame, because I’d love to see Ziggy’s random paternal nature return, or MOMO as “the big sister” for once. And is it too much to ask for Kiddy Shion standing in awe of “cool robot” KOS-MOS? All we get is a whole lot of winks from (Fun ‘n Future) Shion and a confused little girl.

Shion is just using her moppet doppelganger to convince the party to go with her earlier plan to risk everyone’s lives to save her comatose mom. But, hey, it works.

Thank’s to Virgil’s keycard, we can now open this gate and scoot back to Labyrinthos. Man, we were just there…

But be sure to use the nearby savepoint, first. Don’t want to have to see Virgil again.

The shortcut is a mini-dungeon. It’s basically two hallways of enemies. Not the most innovative dungeon design.

There’s also a sort of “puzzle” for each hallway: press the conveyer belt switch, and then quickly dash to retrieve the treasure before it conveys away.

Or… maybe you don’t need to move so quickly.

One interesting thing about this area is that it uses the random battles to display how chaotic the Miltian invasion has gotten. Here’s a U-TIC soldier and mech.

And the next battle is a group of crazy URTVs. Combine this with the berserk Realians, and you’ve got three different factions all randomly trying to kill you and each other.

The tunnel leads out to a previously unvisited stretch of Miltian city. We never got to see this area during peacetime, but I assume it used to be less on fire.

Almost there!

This area is a little more interesting than the previous hallways, but it’s still yet another Xenosaga Ruined City Dungeon™.

But there are Federal Reports to be found!

All over the place.

And, a screen of monsters later, we’re on the other side of Labyrinthos.

Guess it’s time to go back there. Again. But for the last time! Yay!

Headache!

“Are you annoying me again, Allen? Yes. Yes you are.”

And Shion runs off while Shion plans her next move. The Brews are terrible at holding onto Shions.

Hm, we filled the usual amount of text/pictures for this update, but it feels like we didn’t make much progress. Hell, we’re right back at the same dungeon that we were last update, and XS2 ended on the thirteenth update. Alright, time to make like my sweet old granny and provide toys and games as a distraction.

It’s Xenosaga Episode 3 BINGO! Every time a character wraps up their storyline, mark the proper spot on your BINGO card, and, eventually, this game will be over! …. That’s how this works, right?

I’ve already taken the liberty of marking a couple of finished squares. Who will we stamp next? Tune in next time to find out (if I forget all about this BINGO concept…)!

Next time on Xenosaga: Shion finally destroys the universe!

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