Xenosaga Episode III Part 20: Deeper into the Shallow End

Previously on Xenosaga: Margulis found out his life was a lie, Canaan admitted his life was a lie, and Pellegri said good-bye.

It’s 20:39, we just beat Voyager, and it’s time to venture deeper into the abyss that is the final dungeon of Xenosaga.

If we check out Voyager’s final resting place (uh, he was vaporized, so maybe this doesn’t count?), we’ll find a shaft that is currently unusable. This is an elevator that is unfortunately parked at its bottom, and, were this shaft usable, we’d be able to skip a whole lot of dungeon. Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if these ESes could fly?

So we’re stuck exploring the rear of the cathedral, and there are a few enemies lurking about. I guess these guys were all in hiding during the Voyager battle.

Three ESes, six opponents. Do we even have the slightest of excuses for why we can’t use a four-bot ES party?

The east side of the cathedral offers an opportunity to leave the mechs and grab a treasure, but it’s otherwise a dead end.

The west side has an elevator… but no power.

So let’s turn on the power at a switch all of three feet away from the elevator.

This also opens the front door, so you no longer have to take the extra thirty seconds to walk all the way around that rubble. This cathedral reeks of padding and old people.

Okay, time to take this west side elevator. Guess we’ll get that central elevator going a little later.

As Ziggy warned us last time, there’s an entire Zohar research facility beneath the “cover” of the cathedral. Pied Piper made it pretty clear that the First Church of the Blessed Zohar was an actual, operating church like we’d see in modern times, so I’m currently looking for some Xenosaga fanfic that features Gladys, the old lady with a Jell-O mold that got frightfully separated from her bridge group.

The first area of Isolated Research Facility features a couple different elevators that lead to a couple different paths. One elevator leads to the exit from the place, and the others lead to… pretty much just tedium.

First elevator: dead end, turn around. Thanks for wasting my time!

The far east elevator leads to an on-foot segment.

We can’t reach that giant ES treasure chest yet…

But we can flip a switch to open a door that will grant us access later.

I want to say the proper elevator is the one that is second from the far right, but I might be misremembering a screenshot I took like seven seconds ago. This area is that boring!

Speaking of which, the right path immediately leads to a locked door.

So we’ve got to exit the ESes and creep around the catwalks.

This area is meant for the ESes, but it has an on-foot segment. To account for the comparatively GIANT environment that fits the ESes, the on-foot segments of this room are all on super-fast conveyer belts. We saw a similar “cheat” on the Merkabah, and, well, at least someone is thinking about how much time in this game is wasted puttering around.

We can preview the upcoming ES area while we’re conveying around. Note that this walkway doesn’t contain any monsters, and we haven’t seen any on-foot battles since this entire dungeon started.

There are some treasures to find if you feel like exploring this whole area, though.

The trick here is that you have to hit a switch while zooming along at top speed on a conveyer belt. It’s fairly easy to do what you need to do, but it is one of the few Xenosaga “puzzles” that requires reflexes.

Blast the switch properly, and a conveyer belt will switch directions so you can access a switch and finally unlock the ES door that halted our progress earlier.

And we’re free!

Back to ES battling. You know, this could have been clever if the conveyer section gave us a better view of a “maze” environment, or warned us about encroaching difficult monsters, or something. As it is, the whole “leave the ESes” experience just feels like a waste of time in an already overcrowded dungeon. Did the designers think we’d forget Shion and friends were riding around in those ESes?

Now we’re facing enemy parties of seven. Again, we can only “target” five monsters at a time, so even our super kill everybody attacks leave two creatures standing. Tiiiiime waaaaaasting.

May as well take some extra time to retrieve that treasure we unlocked earlier. It’s a weapon for MOMO! And we already have a better one! Hoosuck!

You can just about see this area in the earlier conveyer screenshot. Another savepoint and shoppoint, so we’ve likely got another boss incoming.

So let’s ignore that and head over to this catwalk.

Locked door, again. Lame.

And a dead end. Double lame.

But another, different catwalk leads to a door unlock switch. It unlocks that giant door by the savepoint, but not the other, slightly less giant door by the savepoint.

And explore a little bit from there…

To find a mysterious room…

That seems vaguely reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7.

Each of the terminals have… screens? Or something?… that you must destroy. There’s no “puzzle” or anything here, just jab the square button until something beeps.

And then you’ll receive one of nine info dumps that fill in information on “where are they now” regarding Pied Piper characters. This is likely very interesting for people that played and enjoyed Pied Piper, and very confusing for everybody else (like all of North America).

Most of the terminals give information on complete randos. There is no new information regarding Ziggy/Jan, Voyager/Erich, or Canaan/Lactis. However, one of the terminals covers Melisse Ortus, Ziggy’s old underling that narrated Pied Piper and eventually went on to found Scientia. Seriously, this is the only interesting bit of information in this entire room. The rest is basically “Wilhelm used to have a secretary”.

I wasn’t kidding!

After reading all the terminals, a door materializes in the back of the room.

And then we get a Database Update that fills in ALL of the Pied Piper data. And that’s it. The entire point of this room is to expand on information found in a videogame we never got to play, but makes no effort to explain the extra information necessary for any of this to make sense in the game we’re actually playing. For anywhere outside Japan, this room is just a mandatory for a sidequest pile of nonsense. Ziggy doesn’t even react to anything!

Okay, time to head back to the ESes and get on with the real dungeon.

This is the last new ES room, and it’s pretty lackluster.

You can see the familiar conveyer belt catwalk above, so you know what’s coming.

Whole lot of running around with no monsters. Boring.

You do have to go back to your ESes and fix a platform, though.

Somehow shooting the hanging pathway repairs the catwalk. Who knew the ESes were so precise?

The only real point to getting up here is acquiring treasure, but at least it’s good treasure. The Life Leech is a ring accessory that adds HP drain to your attacks. Equip it on your biggest bruiser, and suddenly healing between random battles becomes a thing of the past.

The final ES door contains one more puzzle. Can yooooou figure it out?

Yes, just blast panels until everything matches the little guide above the door. Note that you’re supposed to blast the panels that are highlighted above, not blast around the highlighted panels, which was my initial guess. At least this puzzle is vaguely Zohar-themed.

Well, this room looks important.

Just this room, Allen? Not, like, the entire Isolated Research Facility?

We’ve got a giant indentation where it looks like there used to be a Zohar, and a big ol’ mech standing in front of it.

Hi, Margulis.

As ever, the rest of the party simply doesn’t matter to Margulis.

Hi, Jin.

“Look at the remains of a dream. The final product of human intelligence, human technology that can surpass even God. The end result of desire for forbidden power. The very definition of a nightmare.”

Er-hem: Nightmare – noun – a terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, sorrow, etc. Nothing about forbidden power in there, Jerkulis.

Don’t encourage him, Jin!

Margulis basically laments his sorry lot in choosing the worst sect of Christianity since Hityourselfinthefaceism.

Margulis admits that he never really had faith, he just really liked the idea of dying for a cause. Jin points out that creating a suicide cult maybe isn’t the most pious thing in the universe.

“The dead can’t eat pie. You want some?”

Technically you weren’t abandoned, Margulis. Wilhelm said you were worthy to die to… Oh, okay, maybe abandonment would be better.

“My life sucks, but at least I didn’t kill my ex-girlfriend.”

Alright, I’m being glib, but there’s a lot of actual meaning to wring from Margulis’s little rant here. Absolutely nothing, factually, has changed about Margulis’s faith: he still comes from a line of people who protected the Zohar for ages, he still has “secret” knowledge about Lost Jerusalem (aka Earth) and the immigration of the human race, and, heck, he even got distinct confirmation that Jesus was a real dude with magical powers. But he also discovered that his distinct faith was all a premeditated plan by some freaky albino German. Is your faith still your faith even if it was created for the wrong reasons? Margulis is of the opinion that it’s not. It’s something to contemplate as I eat this shellfish and pork salad.

Yeah, come on dude, your entire life is a lie. Join the good guys!

Margulis just really, really wants to kill Jin. Faith wavers, revenge is eternal.

Jin makes a cute point about his own tendency to bolt when things get tough. This is kind of an informed trait, though, as we’ve been told Jin is a loser from the moment Shion first mentioned him, but Jin has been completely loyal to the party since he joined. He even distinctly “arrived” for every Margulis fight since XS2 stated.

“And sword measuring.”

“We weren’t even trying!”

Just keep pouring on the slash bait, Margulis.

Ah ha ha ha. No.

ES Levi! Guess what, boys and girls, this is the last ES fight in the game! With the exception of (optional) Omega ID, this is the absolute final time we’ll be fighting anybody in our ES crafts. As you might expect, this battle is kind of difficult as a result. It’s not that rough, but you do at least have to keep an eye on things.

First of all, like Voyager and Omega ID, Margulis is prone to counterattacking everything.

And he’s got armor! Voyager and Omega ID both had a trick for switching their weaknesses, but Margulis is a little more complicated.

When Vajra Armor is equipped, Margulis becomes resistant to everything. He’s not completely immune to all attacks, but nothing does as much damage as it would normally. We’ll get to the “solution” in a moment.

But first, Jin and Margulis have to yell at each other.

It’s an ES battle, so get ready for your opponent to use that Anima Awakening ability against you.

And then hit like a truck.

And here’s Margulis’s special attack. Like Voyager and Omega ID (and even Richard), you HAVE to defend when this is incoming, because here’s Margulis cutting off more than Jin’s max HP. Also, it can’t be a mistake that he targeted Jin first.

Okay, back to the armor: when you use a special attack, the armor will “crack”.

So whatever element you used with the special attack will then become a weakness (not just “normal”, an actual “hammer for extra damage” weak point). This means you want to use special attacks with elements that are shared amongst your party. Beam and Fire are safe bets, while Ice and Thunder are only involved in one or two attacks. Note that Margulis may reinstall his shield at any time, so it’s not just a matter of using one ES’s attacks.

No you don’t. I barely remember our attacks.

Eventually he’ll go down. I actually came pretty close to losing this battle, because I thought Margulis had some super final attack that I wanted to capture… but nope. Just dragged out the battle for nothing.

I don’t think I mentioned it before now, but even if an ES character dies, they still get EXP. This is just confirmation, as we all watched Jin die, and here he is leveling up.

One last swordfight for the road? Sure.

Why did we even bother with the last battle?

And we finish up with the Ninja Gaiden signature “rush through each other” sword slash.

Remember how Shion/Jin’s grandfather taught Margulis and Jin his amazing sword techs that can somehow summon fireballs and ice blasts? We’re not going to explore that at all.

And don’t you forget it.

He said to the guy that has been surrounded by The Brews for the last year.

Really? Nobody on the team that is a warrior trying to get beyond a tragic past and live a peaceful existence with an adopted daughter? Nobody?

Margulis is ready for round two! Or round 42… These guys have fought a lot.

Jin couldn’t convince Pellegri to stop fighting, so he’s gotta know he doesn’t have a prayer with Margulis. He’s probably just going through the motions to be nice.

Dude has got his sword in his cockpit. That can’t be safe.


“No! Never! It’s all right. This is my wish. I have lived to settle the score with you. At this moment, I am not going to… lose to you!”

Wow, looks like we’re going to get a second battle. I better get my…

Oh, wait, no. Never mind. Guess he exploded.

Sad Jin.

Let us now mourn the death of Margulis.

Margulis is actually an abnormality in the Xenosaga cast: he gets more interesting in his final 15 minutes of fame. As has been pointed out repeatedly, a number of XS characters started with complex backstories that either came to nothing (Mary & Shelley, Yuriev) or finished well before the actual final game (Ziggy, MOMO). Margulis bucks the trend by being introduced as a generic kind of menacing boss character, and then spending 2.5 games sulking around and tormenting the party (okay, mostly just Jin). Finally, in his last featured appearances, he finds out that his entire life’s philosophy is a lie, and actually displays a few more dimensions than “clearly a sub boss”. (I mean, seriously, did anyone ever think Margulis would be the last man standing? Dude screams “underling” more than Richard and Hermann.)

This leads me to believe that, unlike a number of characters in the cast, the XS writers never quite knew what Margulis’s final end might be. Okay, yes, his final duel with Jin was inevitable from the start of XS2, but his closing crisis of faith contrasts nicely with some themes we’ll see on greater display toward the end of this massive dungeon, and… Xenosaga isn’t usually that coherent. Do you even remember Yuriev’s fatal flaw at this point? The fact that Margulis so appropriately ties into the greater finale seems almost like a happy accident, and, at this point in the Xenosaga LP, “accident” makes me think this wasn’t nearly as premeditated as other character arcs.

So, ultimately, Margulis’s end serves the rest of the story better than Margulis himself. Margulis was always a second banana, and, even in death, he serves to subtly reinforce other peoples’ stories.

Always the first big boss, never the last.

And, as per tradition, Margulis’s Anima Relic exits the ES Levi for greener pastures.

Since ES Dan is dead, the Anima Relic is recovered by a red ES. Will we fight this ES next? Actually, no. Oh well.

Bye red ES! Thanks for stopping by!

What’s that, Shion’s Pendant? Do you have something to say?

So, funny story. My mother stopped by the house while I was recording this. She seems to find some excuse to stop by my home like once a week, and, come on, mom, I’m like thirty, leave me alone. I briefly considered explaining to her that I can’t deal with you right now, I’m playing a video game for the Internet right now, and I really can’t be disturbed. Then I figured that that explanation alone would require another half hour of explanation, so I just it go, and had the game sit on this one dialogue box while I entertained for ten minutes or so. I like to imagine that, in universe, everyone just took a really long time to consider whether or not to reply to Allen.

Anyway, remember how we were looking for the Zohar? Well, I think Shion’s got a lead.

Hey, that one door opened! The plot keeps making it seem like the party is wandering around lost, but it’s all just locked doors and straightforward hallways…

Gee, could he be piloting a red ES?

I like Junior’s assessment here. “May actually be there” is basically “What have we got to lose?”

After the battle, you may find Margulis’s ejected sword stuck in the floor. This unlocks Jin’s final special attack, Lightning Waltz, one of two special attacks that are learned through an “event” (the rest are just level ups). Note that Pellegri’s signature element was lightning (Jin is ice, Margulis was fire), so Jin is honoring her memory. D’aww.

Oh, now we can run that elevator, too.

Shortcut back to the cathedral entrance. Yay for potentially saving time on a return trip. Also, good to finally solve the mystery of how to transport a Zohar downstairs.

But for now let’s go back to the save hub and get ready to leave our ESes forever.

Actually, let’s talk about the ol’ giant robots for a moment. The ESes? I don’t think they ever worked.

The ESes were certainly better than the AGWS of XS1 (remember those?). The idea of making the giant robots optional never really worked, because they were either too overpowered (thus forcing the boss to inevitably have a powerful AGWS-counter move) or far too fragile. Recall that if you “died” in an AGWS, there were no revival options, which paired very poorly with XS1’s aversion to pre-boss savepoints. Want to lose an hour of progress? Try an AGWS!

Then came the ESes of XS2. First of all, making ESes mandatory through ES “areas” was a godsend, and no longer skewed the entire battle system to “account” for the potential destructive power of AGWS. Additionally, the ES battle system was more akin to XS1’s “simple” battles than XS2’s “a random battle takes five minutes of weak point juggling” on-foot segments. That’s good, too! The ESes are looking good!

Unfortunately, the drawbacks of the ESes were quickly evident. For one thing, either due to the needlessly massive ES dungeons or some sort of zoomed out camera work, ESes always felt slower than on-foot exploration. It was immediately obvious from the introduction of the ES Asher during the prelude of XS2, as we just watched a really cool cutscene featuring the Asher flying and zooming and tumbling through the air… and now let’s slowly walk across a random street. Lame. Additionally, ES battles only allowed two craft to participate in a battle at a time, and healing was severely limited. This wasn’t too much of a bother in the minute-to-minute gameplay, but for the tougher bosses and secret areas, it felt like you were always handicapped throughout every battle. This is not how a giant robot battle should feel!

XS3 made slight improvements on the ES front. The massive Anima-fueled Special Attacks of the ESes do help the player to feel like they’re actually piloting a colossal, destructive mech. Additionally, adding in a “full” three person (‘bot) battle party and easy access to healing goes a long way to making ES fights more manageable. Unfortunately, again, ES overworld traversal is snail-speed, and the glut of monsters you’ll fight in the average ES battle (literally more monsters than you’re allowed to target) means that every trip to ES land makes the game slow down to a crawl.

And that’s terrible!

And don’t even get me started on having to pump all available cash into ESes so they’ll “level up” to dungeon-appropriate specs…

Look, you dig giant robots, I dig giant robots, we dig giant robots, and chicks dig giant robots. But the potential of giant robots has always been that you suddenly become a gargantuan destructive force that can circumvent the globe in twelve seconds and then wield skyscrapers like nunchucks. The ESes seem to satisfy that need… but only in cutscenes. In practice, the ESes are slow and anti-fun. So, good try, Monolithsoft, maybe next time you could make a game where your flying mechs actually fly and allow you to tackle increasingly impossibly huge monsters. Let me know when you make that game. Maybe put an X on it to mark the spot.

Now we’re back to that previously locked door, and it’s time to head down to the L-10 Special Classified Area. There’s a secret facility beneath the secret facility beneath a cathedral? Man, we’re going to eventually wind up at the center of the planet, aren’t we?

The Special Classified Area is vaguely Tron-y and still pretty hi-tech. We’ll also find our first on-foot battles of the final dungeon down here.

Wall-to-wall gnosis, as you probably expected. See those weird little red things at the right? Those creatures appeared in The Song of Nephilim way back in XS1, and they were identified as biological entities at the time (presumably escaped science experiments). Now they’re designated as gnosis. Just a fun fact.

Time to dance that Lightning Waltz. Nothing too complicated here.

And more straightforward hallways to explore.

There’s this very locked door…

But next door is a command room…

And the prerequisite switch of the area.

In XS1, XS2, and now XS3 there has been some massive unlocking door standing between the party and the Zohar (or at least a Zohar emulator). I do like the consistency that the Zohar is kept under about a thousand locks and keys. Do not touch.

Beyond the door, the area starts to get a little more organic. This place is a lot more like a cave, albeit one that has already been equipped with guardrails.

Here’s MOMO’s last Special “Attack”. It costs three bars of boost and it buffs the party. No “attack” involved. I’m sure there’s a situation where that’s useful, but you’re probably better off conserving that boost for emergency healing or attacks that will actually end the battle faster.

At the end of the cave area, there’s a precipice that drops off to a big, pulsing light ball. Huh. Wonder how we inevitably get down there.

Yeah, I definitely know where we’re going.

There is some cash here, though. I like to think some scientist dropped his wallet here about a century ago, and now we’re going to use that dough to buy weapons for robots.

Wander around a little more, and here’s a new savepoint (and shop). There’s also a trolley that will take us down to the glowy bits.

Going down?

Still a little bit of walking until we’re sucked into the ridiculous luminescence. There are a few more monsters along the way.

Here we are! Does entering such a thing ever seem like a good idea outside of a JRPG?

Underground Ruins, eh? Michtam couldn’t just be the planet that last housed the Zohar? It had to contain some kind of magical ruins beneath the planet’s surface? Of course.

The gimmick of this portion of the dungeon is that there are these angled walls, and you may only go down one path at a time. Your task is to angle all these walls so you have a straight path to the exit (or treasure).

Hey, the Elemental Numbnuts gnosis are back! Three for three Xenosaga games!

Oh boy, stuff!

It’s a piece of armor for Jin that is actually worse than a robe we could buy the dude at the start of the chapter. Glad I took the time to find that treasure!

But there’s also a Gustav Neck hiding in this area, and that’s quite useful. The extra boost is very convenient for practically everything, but there are also a few final special attacks that require more than 3 boost levels. Can’t even use those attacks without an accessory like this.

One such Special Attack is Ziggy’s Intruder… which isn’t all that impressive. I guess it’s Ziggy utilizing the new arm he got after XS2? It does some good damage, at least.

The second section of Underground Ruins is pretty much a straight line with some monsters. No moving walls needed.

There is a savepoint off to the side, though. XS3 is getting pretty generous with these refill stations.

22:07 now. We started this update at 20:39, and the entire dungeon at 19:41. Were you aware this was a long dungeon?

And, after a few gnosis battles, we’re at a big, ominous door.

What could be behind this door?

We’ll find out… next time.

Next time on Xenosaga: Every time I look at you
I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did
Get so out of hand
You’d have managed better
If you’d had it planned
Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

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