Xenosaga Episode III Special 1: The Xenosaga FAQ

Why isn’t Shion a gnosis?

The question that became so irrelevant, even the LP forgot about it.

In Episode 1, it was established that everyone who is touched by a gnosis becomes a gnosis. Also, we got to see Cherenkov, ya know, become a gnosis. Logically, it must only be a matter of time before Shion herself becomes a gnosis, as she was nearly saltified back on the Woglinde before KOS-MOS’s rescue.

And then… it’s never mentioned again.

… Or is it?

Okay, no, it’s not. It’s distinctly noted in the in-game XS3 database as a “mystery”, so it’s not like the franchise completely forgot about it. But what’s the deal? Presumably it has to do with Wilhelm’s final words regarding the gnosis, that they are people that rejected the universe. Following the general “lifestream” theory of a lot of videogame religions (and a few in real life), that seems to suggest that people only become gnosis if they truly desire to leave our reality and “the circle of life”. Basically, a gnosis soul is “unclean”, and needs to be purified with a gatling gun before it can rejoin the great flow of souls or whatever. Take that into account, and you may be able to claim that Shion, even at her absolute worst, would never want to leave the true flow of the universe, as that would mean leaving behind people she cared about, or at least KOS-MOS. Cherenkov literally begged to be alone and separated from the ghosts of his past before transforming into a gnosis, Shion never truly reaches that point.

Then again, as we know, an entire section of Xenosaga Episode 3 is dedicated to Shion reaching such a rock bottom that she summons all gnosis into the universe. So… uh… Hm.

So, with that said, it’s likely that the simple reason Shion never gnosifies is that she’s The Maiden of Mary Magdalene, basically a special soul, and she couldn’t get off this cycle of reincarnation and become a gnosis even if she wanted to. Maybe that’s the big secret behind why kiddy Shion was able to summon a gnosis: any other person would have just become a gnosis, but her special soul kind of broke the universe trying to wiggle out. It’s an amusing inversion of the typical “chosen one” narrative if that was intentional. Heroes don’t cry, Shion!

However, it is more likely that Shion just “can’t lose sight of herself” or she would become a gnosis. Nephilim makes mention of this a couple of times, so that’s probably the more “correct” answer.

Is MOMO at all important beyond the Y-Data?

Fun fact: MOMO and KOS-MOS are sisters.

First, and most obviously, MOMO was designed by Mizrahi, and KOS-MOS was initially primarily built by Kevin, Mizrahi’s apprentice. Neat!

But more interestingly, as Mizrahi explains during Episode 3, MOMO was built as a receptacle for Sakura’s soul. Mizrahi (apparently all on his own) had discovered that dead souls still exist in the UMN, so he built the Zohar Emulators and such with the singular purpose of dragging Sakura’s soul out of the UMN, and into a waiting MOMO body. However, he discovered that MOMO grew her own soul in the meanwhile, so he aborted his Sakura-soul plan, and seemed to content himself with MOMO.

KOS-MOS was built by Kevin for almost the exact same reason. With Wilhelm’s help and guidance, KOS-MOS was built to be a receptacle for the soul of Mary Magdalene, but Kevin experienced the same problem as Mizrahi: KOS-MOS had her own soul, and Mary seemed to vanish. Eventually, thanks entirely to Shion, Mary awakened within KOS-MOS, but the KOS-MOS soul remained, much in the same way that MOMO is constantly MOMO. By the end of Xenosaga, Mary has vacated KOS-MOS, so KOS-MOS is only KOS-MOS.

So, basically, MOMO went through everything KOS-MOS did a few years before KOS-MOS. And they were both built with similar technology. So it’s kind of a shame that they only interact, like, once over the course of the franchise.

What is the canon connection between Xenosaga and Xenogears? (spoilers for XG!)

Officially, there is no connection between Xenogears and Xenosaga. The creators have said that any connections are deliberate callbacks/easter eggs, but are not intended to be direct links. Jin, Shion, and Citan all have the same last name, but that’s a coincidence.

That said…


The Merkabah of Xenosaga Episode 3 looks a lot like the Merkava of Xenogears. And did you notice what happened to the Merkabah during XS3? That’s right: nothing. Despite the fact that The Brews seem to be only capable of exiting space craft opposite explosions, the Merkabah is not destroyed by the heroes during this episode. It’s still kind of, ya know, there. So the Merkabah is still in play.

This is important, because the start of Xenogears is predicated by the Merkabah within the Eldridge (an enormous spaceship) crashing to the Xenogears planet. But that’s just one piece, the Merkabah also needs Deus, a giant gnosis-looking god slug, and the Zohar Modifier, a giant, golden monolith with unimaginable power. And where is anyone going to get a Zohar at this point, anyway? The Zohar itself was presumably lost during the Zarathustra incident, and the only guy that could build Zohar emulators was Mizrahi. Well, there was that one extra Zohar emulator built over the course of XS3 (for Omega), and that was constructed by… Sellers.

And what happened to Sellers? Who knows, but he didn’t die on screen. The party did not attack him, and Sellers just hovered away. In fact, given his proximity, it’s entirely likely Sellers still has command of the Merkabah, and he’s the one guy in the universe capable of building a Zohar emulator.

According to Xenogears Perfect Works, the Deus system was built in response to an intergalactic war. It seems like getting a paranoid populace to build a giant space weapon would be right up Sellers’s alley, and then it’s just a hop, skip, and a crash to Xenogears.

So, basically, the opening flashback of Xenosaga Episode 1 was Xenogears Perfect Works’ Episode 1 (The discovery of the Zohar), and then all of the “present” Xenosaga was Xenogears Perfect Works’ Episode 2 (The creation of the Eldridge). It’s not official, but it “fits”.

And if it seems like a let-down that the main heroes of Xenosaga have nothing to do with the start of Xenogears, recall that it’s only because of Shion’s efforts to stop Wilhelm that time could progress to the era of Xenogears.

And, again, this isn’t “canon” as far as the creators say, but somebody went out of their way to guarantee the Merkabah and Sellers made it out of XS3 alive…

What is the canon connection between Xenosaga and Xenoblade Chronicles? (spoilers for XC!)

Either they’re completely separate universes (most likely), or Xenoblade Chronicles takes place waaaaaay the hell after Xenosaga, or Xenoblade Chronicles is somehow responsible for Xenosaga humanity leaving the Earth. The backstory of XC explains that Earth (and definitely “Earth”, not some other planet, the final area of Xenoblade Chronicles distinctly explores “our” solar system) was accidentally reformatted by some overzealous scientists to become the Xenoblade planet. Since Earth (Lost Jerusalem) is so central to the Xenosaga plot, but also completely unseen, it’s technically possible that Xenoblade could be taking place during Xenosaga, and Shion and company are going to return to Lost Jerusalem to find giant metal bugs and a naked boy with a magical sword. That’s gonna be a tough day. And it’s also possible that the creation of the Xenoblade planet happens after Shion (or a later “Shion”) rediscovers Earth, and, I dunno, trying to get the lights back on goes horribly wrong.

But it’s a lot more likely we’re talking about entirely separate universes.

Why are Shion and KOS-MOS in the Y-Data in Episode 1?

It was revealed during Episode 3 that Mizrahi’s Y-Data apparently has ancient Biblical origins, like Zarathustra. So, apparently, Mary Magdalene and Ancient Shion (The Maiden of Mary) dropped a few selfies in there for posterity. Albedo saw the gals in the Y-Data, but presumably what he “saw” was just his mind interpreting the two ancient women as the more familiar duo standing in front of him.

… Incidentally, it’s possible that the Y-Data was retconned as “ancient” just to explain away that plot point.

Which plot point/event either rumored somewhere or mentioned by Soraya (or extend to Missing Year or anything else if needed) are you especially disappointed by not seeing in game?

Easy. This bad boy right here.

Or should I say bad girl?

It’s established back in Episode 1 that Shion should keep an eye on KOS-MOS, because you take your eyes off that bot, and she’s going to destroy your home planet in an effort to slay God. Come on, Shion, KOS-MOS shot Virgil earlier, and this is like exactly the same thing.

And then Episode 2 seems to be continuing that thread at its start. KOS-MOS gains the Tertiary Weapons System early in that adventure, and, oh smack, now she’s got the planet buster weapon/wings that she used to destroy Old Miltia in the flashback! Shion! Do something! This is going to end poorly!

And then Old Miltia resurfaces! And we’re going there! KOS-MOS wasn’t even supposed to come along, but Shion needed some help thanks to a Testament, and now here she is! No time to turn back now. Ugh, this is going to be rough…

And then…. Nothing. Old Miltia is destroyed, but it’s destroyed by Pope Jerkass. KOS-MOS doesn’t even wind up in a “will she/won’t she” situation. The only choice any party member makes is Shion agreeing to kill Cecily and Cathe, and, given the tone of that scene, it kinda looked like that was going to happen without her blessing. In the end, an entire planet is destroyed, and it’s destroyed entirely thanks to the machinations of a character that has been established as evil from his first moment.

Way to fumble at the finish line, Xenosaga.

To add insult to injury, Soraya Saga claimed afterward that the planet buster scene was supposed to be even more than we saw in the flashback, with Junior and Albedo working together to suppress U-DO, and KOS-MOS basically destroying the planet in an act of “Everybody shut-up, I’m going to take care of this”. In this version, Pope Jerkass continues to be a nobody, and actual party members (and their favorite villain) take a more active role in attempting to save and/or destroy a planet. And it allows for that great prophecy story telling trick of “Oh, KOS-MOS had to destroy the planet, it was the only way to save x.” Oh, and Junior would have powered-up enough to grow up during the scene, too, which would be an interesting beat for his character arc. It’s better than fratricide.

But, again, all we got was Bad Guy does Bad Thing. And then Good Guys Beat Bad Guy, and it turns out Bad Guy never had an impact on anything, anyway.

Oh, and did I mention that KOS-MOS barely exists in Episode 2? Sour taste all around.

What the HELL was up with the time travel LOL JK NOT REALLY TIME TRAVEL shit that made up a sizable chunk of Episode 3?

First of all, as everyone likely already knows, there is no time travel in Xenosaga. Every single time the party has visited the past, it has been a simulation generated by the UMN. It happened during Episode 1 (“Memory Lane”), it happened during Episode 2 (Canaan’s initial dive with chaos and Jin), and it happened for the entire second act of Episode 3. The big difference in Episode 3 was that, in order to make the dive more confusing immersive, apparently the UMN (with a little help from Wilhelm and Kevin) sucked in the subconscious thoughts of the living and dead of everyone on Old Miltia, and created the most accurate simulation of the past ever.

This led to a sort of Star Trek: TNG Holodeck situation, wherein technically everyone (other than The Brews and Testaments) is “not real”, but the timeline “changes” as according to Shion’s interactions. For instance, as a result of Shion’s incarceration, Papa Uzuki is wearing different pants when he dies. However, to be clear, even though this simulation does not impact the “real” timeline, since dead people’s subconsciouses/souls are fueling this simulation, anything Shion does to “help” a person is somehow felt by the dead person’s soul… or… something? Like, that whole bit where Shion provides information to Mai on how her father died? That eased Mai’s ghost. So… good job, guys… I think.

And this entire simulation was just a plan by Kevin/Wilhelm to make Shion as stressed out as possible so she’d summon Abel’s Ark. Considering Shion’s… Shionosity… I feel like this could have been accomplished with a lot less effort by, I don’t know, knocking her ice cream off the cone.

That said, the “real” reason the entire time travel adventure happened is that Xenosaga needed a way to dive completely into Shion’s past “mythology”. Shion’s tragic past had been teased since the first episode, and “explore Old Miltia before it explodes” is a much better way to relay that tragedy than a series of static flashbacks or a cutscene or two. This entire act is ONLY here to fill in The Story of Shion, so if you weren’t already interested in Uzuki Mythos, this section is a complete waste.

But, yeah, long story short, it’s a playable novel about Shion’s childhood. The end.

So which Xenosaga girl is your waifu?

Screw it, I’m taking this question seriously.

First of all, it’s Shion, duh. She is clearly a giant nerd in her off hours (remember, she hooked up with Professor thanks to a mutual love of robot construction), and, let’s face it, she’s a fox. Look at that bizarre one-piece mesh thing she’s wearing as full body underwear in XS3. She knows she can pull that off with a peculiar fuzzy jacket that seems incapable of buttoning over even the most modest of chests. H-O-T. And before anyone points out the obvious, yes, I have dated crazier. I actually dated a woman that thought I might enjoy skiing. Skiing! Okay, whatever you say, Madam Crazypants.

And, look, I’m not proud of this, but when XS1 was released, I was a teenager that lived in separate area code from my actual, real-life girlfriend. Shion may have wound up equipped with the swimsuit armor for much of that game as a result.

Which brings me to an interesting topic that lies on the opposite end of the waifu spectrum: Xenosaga and Feminism.

Does Xenosaga pass the Bechdel Test? Yep! And it does from the absolute moment its heroine is introduced. I could say “the first scene” if it wasn’t for that silly bit about archeology that is never relevant again. Allen is our first male to be introduced, and, to say the least, he’s not exactly a shining example of the masculine ideal. From there, Woglinde Captain Anonymous, Virgil, and Cherenkov are introduced, and, if you haven’t noticed, there’s practically a thesis being conveyed by these initial male characters: dudes, in the Xenosaga universe, are useless. KOS-MOS is the most important woman/weapon in the universe, Shion is her creator, and Allen is the adorable lil’ “Assistant Chief”.

Consider that if their roles were reversed, Allena and Chief Uzuki would be sexist as hell. Allen as a pining little “senpai please notice me” assistant who is defined by his crush, and Shion as the strong, battle-ready weapons designer that keeps Vector and his creation in line… It sounds sexist… and kind of like a number of other stories, sci-fi or otherwise, out there in patriarchy land.

But this isn’t to suggest Shion and Allen are a simple “gender swap” of the typical hero/pining crush setup. Shion definitely displays typically feminine traits. KOS-MOS is here to be that “strong female character” that could easily be “write this character like a male action hero, but, ya know, with boobs”. Shion seems to take a female approach to things, and contrasts greatly with Junior, the “male lead” character that is only occasionally the lead. Junior thinks the only way to stop Albedo is through a bullet to the brain, Shion reacts like a woman (that is to say, an actual God damn human, as opposed to the “rational” male ideal) and is stressed at the mere thought of brother literally having to fight brother. And, while we don’t see it much past Episode 1 (which had the luxury of a “slow” plot), Shion does do her best to console fellow party members after harrowing experiences, like when MOMO first hears her dad might be an insane lunatic.

Again, I hate to ascribe “has emotions” as a strictly feminine trait, but could you ever see the typical Final Fantasy (male) protagonist having a heart-to-heart with the Rydia of the group beyond, “Hey, sorry I killed your entire family. It was an accident.”?

And, while we’re at the same scene, while the waters get more and more muddied as the franchise goes on, I can confidently say that Xenosaga Episode 1 is the rare “Mom Game”. The central conflict of XS1 is, basically, Shion trying to grapple with her newly activated daughter, and the finale of that experience is KOS-MOS twice potentially sacrificing herself for the benefit of Shion and the party. KOS-MOS, at the start of story, guns down a man simply because it’s convenient, and she’s got one person to protect, screw everybody else. Twice during the climax, KOS-MOS risks her own life to save not only Shion, but also the entire party. It would have been a lot easier to stick Shion in an escape pod and call it a day (like back at the Woglinde), but “mom” has imparted good family values on Small Wonder here, so the whole Elsa gets saved. And recall that KOS-MOS was going to kill the entire Elsa crew when they first met…

And Shion spends her beach vacation in a chair reading while the rest of the party parties. Total mom move.

Finally, the only confirmed, relevant romantic relationship in this franchise is the Shion-Allen-Kevin love triangle. And you could potentially interpret it as Allen “winning” Shion over rival male Kevin. But a more accurate interpretation should involve Shion and the fact that she is always choosing the man in her life.

Kevin is the wrong choice, but he’s Shion’s wrong choice to make. And when Allen “wins” Shion’s attention, it’s Shion finally choosing to see that Allen is more than a stinky onesie. Shion is the focus in all these situations, and it’s her choices that determine the outcome of that romantic entanglement. Shion isn’t a prize to be won, she’s a woman that is choosing between two men that are both very important to her, but very different.

And, yes, part of Shion’s problem with The Brews come Kevin-time is that they refuse to let her decide for herself, and are choosing for her. She’s a woman being treated like a possession by her well-meaning male friends (you’ll note KOS-MOS and MOMO are silent on the matter), and responds aggressively. A violent femme, if you will.

So I would note that Xenosaga is the rare feminist JRPG, as it is one of the few game franchises that features a female protagonist (two of ‘em!) that doesn’t exist simply as eye candy or an obvious “male protagonist in female protagonist’s clothing” situation.

But, that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Squall Leonhart was never in a situation where he was equipped with only a nightshirt and panties and his best special attack knocked him over…

Which one do you jeopardize your marriage with by nailing on the side?

Shelley. Girl is clearly a freak in the sheets.

Was it fun? Not this LP, writing all this up, or any of that. But the games themselves. Are they even fun to play?

Kinda!

Overall, as bonkers as it is, Xenosaga has an… interesting story. So if you’re interested in that, and sussing out mysteries is your deal, then, hooray, here’s a 60 hour mystery with generally disappointing resolutions. But it’s about the journey! And the journey, as a whole, ain’t bad.

That said, there are some frankly terrible bits across the franchise, like XS1’s Cathedral Ship and much of the dungeon portion of Memory Lane (“much” being the Shion/chaos segments). Those areas are just completely miserable slogs. And MOMO’s Subconscious Domain in XS2 is awful… just awful. In fact, much of XS2’s dungeon content is forgettable, and, frankly, the bonus dungeons would have been a better fit for the “real” game than the mandatory dungeons. And I swear this will be the last time I mention it, but XS2’s battle system can be… exhausting.

But, as I’ve also said, XS2’s battle system is a blast when it’s actually working as intended. When you’ve got a great “combo” going, it really does feel like when you’re “on” during a fighting or beat ‘em up game, and I feel like that was always the intention. And, ultimately, I feel like that sums up the Xenosaga franchise as a whole: when it’s a drag, it’s terrible, but when everything clicks, it is indisputably fun. I can’t in good conscious say, “Oh? Xenosaga? Well, dude, just keep playing it until X, that’s when it really gets good.” But I can say that, playing all Xenosaga games over the course of a year, I played for much longer sessions as the games progressed, and that was mainly because what was initially something of a chore became actually fun.

So, yes, the Xenosaga games are fun, they’re just deeply and blatantly flawed.

Would this game have been better as (just) an anime series or light novels or alike? Does “playing” Xenosaga enhance the narrative, or detract from the vision with gameplay concessions?

By my reckoning, there are maybe three places in Xenosaga that really benefit from the videogame format:

1. During XS1, when, after exploring the Woglinde during peacetime, the entire place is beset by unstoppable gnosis. It is a rare videogame that actually makes its mook-class monsters an actual threat to the universe, and sneaking around the Woglinde thanks to the fear of instant death really sells the menace the gnosis represents to the average Xenosaga resident. … That said, this all becomes moot when the gnosis become cannon fodder for the rest of the franchise.

2. Exploring Old Miltia in the past. Considering the lack of towns in this franchise, it’s striking to see “happy” Old Miltia, with its ice cream vendors and children losing balloons, when we’ve spent two whole games lamenting “destroyed” Old Miltia. It makes the whole tragedy that much more real, and I don’t see an adaption in any other medium taking the time to really flesh out that disaster with anything more than “oh yeah, there are birds chirping, but dark clouds are on the horizon”. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for this bit (see also: time travel in Legend of Legaia), but I feel it really works here.

3. And, finally, Shion on the wrong side feels really wrong. It’s one thing to have a character do a heel turn, but it’s another to then enter a battle where they’re straight up an enemy. Sorry, Shion isn’t receiving any experience anymore, because she’s a bad guy. The whole scene moves way too fast to really consider the ramifications, but the initial “what’s happening here” is intense. … And it might be a little cathartic for the player, too.

But, that said? No, I don’t think the story of Xenosaga is enhanced by being a videogame. Yes, the player is likely to grow more attached to the playable characters that have been the focus for the last sixty hours of three different games, but that’s inevitable. Once we get past that, the story of Xenosaga is likely worse for being a videogame, as entire dungeons and side trips have to be created to fill out some arbitrary “we need to use the ESes more” requirement or something. And the whole party has to be present for battlin’ throughout the game, so MOMO is there past her expiration date because, uh, she was in the first one? But if the story doesn’t have anything for her to do… Well, it starts to raise more questions than necessary. Remember the first giant T-elos fight? Remember how most of the party just kind of stood there? “Ziggy has to be there” doesn’t do the character any favors when you’re stuck asking, “Why isn’t he helping!?”

Ultimately, the story of Xenosaga is not enhanced by being part of a videogame. This could be improved by including more events where it feels like the player is actually doing things to impact the plot, or perhaps including areas or scenarios that are only possible in videogames, but, with the story we have here, Xenosaga is lacking in a reason to be a videogame.

What hair conditioner does KOS-MOS use to get that silky sheen?

KOS-MOS’s hair is not human hair, but a careful assemblage of fur from Russian Blue kittens. Allen has been raising the animals for the last two years, and Shion trusts Allen thoroughly because he was able to so meticulously curate these fuzzballs. As a result, KOS-MOS’s hair doesn’t require conditioner, as kitten fur is the most bestest hair material in the universe.

Next time on Xenosaga: Time to get your freak on.

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