The full name of the game is Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht. Translate that from German, and you’ve got “The Will to Power”, a prominent tenant of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s basically what everyone experiences if they decide to get off the couch: the drive to be the very best, like no one ever was. There’s a couple of different interpretations as it relates to the game:
1. It’s entirely based on Albedo’s explanation of his etheric powers during the finale. Albedo is able to focus his will into blue energy (?), and thus ruin everyone’s day. Albedo has reached a higher echelon of understanding than everyone else, and leaves the party to catch up over the next two games.
2. A significant component of “The Will to Power” is the simple desire to live and thrive. Arguably, the entire party comes around to various reasons to live through this adventure, which is significant, because by today’s standards, over half the party has more in common with calculators than living organisms. Reminder: the only significant, permanent death in this game was Cherenkov, a man who literally gave up on life.
3. KOS-MOS and chaos both distinctly decide to leave their comfort zones to save everyone’s ass as a result of this adventure. KOS-MOS has power enough to demolish a planet, but she uses it to save the Elsa (three times!). chaos seems to have a non-interference policy, but he singlehandedly gets the party out of jail, and then saves KOS-MOS and the Elsa. Arguably, it is the desire to see “the party” thrive that fuels these decisions.
4. Nietzsche quotes sound cool.
Take your pick.
Now let’s look at the characters.
Dr. Shion Uzuki
Where we met: Shion is the director of Vector Research and Development, and is anxious to get the KOS-MOS program completed. Well, maybe anxious is the wrong word. She seems to be alternatively stalling and rushing the project, probably because the last time they got KOS-MOS up and running, she killed nearly everyone in the room, including her dad. Mom is concerned about that.
What we learn: Shion has more issues than Cat Fancy. Shion has watched practically everyone she has ever cared about die, and her remaining support group appears to be a brother she constantly derides, and Allen, who doesn’t require the effort of deriding. It’s no wonder she clings to her beloved bot like a lifeline. Not only is KOS-MOS Shion’s life’s work, she’s also the last link Shion has to her dead fiancée. Well, presumed dead, but it’s a pretty good presumption, considering she watched him get riddled with bullets shielding her from harm.
Where are they now? After learning that KOS-MOS literally has the power to destroy planets, Shion has digested that information and determined that she doesn’t give a damn. She’s going to stand by KOS-MOS no matter what, and literally proves that when she risks falling out of a spaceship just to give KOS-MOS a hand. All that said, the point of this little adventure was to make it back to Second Miltia and “return” KOS-MOS to Vector. We just landed on Second Miltia, so I wonder how that’s going to go.
Best Moment: Arguably, Xenosaga Episode 1 is a greatest hits album of Shion’s absolute worst moments. Even her “healing” of Cherenkov seems to be something that is instantly repressed in the face of his violent (we helped!) end. That said, I want to say Shion gets nothing but net shortly thereafter when she’s consoling MOMO on the Durandal. Not only is Shion doing what she loves (consoling AI-based lifeforms), but KOS-MOS also joins in an empathetic way, and, considering all Shion seems to want out of life is a karing KOS-MOS, she’s elated. Shortly thereafter, it’s time to revisit the death of her parents… so, ya know, respite.
When we met: KOS-MOS is an anti-gnosis weapon created by Vector R&D, and specifically engineered primarily by lovers Shion and Kevin Winnicot. Despite being little more than a weapon and a serial number on paper, KOS-MOS is a fully-functional android, complete with preprogrammed emotional responses and heels… for some reason. KOS-MOS’s activation is one of the first significant events in Xenosaga.
What we learn: Surprisingly little. KOS-MOS is full of mysteries, chief among them KOS-MOS’s occasional need to change her eye color and switch from cold and calculating to disturbingly masochistic. More subtle is the fact that KOS-MOS appears to be receiving orders from somewhere, and Shion doesn’t have a clue where. Other than that, she’s an android, what more do you need to know? It’s not like we have any reason to suspect she’s a reincarnated Biblical figure.
Where are they now? After losing her Hilbert helmet and saving the Elsa, KOS-MOS decided to soak up a few rays on the bow of the Elsa before heading back in to be cleaned by Shion. Shion looked almost happy when she was handed a toothbrush.
Best Moment: While the whole of the finale is an obvious choice, I’m going to say it’s a tie between her activation, when she’s flipping around a ship full of “invincible” gnosis and generally making her mark in blood (salt), or the X-Buster “tummy laser” event when she, once again, turns all gnosis into pudding. Either one highlights KOS-MOS’s inherent danger (Good thing she’s on our side!), and her practically genocidal dedication to the mission.
When we met: Allen is Shion’s gopher. … Am I using the right word? I mean to imply that Shion believes Allen to be an inconsequential rodent that will eventually be exterminated if he bothers her even slightly. In the meanwhile, I guess he’s good for the soil.
What we learn: Allen wants Shion. Wait, no, I’m sorry, that came off as crass. Allen wants Shion to be happy… with his penis. Alright, yeah, that’s accurate.
Where are they now? Allen is, as ever, aboard the Elsa with Shion. Allen, I can safely say, accomplished nothing over the course of this adventure, and if he thinks he can “nice guy” into Shion’s heart, he doesn’t understand the object of his desire. Hell, at this point, I’m fairly certain Tony has more “relationship points” with Shion.
Best Moment: Were this a video series, I’d probably put together a montage of Allen utterly failing to do anything set to yakety sax. …. I still might do that. Regardless, Allen’s actual best moment was probably on the bench with chaos, when someone, anyone finally validated Allen’s efforts to “cheer up” Queen Repression. chaos claims that one day Shion will notice Allen, and, frankly, “hope” is about all Allen has at this point. Well, other than his soiled onesie.
Ziggurat 8 aka Ziggy
When we met: Ziggy is a cyborg-for-hire tasked with rescuing a kidnapped Realian girl. Ziggy is at least a century old, and is a reanimated suicide victim. Ziggy has one goal: to one day be 100% machine, and, thus, legally dead. Ziggy is crap at birthday parties.
What we learn: After nearly single-handedly demolishing his way out of a crowded U-TIC base, Ziggy joins the party and softens dramatically, primarily thanks to MOMO. Heck, the man that wants to be a machine is already cracking jokes by the time they hit the Elsa. Ziggy is also really good with kids, and, as we learn when Junior wants to run off on a suicide mission, seems to care about the rest of the party, if only in a gruff, paternal way.
Where are they now? Ziggy’s mission was to recover MOMO and return her to Second Miltia… and here we are on Second Miltia. Guess a lucky someone is finally going to have his brain meats scooped out!
Best Moment: Ziggy’s introductory area is never topped. By the time Ziggy and MOMO are hightailing it through space, it’s abundantly clear that Ziggy cares a lot more than he lets on, and also has the skills to backup his ace reputation. Also, he stood up to a dude with a flaming sword to protect a girl he just met, and that’s always good.
When we met: MOMO is a 100-series Realian that is the mechanical child of Joachim ‘n Juli Mizrahi. Unfortunately, thanks to her heritage, she’s a popular kidnap victim, because Papa Mizrahi smuggled the Y-Data into her operating system, and some people are really anxious to get their hands on that. But she’s more than just a macguffin, she’s one of the most emotional Realians in the universe, and is effectively a roughly preteen girl. She can also summon meteors for some reason.
What we learn: MOMO might be the only character in the series with more parental issues than Shion. As a result, MOMO is very hard on herself, and worries continually that her heritage makes her a monster. It’s a lot to carry on MOMO’s tiny shoulders, but she does continue to fight and help the party. As hokey as it sounds, she does seem to believe the tale that her father told her: through committing good deeds, MOMO will become human. I don’t think she’s taking it literally, but she doesn’t have far to go to be a real girl. Not that kind of real girl.
Where are they now? Aboard the Elsa, with Ziggy, ready to be returned and hooked into the UMN to yank that Y-Data out, potentially making her life a lot easier. Will Mama Mizrahi be there to greet her? MOMO sure hopes so.
Best MOMOment: After a brutal raping at the hands of Albedo, MOMO turns the tables on her captor and unleashes a portion of “his” power she siphoned off. MOMO not only deals a cathartic blow to her tormentor, but also saves her boy-that-is-also-a-friend Junior, and, potentially, the rest of the party. MOMO will not be some shrinking cherry blossom, she’s a big fat peach, and she’s gonna kick some ass when she must.
Dr. Joachim Mizrahi
When we met: Pretty much from the first time Mizrahi is mentioned, we’re told he’s a mad scientist that doomed the universe. But he understands the Zohar, and built MOMO, so I guess he has some redeeming qualities.
What we learn: We finally see Mizrahi about halfway through the adventure, and he’s ranting like a loon and getting tossed off a building. That’s not a good sign. Also, we learn that he effectively founded U-TIC, invited the gnosis into the universe, and had a protégé that is probably still creeping around the place. Maybe assuming he’s a dangerous lunatic is the right thing?
Where are they now? Everybody is in a mad scramble to obtain Mizrahi’s research, because Mizrahi himself has been dead for the last decade or so. Odds are low we’ll ever meet, but then again, that Dr. Light fellow seems to keep foiling Sigma’s plans.
Best moment: Did you see when he got blown off a building? Whammo!
When we met: Dude! That kid teleported in and then vaporized a gnosis with his bare hands? What the hell!?
What we learn: Pretty much nothing. After chaos’s bombastic introduction, chaos is barely spoken to again, and proceeds to simply chime in with fun facts and reactions during later scenes. The audience (but not the rest of the party) are privy to the fact that chaos communicates with noted ephemeral beings like Nephilim, so obviously something is going on there, but who the hell knows what. And, no, there isn’t the slightest hint that he’s the immortal disciple of Jesus Christ.
Where are they now? chaos just saved everyone aboard the Elsa with his angel wings tech… and then, I guess, booked it up to the bridge so no one would notice his absence/contribution (he can teleport…). More importantly, I suppose, he made the decision to do such a thing, so maybe we’ll see a more “unleashed” chaos in Episode 2 (no we won’t).
Best moment: It’s either his introduction or the ending, because he does practically nothing else during the game. I suppose he did knock over the guards during the incarceration caper, but if chaos hadn’t volunteered for that duty, Ziggy likely would have figured something out.
The Rest of the Elsa Crew
When we met: Captain Matthews, Tony, and Hammer (along with chaos) staff the Elsa, a transport/vulture ship in the employ of the Kukai Foundation. They seem to do the dirty jobs that Junior wants done…
What we learn: … But for Xenosaga Episode 1, they’re basically just a ferry. The Elsa is home base, one way or another, for much of the game, but there isn’t much development for the ship or its occupants. Remember when the Elsa gets separated from the party at the Cathedral Ship, and they’re, what, stuck in a gnosis for a couple of hours while the real party has an adventure? What happened then? Nobody cares. I don’t think anyone even asks. I guess it’s nice to have a support network, but these guys could be replaced with three “Times are tough” NPCs and a (space) boat.
Where are they now? The Elsa has fulfilled its mission of bringing a pack of weirdos to Second Miltia. Will the crew (and ship) stick around for further adventures? I mean, they have to have something else to do, right? Or Junior could at least get a better ship out of his entire fleet…
Best moment: That Captain Matthews sure does like Shion’s curry!
When we met: Wilhelm was introduced to the audience immediately after chaos. They also kinda look alike. Anyway, every time Wilhelm pops up, he talks about fate this and portents that and he gets exhausting real fast. He’s got like a combined ten minutes of screentime in this game, but it’s pretty clear we’re supposed to care about whatever he’s doing. He’s also got color-coded flunkies.
What we learn: Wilhelm has to be bad, because at least one of his servants is a super-duper racist cannibal zombie. However, the only time the party even comes close to encountering Wilhelm directly (seriously, the main party never interacts with Wilhelm the entire game, Helmer gets closest), he’s pulling the party’s fat out of the fryer by rolling up with his official Vector Death Fleet. So, shocker, it appears that Wilhelm is playing both sides against each other. Speaking of playing, he also appears to have some control over KOS-MOS… which does make a certain amount of sense. As President of Vector, he is, effectively, Shion’s boss.
Where are they now? Still hanging out in the ol’ space pyramid, still droning on about keys and compasses and maybe he just really wants to play a universal game of Zelda.
Best moment: The unveiling of the Dämmerung and its attending death ships was pretty badass. I mean, Wilhelm barely leaves his chair for the event, but it’s nice that he decided to bring company.
Junior aka Rubedo aka Gaignun Kukai Jr.
When we met: Junior is the cocksure VP of the Kukai Foundation. While his younger, older-looking brother handles the day-to-day operations, Junior gallivants around the universe collecting Zohar Emulators and getting into shootouts with enemy soldiers. Yee-haw!
What we learn: Junior is actually a mutant (sorry, Shion), and, more specifically, a URTV. A URTV is apparently a member of mass-produced “clone army” that was intended to destroy U-DO. They failed because Junior had a panic attack, cut off the “mental link” between URTVs, and left his brothers to die and/or go crazy. Rubedo (Junior) and Nigredo (Gaignun Sr.) survived, and now they’re ridiculously successful business people that have productively amassed all of the Zohar Emulators… for some reason. Eventually they discover that Albedo survived, too… and that’s gonna be a bad time.
Where are they now? Junior is aboard the Elsa with the rest of the team. Unlike the rest of the party, Junior had no real reason to go to Second Miltia, and he was along either for his own interests (The Kukai Foundation is in danger!) or to deal with Albedo. Now that Albedo isn’t an immediate threat, Junior could just head back to the Kukai Foundation and sip a few Shirley Temples with his feet on his desk.
Best moment: Junior is ACTION BOY, so it’s nice when, before the final battle, Junior finally admits to his own fear and being the reason URTV army broke down. Junior really obviously masks his emotions behind bluster and firearms, so that scene might count as a breakthrough. Good job, Little Master.
Helmer & Gaignun Kukai & Mary & Shelly
When we met: Junior effectively has his own support cast. Mary & Shelly are the Alia & Layer to his X, and Gaignun is the big (little) brother and guy who keeps the home fires burning (through cash). Helmer isn’t officially an employee of the Kukai Foundation (he’s with the Second Miltia Government), but he’s sympathetic to the cause, and has known the URTV cast since they were kids.
What we learn: Aren’t these guys swell? All four of these folk seem to exist entirely to prop up Junior (and the party by association). Helmer had a mole in the Space Government for years just to blow it on, what, buying a spare hour for the party? And Gaignun and the rest may as well be wearing cheerleading uniforms.
Where are they now? All chilling in their respective offices, chatting about what’s going to happen next. Must be hard to be a NPC in a PC world.
Best moment: It has nothing to do with anything, but I love how Mary and Shelly always, always act like Gaignun is the only man in the universe. Sure, rescuing our heroes from jail is great, but what’s Gaignun got besides looks, money, power, suits, and freaky mutant powers?
When we met: Who’s that strange guy hanging out with the Realian kid? I guess he works for U-TIC? Do they have an albino outreach program?
What we learned: Albedo is the worst. Albedo apparently works “with” U-TIC, but plainly has his own agenda that involves the Y-Data and potentially killing everyone in the universe. He threatened an entire planet with the Proto Merkabah just to test a theory. He menaced a highly populated area just to kidnap one Realian. And he apparently screwed with an entire harem of Realians, what, just for giggles? Albedo is the worst. Oh, also, he’s immortal/invincible.
Where are they now? Albedo escaped the Proto Merkabah well in advance of the heroes, and he’s currently bopping around some unknown section of space, reviewing the damage he’s wrought. He’s got the Y-Data, he just plucked an entire orbiting death station out of a double black hole, what’s next on his bucket list?
Best moment: From a strictly audience point of view, Albedo’s initial speech to MOMO, complete with random amputation/decapitation, might be the deranged highlight of the entire game. From a character perspective… nah… same answer. You always get the feeling that Albedo really enjoys what he does, and menacing Realian children is what he does best.
When we met: We have no damn idea what U-DO even is… but we know we don’t like it.
What we learned: KOS-MOS is potentially destined to destroy U-DO… and an entire planet while she’s at it. Junior was literally born to combat U-DO. Albedo interacting with U-DO elevated him to his current level of utter insanity/invincibility. U-DO is ultimately the reason Old Miltia isn’t around anymore. U-DO is bad news for everybody… but nobody seems to have a firm grasp on what “It” is.
Where are they now? Old Miltia, I guess. For all the fear of U-DO going on, It doesn’t seem like It is very active.
Best moment: U-DO
When we met: From the beginning, the gnosis were spoken of in hushed, fearful tones. This is mainly because they seem to utterly destroy everything in their path, and reduce humans to either their component, bloody pieces, or… salt. They’re fond of salt.
What we learned: They’re also made of salt. Despite the fact that there is an entire industry dedicated to eradicating the gnosis (KOS-MOS, AGWS, 100-Series Realians), nobody seems to know much about them. We now know (and have seen it proven) that at least some gnosis are former people that… gnosified. We also know that Shion is inexplicably immune to this condition. Beyond that, they may as well be scientifically classified as angry ghosts. They’re definitely responsible for their share of bloodshed.
Where are they now? Everywhere. Okay, wait, that’s hyperbolic. Despite the fact that the gnosis seem to follow the party like lost puppies, the gnosis are still, across the universe, widely believed to be a myth. And by “myth”, I mean “global climate change isn’t real, my cousin knows a scientist that said it’s all bunk.” As we saw with the Kukai Foundation, if the gnosis wanted to attack an entire planet, it would end poorly for the planet, so let’s hope Shion’s luck as a gnosis magnet improves.
Best moment: Any time before the Cathedral Ship… which pretty much confines it to the Woglinde. The gnosis do, as you’d expect, get gradually less scary to the player as time marches on, because how can anything be scary when your inventory is full of their salty, separated body parts? The gnosis are still a threat to the universe, but to your six protagonists, they’re currently right up there with slimes and cactuars.
Margulis & U-TIC
When we met: U-TIC kidnapped MOMO, and U-TIC’s apparent leader is Margulis, a harsh fellow that doesn’t give the tiniest damn about humanity. He doesn’t want to kill everyone, he just believes that the vast majority of people are insects crawling along the kitchen floor that is the universe, and he will one day reclaim and hold aloft the dropped piece of ham that is still good (Lost Jerusalem).
What we learned: U-TIC is all about obtaining the Zohar and returning to Lost Jerusalem for… some reason. I don’t know, maybe someone left the stove on on Earth, and they’re anxious to turn it back off. Whatever. Other than that, U-TIC is a religious organization of some kind, and Margulis is leading his contingent of U-TICkers with an iron fist and a flaming sword. Dude destroyed a planet just to see what would happen.
Where are they now? U-TIC kind of fell off the map when Albedo showed up (seriously, they weren’t even checked during the credits), but presumably they’re still waiting for Albedo to return with the Y-Data “they” sent Albedo to retrieve. Might be a long wait.
Best moment: Cherenkov’s memories reveal why U-TIC has gained support: they’re basically the premiere hate group of the future. Hey, you’re a dangerous mass-murderer? Come on down, sign up, we think you’ll work out just fine. We’ve got a few planets we need disappeared, and maybe a murderbot to screw with… you in?
Professor, Assistant Scott, and Erde Kaiser
When we met: Professor is an excitable person who needs help building a giant robot. We help. We do what we must, because we can.
What we learned: Professor is a childish alcoholic, and Assistant Scott is a masochistic codependent, but together they form an invincible fighting robot, and, really, can you say you’ve done anything any better in your life?
Where are they now? Just chilling, back on the Kukai Foundation, confident that Erde Kaiser was instrumental in the destruction of that orbiting death station everyone else seemed so panicked about.
Best moment: I love it when a robot comes together.
Episode 1, complete.
I need to be cleaned.
Next time on Xenosaga: A more animated review of the game’s events.