I’m not going to lie: I’m excited about this.
Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is the final entry in the Xenosaga trilogy. After two previous PS2 RPGs, a DS remake of those same games, an anime series, cell phone tie-in, flash series, and one visual novel/game of scrabble, Xenosaga was finally ready to throw in the towel. This was not the original plan.
As has been randomly alluded to, Xenosaga was initially supposed to be a six part series, but that was cut down to a more manageable trilogy pretty quickly. Accounts differ on whether or not this was simply the action of a cautious Namco, something inspired by the fact that Monolith Soft couldn’t even finish Episode 1 in a timely manner (so what were the odds of another five being practical?), or simply that the franchise never performed as well as expected (the next Final Fantasy 7 this ain’t), but the end result was the same: three games became 2.5 (with a sprinkling of spinoffs). Incidentally, I use that 2.5 number because, as we all know by now, Episode 1 & 2 were initially planned as one cohesive game, so it wasn’t like “real” Episode 1 & 2 were the initially planned, separate Episode 1 and Episode 2.
Which already leads to a weird kind of trilogy issue. Xenosaga Episode 2 picks up immediately after the end of Episode 1, much more like a “continuation” than a proper “sequel”. Episode 2 does not stand on its own in the same way that Kill Bill Volume 2 requires a viewing of Kill Bill Volume 1. Meanwhile, the original plan was something more akin to the Nolan Batman Trilogy: similar themes, familiar characters, but a different “story” every time. Albedo had his turn as the villain, now let’s get a (different) Testament in there, and maybe we’ll save Wilhelm himself for the end.
Unfortunately, as it stands, Episode 2 (the real one) set a dangerous precedent for the series. Episode 2, the “continuation” sequel, made it seem like Xenosaga was interested in telling one solid story across its trilogy, and that’s it. The Brews saved the world from Proto Omega and the Space Pope, and now they’ll take a week off, maybe pick it back up when Margulis leaves an inappropriate comment on MOMO’s twitter, and we’re back in business and busting gnosis all over again.
Episode 3 had other plans.
And there’s another fly in the ointment…
As randomly mentioned during XS2’s bonus content posts (which, if you haven’t read ‘em for some reason, go ahead and click back and read at least A Missing Year. You’ll thank me), Namco, in advance of XS3’s release, made it clear that Xenosaga was done. The official word was that Xenosaga might continue if Xenosaga Episode 3 sold particularly well, but, even before its release, it was clear Namco was totally over this whole “JRPG epic” thing. We have no way of knowing how this impacted the production of XS3, but, if the game itself is any indication, apparently Monolith Soft made a focused effort to tie up every loose end it could find before the finale. In a way, I almost envy the attention to detail and care for the characters that sees the entire cast (almost) find resolution before closing time. On the other hand, though, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to start a whole new plot when barely anything had been answered about the old plot.
What am I getting at here? Basically, Xenosaga Episode 3, practically from its inception, was always destined to be a glorious train wreck. Old and new slamming into each other at maximum speed, and we’re left to sort through the bodies.
And I can’t wait.
Xenosaga Episode 3 was released in America on August 29, 2006. That would be three years, six months, and three days after the release of Xenosaga Episode 1. That’s a lot of time to remember the details of the original game that, by the finale of XS3, is referenced once every 22 seconds. Remember KOS-MOS’s blue eyes? Shion’s flashback to her awful childhood? Old Miltia minutia? Some of this nonsense wasn’t even whispered in XS2, but it’s going to be super important for the reveals of XS3. I’ve devoted a lot of time to this project, and I have trouble remembering the particulars of posts I wrote six months ago, I didn’t have a prayer when there was three and a half years involved. When I first played XS3, I could recognize, “oh yeah, that was supposed to be important, wasn’t it?” but still not recall exactly why such a thing was important. I always wanted to replay this trilogy “continuously” without years of interruption between games, but… memories of trudging through Cherenkov hell again….
I’ll remind you that this project would have never started without a cheat to avoid a healthy amount of drudgery.
But now here we are at the beginning of the finale. Now it’s all going to make sense! The hours of foreshadowing and foreboding are going to pay off with interest! We’re going to find out how all the pieces fit together! KOS-MOS is more than meets the eye, and we’re going to face that truth right in the peepers. This is it, people!
Or it’s all going to turn out to be a sixty hour con.
Let’s find out, shall we?