Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille Zur Macht
By: Matt C. on January 1, 2003
Whether you like it or not, Xenogears is considered by many people to be one of the best RPG's on the original PlayStation. In fact, we are fairly lucky to have the game available in the U.S., because Xenogears almost wasn't released in North American due to its "controversial" storyline.
After Xenogears was completed, Squaresoft was not interested in creating a sequel or prequel to the game (at the time). They wanted to focus mainly on the Final Fantasy series. As a result, Tetsuya Takahashi, the director/writer of Xenogears, left Square and established Monolith Software, which is a subsidiary of Namco Hometek. And if you didn't know, Takahashi-san is once again the director and scenario writer of the Xenosaga series. Joining him are also some of the other key players in the making of Xenogears. This includes Yasunori Mitsuda, the music composer and Kunihiko Tanaka, who is the character designer.
But enough about how Xenosaga ended up being a Namco project. Lets talk about the actual game. Contrary to popular belief, Xenosaga is not a direct sequel or prequel to Xenogears according to the game's developers. However, don't be fooled. Monolith obviously used Xenogears as a launching pad when they created this game. You can definitely tell that Xenosaga was made by the same people as Xenogears (look at the battle system for example). After all, it's okay to copy your own game, right?
The first chapter in the Xenosaga series, Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht (yes, that is German and it reads "the will to power") hit Japanese stores a very long time ago but Namco is just now finishing up the translation work on the domestic version of the game. You have to applaud Namco for bring the game over to the States because localizing a massive RPG like this is not easy. Xenosaga Episode 1 will ship onto a dual-layered DVD (yes, dual layered) and the game will feature hours upon hours of spoken dialogue. To put that into perspective, not even Final Fantasy X or Metal Gear Solid 2 shipped onto a dual layered DVD. In addition, according to Namco's website, the game offers nearly 80 hours of gameplay (this includes the side-quests and minigames).
Unlike 90% of the RPG's on the market today, Xenosaga is not set around knights, sorcery, and all that other medieval crap. Xenosaga is truly refreshing in that it takes place in the future. Yes, I know that the original Xenogears didn't have a medieval theme to it, but Xenosaga's characters look a lot more futuristic than Citan and Fei ever did.
Sorry, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. Xenosaga Episode 1 starts off in the 21st century where a strange artifact has been found in Kenya, Africa. This artifact is called the Zohar and the people who discovered it believe that it has existed since the beginning of time. The game eventually fast forwards to 4,000 years into the future, where the purpose of the Zohar is still a mystery. During this time, humans have decided to abandoned Earth in favor of space travel.
The main character in Xenosaga Episode 1 is Shion Uzuki (she's the one in the glasses in the screenshots below), who is the chief engineer in charge of developing KOS-MOS. KOS-MOS is some kind of android that is designed to defend mankind from an aggressive alien race called the Gnosis. The introduction of the game continues on after that point with a butt load of cutscenes. In fact, during the first few hours into the game, you'll probably think that you accidentally purchased a DVD movie rather than a game due to the insane amount of dialogue. Rest assured, the action does pick up later on though.
Speaking of action, the battle system in Xenosaga is turned based. One thing that I'm sure that all of you will be happy to know is that enemies are visible on screen. In other words, you can avoid battles if you wish by luring baddies into traps or by sneaking past them using the R2 to walk softly. To avoid confusion and getting lost in dungeons, Monolith purposely made it so that you cannot rotate the camera around while exploring.
However, when combat is unavoidable, you'll notice that the battle system is very similar to Xenogears (I am personally very happy about this). For those of you who haven't played Xenogears, each character starts out with 4 AP (action points). The circle, triangle, and square buttons each consumes 2 AP and each result in different types of attacks. Pressing a different combination of circle, triangle, or square will result in a different string of attacks. For instance, pressing triangle twice to use your 4 AP will result in a different attack than pressing triangle and then circle. When you don't use up all of your AP, the unused points are carried over to your next turn (4 AP is gained after each turn). If you build up your AP, you can unleash even more powerful attacks! Oh yeah, and the "item", "guard", and "Ether" commands are all there too.
Combat can take place in mechs units as well (yet another nod towards Xenogears). These mechs are called Anti-Gnosis-Weapon-System or AGWS for short. Battles using AGWS's are fairly simple and it shouldn't take too long to get the hang of. There are additional details about the battle system that I forgot to mention, but I'll have to discuss them at a later date.
Lastly, to keep players busy, Xenosaga will feature four mini-games. One of them looks a lot like Virtual-On (see screenshots below). The three other mini-games include some kind of drilling game, a trading card game, and a casino game that allows you to play slot machines and such. You can even receive e-mails, although I am not sure what the purpose of that is yet. One interesting thing to note about Xenosaga is that the Japanese version supports the PS2 hard drive to cut down on the loading times. Of course, the North American hard drive won't be out before the game's release date, so we'll have to deal with the loading times. Darn.
That's all the information for now. Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille Zur Macht is due out February 25, 2003, so expect additional info and screenshots to be posted up until the game's release date.