The Xenosaga series serves as a spiritual successor to the game Xenogears, which was released in 1998 for the PlayStation by Square (now Square Enix). These two works have links through allusions, stylistic connections, and design similarities. The creator of both Xenogears and Xenosaga is Tetsuya Takahashi, who left Squaresoft in 1998 along with Hirohide Sugiura. Using funds from Namco, they started Monolith Soft and the Xenosaga project.
The first game in the primary trilogy, Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht ("The will to power" in German) , was released in February 2002 in the Japanese market, and then in February 2003 in the American market. Xenosaga Freaks, a lighthearted game with a playable demo for Episode II was released in April 2004 in Japan, but was not released elsewhere. Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse ("Beyond Good & Evil") was released in June 2004 in Japan and February 2005 in North America. Xenosaga: The Animation, an anime based on Episode I, premiered on TV Asahi in Japan on January 5, 2005. Xenosaga: Pied Piper, a three chapter-long cellphone-based game depicting the history of cyborg "Ziggurat 8" 100 years before the start of Episode I, was released in Japan in July 2004. Pied Piper was not released in the United States. Released on July 6 2006, Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra ("Thus spoke Zarathustra") is the final title in the Xenosaga series, effectively cutting the initial projection of the series in half (see section). A retelling of the first two episodes (titled Xenosaga I & II) was released on the Nintendo DS in March 2006 in Japan.
All three episodes of the main Xenosaga trilogy are named after the books of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. The first episode is named after The Will to Power, a book published posthumously by his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Several Nietzschean concepts and references appear throughout the series.
The Xenosaga universe is not divided into galaxies and solar systems as we divide the universe today, but rather is divided into Xenosaga:UMN columns. Although initially host to humans, science and the paranormal have given birth to several quasi-lifeforms, including:
The world is modeled on most science fiction mythology. Being largely futuristic, the average life span is well over 100 years. Due to legislation such as the Xenosaga:Life Recycling Act, people live well beyond their natural life span.
Besides the main story arc, the two biggest arcs are for two of the characters. Shion Uzuki's arc involves her overcoming the tragedies in her past, including the brutal deaths of her parents and lover, which she witnessed. The other arc involves Jr. and his anger with his twin brother, Albedo, as well as his father, Dimitri Uriev. Episode I primarily deals with Shion's arc, while Episode II primarily deals with Jr.'s. Episode III brings a close to both arcs, in addition to the main arc of the game.
Since the age of Lost Jerusalem, many researchers have studied and attempted to control the Zohar. Among the results of this research was the development of several Zohar Emulators. However, the Original Zohar's power still far eclipses the energy output of any known Emulator, despite the fact that one of the Emulators caused the disappearance of the planet Ariadne. More importantly, no Emulator is capable of the true function of the Zohar.
As a result, the Ormus society and the Galaxy Federation are obsessed with finding the Original Zohar that was sealed away on Miltia at the end of the Miltian Conflict. However, the key to unlocking Miltia and the Original Zohar is contained within the Y-Data, which is hidden within the mind of a Realian called MOMO. In order to retrieve the Y-Data, Ormus hatches a plot against the Galaxy Federation and its allies by using a series of dummy organizations and insiders, as well as its military force, the U-TIC Organization and an enigmatic figure known as Albedo. In turn, the Galaxy Federation employs a cyborg named Ziggurat 8 to rescue MOMO and act as her bodyguard.
Meanwhile, Vector Industries, the largest corporation in existence and the primary arms manufacturer for the Galaxy Federation, is currently researching new ways to use nanotechnology to build an unstoppable anti-Gnosis battle android, code-named KOS-MOS. This is quite unusual, since androids have been replaced for many years by artificial life-forms known as Realians. However, Vector Industries and their head of First R&D Division, Shion Uzuki, have other ideas. Shion, a simple software researcher traveling on the starship Woglinde, becomes involved in a conspiracy not only to control the mysterious Gnosis and Original Zohar, but to reshape the destiny of all mankind.
Shion Uzuki: The chief engineer of Vector Industries' First R&D Division, Shion is a young woman who is the lead designer in the KOS-MOS project and also specializes in Realian technology. However, during events that take place between Episodes II and III, Shion distances herself from Vector. Shion is unaware of the fact that her role in the story is far greater than it appears.
KOS-MOS: KOS-MOS is a female battle android developed by Vector Industries (primarily Shion and the late Kevin Winnicot). Although her development was delayed by an incident two years prior to Episode I, she becomes fully functional during the Woglinde disaster. KOS-MOS has a strong loyalty to Shion and Allen Ridgeley that is only overruled by unknown commands from Vector Industries.
Ziggurat 8: A humanoid cyborg who wishes to become a complete machine so he will no longer remember what it was to be human, or his tragic past. Ziggurat 8 ("Ziggy") befriends MOMO while rescuing her from the U-TIC asteroid "Pleroma" during Episode I. Ziggy's past rises again in several instances, primarily in Episode III.
MOMO: A female 100-Series Observational Realian developed by Joachim Mizrahi and modeled after his late daughter Sakura, MOMO is captured by the U-TIC Organization because she carries valuable information: the Y-Data. MOMO soon befriends Ziggurat 8 when he rescues her from Pleroma.
chaos: An enigmatic figure who appears to be a silver-haired teenager (a flashback scene reveals that he hasn't aged since the Miltian Conflict). A member of the Elsa crew, chaos' origins are unknown. However, he does possess the mysterious power to destroy Gnosis with the touch of his hand. He appears to have a mysterious connection to both the ethereal girl Nephilim and Vector's CEO, Wilhelm.
Jr.: A U.R.T.V. unit, number 666, who played an integral role in the Miltian Conflict, Jr. is actually a man in a child's body due to his gene modification and subsequent power over his own growth. Currently, Jr. is a leader of the Kukai Foundation, which is run by his fellow U.R.T.V., Gaignun Kukai.
Jin Uzuki: Shion Uzuki's older brother, Jin Uzuki runs a bookstore on Second Miltia. However, he was once a sword-wielding Federation commander who attempted to unlock the truth behind the Miltian Conflict. In Episode II, he joins the quest to confirm what he learned about the Conflict.
Lt. Luis Virgil: A (former) soldier in the Miltian government, and a veteran in the Miltian Conflict fourteen year prior to Episode I. On board the Woglinde during the Gnosis attack, Virgil is playable for a short time, until he is eventually killed by KOS-MOS. He reappears later as the Blue Testament.
Mary Godwin: Second-in-Command of the Durandal and chief of the Kukai Foundation's Strategy division. On the U-TIC Battleship in Episode I, Mary is a playable character, but does not have an in-battle character model. Instead, she pilots a pink A.G.W.S. unit in every battle.
With Mary, a Durandal Soldier is also playable. But, like Mary, has no character model and pilots an A.G.W.S in battle. This soldier seems to have no connection to the story at all.
Canaan: Introduced in a flashback at the beginning of Episode II, Canaan is a Realian who was involved in the Miltian Conflict. He is a mysterious special type of Realian and was unaffected by the phenomenon which caused standard Realians to go berserk during the incident. Canaan accompanied chaos on a mission to secretly infiltrate Miltia and assist the U.R.T.V.s. During the mission, he came into contact with Jin Uzuki and accepted a record of the Y Data into his own memory bank. In Episode III, Canaan joins Shion in her quest.
Miyuki Itsumi: Another member of Vector Industries, and something of a fan of Shion. Miyuki was once a member of Vector's Second R&D Division. She tendered a request to transfer to First R&D Division and was accepted, becoming one of Shion's underlings. In Episode III, Miyuki sides with Shion and joins her in her quest to get to the bottom of Vector's corruption.
Allen Ridgeley: Shion's assistant and friend, Allen is the second in command of the KOS-MOS project. Although two years older than Shion, he is relatively new to Vector Industries and is her junior in the organization. Allen often acts shy around Shion because he is in love with her, although she is rather oblivious to this fact. Allen joins the party in Episode III to act as a support (yet rather obsolete) in the past Miltia whilst infiltrating Labryinthos a second time.
Both Xenogears and Xenosaga revolve around a mysterious golden monolith referred to as the Zohar, which is similar to the black monolith in Stanley Kubrick's and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, that is present at and is even the catalyst for many events that change mankind profoundly. The first game in the Xenosaga series, Episode I begins when humanity first discovers the Zohar. Coincidentally, Richard Strauss’s composition “Also sprach Zarathustra” is famous for being featured in the movie 2001 in association with the monolith, and is an adaptation of Nietzsche's magnum opus, which serves the title for the third game in the series, Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra.
Xenosaga's storyline has several influences, including Gnostic plot devices. Intertwined with the symbolism of the series are themes of Nietzsche, Sartre, Jungian psychology, and the biblical Book of Revelation. Buried beneath the mythological and psychological references are the questions the series asks, which often deal with the meaning of life and the truth behind figures and artifacts.
While the connection in storyline to Xenosaga and Xenogears is only faint, they do have stylistic connections. Like Final Fantasy has its chocobos and Cids, Xenosaga and Xenogears share stylistic similarities, such as the use of anime-influenced characters, similar character designs and locations, and game-play similarities such as button-mapped attacks, large combos, and mech battles. Specific character similarities between the two games are as follows: Nephilim from Xenosaga looks like Elly from Xenogears, Shion's outfit in Xenosaga: Episode I is very similar to Elly's, and chaos looks like Billy without the habit. In addition, Shion's and Jin's last name of "Uzuki" happens to be the last name of Citan from Xenogears (although it was not Citan's real last name, but his wife's). Jin and Citan are also both skilled swordsmen with long hair and a thirst for knowledge, and additionally, Jin's character design in Episode III is extremely reminiscent of Citan's. A minor character from Episode III, Mai Magus, shares the likeness of the Xenogears character Maria, and her mech Leupold bears a similar design to that of Siebzehn, Maria's Gear. And like Siebzehn, Leupold is not operated from cockpit, instead it operates on its own according to Mai's commands.
While the timeline of Xenosaga does not correspond completely to that set out in Xenogears, the two are partially synchronous. Episode I of both Xenosaga and (according to the Xenogears Perfect Works book) Xenogears take place in T.C. 4767, but in Xenogears’s timeline, the Eldridge is supposed to have been launched, and no mention of that is made in Xenosaga. However, Xenosaga does use several elements, themes, and plot lines from Xenogears.
In addition, there exist references to Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The ship on which Shion starts in Episode I is the Woglinde, a reference to a Rhinemaiden in Das Rheingold. Indeed, the large weapon formed by the Woglinde II, the Floßhilde and the Wellgunde borrows its name from all three Rhinemaidens. In addition, the ship Dämmerung can be seen as a reference to the fourth and final opera of the ring cycle, Götterdämmerung.
Episode I serves as an exposition to the storyline; it introduces or mentions most of the main protagonists and antagonists, establishes a plot involving the Gnosis and the recovery of the Zohar Emulators, and provides foreshadowing to important past or future events. Several plot points—such as the significance of the Miltian Conflict, the manipulators behind the U-TIC Organization, and the backstories and motivations of many characters—are left unanswered for the player to question prior to playing Episode II.
Episode I generally received high marks, although critics were mixed about a variety of issues (see section). The game's battle system introduces new concepts not common among popular RPG titles, and the majority of the soundtrack (composed by Yasunori Mitsuda) is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Episode II continues the storyline started in Episode I. The backstories and significance of Albedo, Nigredo/Gaignun, and Rubedo/Jr. are developed. Multiple secret organizations are uncovered, including Ormus and Hyams. The Gnosis take a back seat for Episode II; instead, the main plot focuses the search for the Zohar, which culminates in a crisis at the location of Old Miltia. The cast from Episode I plays an important role in the events that transpire on Old Miltia. Although there are several loose ends and characters unaccounted for in Episode II, it concludes without a sudden cliffhanger. This is underscored by the fact that Episode III will take place a full year later.
Episode II changes some of Episode I's elements, including different graphics, a modified battle system, new music composers, and shorter cutscenes. These changes led to mixed results (see section). Moreover, after the release of Episode II, several Monolith Soft employees were removed from the project (see below).
Despite the fact that Episode I had never been released in Europe, Sony and Namco released the Xenosaga series in Europe starting with the second episode. In order to explain the events prior, the title was released in a special "Collectors Limited Edition" box that contains a 3-hour DVD featuring the cut-scenes from the first game. .
In September 2005, it was officially announced that Episode III would mark the premature end to the series, which was originally expected to span six titles. Episode III continues the storyline using the current cast of characters, with the addition of several playable characters (Allen Ridgeley, Miyuki, and Canaan). Episode III was released in Japan on July 6, 2006 and in North America on August 29, 2006 by Bandai/Namco.
The battle system has been changed, forgoing the button-combo interface style of the two previous games in favor of a more traditional menu-based system. This new system does retain some traditional Xenosaga features, such as Ether spells and Tech Attacks.
The plot of Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra picks up a year after the events in Episode II. After having left Vector, Shion is pulled into events concerning the testing of several new weapon systems which apparently obsolete KOS-MOS. The story attempts to weave together the remaining open plot points, including the origins of the Gnosis and of Ormus. It also revisits the past, where Shion learns of her lover's and her family's own involvement with U-TIC. Shion and her friends will stop the evil Wilhelm and the villains for the universe.
Due to the fact that the first episode never received a PAL release and the second episode sold poorly, Sony and Namco decided against a PAL version of Episode III.
The events take place on planet Abraxas a.k.a. Michtam. Notable characters include Dr. Sharon Rozas, who becomes Sauer's wife; and Joaquin, Sauer's stepson. His team of subordinates consists of Melisse Ortus, who witnesses Jan Sauers's suicide and later founds Scientia; Lactis, an early model Realian equipped with "Canaan"; Erich Weber or as later discovered, Voyager; and Mikhail Ortmann, an experienced U.M.N. operator.
The purpose of Xenosaga: Pied Piper is to develop the back stories of some of the most important yet rarely felt presences in the Xenosaga universe, including Ziggy, chaos, Wilhelm, Voyager and Dr. Dimitri Yuriev. The plot itself spans three chapters. It centers on Sauer and his team as they track a serial killer known only by the hacker alias "Voyager", who kills his victims using the U.M.N. network. The game was also Soraya Saga's final contribution to the Xenosaga project. A translation script can be found at http://zarathustra.kaisho.org/
Xenosaga I & II is not an exact retelling of the previous two games; some major changes have been made to the storyline of the game without changing the pre-existing elements which the first games have already laid out. Some scenarios have been edited and some new but minor characters have been included in these new parts. The Episode II portion of the game, originally told through Jr.'s perspective, will now focus on Shion, much like Episode I and Episode III. The Episode II portion of the game has been completely rewritten by Xenosaga creator Tetsuya Takahashi, which expands and enhances the storyline. This fills in some of the holes caused by Episode II, allowing for a better understanding of the plot and reducing the amount of questions that will be unanswered in Episode III.
The game plays out on the DS' top screen from an isometric perspective while the bottom touch screen is used to issue commands and navigate menus. The game's battle mechanics follow Episode I's style as opposed to Episode II.
Xenosaga I & II was released in Japan on March 30, 2006. No mention has been made thus far as to an international release. It received an overall score of 31/40 in Famitsu (individual reviews: 8/8/8/7).
Xeno Komi is of interest for the Xenosaga series after Episode III revealed in its database that the events that occurred in Xeno Komi are part of Xenosaga's history. Set sometime during Episode I, Xeno Komi follows the usually humorous intertwining adventures of the six major characters from Episode I and Allen. The main plot involved the seeming unexplained rampage of a cat-ear wearing KOS-MOS as she destroyed significant portions of the Durandal and the Elsa while chasing an imaginary cat. After playing through the scenarios for the six major characters, Allen's scenario is unlocked. His story reveals the events that lead to KOS-MOS' going out of control. Professor and Assistant Scott cornered Allen and after dubbing him Assistant #2, convinced him to help them install a remote control device on KOS-MOS (who has been named Assistant #3). The program to accomplish this was called Schrödinger and the cat-ears that were installed on KOS-MOS were actually antennae.
Other notable Xeno Komi events that foreshadowed Episode II or referenced other Xenosaga side stories included a nightmare Ziggy had of Sharon and Joaquin Rozas after KOS-MOS knocked him unconscious and MOMO briefly meeting Rubedo and Sakura in her subconscious domain.
Xenosaga Freaks was never released in North America and Europe, and currently there is no English translation for it.
Tetsuya Takahashi, Kunihiko Tanaka (character designer), and Yasunori Mitsuda have been contributors to the series since its origins. While Tanaka re-illustrated the characters for Episode II, he has since distanced himself from the project as well.
With the initial cancellation of the series at Episode III, several other Xenosaga projects ended their development cycles. Episode IV (said to have been in simultaneous production with Episode III), Episode V, Episode VI and two games being developed for an unknown platform known as Xenosaga: Frontier and Xenosaga: Exceed were all summarily cancelled when Namco pulled the plug on the series.
Namco Bandai expressed some interest in continuing the Xenosaga series past the original trilogy. As noted in a FAQ with IGN, their answers suggested a willingness to fund additional games, hinging on sales results of Episode III.
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