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  PlayStation 2
  Release Date:
  February 24, 2003
  Monolith Soft


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Xenosaga Episode I:
Der Wille zer Macht

Reviewed by:
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It's fortunate, then, that the gameplay is complex enough to support this. In traversing cities and dungeons alike, minor tweaks have been applied that allow for greater interaction with the environment and enemies. Utilizing a small "Vaporizer" device, players can shoot hidden doors and select objects to reveal secrets or to target various explosive devices to immobilize the enemy, which can be seen onscreen. There's also a fair amount of environmental interaction, including an early scene where players must make use of their environment to escape, and the occasional stealth segment wherein players must take advantage of the AI's deliberate dependence on sound over sight.

Should Shion and party come into contact with an enemy, the combat system proves to have a similar level of depth. Taking a page from Final Fantasy X, all traces of the ATB system or Xenogears' variation of it are gone, opting instead for the speed of a turn-based system and a Boost system that allows characters to cut in line. A combo system not unlike the one used in Xenogears is present as well, but it's both easier to manage with shortened combos and more customizable with the option to assign combos as they're earned.

In between battles, there's a lot of room for customizability. In addition to experience, three kinds of points are awarded - Tech, Ether, and Skill, each of which can be used as the player sees fit. Tech points can be used to increase any of the character's stats, or alternatively can be used to upgrade your attacks - making them more powerful or less consuming of action points. Ether points, meanwhile, can be used to evolve magic on a branching tree system - something that becomes increasingly important, as spells are assigned a value that puts a cap on how many spells can be carried at once. The third type of point, the skills system, allows characters to extract and assign up to three attributes or "skills" from items, with certain items being restricted based on that character's skill level.

Also present are the necessary diversions of any RPG - sidequests, and minigames. There's no shortage of either here, with a consistent stream of errands ready for those who wish to undertake them and a card game with surprising depth akin to Magic: The Gathering, amongst other things. Where the latter falters, however, is in Monolith's choice to conduct all the minigames within an Environmental Simulator, which effectively removes them from the main game. While more than likely an attempt to keep the minigames from infringing on the main game, they're so effectively detached that the player must have a vested interest to pursue any of them - especially when it comes to the complexity of the card and battle games.

In the end, Xenosaga is best recommended for someone who enjoys a good story, and fans of the original will almost certainly find themselves at home here. Far from a passive experience, it's a story that the player to pay attention and think, rewarding those who pick up on its more subtle nuances. While scarcely short on gameplay, anyone thinking of buying Xenosaga should be aware that it is first and foremost a story-driven RPG, something that will make or break the game in many people's minds.


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