Sequel doesn’t upset

By Andrew Duff

Two hundred years in the future, Shion Uzuki is a scientist working on KOS-MOS, a cyborg designed to combat the threat of the Gnosis, an alien race that is unaffected by conventional weapons. When a mysterious golden monolith nicknamed “Zohar” is brought aboard, KOS-MOS might have to be brought out before it’s fully tested.

Thus begins “Xenosaga,” the long- awaited sequel to the 1998 Squaresoft sleeper hit, “Xenogears.” Five years later, the prequel was created by Namco with plans for five more games in the series, including an eventual remake of “Xenogears” itself.

While most role playing games take the route of player exploration, “Xenosaga” is a quirky mix of linear dungeons and long, we’re talking 30 minutes and more, cut scenes. The game is roughly 40 hours long, and half of that time is going to be spent watching the screen, controller at your feet, next to your dropped jaw.

Why? Well, “Xenosaga” is a beautiful game. Everything, not just the cut scenes, is gloriously animated, the battle animations are awe-inspiring (if a bit on the long side) and “Xenosaga’s” maps are wholly interactive, with plenty to do. Dialogue is almost all done through voice acting, and characters are fluid in their movements.

Story wise, “Xenosaga” manages to create a deeply involving plot, in a world far removed from our own. My only complaint is that it’s a bit too far from our own. Unless you’re following the dialogue closely, you’ll get lost with all the strange terms and acronyms that get thrown around. Luckily, Namco included an in-game dictionary, but it still gets confusing.

Musically, the game falls flat. Many of the game’s locations are completely devoid of music, though the little that does play is good. Namco’s choice of ambient sounds, like the hum of a spaceship or the quiet footsteps of Shion, fall far short of the rousing music “Xenosaga” should have had.

“Xenosaga’s” biggest downfall is that the game can’t be played in short stretches. If you want to play, you’ve got to sit down and spend hours watching cut scenes, some so long they have save points halfway through. The game’s hold between being a movie and a video game is loose at best, and I found myself wishing that Namco had just picked one style and went with it. It’s a solid game, but not without a host of problems. If you’re looking for a good sci-fi book, or a simplistic RPG, “Xenosaga” might just be your perfect game.courtsey photo

Xenosaga finds itself caught between game and movie.