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Developer:
Monolith Software
Publisher: Namco
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date: February 15, 2005

by Jason Ferguson




Xenosaga: Episode II is the long awaited sequel to the long awaited prequel to Xenogears, which is in my opinion one of the better RPGs to ever grace the PlayStation. Episode II tweaked the formula a little bit, making a few changes to liven things up. Regardless, if you were a fan of the first game, this is a must play for you.


The game’s full name is Xenosaga: Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose, which translates to “Beyond Good and Evil.” You’ll start out shortly after the events of the first game leading the crew of the Elsa to extract the Y-Data from MOMO and turn KOS-MOS over to Vector Industries. Obviously, though, things don’t run nearly that smoothly. The story will take a lot of twists and turns, and will have you confused and wondering what’s going on throughout. Much like Xenogears and the previous Xenosaga, Episode II’s story is both deep and interesting. Unfortunately, being the second installment on the series you would expect the game to start to shed some light on the overall plot and where the series is going, and this is something Episode II fails to do. You’ll enjoy the ride, but be left with the depressing feeling that you still have no idea what’s going on.


The cast of the previous installment returns: KOS-MOS, Ziggy, Shion and others. Shion’s brother, Jin, is now a main character in the game, and Jr. now plays a much larger role. The cast is varied, deep and interesting enough to keep you yearning to play in order to see what happens to them.


Gameplay is deep, allowing players multiple ways to improve their characters. As you level up, your characters increase in stats, and you earn SP (Skill Points). These skill points can be used to unlock useful skills, from healing abilities to special attacks. The more skills you learn, the more powerful skills you will unlock! For further customization, there is a wide variety of equipment you can add to your characters.


Combat is turn-based, and in many ways similar to the previous Xenosaga. You can perform a single attack by pressing the circle button, or “stock” up to three attacks to later perform powerful combos or double attacks. This adds a good deal of strategy to the game as you have to decide whether or not you should go for a quick attack and hit the enemy with a single attack, or should you save up and unleash a powerful combination attack. And if you decide to combo, how many hits should you stock before you attack? If you wait to use the combo, the enemy may kill you while you stock, but if you just go with single attacks you might fail to do enough damage. Once you get the hang of it and start recognizing enemies, you’ll know what sort of strategies you should use against them. Unfortunately, battles can be extremely slow and boring while you stock up attacks. This really brought the entire game's battle system down, because even though the system was interesting and worked fine for boss fights, which are supposed to be long and strategic, every single encounter seemed to take FOREVER!


Each character has a variety of skills (depending on which ones you teach them), and can also “boost” to jump to another characters turn. Some characters have Air and Down attacks, which launch enemies into the air or to the ground, causing double the damage! It is a bit disappointing, however, that character skills can be upgraded for each character in the same way. For fans of giant robots, you will again have the chance to suit up and kick some ass! Robot battles seem to play a larger role in this game, but still aren’t too much more interesting.


When you look at the game you’ll notice the obvious difference in character styles. Whether or not you like that is probably up to you, but this game certainly looks more impressive and real. The music and the voice acting in the game is solid and certainly does the job, but isn’t really as impressive as the previous installment. The cinematics in this game are graphically beautiful. Many people complained about the original game being too cinema heavy, but I disagreed. The cinemas relayed the story nicely, looked great, and added hordes of edge of your seat drama. This game’s cinematics never seemed quite as intense, and I found myself sick and tired of just watching. As much as I liked the game, I often found it difficult to “play”.


Overall, Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose is a solid RPG for the PS2. If you liked the first episode then by all means pick this one up. Unfortunately, I’m not going to lie… this installment isn’t quite as good. Episode I had a few minor errors that I hoped would be fixed, and in some cases they were. But the game ended up leaving me unsatisfied. A pretty good game, but not as good as it should’ve been.


Final Grade: 80%




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