Saturday, July 16, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Xenosaga EPISODE 1










Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (ゼノサーガ エピソードI 力への意志 Zenosāga Episōdo Wan Chikara e no Ishi?) is a console role-playing game for the PlayStation 2 and the first title in the Xenosaga series. Der Wille zur Macht, "The Will to Power", is a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche's posthumous collection of notes and unused aphorisms, which was intended to become his magnum opus. While supplies lasted, players who pre-ordered Episode I received a limited-edition artbook featuring original art from the game.

Episode I begins the trilogy that centers around the characters Shion and KOS-MOS. A young woman employed by Vector Industries, Shion aided in the creation of the battle android KOS-MOS and is present throughout much of the game. During this game, the U-TIC Organization attempts to steal one of the powerful Zohar Emulators, sources of energy used by humans.

Episode I was designed by Tetsuya Takahashi, director of the PlayStation game Xenogears. The Xenosaga series is often claimed to be a spiritual prequel to Takahashi's earlier game, although the game's creators deny any real connection.

Gameplay

In Episode I, the player controls a party of up to three characters, one of which represents the group on the map screen. Players progress through the story by crossing areas and fighting various enemies and bosses along the way. Enemies are not encountered randomly; they patrol fixed locations on each map. When the player touches an enemy, he or she will enter a battle. Like most RPGs, battles in Episode I feature turn-based combat, which involves a numeral system that determines health (Hit Points), magic/mana (Ether Points), and damage. Status effects are common in Xenosaga, and feature both beneficial and detrimental effects. Benefits include increasing damage or defense, while detriments include falling asleep or being poisoned. Characters gain experience points after each battle and when a character obtains a certain amount of points, he or she levels up. When a character rises in level, his or her statistics increase accordingly, although there are other ways to increase them.

Episode I introduces several new features during battles. When a party member attacks, his or her "Boost Gauge" increases. If he or she attacks on a specific turn, this increase may be furthered. When the gauge reaches at least Level 1, that character may use the Boost command to "Normal Boost", which usually results in he or she immediately receiving a turn in battle directly after the present character. However, the enemy may use a "Counter Boost" to override this normal one. Each character can attain up to three Boost levels in one battle. During battle, players can board mechs called A.G.W.S.. Although the A. G. W. S. units generally feature special attacks and higher statistics, they are limited in turns, ammunition, and actions (for example, a character may not use any healing ethers or items when he or she is inside an A. G. W. S., also the A. G. W. S. will retain damage after the battle that cannot be restored normally). This system is similar to the "Gear" battle system from Xenogears. When attacking an enemy, a character may initiate a string of different attacks. However, the number of attacks that may be used is determined by the amount of Action Points (AP) that the character has stored. Characters usually obtain four AP at the start of their turn, but they can also save up to six unused points. There are items which can increase the normal 4 AP to 5 or even 6, allowing more actions to be performed. Different actions take different amounts of AP.

In addition to monetary and experience awards after each battle, characters will obtain Ether, Tech, and Skill points upon completing a battle. If the battle ends on the "Points Boost" turn, even more points will be rewarded. Ether points can be spent to obtain new Ether, or character-specific magical spells. Tech points are used to either increase stats, such as attack power, Hit Points, and dexterity or to improve the power and usefulness of Tech attacks. Finally, Skill points can be used to obtain special commands, status attack guards, or other features.

Episode I features no universal world map, but the player can travel to several regions of the game through the EVS (Environmental Simulator), a location replicator/virtualizer also seen in Episodes II and III. Other features include an in-game database, several mini-game "plug-in" systems that can be accessed from Shion's portable UMN console, and an e-mail system that allows players to make playful decisions that have little significance to the main plot. Episode I, 2, and 3 includes a treasure hunt side-quest, in which the player may find decoders for eighteen locked doors scattered throughout the game. The doors lead to various treasures and skills. The game map features a small radar that detects the locations of enemies and allies.

Story

Episode I mainly serves as an exposition for the characters and the developing plot. After Dr. Matsuda discovers the Original Zohar in 20xx AD in Turkana, Kenya, the focus shifts to the transport of a Zohar Emulator aboard the Galaxy Federation starship Woglinde. The Zohar Emulator was discovered in the wake of the disappearance of the planet Ariadne. The Woglinde is also home to Vector Industries' KOS-MOS development project headed by Shion Uzuki. The project proceeds through a test experiment on the battle android KOS-MOS, during which a mysterious young girl (Nephilim) is encountered. After the test, Shion encounters Nephilim again while investigating the Zohar Emulator. Eventually, the Woglinde is attacked by a group of Gnosis, after the Emulator. This attack is partly orchestrated by U-TIC Organization operatives Vanderkam and Cherenkov, who wish to acquire the Emulator for their boss, Margulis. During the attack, KOS-MOS is activated suddenly, the Gnosis escape with the Emulator, Shion and Cherenkov are touched by Gnosis, and the U-TIC operatives escape (sans Cherenkov, who joins up with Shion and crew). Federation Lieutenant Virgil is also shot by KOS-MOS in a friendly fire incident and dies. After the Woglinde is destroyed, Shion, Cherenkov, Allen Ridgeley, and KOS-MOS are rescued by the Elsa starship, which was investigating the ruins of the starship for the Kukai Foundation. On the starship, the group encounters the mysterious boy, chaos, before asking Captain Matthews to escort them to Second Miltia.

Meanwhile, Margulis explains the significance of U-TIC's plan to recover the Original Zohar from Old Miltia. Thereafter, Vector's CEO, Wilhelm, is shown ordering Red Testament to "gather the necessary factors". Cyborg Ziggurat 8, named Ziggy, is assigned by the S.O.C.E. to rescue the 100-Series Realian Prototype, MOMO, who was kidnapped by the U-TIC Organization because she carries the Y-Data, which contains the steps to finding the Original Zohar on Old Miltia, among other information. The S. O. C. E. then orders Ziggy to bring MOMO to Second Miltia for testing of the Y-Data. Ziggy reaches the U-TIC headquarters (Pleroma) and rescues MOMO. However, the duo is chased by U-TIC operatives in hyperspace until they encounter the Elsa. The two parties meet, defeat the pursuing U-TIC forces, and decide to join together on their journey to Second Miltia. During this incident, the never-aging U.R.T.V. unit, Jr., is attacked by a U-TIC battleship while investigating the Woglinde wreckage for any signs of the Zohar Emulator. Jr. escapes with a significant amount of U-TIC information, but is unable to find the Emulator.

After stopping at the Dock Colony, the Elsa runs into the Cathedral Ship, a planet-sized Gnosis created from the missing planet Ariadne and made complete with the Zohar Emulator stolen from the Woglinde. While escaping the Cathedral Ship, Cherenkov mutates into a Gnosis and dies (from having been touched by one from earlier, though Shion was also touched by one and shows no ill effects). The Elsa and the party are rescued by Jr. and the Durandal starship, which was passing by in search for the Emulator. Jr. apprehends the Zohar Emulator from the destroyed Cathedral Ship and explains that he now has the twelve Emulators, but that the Emulators only contain a fraction of the power that is housed by the Original Zohar, trapped on Old Miltia. Jr. takes them back to the Kukai Foundation, where the party is introduced to Jr.'s fellow U. R. T. V. unit, Gaignun Kukai. The Galaxy Federation files charges on the Kukai Foundation for the destruction of the Woglinde, due to some manipulation by U-TIC officials. In order to prove innocence, Shion Uzuki leads a dive into the Encephalon to find KOS-MOS' black box, which will prove that the Gnosis were responsible. In the Encephalon, the party relives childhood memories, including the Miltian Conflict. Furthermore, Shion is encountered by Febronia, who explains that a time will come where KOS-MOS will encounter the wave existence known as U-DO, and in the near future, Shion will free her "sisters". Febronia also states that all factions involved must travel to Old Miltia.

U-TIC realizes that their plot to distract Kukai and Miltia in order to apprehend MOMO has failed, so they dispatch Jr.'s brother and fellow U. R. T. V. unit, Albedo, to formulate his own strategy. Albedo decides to activate the Song of Nephilim, which generates a Gnosis attack around the Kukai Foundation. In the confusion surrounding the attack, Albedo kidnaps MOMO and brings her to the Song of Nephilim. Shion and the party go to the Song and defeat Albedo, but before escaping, Albedo successfully searches MOMO for the Y-Data. Afterward, the Blue Testament appears and demands that the party travel to Old Miltia. The Song deactivates, and the Gnosis attack is thwarted. However, Albedo summons Proto Merkabah, the space station created by Joachim Mizrahi, in an attempt to destroy Second Miltia and the Kukai Foundation. Albedo methodically destroys the Federation fleet in the region, and prepares to fire on Second Miltia. This does not follow the plans of U-TIC, but the Blue Testament, revealed to be the previously-killed Lt. Virgil, decides to leave him be.

Inside Proto Merkabah, the party encounters Albedo, who summons a Gnosis to "test" the party and to buy Albedo time to escape. Albedo sets Merkabah on a collision course with Second Miltia, which the party stops by breaking the space station into thousands of pieces. However, during re-entry, the Elsa's heat shield begins to disintegrate. chaos and KOS-MOS' combined powers form angelic wings to prevent the Elsa from being destroyed. Meanwhile, Albedo discovers that the Y-Data is protected and tells U-TIC that MOMO will have to connect to the U.M.N. for the data to work. While these events are transpiring, Wilhelm stares at his Compass of Order, understanding that his plans are going in full motion.

Development

Episode I was designed by Tetsuya Takahashi, director for both Xenogears and the rest of the Xenosaga trilogy. Many other developers from the Xenogears team joined Monolith Soft and the Xenosaga world is loosely based on that game. When Xenosaga was first announced, it was supposed to be a six-part game series, spanning three consoles and several years.

Episode I's soundtrack was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mitsuda sampled Ralph Vaughan Williams' Greensleeves and wrote several new songs. Two versions of the game's soundtrack album have been released, as well as a single for the main theme of the game, "Kokoro". During cut scenes, voice actors act out much of the game's dialogue, with over fifteen hours of cinematic cut scenes.

Censorship

Episode I dealt with the censorship of several cutscenes in the North American release of the game, a majority of which take place during a confrontation between the game's main villain and another character. This was done presumably to avoid any possibilities of the title receiving an ESRB M rating. A scene involving an arm being snapped was softened for the North American version. In another scene of noticeable censorship, a character draws out a knife, which he uses to cut off his arm and head. For Western release he simply rips off his limbs without the use of a knife. A scene where a character draws out information by "reaching inside" another character was also altered; instead, he simply puts his hand over her face in the North American version.

Xenosaga: Episode I Reloaded

In a mid-2003 effort to drum up hype for the upcoming Xenosaga: Episode II, Namco released a special version of Episode I called Xenosaga: Episode I Reloaded in Japan, which featured the English voice-acting and a few special features. These included two additional armors which serve as alternate costumes for KOS-MOS and MOMO, and a theatre mode in which the game's cutscenes can be played at will (provided they have already been played in an existing saved game).

Xenosaga Freaks

On April 28 2004, Namco released Xenosaga Freaks in Japan, a supplementary game including a Xenosaga-themed word-puzzle game based on Namco's Mojipittan called Xenopittan, a comical adventure game Xenocomi, the complete dictionary of terminology from Episode I enhanced with audio and video clips, and a playable demo of Episode II. This is the closest that Xenosaga has come to Xenogears' Perfect Works anthology beyond the Original Design Materials.

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