Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Reviewed by Anna Slado
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-12-18 PS2 RPG T (Teen) Namco Bandai / Monolith

And so here it is, the ending to the Xenosaga Trilogy, the missing piece, the last chapter that will explain everything. Sort of. Even though the plot is well done and still complex, Xenosaga III fails to give me all the answers. Or maybe I just need to play all the games over again. Nevertheless, this is such a solid gaming experience that everyone should take time to play it.

Gone are the faulty and ugly looks of the cast from Xenosaga II. They now look more grown up, especially MOMO, but KOS-MOS is the only one who seems younger than before. The detail is stunning and fighting sequences between KOS-MOS and her new enemy T-elos (playing a surprisingly small role, I would have liked to see more), are out of this world.

I don't think I've ever seen a game this beautiful. Well ok, maybe I have, but Xenosaga III ranks in my top three. The surroundings are as far from sterile as they can be; lush forests, wide beaches, and empty caverns where the air stands still. It is truly awesome and I love every second of it. Lucky for me that XIII is a lot longer than XII was.

The battle system has changed again, it has been simplified. Now you only press "attack" instead of doing button combinations. I miss the old way, because the battle system of XII was really great. But this works too. But, the boost command might as well have been replaced with something else. Now you get boost points for the whole group and not just an individual. And the special attacks that can be performed all steal break points. I never even once boosted in the fights, something I used to do all the time before. The enemies don't boost that much either, but it happens. Another new feature is the Finish Break. This is something you get when you finish off one or several enemies with a special attack. It's wise to get this as much as possible, since you get more skill points and experience if you do. This goes for the epic battles with your ES:es as well. As usual, you can only have three characters at a time when fighting, but you can change them and those who aren't in your battle team will gain experience too, just not as much.

The skill system has changed as well, and I like this version too. I would have loved to get all the skills there were available, but in the end I focused mainly on finishing the game. Remember the different traps that you could activate in the field? Now you have one sort of trap, and you have to place it yourself before activating it. I didn't use this feature often, instead I'd run into enemies from behind, causing a back attack.

Xenosaga III does not strive to be a "movie-game" like its predecessors did. In fact, a lot of the cut scenes are done with characters being too far away, so you can hardly see their facial expressions. To compensate, developers have used a window where the characters' faces and lines show. It works, but I guess I miss the old ways. But there are still some awesome sequences here.

As far as the sound goes, I think Yuki Kajiura has outdone herself. Xenosaga III has an amazing soundtrack. The tune "The Battle of Your Soul" is fierce and takes hold of you and "In a Limestone Cave" is a soft, gentle tune that makes you feel happy and sad all at once. The whole score is a must-hear.

What really made me happy is that the original cast is back as far as I can tell. Except chaos, he's still sounding horny. It's so good to hear Shion sound like her old self. All the voice actors are doing a great job, as usual. I can really feel for every single character. I love them all, so very dearly.

As I said before, the ending was not really what I expected. A lot of things that happened during the final hours were definitely tiny shockers. It almost feels like there could be a Xenosaga IV, and I for one would really like to see that happen. The Xenosaga world is so grand and has so many undiscovered corners. Its characters are complex and although they are all given plenty of time in the games, I want to get to know them even more. (Psst, Namco Bandai, how about a prequel? Pretty please?) The universe of Xenosaga III is one that once you dive into, you will never want to leave it again.