Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Since it's 2003 release, Xenosaga has been on the receiving end of alot of love-hate by gamers. Generally, it's more hate. And after giving it a runthrough, I'd say it's understandable for a few reasons. Xenosaga is a most interesting game. First of all, one could easily say it belongs in the movie rental section of my local Hollywood video, opposed to the Gamecrazy it's connected with. Second of all, when the gameplay actually kicks in, I can't say it's actually worth the wait. Third of all...well just read the review.
Xenosaga is a continuation of the story that Xenogears began to tell, except Xenosaga is a prequel. If sales provide enough incentive, Xenosaga will be a 6 part series, Xenogears being chapter 5. I will now attempt to go over the storyline of Xenosaga, which is complicated, confusing, and deep. So if I mess something up, I apologize.
The game begins around the time period you and I live in now, where archeologists have just dug up an odd artifact. However, after this, we cut to thousands of years in the future. Humans have long since left earth and mastered intergalactic travel. Infact, we now have half a million or so planets colonized. Not bad. The odd artifact was an item named the Zohar, and even now it's quite a scrutinited object. Why? Because due to an accident of the late Joachim Mizrahi, a alien species known as the Gnosis have appeared, and they seem intent on wiping out humans. The Zohar is the only object that can make the Gnosis materialize, so that the humans actually have a chance to kill them. Well, there are a few Zohar imitations, and the latest model of androids can accomplish the same feat, but yeah.
When we begin, the story is on Shion Uzuki. A scientist who's rather absorbed into her work, traveling on a warship attempting to get 'KOS-MOS' up and running for defense incase of a Gnosis attack. The ship is attempting to pick up the Zohar, which is afloat somewhere in space. The major cast at this stage also includes fellow scientist Allen, who has a crush on Shion and is rather unconfident and Andrew Cherenkov, the commander of the ship. Yeah, you can tell I don't remember things that well. So the story is very deep and has alot of backstory. The characters are also solid. You'll just have to take my word for it. Trust me, if the story and characters weren't good, this game would be plain horrible. And, since i'm about to get into bashing this game, i'll say that KOS-MOS is a damn awesome character. Watching her work is nearly worth playing it. I won't say why, find out yourself. =p
Now, to the gameplay. In a sentence, it sucks. Simply, it's just waaaay too slow. It seems like an afterthought when compared to the massive story. It tries to be decent, but ends up being bad at best. At the start of each move, you get 4 AP. Each move takes a certain amount of AP to do, most of them take 2. Triangle moves are long range ones, while Square moves are short range. The traditional turn is a combo of two moves, selected for maximum damage. You can also just do one move and have 6 AP the next move. Then you can do your two normal moves and a extra powered move at the end. There are quite a few different combos of things you can do during a turn, but that doesn't make it any more fast paced.
As for what happens outside of battle, Xenosaga is a fair amount better but still a far cry from many other RPG's out there. You have the levels you obtain through the method i'm sure you've done a hundred times before. You can also collect various other points, like Skill points, Ability points, and Ether points. Which you can distribute to new abilities and skills. It's decent, but very basic.
So, as you might be able to see from this review, the Xenosaga gameplay is not one of the finer elements of the game. So it's probably not worth most people's time. If you don't mind so much, happen to see something in the gameplay, or feel like a good movie, Xenosaga is worth the cheap price. You will be able to watch 8 hours of high-quality cutscenes as you go through a solid storyline with good characters. Of course, this means playing through at least - that's right, at least - 25 hours of mediocre at best gameplay. Your call.
Now that that's all out of the way, I actually enjoyed the game alot. True, it might be better off as a movie, but what can I say? I'm a fan of deep intricate storylines. And it's not as if the game is unplayable. So, though this score will seem to be far higher than the actual review, it's how I feel about the game. Funny how sometimes you can't describe why you like a game.