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Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose - Preview

Xenosaga II
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Namco
ESRB: Teen
Release Date: 02.15.2005

A quick taste of battle.

The new character models.

AMGWSES or whatever they're

Some non-metal scenery.

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Contact Lenses and a side order of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.'s.

When Xenosaga Episode I, the first of the surprising extensions to the story of Xenogears, was released in 2003, it caused quite a stir throughout the gaming community. Composed of a sci-fi RPG, paired with hours of in-game cinematics, it achieved success in its own right. Now the second installment, set for a release ten days shy of Xenosaga's two year anniversary, is poised to make waves once again as it advances the intergalactic plot and brings several changes to the series.

Geared towards players both new and old, Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose (Beyond Good and Evil) can be played with no knowledge of the previous game. However, it does continue the story of Shion Uzuki and her companions in their adventures to prevent the powerful Zohar from falling in to the wrong hands, beginning from their arrival at Second Militia. While Shion still remains the main focus of the story, this installment is said to reveal much about the mysterious Jr. as well. The goals of the characters carry over from Xenosaga as Ziggy, Jr. and the robot MOMO travel to the U.M.N. to have MOMO's precious Y-data extracted, Shion enjoys some self-discovery and a reunion with her brother Jin, and of course, KOS-MOS receives some spiffy new weaponry. Also making a return are the high and mighty forces behind the U-TIC: Margulis, Pellegri and Sellers. As expected, the Gnosis remain an everpresent threat in the Xenosaga universe.

"Xenosaga II can be played with no knowledge of the previous game."

The most drastic, and indeed, the most obvious change between Xenosaga I and II is the graphics. Gone are the large-eyed, anime-style character models in favor of far more realistic profiles. The general look of the characters has definitely been preserved and improved, although Shion's apparent lack of glasses is amusing. As well, the overall quality of the graphics is proposed to be quite smooth.

Battles have also been the subject of various changes between the first and the second, with small improvements being made to the general system, and a whole new way to wreak havoc with giant robots–an activity any self-respecting sci-fi fan should enjoy. Up to three characters may be utilized in battle, and points must be stored up to perform various attacks. However, the attacks have been weighted differently than in the original Xenosaga, and new team attacks have been included, allowing two characters to combine their attacks for a combo. Major enemies now have three zones that may be hit, mainly Low, Middle and High, that signify weak and strong points, allowing players to discover and exploit the weaknesses of the enemies they may encounter. The original Boost system has also been extended across multiple battles, allowing damage to build from battle to battle if players strategically chain their attacks. But perhaps the most inventive change is the overhauling of the A.G.W.S. robots for use in battle. Newly developed A.M.W.S.'s are smaller, higher powered versions of the Anti-Gnosis Weapon Systems, and extra-spiffy models called the E.S. series can also be utilized. Anima Relics may be attached to the E.S. models for extra power and customization, acting as a brain, and two characters may power the robots, a pilot and a co-pilot, allowing for many permutations of skills and abilities available for your metal monstrosities.

For those who hate random battles, the general system of Xenosaga II should be pleasing. Players must trek through futuristic environments, avoiding the enemies that appear on the map. If players stray too close to an enemy, it will give chase. This provides the opportunity to dodge or encounter enemies at will. Objects on the map and throughout the environment can be interacted with, and often some objects must be moved or destroyed to allow passage from one area to the next. These mechanics would be very familiar to the players of the original Xenosaga.

One of the biggest concerns for players of Xenosaga Episode I was the sheer length of the in-game cinematics. Though the quality of these movies was unmistakable, taking up seven and a half hours of a game estimated to be 20-30 hours in length caused some players anxiety. Perhaps that is why the developers of Xenosaga II opted to use these videos more efficiently--the game will contain about five hours of cutscenes, and they will contain more ounces of storytelling per minute (or however else you would measure such things) than the original. In other words, more plot, less movie.

Lastly, players have a couple small bonus tidbits to look forward to. Cleared data from Xenosaga I can be loaded at the beginning of a game to unlock as-of-yet unspecified bonuses or extra scenes. As well, the Segment Decoder doors make a reappearance, providing keen players with extra items, and the parts to make several ultimate robots for use in battle.

By the looks of things, Xenosaga II treads on familiar ground and has the potential to carry the momentum of its predecessor. Bringing in several fresh changes, this game could easily generate as much excitement as the first. Get ready to sample it with the last of your Valentine's chocolate!

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