One has to pity the story writers for games, since it seems they can never win. They get dinged for either focusing too much on a game’s storyline, or for not providing enough. It’s a rare occasion that anyone’s ever happy with a game’s story. In the case of Xenosaga: Episode II, the writers fall into the first camp; being so zealous in developing one of the deepest backstories in gaming history, that they forgot to put a game in the game. That may be exaggerating a bit, but what you’ll find in Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose, that the name’s not the only thing that grows a bit long in the tooth as you’re forced to sit through endless cut scenes held together by some decent tactical RPG gameplay. For fans of the “Xeno” franchise, Episode II will be like a brief trip to Heaven, as much of the whole story of the “Xeno” universe is finally explained. For everyone else, well…be glad you can skip the cutscenes.
At its core, Xenosaga: Episode II is a tactical RPG, meaning you’ll spend lots of time meeting up with enemies, choosing attack/defense combos, and collecting experience for your inevitable victories. The combo system is pretty deep, and those not used to games of this genre may feel a bit overwhelmed at first. The developers were kind enough, however, to offer plenty of tutorials and tips along the way to keep the game friendly enough to be played by those new to the series, without watering down the combat entirely. There are tons of combos and boost moves, all of which, when properly utilized, are a great way to rack up experience and make your ‘Mech equipped hero more powerful than all get-out. And you’ll need a powerful party of characters, as the enemies may start out simply, but they quickly ramp up in powers and combat skill. Don’t be fooled by how easy the game seems at first, it gets nasty fast.
Visually, Episode II presents a respectable, though not inspiring front. It’s got some pretty moments, especially in the city environs, but as a whole, it doesn’t push the PS2 in any way. The CGI sequences are obviously the best visual aspect of the game, with plenty of nice details in the animations and character expressions. Other than that, it’s just about average on the eye-candy scale. The same can be said for the sound, which does the job, and is at its best in the cutscenes.
Xenosaga: Episode II — The Game with the Silly long German Name is a neat experiment in combining a movie with a videogame, but for newcomers to the franchise, it’s going to be a long and boring CGI-skipping experience. Frankly, the game components could’ve been stripped out and this would’ve scored better as an anime DVD, but as a game, it’s going to come off a very tiresome to the average gamer.
- Gameplay: 7
- Good tactical combos and fighting action
- Graphics: 7
- Cutscenes = great, in-game engine = ok
- Sound: 6.5
- Respectable audio in the cutscenes, the rest could be muted without being missed
- Replay: 7.5
- This is a huge game that will eat dozens of hours, but doesn’t offer any reason to come back once finished
- Overall: 7
- Good for fans of the series and tactical RPG’s, though there’s so much story, it’s easy to get bored and/or lost
— Craig Falstaff