Friday, September 15, 2000

Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht | 8.5

Graphics: For the most part the graphics are excellent. During battles they easily top FFX's battle graphics, as the tons of deathblows and ethers you can do all look gorgeous and have all kinds of cool effects and particles like feathers blowing around them etc. Animation is smooth as is the framerate. Cutscenes are also superbly directed, and definitely help move the story ahead. All in all, an absolutely beautiful looking game.

Sound - The music is great for the most part but there just isn't much of it. If you take out the hollywood type action cut-scene music, you could probally fit the music on to 1 cd, it almost feels like it's only about 1/6 of the amount of tracks that say Xenogears had. Also one thing that bugs alot of people, is the for 80% of the gameplay section (running around and dungeons) there is no music because Mitsuda thought it's more realistic to only hear sound effects, and that it makes the music have more of an 'impact' when you do hear it. But what is there is very nice.

Gameplay - The first five hours of this game is a intro movie, you really get no gameplay during it, and you mainly just watch cutscenes and nothing much happens right away. This isn't bad, it's just the game has a slightly slow beginning so be prepared and know that the game does open up. But remember, the Xeno series is like this. If you've played Xenogears you'll know what I mean. But, once the game really starts moving, the gameplay is very good. The battle system is one of my favorites I've ever played, the character management and development between Deathblows/skills/stats/equipment/AGWS is my #1 favorite character management system in any rpg in the last 10 years, it's very complex and really allows you to make the characters the way you want them. Luckily the game makes a save when you beat it which is only for loading into ep2 next year, so if your characters make it through ep1 alive then you can use the one's you've built up in ep2 probaly. Also the game has several mini-games which are completely seperate from the game itself. At save points you can use an item that just takes you into a different game, and you can't win anything to actually use in the real game. Also the AGWS are in the game. While your characters can Boost (Extremely important), heal (likewise), and attack for major damage starting around 1/2 through, your gears cannot do anything other than attack and guard. Their attacks do around a 1/3 of what any of your characters can do outside of AGWS's, and even there hp is only about 2x your character hp, and none of the bosses require you to use them since only 4 people of the 6 can even use AGWS's, the developers couldn't force you to use AGWS's since your party might not have them. Also there are only around 6 AGWS's (3 playable from the start, 2 buyable, 1 another character in the game uses) in the game, and only 1 really looks like a 'gear' . But this doesn't take away from the gameplay as there more of just an extra for fans. Also there are a good amount of side-quests and hidden scenes spread around the game.

The game's story does not stand on it's own period. Until the last 10% of the game, I thought it was turning into possibly one of the best rpg/anime/movie/novel stories ever. But then you realize at the last 10%, 'oh wait, there just going to end it there aren't they', and they do. Several of the characters in the main party do not even get more than 1 scene of development in the whole game, 1 character doesn't even get a single scene of character development, he's just 'there' for now. But I really loved the bits of story in the game as there are told with style (think Xenogears and the last 2eps of Eva), very artsy at times and cool. But the story has not even started. Expect to see lots of flashbacks and symbolism that makes no sense at this point. There isn't even enough story in the game to make theories yet. But again, this game is the first part of an on going Xenosaga series so expect the story to unfold during the upcoming sequals. The game took me about 47 hours including 4 hours of just non-stop leveling up in the middle which made the rest of the game pretty easy for me. The game does have a higher difficulty than say the FF series, but it's not the hardest rpg I've played. If you do all the side-quest stuff and get all the secrets I'd say the game will take you about 50 hours, plus the time if you want to play the mini-games. All in all, a great game and one of the better RPG's I've ever played and a series that is gearing up for an absolute epic adventure.

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