Bandai Namco saved the best for last in the Xenosaga trilogy. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra easily has the best gameplay, music tracks and story from this cult hit JRPG series.
The third Xenosaga episode takes place about a year after second episode. The series, which is the spiritual successor to the beloved Xenogears on PS1, is supposed to be six episodes long but, due to the lack of financial success, has been cut down to three. Still, the third episode marks the end of the story for Shion and her companions (the series was supposed to switch to a different cast of characters after the third episode).
The series best asset has always been the story, and episode 3 doesn’t disappoint. The story closed off most of the tight-ends of the story. However, since the story was cut short, some of the parts weren’t explained. Other parts felt rush, especially at the end; as a result, some characters aren’t as established or fleshed out as others.
The first two is highly recommended if you even want to begin understanding the story. Even after the playing the first two, the third game is still confusing. Luckily, there is an enormous text database that contains information on just about everything you want to know about the Xenosaga universe. Even spending literally hours reading the database, don’t be surprised if the cryptic story still confuses you.
The battle system has been simplified from the first two. Gone are buttons combos attack from the prequels; instead, the developer has gone with a more traditional RPG battle system approach. That doesn’t necessary mean the game got shallower, in fact, it has become deeper as the player can perform elemental, special, and break point attacks to defeat an enemy.
The developers also sped up the random battles significantly. One of the biggest complaints for part two is that the random battles drag on for a long time. In the sequel, random battles are completed in well under a minute.
Another gameplay improvement is the mech battles. Not only do they play a much bigger role in the gameplay and story, the battles are also much more epic than before.
Aside from the main gameplay is the fun addicting time-based minigame, Hakox. Hakox can be frustrating at times, but you can ask your friends for help as the minigame is for 1-4 players. Although the minigame is not required, beating it will unlock many cool items and equipment for the main game.
As with its prequels, Xenosaga III is focused heavily on the story, which means that you’ll be watching as much as you’ll be playing. Although you do have the option to skip the cut scenes, you will be missing out on the story by doing so.
The graphics are nice and crisp, just what you expect from a game near the end of the ps2 lifespan. The game has some excellent art direction as buildings, especially, look futuristic. Some dungeons, however, look very bland in comparison to the rest of the game.
Most of the in-game animated cut scenes have been replaced with fully voice-acted dialogue scenes; this may irked some fans who are used to seeing the fully animated cut scenes throughout the entire series.
Unfortunately, the American version suffered from censorship. In order to achieve a teen rating instead of a mature rating, blood was removed from the game. This ruined some very important and emotional scenes in the game.
Voice acting is once again excellent. As usual, the lip-syncing is bad. This is not to bash the translators as it is common problem when dubbing foreign language projects into English at that time; they really only have two outcomes: either bad lip-syncing or awkward pauses during the middle of sentences.
Music vastly improved as the series went on. The amount of variety of music is staggering. From the epic battle music to the ending theme song, “Maybe Tomorrow,” sung by Emily Curtis, Xenosaga III’s music is simply impressive.
Namco definitely saved the best for last with the Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra. For those who look to enjoy an epic story plastered with excellent graphics, sound and music as well as solid gameplay, the games in the Xenosaga series, especially the third entry, are highly recommended.