E3 06: Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra Preshow Impressions

We took a look at the final episode of Namco's sci-fi role-playing series on the PlayStation 2.

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Namco's sci-fi role-playing series will finally come to a close with the release of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra this fall. There's a lot to wrap up, but we were assured that the final episode will provide a satisfying end to the series.

As the story goes, a mysterious relic was discovered 4,000 years ago that pretty much destroyed the world. The human race doesn't let that get to them, though, and instead they develop advanced techniques for fighting the very mysterious and very dangerous species of creatures known as the Gnosis. An advanced weapon known as KOS-MOS is developed to once again return peace to the universe, but the weapon falls into the wrong hands, which causes all kinds of trouble for everybody. Episode three picks up one year after the end of episode two, and revolves around the character of Shion from the previous game. Shion has left Vector Industries because she suspects that the company is corrupt and evil. She joins up with a group known as the Scientia, and begins investigating the cause of the Gnosis epidemic.

There's a new weapon this time around, known as T-elos. T-elos looks very much the same as KOS-MOS, but is apparently even more powerful. In one cutscene we saw, T-elos effortlessly destroyed dozens of Gnosis to display her enhanced abilities. But we're told that, as in the previous games, suspicions, corruption, and dark motives abound, and it's your job to sort it all out. Just as previous games have been heavy on story, this one features more than eight hours of cutscenes, so you might as well grab some refreshments and enjoy the show.

The gameplay is very much the same as in previous Xenosaga games, so you can expect to see the same turn-based battle system with both character and ES battle-suit combat. As in previous games, you encounter enemies as you run around on the map. You can set traps just as you could before, but instead of simply finding them in the environment, you can purchase them and set them anywhere you want. In fact, you can purchase just about anything you want, because the shops and money have returned after being absent in the last game.

The battles are turn-based and take place either on foot or in the ES battle suits. In the standard character battles you can use regular attacks, tech attacks, ether attacks, and boost attacks. There's also a break meter that lets you perform extrapowerful attacks. There are seven playable characters in all, so you can expect to see plenty of unique attacks and abilities in the game. In addition to character battles, there are ES battles. There's a new dual-sword-wielding ES this time around, piloted by Jan.

Other additions include the return of collectible swimsuits, and a puzzle-type minigame that promises to provide a nice diversion from the intense story and battles. There's also a new database that is constantly updated with information on every single aspect of the game. You can consult the database for a whole wealth of information on just about any topic you can think of.

Xenosaga Episode III looks like it will offer a familiar but improved role-playing experience for fans of the series. We're hoping to get some hands-on time with the game at E3, but until then, be sure to check the gamespace for updates, screenshots, and videos.

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