Xenosaga Updated Preview

Namco recently held an event to unveil Xenosaga Episode 1 for the PlayStation2. Check out our first impressions.

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Over the weekend, Namco held an event in Tokyo to unveil Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht for the PlayStation2. The role-playing game is being developed by Monolithsoft, a subsidiary of Namco, which is basically composed of members of the team behind Squaresoft's 1998 RPG, Xenogears.

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Xenosaga is divided into three main parts: quest, battle, and event sequences. Director Tetsuya Takahashi explained that the quest parts are where the players control the main character on a 3D field map. During these sequences, a 2D overview map can also be used as a guide, which is located at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Like the battles in Grandia and SaGa Frontier, the battles in Xenosaga are not random; instead, enemies are visible on the field map. Though most enemies will pursue you when they see you, some are sensitive to only sound, meaning that you should walk slowly and avoid running when you're near them. Further, your party's formation in battle is dependent on what direction you were facing when the encounter was initiated. If you are being chased and the enemy catches up from behind, you will most likely begin the battle at an unfavorable position. But you can use this mechanic to your advantage if you happen to spot the enemies first and initiate a first strike. Players can also interact with the field map to a certain extent. You can destroy objects around the field and perhaps discover treasure chests--or even hidden enemies at times. Traps are also present throughout the field, and you'll be able to use them against nearby enemies. One sequence, for example, has you lure an enemy into a passage where an object is trapped. Once the enemy is close enough, you shoot the trapped object, and electric sparks temporarily disable the enemies' movements. You're then able to walk unharmed past the enemies and the trap.

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Click for full-size image

There are three party members during battles. The basic mechanics are similar to those of Xenogears, in which combinations of buttons execute your attacks. The characters will also learn special attacks and spell-like skills as you progress through the game. Eventually, you will also acquire mechs, which can be used during battle only once. The mechs each have eight customizable parts, and weapons include everything from hand-to-hand combat weapons to long-ranged artillery. The battle scenes we saw showed Shion, KOS-MOS, Chaos, and a pink-haired character named Momo.

Takahashi's presentation was followed by a behind-the-scenes look at Xenosaga's musical composition. Yasunori Mitsuda--popular for his work on Chrono Trigger and Xenogears--is composing the game's soundtrack, while the actual scores are performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, whose past work includes the Star Wars movies. "I have already made 40-50 compositions and [I'm] still going. Because I like music with a strong religious feel to it, the use of Gregorian chants fits with the game's setting," Mitsuda comments. We were given a preview copy of the game's soundtrack, which features the songs "The Miracle" and "Ormus," both of which provided us with a good feel for the game's atmosphere as well. All told, it alluded to a very promising composition, as well as a moving performance.

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After the segment on the game's music, the show floor was treated to a 13-minute promotional trailer showing an edited version of the game's opening scenes, as well as some of its event parts. To the audience's collective awe, everything in the trailer is real time and is not a prerendered CG movie. It starts off showing Lake Turukana in Kenya sometime during the 21st century, with a group of archaeologists discovering a mysterious plate. One of the archaeologists, Mr. Mizuno, pulls out an object, which he inserts into the plate, triggering a massive earthquake. From the nearby ocean surfaces a giant monolith, which issues a beam of light reaching far into the sky, and a strong rain fills the scene. The scene then shifts into a different era--the year is T.C. (transcend Christ) 4767, several centuries after humankind has left Earth. The set is a space vessel on a mission to locate an ancient, supernal entity called Zohar, when the mysterious Gnosis forces--shadowy enemies of humankind--suddenly attack it. After a series of bloodbaths, a female android called KOS-MOS shows up, summons her gatling gun from another dimension, and blows the Gnosis forces away. From here, the trailer begins to mix a set of different scenes: Chaos talking to KOS-MOS; a council having a discussion about the re-alien (term for human clones in the game) named Momo; and the protagonist Shion embracing her dying boyfriend, among others. Most interesting, though, are the appearances of faces that'll be familiar to Xenogears fans, such as Citan Uzuki, young Elly Vanhouten, and young Fei Fong Wong. Whether they're actually the same characters or merely look-alikes has not been confirmed. The trailer ends with Chaos and the character resembling Citan Uzuki conversing and then finally switches to another scene, with an unknown character speaking the words, "That is...the Will to Power."

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After the lengthy trailer was shown, producer Hirohide Sugiura concluded the show with an interesting announcement. The game is now set to receive a limited edition version that will include an action figure of one of the characters in the game. No pricing was mentioned, however. He also added, though, that the trailer shown at the event is being considered for a DVD release before the game's actual shipping. Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht for the PlayStation2 is expected for a release this December in Japan. GameSpot will bring you more on this hot game, but for now, feast your eyes on the massive dose of screenshots taken from the show. For more information on Xenosaga, check out our 2771884full preview .

[Editor's note: The accompanying screenshots were taken off the actual monitors used during the presentation with a video camera. This explains their fuzzy quality.]

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