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    Sparrow's Xenosaga Episode II (PS2)

    [April 9, 2005 03:33:44 AM]
    More good stuff, more bad stuff, and more un-ugly stuff.

    The good: Episode II's battle system remains fun, and the fights are really tightly designed. The boss fights are especially good. When was the last time you got white knuckles whilst playing a turn-based game?

    Also, I think I've become used to the weird juxtaposition of realistic characters and mediocre animation. Either that, or the animators finally realized they couldn't slack off any more.

    The bad: The mecha (E.S.) sequences are poorly thought out. Sure, the fights are pretty good (as noted above), but at the same time the E.S. system feels somewhat like a dumbed-down version of the regular battle system (although it does have a few little extras that make it interesting). The field maps are excruciating because the designers made the E.S. move like they're on Valium. Reality check, Monolith: these are not Mechwarrior 'mechs. They are supposed to move FAST. As it stands, my grandmother could run faster than one of these things.

    The un-ugly:
    (1) One particular event during a boss battle made me, as well as a friend who was watching me play, burst out laughing incredulously. It's probably the coolest boss attack ever. (Thankfully, my party survived.)
    (2) If Gran Turismo is "car porn", then many of the cutscenes of this game have to be classified as "mecha porn". They're that good, which makes the sedate nature of the actual E.S. battles even more sad.

    read comments (1) read comments - add a comment Add comment
    [March 30, 2005 06:23:37 PM]
    So I take back (partially) what I said about the challenge level. It's at least average, with the regular enemies being a little more challenging (relative to player's expectation) than the bosses.

    The dictum "know thy enemy" is even more important than ever. Even the regular enemies are virtually invincible if you keep hitting them with the wrong type of attack, and even if you use the correct attack type, the battle is likely to drag on a bit unless you've really got a good handle on the game's timing system.

    I cleared about half (?) of a 'dungeon' sequence today. Thank the developers for halfway save points, because I didn't want to play too long (work commitments :( ). The monsters here are pretty tough, but it becomes a lot easier once you have a handle on their weak points and Break sequences. There's quite a bit of backstory going on which has cleared up some of the mysteries of Episode I, but I fully expect more questions to be generated as the game progresses.
    read comments (4) read comments - add a comment Add comment
    [March 27, 2005 09:33:09 PM]
    I've just gone through the first few hours of this game. Thoughts:

    - If you haven't played Episode I, you're likely to be quite lost. There's a quick synopsis of the story so far available early on, although inattentive players might miss it. However, the setting of the game is so detailed that even the story synopsis isn't going to help matters much. I find Episode II's story a lot less abstruse than I's; this is not to say that it is simple, but rather that it seems more consistent, more significant, and by virtue of these two qualities, more comprehensible.

    - The new battle system is fairly involved. I really like it a lot. Basically, it requires you to set up fighting game-esque "combos" across multiple characters in a turn-based format. If you do it right, it's possible to take down even bosses with relative ease. The challenge level seems just about right, leaning a bit towards the easy side.

    - Similarly, the gameplay has been streamlined right down to the bone. There are no shops or inns, and you don't get money for killing enemies. Characters cannot use equipment. This simplicity is very, very refreshing (IMO), and doesn't significantly detract from the interest factor of the game - instead, it makes Episode II less of a spreadsheet and more of, you know, a game than its predecessor.

    - Once again, "dungeon" sequences in Episode II are an exercise in resource management: conserving your party's MP, HP and items until you make it to the next save point. Good play and a certain amount of risk-taking are rewarded, and mistakes are accordingly punished. It's an old formula, but it works.

    Now, on to the down sides:

    - Character development has been cut down significantly. The uniqueness of each character is defined by their starting stats and their available attacks - plus a couple of extras in some cases. All characters have access to the same open skill tree, and start out at the same point in skill terms. This is somewhat disappointing, after the fairly robust skill tree of I and innovations in other games such as FFX (which boasts one of the best character-development systems in the genre). The flexibility of the system, however, redeems it almost completely; it's really nice to be able to tailor each character's skill set to your preferences.

    - The graphics are better, but the visuals are poorer. Allow me to explain. Most console-RPG fans have already heard about how Episode II uses more "realistic" character models, in contrast to the stereotypically anime-styled models of Ep I. The big problem with this is that the quality of the animation work has not improved. Stilted or jerky motions are often present. Although they were also there in Episode I, the abstractness of the character design in that game meant that they didn't jump out at the player as much. With Episode II's more realistic character designs, it's blindingly obvious when the animators drop the ball - and they do that a lot.

    - The one minigame I played in the first few hours is positively dumb. I'm not expecting much, since Episode I's minigames were, for the most part, either pretty poorly done or completely unconnected to the game.

    - MOMO's voice still annoys me. It could be worse, true, but I found myself wishing for an option like that one in Growlanser which allowed you to turn off specific characters' voices. A Japanese-language option would have been nice too, although that would probably have inflated the game to 3 discs.

    Taken as a package and based on my experiences so far, I'd definitely recommend Episode I and II over, say, the two FFX games. Still, that's not saying a lot considering that (1) I found FFX-2 to be an unfortunately joyless endeavour, despite its designers' best efforts to the contrary, and (2) the Xenosaga series does little to address the more egregious and deep-seated problems of the genre as a whole.
    read comments (3) read comments - add a comment Add comment

    Sparrow's Xenosaga Episode II (PS2)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 27 March, 2005

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 7 January, 2006

    Sparrow's opinion and rating for this game

    As with Episode I, the story is what makes this game good, but it isn\'t any better than its predecessor overall.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See Sparrow's page

    See info on Xenosaga Episode II

    More GameLogs
    other GameLogs for this Game
    1 : Xenosaga Episode II (PS2) by dkirschner (rating: 5)
    2 : Xenosaga Episode II (PS2) by Txh0881 (rating: 5)
    3 : Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra (PS2) by dkirschner (rating: 5)


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