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    dkirschner's Xenosaga Episode II (PS2)

    [April 7, 2012 10:22:02 PM]
    X2 is indeed shorter than X1, if you don't count all the extra stuff, which, from looking at walkthroughs, is a loooooot of extra areas, quests and bosses. Like a lot. The walkthrough people are suggesting being level 50, 55, 60 for this stuff. I finished the game around level 40 by comparison, and clocked 31 hours compared to by 50 in X1. Fortunately I couldn't care less about all that and can move on to other things. A game has to be REALLY compelling for me to continue far past the end, or to replay it. The only recent ones I can think of at the moment are Portal 2, Just Cause 2, Gears of War games...but not Xenosaga 2! Oh, but on the plus side, the swimsuits are cosmetic. I was mistaken earlier. I used Ziggy the entire game with scuba gear, including snorkel and mask. It was awesome.

    How was it compared to X1? Overall a better experience I think, much more streamlined. Far from perfect, and introduced almost as many things I didn't like as it replaced. In my first entry for the game, I noted everything I thought of that was different from X1. Some of those panned out for the better, others not, and I noticed some other differences too.

    First thing, characters are indeed much more customizable, which is great. The only thing you are bound by (and using bound loosely) is the character stats, which vary. MOMO is obviously the support choice. Ziggy is obviously not going to be your healer. But this is made easy to see and functional through the much, much, much better battle and tech skill UI which tells you clearly and concisely what each attack move does. Here's the routine. Analyze a new enemy. Use the Change command to swap out party members during battle to take advantage of the enemy's weaknesses. It's simple and great. The Change command is useful for some other things too, such as swapping out low EP healers for full EP healers, or swapping out someone who is almost dead. The weird thing about all the customizability and information is that some characters come out being much more useful than others. For example, KOS-MOS was a nonentity in this game. She was physical/strike I think. Well, so is Ziggy, but he has fire too. And there are about 4 other physical characters, who have other things going for them. Jr for example is pierce, and like X1, is extremely useful for that. MOMO also has pierce now, but hers is an ether attack. So whenever an enemy is weak against ether, I put in MOMO and/or Shion (one is always in anyway for support). But this is also cool because the support characters were very capable of laying down attacks.

    You have a ton of options for skills. I explained how the skills are set up in the last entry, and after playing I can vouch for the setup. You can learn whatever you want with whatever character and completely customize their role in battle in that way. I found some mostly mandatory skills like the various +defense ones, then later on there were some sweet skills that did +10% EP and HP, one that gave you an extra skill equip slot, which I filled everyone's with one that doubled all equipped skill effects (so my +10% HP and EP became +20% for everyone!). There were, however, many absolutely useless skills. And, since you have to learn all the skills in one class to get the class point bonus, it sucked because typically I wouldn't want all the skills, so was forced into spending more skill points just for that bonus. Many times I would want only one skill, especially when the others were ???? still.

    Which brings me to my next point, which goes along with the first bit on there being so much extra to do after you beat the game. That is, there are SO many skills and there is no way in hell anyone just playing through the game like normal would come remotely close to learning but a few of the later ones. There are 16 meta-level 4 skills. I learned 1 of them with a few characters. For meta-level 3 there are 32. I learned about 5 with a handful of the characters. There simply aren't enough class and skill points. So my initial joy at the prospect of seeing what all these skills are was diminished once I realized I would never see them in action. I would also never even SEE most of them, they still being ????, because the way you unlock about 95% of them is through the Global Samaritan Campaign quests.

    The GSC is soooo lame. There are 36 of these quests you can do, which typically involve running massive errands for NPCs that span literally the entirety of NPC towndom and going back through dungeons that you've already done. I did the ones I could throughout most of the game, and enjoyed getting the rewards that unlock skills and combo moves (which are 100% useless by the way), and typically enjoyed doing the quests themselves. They were fun little diversions, and occasionally I was rewarded with a cool quest that involved puzzle-solving. There were more and better puzzles in X2 than X1. However, the pacing of the GSC was terrible. I had completed maybe 20-25% of them before going to the last area. ONLY before you go to the last area can you return to Second Miltia, a giant friggin planet full of NPCs. You were restricted from going the entire game. AND, it's the only time you can go back to the Foundation, where there are also 8 million NPCs. Needless to say, if you wanted to spend an obscene amount of time doing fetch quests for NPCs, which mostly involved going and finding other NPCs whom you have no doubt spoken to once or twice over the course of the game, but are expected to go find AGAIN in the mass of NPCs on all these worlds, you could do this. And I did, for about an hour, before realizing that I would rather be finishing the game. Ultimately, the skills you unlock and especially the combo moves, are of little importance. You don't need them to win battles or beat the game. This means, ultimately, the GSC is functionally a waste of time. Hooray!

    A few more notes on battles and things...Skill point multipliers do tend to give less x2 and more x4 and x10. I got a x10 on a boss battle and got 3500 skill points right at the beginning of the game when regular fights with multipliers were yielding like 35. Those characters immediately learned a lot of new skills!

    Save points! Save points are great in X2. They are more frequent and they heal your characters' HP and EP now. In X1 all you had were items and spells for that. Here, you have WAY less items, which actually got tricky at points, with like Revive, which cost a ton of EP to use, because I only had a handful of revive items throughout the entire game. So you could get down to low HP and EP if you were near a save point. And, your reserve characters, the ones not currently in your party, their HP and EP restores as you walk around, so you can use them to heal after battle, and next time you come across a save point, they'll be full up too. Save points were very handy. I hope they keep them like that in X3.

    Rear attacks! I was really confused by this at first. Enemies regularly surround your party, and attacks from the rear cause like 1.5 more damage and crit more. I wondered and wondered how I could get a rear attack. Running to enemies from behind on the map didn't work, and you can only move one character in a battle to an enemy's rear. I wrote this down though. After 10 hours of playing, I got my first rear attack. It began happening more frequently after that, so maybe it has something to do with agility or something. No idea.

    ES battles! These are a step up from the crappy AGWS in X1, but they're far from perfect. Again, pacing is weird here. The game opens with an ES segment. The next ES segment was 16 hours in, over halfway through! Remember, there is a bit of a different battle system. This was confusing to come back to after 16 hours. However, the second half of the game did an outstanding job mixing ES and regular combat. The final two dungeons, both of which were awesome besides, had this cool ES/regular character synergy going on. You had to ride the ESes a while, then get out and go on foot and like unlock a door so the ESes could continue, then get back in the ESes, then go a ways, get out, get in, get out...It was really neat. But ES segments are so simple. Their combat is just a dumbed down version of normal combat. Instead of break zones and all that, you just either choose triangle or square, find which one is the enemy's weakness and use it. So ES battles typically went like this: square, square, square, square, square, square....

    Some of the level designs were awesome, like the last two especially. The next-to-last area was called Labyrinthos, a name that should terrify any RPG player. It was more clever than punishing though, as most of these were. The other that stood out was this entire portion of the game where the party dives into MOMO's subconscious as she's undergoing analysis after Albedo got in her head and took the Y-data at the end of X1. Her subconscious is so cool. The fighting areas are the same wooded setting, but you play through it twice, once in summer, and once in winter, different enough each time. It's just really pretty and neat, and the whole rest of the subconscious part of the game is amazing for how it presents story. Speaking of story, KOS-MOS was again a nonentity. It focused heavily on Jr. and MOMO, and Shion and Jin. The end introduces mystery on the part of Ziggy and chaos, so maybe X3 will clear them up.

    Battles in X2 were typically easy enough, fast-paced, and didn't present much challenge until the end when enemies began actually getting smart and using air, down and boost to their advantage. There were some great boss fights. Everything with Margulis was incredible, especially the cut scene sword fights between him and Jin. The Cathedral fight was neat, as was the final token fight with Albedo. There was one I'll point out as stupid. This boss would analyze me and cast a spell like counterboost on HP or counterboost on CB or counterboost on something. I have NO IDEA what counterboost on HP means. I know he counterboosts, but I don't know how to make him stop. His counterboost attack was mean too and he'd do it like every attack sometimes. I fought him once, died, fought him twice, was going to look up on a walkthrough what in the world his ability meant, when I somehow got lucky and won with two critical strike special abilities in a row with my one remaining character who had about 5 HP. I looked it up anyway, and apparently what 'counterboost HP' means is that the boss will counterboost (means he will boost and take a turn after every time you attack, so you can't attack without taking massive damage) if your HP is equal to or higher what it was when he analyzed you. Counterboost CB means that he will counterboost when your EP is higher or equal...and the other one was counterboost when your boost gauge is the same level as it was when he analyzed you. There is NO WAY to glean that information from him without playing it over and over and over and over and then only if you stumble on such a weird explanation. I'm glad I hit a lucky streak.

    The story is getting even more awesome and convoluted. Basically once you kill something, it turns out that something even bigger and badder was behind it (tends to phase in from hiding). Kill that, and there's something bigger and badder behind it, etc. Really looking forward to starting X3, but I think I may take a little break and finish GTAIV since that's been like 6 months ongoing. It really depends on if my roommates leave today/how much work I get done today/if I have the house to myself to turn up the volume loud or not.

    What I'm really looking forward to in X3 is just how they change the battle system and menus and things again. I wonder what they'll keep from X2 or change, what they'll bring back from X1, what they'll add completely new, etc. I like seeing all the iterations and what works and doesn't, etc. For example, I bet combo moves are gone. I bet there is yet another skill point system in place. I bet the mech battles are revamped again. I hope they keep the break system because that was fun.
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    [April 2, 2012 12:34:08 AM]
    First item on the work agenda Monday morning: recap Xenosaga 2 play yesterday. Sort of relevant to work...

    I finished Xenosaga 1 Saturday night and immediately launched into Xenosaga 2. I'm going to call these X1 and X2 from here on out (and X3 when I get to that one). There are inevitably many things I forgot to mention about X1, and some will probably come up in the entry. I played 7-8 hours of X2, and for starters, I noted everything that was different from X1.

    1) Mech battles - There were mechs in X1 called AGWS. They were utterly useless. Mechs weren't mandatory to complete anything. All they did was drain my money when I upgraded them, and I only upgraded them because I thought I might need to use them. They also served to confuse me because I still don't know how to properly equip them or what all their various equipment slots are. There were like 3 weapon slots on each, then for each weapon slot, you could equip L. Shoulder, R. Shoulder, L. Alternate...All in all, it was like 10 different slots, and I never understood which type of weapon went where or anything, so I would just buy one of everything and see if I could equip it anywhere, which I usually could not.

    X2 begins with a mech portion, but different mechs called ESes. It seems like these mechs will get more use in X2, if for nothing else than that there are specific mech portions. Also, there is a completely new battle system just for the mechs! I can't say really how it's different because I think I've only been in one, but i know it is. I have, however, done a bunch of normal battles, and I know how those are different than from X1.

    2) Reworked battle system - There are a handful of differences. First, the battle gauge is tweaked. It operates mainly the same way except that the empty slot is now a random slot. Oh, and the game in the tutorial actually tells you what the specific effects do. In general, there is a lot more information about mechanics available for X2 over X1, which is a good thing because X1 could be difficult to understand exactly what the various symbols for attacks, elements, and whatnot meant. Anyway, the battle gauge still moves from Critical (+50% chance to crit) to Boost (increase boost gauge more on that attack) to Skill Point (increased skill points if you kill the enemy on this one AND also the only one where the enemy doesn't get a perk for attacking on), and then Random. Random has a few, including nothing, Ether (increased ether attack/healing), and a couple I only saw work once or twice, which are Lose Turn (if a character is attacked, s/he loses a turn) and I don't remember the other one. I like the new random slot because it makes me think even more on my feet. Like the Ether one is a great opportunity to heal or unleash a strong Ether attack. It's also dangerous because the enemy can do the same thing.

    Second, you get boost more quickly now, and it's shared among all party members. So no longer are you bound by who can boost, but as long as they aren't currently in queue, they can boost.

    Third, you don't guard anymore; you stock. Stocking might increase defense too, but I'm not sure. Everyone has a stock gauge that goes up to 3 (or 300 -- each block represents 100 and there are 3 blocks). Normal actions on turns give 25 stock, so 1/4 of a bar. Taking the stock action gives one bar. These are good for saving up and unleashing powerful attacks, which I'll come back to in a minute.

    Fourth, the attack system itself is a bit different now, and I like it better. Everything is labeled clearer and easier to understand. Instead of having to L1 through 3 different layers of what an attack does, you see them all listed all the time, and you see what they do. So now, for example, one of Jr's moves will just say like square, square, physical, ranged, piercing. Or one of chaos's moves will say triangle, square, physical, close, aura. It's so much more streamlined. Tech points and actually learning moves are gone entirely. Instead, all characters have all moves, and they're all available from the beginning.

    So in the previous game, you had AP, and you got four per turn and each action was typically two points, so you could attack twice. You would assign different attacks to different buttons, square, triangle or circle (for special attacks). Square was typically near and triangle typically ranged, but not always. And you basically had to memorize what attacks you'd put in each. You had to memorize their distance, their element, their damage type, and which attack followed. It was really complicated. Now, since everything is laid out for you, there's no memorization involved, so you can focus on strategy, of which there is more. Now, enemies have 'break points,' which are combinations of moves you input to break their defenses and cause them to take more damage. They have 3 zones, low, high, and very high, which are A, B, and C. Square is A (low), triangle is high (B), and circle varies. Melee characters don't necessarily have a very high option. You have to figure out each enemy's break point, which might be, for example, AB. So if you use whatever attack is square, triangle, then you break that enemy's defenses for a turn. This is great because you can chain attacks by boosting other characters and by making smart use of the stock gauge. Got 3 boosts and everyone's stock gauge filled to 3? Then you are about to open a can of whoopass on an enemy. Further, some characters' circle attacks knock enemies down or launch them into the air, opening them up for even more damage because they're doubly vulnerable. I think it's an additional 50% damage for breaking them, and another 50% (so 100% total if you cripple them with both) if they're downed or in the air. And even better are new double attacks that you can learn. I've only seen one so far (I have more but haven't had the correct characters in my party to use them yet), but it's a chaos/Jin attack that does a ton of damage. These have requirements, like for example this one each character had to have 2 stock. What you do is on one character's turn, say Jin, you boost the other, say chaos, and select combo attack. If they've both got 2 stock, you get to do the power attack. This is vicious if the enemy's guard is broken and he is downed. So, to sum, there is a huuuuuge potential to plan combos, stock, boost, and battle gauge in X2 that simply was absent in X1.

    And one more thing, they introduced positioning relative to enemies, so you can be facing their front or their back (and they yours). This so far has been a pain for me, and I quickly learned that when enemies attack me from behind, I need to kill those pronto. Usually what happens is that two will be in my party's front and one or two will be in their back. Attacking from the back scores more critical hits and/or more damage. Very very dangerous. The Move command is still there for me, but so far it looks like I can move one character around to an enemy's back (it looks like side, but is it the same thing?). I'm not sure how to put the front/back thing to good use yet, but I'll play around with it. It does feel a little cheap that enemies routinely attack me and they get to start at my back. I've never began a battle where I was attacking their backs.

    And even one more thing, statuses are a bit different. There are now low and high statuses. Low statuses are your basic low-level poisons and things. They disappear after 5 rounds. High statuses don't go away until you clear them. Poison-L, for example, does 10% HP damage per turn, while Poison-H does 25%. At one point I was in a boss battle with two giant mechs, and I cast Physical Defense Down on one, which I'm pretty sure is a low status, but his robot buddy couldn't dispel it with the low status dispel! I realized at some point, when I thought "Wow, this boss battle is easy" that the other mech spent every single turn attempting to dispel the handicapped one. I laughed pretty good that dispelling the status effect was absolutely the #1 priority of the enemy. As soon as the debuff went away after 5 turns, I cast it again and she went right back to casting dispel over and over.

    Overall, the battles are much quicker, but possibly harder, than X1. At one area, I had MOMO, chaos and Jr. MOMO kept on dying. Her HP is still low like in last game, but man, I was using HP and EP potions and Revives like crazy. I'll bring possible reasons up in the skill point section next. Boss battles so far have been easy. I've carried over my Skill Point gauge killing from the previous game, and it's going great. I feel like I'm racking up the points. I also think they made the x4 and x10 multipliers a little more common.

    3) Skill points - Okay, I love this change. Tech points are gone. I will miss using leftover tech points to max my stats, but I will not miss using tech points to power up attacks. Since they give you all your attacks in the beginning, there are no tech points. Instead, they've completely reworked the point system. There are also no more Ether points or Skill points in the same way there were last time. This is partly because there is no equipment this time around either, so you can't use Skill points to extract skills from equipment that doesn't exist. Instead, they've merged learning skills, abilities, ether spells, and all that into the new Skill points and Class points system. New Skill points are what you earn after battles instead of getting all 3 different types of points last time. Class points you earn so far from bosses. In X1, there was basically a skill tree that you used Ether points to open up. In X2, there's a new kind of tree. I guess you could call it a solar system, because that's how they've represented it. Let me try to explain.

    There are four overarching meta levels for skills. Underneath each meta level there are a number of class levels (8 for meta levels 1-3 and 4 for meta level 4 -- All class levels are called A-H, so Class A, Class B, C, etc). Within each class level are four skills to learn. It costs skill points to learn the skills and class points to unlock the class level. When you learn all the skills in a certain skill level within a class, you unlock the next meta level. Each meta level increases the amount of class points and skill points necessary to learn the more powerful abilities embedded within. It's a deep series of menus, but it's cool. And the solar system thing, each meta level is represented as an orbit around a star, and each class is a planet. Once you complete a class, a planet appears on the orbit around the star. I'm tingling with excitement to see what unlocks when you learn all the available skills and open up the star itself (if that's even possible).

    Most classes' skills are available to you, however, some have ????, including all skills in class H. I really, really, really wonder what these are. I have unlocked two so far, and they are badass. One lets you recover 10% EP when you stock. The other I forget, but it was something handy. You unlock these skills from completing side quests, which really aren't side quests anymore since you kind of have to do them to get these skills. I suppose they are optional skills, but it's alluring.

    4) Side quests and learning combos - Like I said above, side quests feel mandatory. There weren't really side quests in X1. There were a couple things you could do for a couple NPCs here and there which didn't matter much, and there were some pretty terrible minigames. X2 already does a better job integrating the quests and making me want to do them. This is all tied in with having those teasing ???? in the skill system that I want to uncover because for the quests I've done so far, I've gotten two skills, learned 2 or 3 combo moves for my characters (which seems important for battle) and getting an item. The side quest system is tackled with the Global Samaritan Campaign, a cheery adventure where you need to help people with their problems. There's an inventory icon for it and everything, I think 36 cases for you to solve. So you have to go around talking to people to hear their problems. If you've done it at the right time and with the right character, then the GSC window pops up and you Start your mission for that person. I'm no fan of the 'talk to this person at the correct time with the correct character' but I'll get the ones I can with Shion whenever it's convenient and happens! If I want more later, I can look them up.

    5) Characters - Finally, X2 is artistically different than X1. They changed a handful of the character models to make them less anime-looking and more realistic. Shion, KOS-MOS, MOMO, chaos, Jr...they all spent time in wardrobe. I like the new looks, as it mostly makes them look older and more mature. In X1, I didn't really like how MOMO looked like a 6-year-old and Jr. looked a few years older. I understand why they're supposed to look young, but I like that in X2, they bumped the appearances up a few years. MOMO now is more like a tween and Jr. more like a teenager. Shion's is a bit sad though. She looks better, yes, less anime, but at the beginning of the game, Allen accidentally steps on her glasses, so they figured out a way to make her lose the lenses and gave her extra pretty green eyes. It's silly I guess, but it bothers me that they had to make her look prettier. Oh, and there's also a whole lot more 'hey baby' in this game. It shows up once you begin exploring Second Miltia with a handful of NPCs calling her hot or commenting that she's a woman, stuff that wouldn't happen with a male. One of the side quests also involves plastering the city with posters of women in lingerie for the Miss Miltia beauty pageant. It would be one thing if the posters weren't of women in lingerie, another if people didn't continue commenting on how hot Shion is and how she should enter, etc. etc.

    Finally, they got some new voice actors. I like MOMO's, as her voice is less whiny. And her battle voice is cool, sounds like it's coming through a CB radio for some reason. KOS-MOS is different and lame. Her voice is too high and she doesn't sound convincing as a robot. She was great last time. Shion's is also different in just a 'worse voice actor' kind of way. Minor gripes. I'm sure I'll get used to them, and I suppose they got some more new ones for X3. The characters on the whole seem more mellow than the last game, although there was one huge and failed attempt at a humorous scene in this one. The story seems a bit more straight-forward, and I feel they've done a good job reminding me of X1 and explaining what is going on now. There's a lot of good backstory, including the beginning ES sequence. You actually play when the Song of Nephilim was first activated during the Miltian Conflict. Cool stuff!

    Aaand, I got perks from having save game data from X1. Several characters got swimsuits, not cosmetic :-(, to equip. The swimsuits add +1 agility, which is over 10%! Agility is a super rare stat and goes up to like 7 or 8 on most characters. It affects attack speed. They also do an additional 10-15% damage and gain +10% skill points. Nice!

    Looking forward to going through this one in a week and getting a start on X3 soon.
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    dkirschner's Xenosaga Episode II (PS2)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Saturday 31 March, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Friday 6 April, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Awesome. Can't wait for the third.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See dkirschner's page

    See info on Xenosaga Episode II

    More GameLogs
    other GameLogs for this Game
    1 : Xenosaga Episode II (PS2) by Sparrow (rating: 4)
    2 : Xenosaga Episode II (PS2) by Txh0881 (rating: 5)


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