After the dramatic ending of Xenosaga Episode 1, an ending I won’t soon forget, it was time to take on the next stage of this trilogy. Eager to find out more about all the characters, the mysterious happenings and figures scattered throughout the Xenosaga universe, I did feel slightly disappointed when I saw the characters’ new looks.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Monolith Soft
Utgivare: Namco
Släppdatum: 15 februari 2005 (US)
Köp här: VideoGamesPlus

They have all had plastic surgery, now looking more realistic, instead of manga-like. It is my personal opinion that this did not improve anything, what-so-ever, nor was it necessary. I actually felt closer to Shion and the rest when I could actually feel and see the pain, excitement, fear, happiness or fatigue in their big shining eyes. Now I can’t. It’s as if this revamp actually removed part of their souls. It’s depressing. One thing that is definitely prettier this time around is the fabulous menus. Instead of boring grey they have a nice shade of blue and a great set-up. It’s a sight for sore eyes and it loads faster too.

Something else has changed as well. Cut scenes are not as pretty as in the first game. Strange how a game from 2001 can beat a game from 2004 when it comes to looks. But there you have it. X2 has two kinds of cut scenes; important ones and not so important ones. How’s that you ask? Well, in some (most, actually) sequences you’ll notice that the characters are suddenly not as detailed as they used to be. Their faces will look flattened or less “marked”, their mouths will not move in a convincing way and their hands look awful! The index finger and thumb are free, but the rest are all clumped together and “shaded” to look like three fingers. Doesn’t work that well, unfortunately. Clothes don’t look as good either (Shion’s brother Jin must have the most boring outfit I’ve ever seen), although you can see they’ve worked some more with textures this time. Even legs can look blocky sometimes, and that’s really bad.

The voice acting has been altered too, for some unknown reason. The great voices from X1 are almost all gone except for a few. This doesn’t mean that I wanna reach for the mute button as soon as someone starts talking, but the change is big enough for me to miss the way it was. chaos for example, his cute and calm voice has suddenly shifted into a somewhat dark and slow, almost horny (!) voice. Not really fitting, if you ask me.

But that’s where the disappointments end. Everything else about this game I love. So let’s move on to the positive alterations that Xenosaga 2 brings.

The biggest change is probably the battles. I absolutely love them. They are much faster paced and that’s really great. There’s also more variety to the attacks, the system is much more reminiscent of Xenogears’ battle system. Characters can “stock” up to three times and then unleash a long series of attacks. The boost system works much more to your advantage and if you have all your three characters stocked up, some enemies can be eliminated in one round. Pretty smooth.

The use of E.S:es (mechs) is more thrilling than before too. In certain areas you can only travel in your E.S:es. I like this better than the system in X1, where you could choose to board your E.S during battles. However, I almost never did, but here in X2 it was hard not to long for the times where you’d take your E.S craft and do some real damage.

Another huge change is the lack of money and shops. All the items you’ll ever get are the ones you get from battles or in the fields. I didn’t find this to be a bad thing, I managed just fine. Probably because now, the save spot automatically heals you. Before, you had to use a Bio Sphere to get healed up in X1. Also, I don’t mind not having to change equipment. Sure, it’s a fun thing to do, but X2 has such a great skill system that you don’t want anything to take the focus off it.

What’s also lacking, but isn’t missed, is the small map at the bottom of the screen. Honestly though, it wasn’t necessary in X1 to begin with. All you saw on it was the location of enemies, but it didn’t show you how dungeons looked or anything. You manage quite well without a radar that you hardly look at anyways.

I’m happy to see that the sterile environments have become so much more alive! The dungeons are still fun and now have a few puzzles to them as well. But nothing is ever too hard, the difficulty level is just right.

Instead of Yasunori Mitsuda delivering the score again, the female composer Yuki Kajiura mantles this huge responsibility. No doubt is her compositions very different from Mitsuda’s but they are also very good. Some almost sound like pieces of Sonic-music for the Mega Drive (Genesis in the states). Other songs are majestic just like Mitsuda’s.

Storywise, I think it just gets more complex. I’m really looking forward to having everything revealed to me in the third and final part, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there would still be a few loose ends hanging around. This game took me 25 hours to complete. Not the longest time for a game that’s spread over 2 discs. I really enjoyed myself, despite the less good changes. The Xenosaga trilogy is turning out to be a huge favorite of mine.

Skriven: 2006-10-23