Xenosaga (ゼノサーガ Zenosāga) is primarily a series of video games developed by Monolith Soft and published by Namco. Xenosaga's main story is in the form of a trilogy of PlayStation 2 video games. Several side stories and spinoff projects have also been developed, as well an anime adaptation.
The Xenosaga series serves as a spiritual successor to the game Xenogears, which was released in 1998 for the PlayStation by Squaresoft (now Square Enix). Outside of allusions and homages, there is no relationship between the two storylines, although it is was once commonly thought that Xenogears would somehow fit into the Xenosaga storyline. The creator of both Xenogears and Xenosaga is Tetsuya Takahashi, who left Squaresoft in 1999 along with Hirohide Sugiura. Using funds from Namco, they restarted Monolith Soft and the Xenosaga project.
The first game in the primary trilogy, Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, was released in February 2002 in the Japanese market, and then in February 2003 in the American market. Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse was released in June 2004 in Japan and February 2005 in North America. Xenosaga: The Animation, an anime based on Episode I, premiered in Japan on January 5, 2005. Xenosaga: Pied Piper, a 3 chapter-long cellphone-based game depicting the history of cyborg "Ziggurat 8" 100 years before the start of Episode I, was released in Japan in July 2004. Pied Piper was not released outside Japan. Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra was the final title in the Xenosaga series, effectively cutting the initial projection of the series in half. A retelling of the first two episodes, titled Xenosaga I & II, for the Nintendo DS was released in 2006 in Japan.
All three episodes of the main Xenosaga trilogy are named after the books of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Several Nietzschean concepts and references appear throughout the series.
In the year T.C. 4767, mankind exists on distant planets and artificial colonies. Earth is seemingly gone; it has been erased from starmaps and renamed "Lost Jerusalem". The capital of all known space is Fifth Jerusalem, where the Galaxy Federation supposedly keeps watch over mankind.
For the past fourteen years, a mysterious enemy known as the Gnosis has attacked man's colonies seemingly indiscriminately. It is largely believed that the Gnosis were brought into the universe by a scientist named Joachim Mizrahi during the Miltian Conflict of T.C. 4753, but there is more to that story than the public really knows.
Ever since the Miltian Conflict and the resulting disappearance of Old Miltia, an artifact known as the Zohar has become a topic of interest. Several factions — chiefly the underground Ormus cult and the aforementioned Galaxy Federation — wish to harness its power. Both groups believe that the Zohar's significance is threefold; is a power source, the cause of the Gnosis crisis, and the virtual prison of U-DO, a formidable wave existence. Thus, the two factions believe that the Zohar could be the key to the Gnosis destruction and a pathway to unlimited power.
Tests on the Zohar and its power have been conducted by Joachim Mizrahi, the Galaxy Federation, and a mysterious scientist known as Sellers, whose affiliation is with Ormus and the Hyams Group. The results of these tests was the development of several Zohar Emulators, or copies of the original Zohar, which vanished when Miltia was sealed off. However, the original Zohar's power still eclipses the energy output of any known Emulator, despite the fact that one of the Emulators caused the disappearance of the planet Ariadne.
As a result of these discoveries and experiments, the Ormus society and the Galaxy Federation have grown obsessed with finding the original artifiact that was sealed away on Miltia at the end of the Miltian Conflict. However, the key to unlocking Miltia and the Original Zohar is contained within the Y-Data, which is in the hands of a Realian called MOMO. In order to retrieve the Y-Data, Ormus must hatch a plot against the Galaxy Federation and its allies by using a series of dummy organizations and insiders, including the U-TIC Organization and an enigmatic figure known as Albedo Piazzolla.
Meanwhile, Vector Industries, the largest corporation in existence and the primary arms manufacturer for the Galaxy Federation, is currently researching new ways to use nanotechnology to build an unstoppable battle android, code-named KOS-MOS. This is quite controversial, since androids have been replaced for many, many years by artificial life-forms known as Realians, which have proven far more effective in combat. However, Vector Industries and their head of R&D, Shion Uzuki, have other ideas. Shion, a simple researcher traveling on the starship Woglinde, becomes involved in a conspiracy not only to control the mysterious Gnosis and Original Zohar, but to reshape the destiny of all mankind.
Xenosaga features a cast that is slowly introduced as the series develops. The following is a brief description of the playable characters featured in the series, in order of playability.
Shion Uzuki — The protagonist of the series. She is the chief engineer of Vector Industries' first R&D division, Shion is a young woman who is the lead designer in the KOS-MOS project. She also specializes in Realian technology. However, as the plot develops and corrpution is revealed, Shion will distance herself from Vector. Shion is ignorant to the fact that her role in the story is greater than it appears.
KOS-MOS — KOS-MOS is a female battle android developed by Vector Industries (primarily Shion and Kevin Winnicot). Although her development was delayed by an incident two years prior to Episode I, she becomes fully functional during the Woglinde disaster. KOS-MOS has a strong loyalty to Shion that is only overruled by unknown commands from Vector Industries.
Ziggy — A humanoid cyborg who wishes to be brainwashed because of traumatic experiences as a human being. Ziggurat 8 ("Ziggy") befriends MOMO while rescuing her from the U-TIC asteroid "Pleroma" during Episode I. Ziggy's past rises again in several instances, primarily in Episode II.
MOMO — A female 100-series Observational Realian developed by Joachim Mizrahi and modeled after his daughter Sakura, MOMO is captured by the U-TIC Organization because she carries valuable information: the Y-Data. MOMO soon befriends Ziggurat 8 when he rescues her from Pleroma. As the story continues, MOMO also develops a close relationship with Jr.
chaos — An enigmatic figure who appears to be a white-haired teenager. A member of the Elsa crew, chaos' origins are unknown. However, he does possess the power to destroy Gnosis with the touch of his hand - in tense situations.
Jr. — A U.R.T.V. unit who played an integral role in the Miltian Conflict, Jr. is a man trapped in a child's body due to his gene modification. Currently, Jr. is a leader of the Kukai Foundation, which is run by his fellow U.R.T.V., Gaignun Kukai. Throughout Episode I and Episode II, Jr. develops a relationship with MOMO.
Jin Uzuki — Shion Uzuki's older brother, Jin Uzuki runs a bookstore on Second Miltia. However, he was once a sword-wielding Federation commander who attempted to unlock the truth behind the Miltian Conflict. In Episode II, he joins the quest to confirm what he learned about the Conflict.
Allen Ridgeley — Shion's assistant and friend, Allen is the second in command of the KOS-MOS project. Although two years older than Shion, he is relatively new to Vector Industries and is her junior in the organization. Allen often acts shy around Shion because he is in love with her, although she is rather oblivious to this fact. Allen will not become a playable character until Episode III is released.
Allusions and influencesEdit
Like Xenogears, Xenosaga contains religious and historical allusions, which often involve names and terms. For example, "KOS-MOS" is derived from the Greek 'kosmos', originally meaning "ornament or decoration", eventually coming to mean "universe, order, and harmony". Another example is chaos, who is also identified as "Yeshua". Furthermore, "Abel" and "Abel's Ark" are references to a biblical figure of the same name.
Xenosaga's storyline has several influences, including Gnostic plot devices. Intertwined with the symbolism of the series are themes of Nietzsche, Jungian psychology, and the biblical Book of Revelation. Buried beneath the mythological and psychological references are the questions the series asks, which often deal with the meaning of life and the truth behind figures and artifacts.
While the timeline of Xenosaga does not correspond completely to that set out in Xenogears, the two are largely synchronous. T.C. 4767 is the year the events of the game take place, according to the Xenogears Perfect Works Book, but in that same year the Eldridge is supposed to have been launched and no mention of that is made in Episode I. However, Xenosaga does use several elements, themes, and plotlines from Xenogears.
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur MachtEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht is a Role Playing Game for the PlayStation 2 and the first title in the series. Der Wille zur Macht, can be translated as "The Will To Power", but "The Will to Make" is a better translation and is a reference to Nietzsche's thus named concept of an assumed rudimentary a-teleological force that elicits all activity stinted to existence itself.
Episode I serves as an exposition to the storyline; it introduces or mentions most of the main protagonists and antagonists, establishes a plot involving the Gnosis and the recovery of the Zohar Emulators, and provides foreshadowing to important past or future events. Several plot points - such as the significance of the Miltian Conflict, the manipulators behind the U-TIC Organization, and the backstories and motivations of many characters - are left unanswered for the player to question prior to playing Episode II.
Episode I generally received high marks, although critics were mixed about a variety of issues (see section). The game's battle system introduces new concepts not common among popular RPG titles, and the majority of the soundtrack is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und BöseEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is the second installment in the series. Jenseits von Gut und Böse can be loosely translated as "Beyond Good and Evil", but it literally means "The other side of Good and Evil" and is taken from a philosophical work by Friedrich Nietzsche of the same name.
Episode II continues the storyline started in Episode I. The backstories and significance of Albedo Piazzolla, Nigredo/Gaignun, and Jr. are developed. Multiple secret organizations are uncovered, including Ormus and Hyams. The Gnosis take a back seat for Episode II; instead, the main plot focuses the search for the Zohar, which culminates in a crisis at the location of Old Miltia. The cast from Episode I plays an important role in the events that transpire on Old Miltia. Although there are several loose ends and characters unaccounted for in Episode II, it concludes without a sudden cliffhanger. This is underscored by the fact that Episode III will take place a full year later.
Episode II changes some of Episode I's elements, including different graphics, a modified battle system, new music composers, and shorter cutscenes. These changes led to mixed results (see section). Moreover, after the release of Episode II, several Monolith Soft employees were removed from the project (see below).
Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach ZarathustraEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra
Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra is the third and final game of the primary series. It is released on the PlayStation 2. Also sprach Zarathustra, literally "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", is also the title to Nietzsche's most famous work, which introduced the Übermensch and popularized the phrase "God is dead".
In September 2005, it was announced that Episode III would mark the premature end to the series, which was originally planned to span six titles. Episode III continues the storyline using the current cast of characters, with the addition of several new antagonists and playable characters (Allen, Mizuki, and Canaan). The three new playable characters are only temporarily so; Allen "leaves" the party faster than the others, after one short trek through a dungeon. The release date for Episode III was July 7, 2006 for Japan, and August 29, 2006 for North America.
The ending of this game rather strongly hints at a sequel, one that will likely never happen due to poor sales with the series in general. It is, however, the end of Shion's arc of the story, and so there is actually a sense of closure.
Xenosaga: Pied PiperEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga: Pied Piper
Released on mobile phones in Japan, this Xenosaga side-story is set 100 years prior to the start of Episode I and explores the past of the cyborg character Ziggy when he was a human named Jan Sauer and working for the Galaxy Federation's counter-terrorism task force. The purpose of Pied Piper is to develop the back stories of some of the most important, yet rarely felt presences in the Xenosaga universe, including Ziggy, chaos, Wilhelm, Voyager and Dr. Dimitri Yuriev. The plot itself spans three chapters. It centers on Sauer and his team as they track a serial killer known only by the hacker alias "Voyager", who kills his victims using the U.M.N. network. The game was also Soraya Saga's final contribution to the Xenosaga project. A translation script can be found at http://zarathustra.kaisho.org/
Xenosaga I & IIEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga I & II
Xenosaga I & II is a re-telling of the first two episodes of the game for the Nintendo DS handheld system. It is not an exact exact retelling of the previous two games; some minor changes were made. The Episode II portion of the game, originally told through Jr.'s perspective, focuses more on on Shion. The Episode II portion of the game is expanded and enhanced with new content (some of which was cut from the Episode II) from Xenosaga creator Tetsuya Takahashi.
The game plays out on the DS' top screen from the 3/4s perspective while the bottom touch screen is used to issue commands and navigate menus. The game's battle mechanics follow Episode I's style as opposed to Episode II.
The game's script is by Yuichiro Takeda, who worked on Xenosaga: The Animation. Hiroshi Takeuchi, of Cowboy Bebop fame, is responsible for character art, which has been promised to be dramatically different from the PlayStation 2 titles. Music for the game is being composed by Kousuke Yamashita, who scored the soundtrack for Xenosaga: The Animation. Other previous work includes the Hana Yori Dango and Mahou Sentai Majirenjaa Tabidate live-action television series and Nobunaga's Ambition video game series. Yamashita is the fourth composer to score a Xenosaga video game, following Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuki Kajiura and Shinji Hosoe.
Xenosaga I & II was released in Japan on March 30th, 2006.
Xenosaga: The AnimationEdit
- Main article: Xenosaga: The Animation
An anime based on Xenosaga, titled Xenosaga: The Animation, premiered on TV Asahi in Japan on January 5, 2005. The anime itself follows the story of Xenosaga closely, albeit removing several scenes and adding others. Some scenes were entirely re-written for the show's purposes. The pacing has the viewer running through the first ten to fifteen hours of gameplay of Episode I in the first five episodes. Given the nature of the anime, it works best as a supplement to Episode I; some points that the game explained poorly or didn't explain at all are brought to light in the anime. Despite the changes, many fans prefer The Animation over the movie DVD of Episode I given with pre-orders of Episode II, saying that the DVD was a poorly assembled group of cutscenes; the quality of the DVD is significantly lower than that of the original PlayStation 2 cutscenes.
Xenosaga: The MangaEdit
In 2004, an official Japanese manga adaptation for the series was written by Atsushi Baba and published by Zero Sum Comics. As of 2006, Baba has finished development of Episode I's adaptation and is currently working on Episode II. It is believed that the manga will focus more closely on character development rather than scientific, religious jargon and mysterious shadow games much like with the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga.
In recent years, the Xenosaga project has seen the resignation of staff who were contributors to the game Xenogears and/or the first episode of Xenosaga. As of Episode II, Tetsuya Takahashi and Soraya Saga were removed from the Xenosaga team. According to a column by Saga, the original draft of Episode II, written by the aformentioned designers, was altered due to their removal from the project. However, this information was recently removed from Saga's website. While Saga is not working on the series anymore, Takahashi continues to be involved, albeit in a non-production role. The music composer, Yasunori Mitsuda, has also left the Xenosaga series as of Episode II. After these events, Episode III was declared to be the last primary Xenosaga episode.
Tetsuya Takahashi, Kunihiko Tanaka (character designer), and Yasunori Mitsuda have been contributors to the series since its origins. While Tanaka (the only remaining member of the three) re-illustrated the characters for Episode II, he has since distanced himself from the project.