Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is a JRPG for the PlayStation 2 and the second title in the Xenosaga series. It is the sequel to Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht and is followed by Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra.
Continuing where the story left off in Episode I, players resume the role of Shion Uzuki. Shion and her group discover a mysterious and sinister ancient religious cult with a papacy that originated on Lost Jerusalem thousands of years ago. They must discover the truth behind this corrupt organized religious institution attempting to take dominion over the galaxy, whose schemes the party must thwart for the sake of all life. The story focuses on Jr., MOMO, Albedo and Ziggy.
The character designs deviate from the anime style that was featured in Episode I to a more realistic style in order to convey more expression and emotion. Some characters, such as Shion and KOS-MOS, receive complete costume changes and new voice actors.
Jenseits von Gut und Böse, German for "Beyond Good and Evil", is taken from a philosophical book by Friedrich Nietzsche of the same name examining morality beyond simply "good" and "evil" (black-and-white morality). It is meant to convey how hard it is to judge "what is right and what is wrong", and how morality is often subjective and differs for everyone (grey-on-grey morality), and how people (especially antagonists) can have justifiable reasons for their actions. Like the Nietzsche work after which it is ostensibly titled, the game's sci-fi story is themed to challenge society's (and the player's) over-institutionalized assumptions about morality. In Japanese, the subtitle is 善悪の彼岸, which not only literally means "The Other Side of Good and Evil", but 彼岸 (higan) refers to a Buddhist memorial service, evoking themes of religion, life, death, mourning and the afterlife.
Episode II, along with Episode I, received a remake on the Nintendo DS known as Xenosaga I & II.
Episode II begins with a flashback of the Miltian Conflict from fourteen years ago in T.C. 4753, where chaos and Canaan are ordered to pilot E.S. Asher to (Old) Miltia and retrieve the berserk U.R.T.V. units from the Realians rioting near Labyrinthos, the U-TIC Organization headquarters.
Along the way, chaos and Canaan encounter Galaxy Federation officer Jin Uzuki, who is investigating the root of the Conflict. Jin believes that the entire Conflict is a set-up to turn the U-TIC Organization into a scapegoat, which, in turn, will keep the larger organization hidden in the shadows. Jin has what that organization wants: the Y-Data, which holds the key to Joachim Mizrahi's research on the Zohar, among other important information.
The trio encounters U-TIC operative Margulis along the way, who demands that the Y-Data be returned. Jin defeats Margulis in a sword fight. Caanan is then entrusted with the Y-Data, which is the last thing that Caanan remembers from the Conflict. It is revealed that the "flashback" is actually a simulation of Canaan's incomplete memory.
In the present day, Margulis talks with the Patriarch Sergius XVII of Ormus, explaining that Albedo Piazzolla will unlock the safeguard on the Y-Data and lead them to Old Miltia. The two also discuss Ormus operative Heinlein's motives. On Second Miltia, Caanan leaves the investigation disappointed once again; he cannot activate the Y-Data stored within him.
Meanwhile, Shion Uzuki and the rest of the party in the Elsa arrive at Second Miltia, where they part their separate ways. MOMO Mizrahi is escorted to her mother, Juli Mizrahi, by Jr., Ziggy and chaos. However, along the way, they are chased by U-TIC operatives (Pellegri, Richard and Hermann) wishing to capture MOMO once again. Fortunately, the attacks are thwarted by Canaan in E.S. Asher. At Second Miltia's Vector Industries headquarters, Shion, Allen Ridgeley, and KOS-MOS are briefed of the increasing Gnosis threat. Soon after, Shion is reunited with her brother, Jin Uzuki, who is now running a bookstore.
Eventually, both parties are reunited during MOMO's analysis of the Y-Data via the U.M.N. at the U.M.N. Control Center. Juli is hesitant to accept MOMO as a daughter. During the analysis with the cooperation of Helmer and the Durandal crew, Albedo gains control using a trap he implanted into her back at the Song of Nephilim in Episode I and dives into MOMO's subconscious via the Encephalon in order to gain the Y-Data. Juli and the others tried desperately to prevent the Y-Data from leaking, and MOMO shattered her own mind to prevent the leakage. This caused MOMO to become unconscious. Shion, Allen and KOS-MOS are alerted of the predicament and are rushed to save MOMO.
The party follows and dives into MOMO's subconscious domain. In the Encephalon, Jr. experiences the history behind the U.R.T.V. units, which include him, Albedo, Gaignun Kukai, and Citrine, as well as his relationship with Sakura Mizrahi. This is because MOMO and Sakura share the same subconscious domain. However, the party is too late; MOMO's consciousness awakens and Albedo manages to unlock the safeguard on the Y-Data and open up Old Miltia. When Albedo released the seal, the lost path to Old Miltia was reopened once again.
In response to this incident, the Federation government and the Immigrant Fleet (Ormus) both began their invasion into Miltian space, attempting to seize the moment. With a mutual goal, their objective was to gain control of the original Zohar which was still sleeping on Miltia. However, the Immigrant Fleet had anticipated this incident and successfully broke through the Federation's blockade. The Immigrant Fleet began their descent into Old Miltia. In its confusion, the Federation government's response was slow and disorganized. Though they deployed ships to try and secure the region, the Federation was unable to stop the Immigrant Fleet's advance.
Meanwhile, Shion and Allen return to the Dämmerung to report the recent events to Vector Industries, stationed in Miltian space. On Second Miltia, in response to the Immigrant Fleet offensive, Representative Helmer decides to secretly launch an attack on Old Miltia in conjunction with the Kukai Foundation, Vector Industries, and S.O.C.E.; this way, the Original Zohar is apprehended by a neutral party. Upon receiving Helmer's request, Jr. and the others made preparations to descend into Old Miltia in the newly restored Elsa Evolution, an upgraded Elsa. In addition, to ensure the absolute success of this mission, several new members, like Canaan and Jin, also joined their ranks.
However, after Shion encounters both Nephilim and Febronia in a vision, she remembers that her goal was to venture to Old Miltia and "save Febronia's sisters". Shion and Allen riskily escape from the Dämmerung via a spaceship in the restricted area. Wilhelm watches the escape and states that Shion is an important figure that cannot be lost, and KOS-MOS will be the key to absolute knowledge. Therefore, he decides to activate KOS-MOS on Second Miltia in her V2 form secretly to assist Shion and Allen at Old Miltia. However, as they progress into Old Miltian space, their advance is cut short by the Black Testament, Voyager, which forces the group to retreat to the conveniently approaching Elsa.
Reunited, the party launches another strike into Old Miltian space by flying between the two black holes of the Abyss, destroying an Ormus Stronghold and the Ormus assassin cyborg Orgulla along the way. After weaving through the space battle between the Federation and Ormus/Immigrant fleets, the Elsa lands aside Labyrinthos on Old Miltia. They defeat Vanderkam who is blocking the way to Labyrinthos.
Inside Labyrinthos, Jin Uzuki confirms his suspicions by analyzing part of the Y-Data in Canaan: Joachim Mizrahi was being used during the Miltian Conflict, the U-TIC Organization, Immigrant Fleet, and Hyams are all fronts for the Ormus society, and Joachim Mizrahi forced Old Miltia into the Abyss to prevent the re-awakening of U-DO, a powerful wave existence fused with the Original Zohar. In other words, Joachim Mizrahi was a hero who was initially manipulated by Ormus, the true organization behind U-TIC and the Immigrant Fleet.
At the core of Labyrinthos, Margulis and Jin Uzuki face off once again until Margulis retreats. Shion noticed that Febronia's sisters, Cecily and Cathe, are part of the safeguard to maintain the Zohar. However, the Ormus Patriarch appears, and explains the Ormus and the Zohar will guide humans for eternity. U-DO and the Zohar begin to glow, and KOS-MOS tries to stop it by destroying Cecily and Cathe. The gambit fails; the Patriarch summons another Mizrahi invention, Proto Omega, to fuse with the Zohar and create a weapon that could strike anywhere in space. The Patriarch explains that he will use Omega to destroy the Gnosis and command the galaxy under Ormus. The party is then forced to escape as Second Miltia is morphed into the Omega System, which is the result of the Zohar and Omega fusion. Meanwhile, Gaignun Kukai morphs into Dmitri Yuriev, the U.R.T.V. creator.
Shion becomes emotionally distraught by Cecily and Cathe's deaths. Jin finds her on the Elsa, crying alone. When he talks to her about transferring spaceships, Shion screams at him to get out and leave her alone. Shion has a breakdown full of anger and sadness, and becomes angry at the universe for being thrown into another situation where she's forced to watch someone die. Jin attempts to comfort her by telling her Febronia probably loved Shion just as much as she did her real sisters, Cecily and Cathe. He describes her as, "Another sister bound by the chains of her past." At first, Shion misses what he meant and asks, "Another... sister... who?" Jin tells Shion that "sister" is her, and Febronia gave her such a painful role because Febronia believed in her. Jin also tells Shion that the world is full of pain, and she can either learn to accept it, or withdraw from it and become a recluse. However, he also tells Shion that regardless of the choice she makes, she won't be alone. With a faint sense of resolve, Shion leaves the room for him.
Margulis and Hyams scientist, Sellers, betray the Patriarch in favor of Heinlein. The Patriarch is left in the Omega System to defend himself. Shion and her allies enter the Omega System. After being attacked by a gigantic hostile church known as the "cathedral", they defeat it and confront the Patriarch, who is also confronted by a dying Albedo. The three Testaments defeat the Patriarch and revive Albedo so that he can fulfill his wish of contacting U-DO via the Zohar and die. This morphs Miltian space into a space-time anomaly.
After Albedo does this, Jr. decides to confront his brother personally alone; he dives into the anomaly. Albedo manipulates the anomaly to taunt Jr., showing him revised memories to make Jr. hate him. Albedo constantly dared Jr. to kill him because wanted to die. He claimed that Jr. was the only one who could kill him. Despite Sakura's sacrificing herself to save him, Albedo told Jr. that he killed Sakura, hoping he would become angry enough to kill him, but his false claim was dismissed.
Jr. encounters a shirtless Albedo fused with the U-DO system. Jr. kills Albedo, fulfilling his wish. Winged Kirschwassers arrive and take the now deceased Albedo away. Although the space-time anomaly is destroyed, the Original Zohar remains floating in space. Before the Durandal and the Kukai Foundation can rush to acquire it, a star system-sized Gnosis appears: Abel's Ark. Abel's Ark retrieves the Original Zohar and vanishes. Both chaos and Wilhelm observe with deep interest. Wilhelm also calls chaos "Yeshua".
After these events, the party separates to try and lead normal lives, although Jin worries that the chain of events is not over because Ormus is still alive, and the Zohar was abruptly seized by a mysterious force. Wilhelm crowns the fourth Testament, the White Testament, Albedo. Wilhelm calls him, "Weaver of the eternal circle of Zarathustra."
When combined with several other new aspects, like the expanded event slot, a team-based boost gauge, a mid-battle character swap, and an actual need for piloted robots in alternative combat, the battle system is much more varied than that of Episode I.
Zones and Zone Breaks Edit
Enemies now have three different zones (low, mid, and high) that have different defensive properties in each area. The more a player hacks away at a zone, the weaker that zone becomes, and this exploitation makes defeating the opponent a whole lot easier (known as Zone Break).
Some Breaks are longer, and require 2 characters to participate in order to break a foe. For example, if "ABBC" is the pattern. Start with character 1 doing "AB" and immediately Boost character 2, who will finish the pattern with "BC" making "ABBC", then character 2 may lay into the foe. You don't have to Boost if character 2 has the next turn, but it's usually a good idea if the player can Boost, since enemies tend to interrupt with Counter-Boosts and the like.
Some attacks may be either/or, depending how big the enemy is.
Air/Down attacks Edit
Another new addition are the Air/Down attacks which are specialty strikes that certain characters can perform when an enemy has had their Zone destroyed. Both attack types can cause twice the normal damage and can result in a foe being suspended in the air or knocked to the ground to give other characters an offensive advantage. KOS-MOS and Jin do Air attacks, and chaos and Ziggy do Down attacks.
These new attacks are powered by an additional gameplay element known as Stocks. By using a Stock in a battle, players can store three circle strikes into a single reserve that can then be used for super combos and double attacks.
Boost accumulates by dealing damage to enemies, and will stop at 3 levels standardly. The bottom-right corner of the battle screen tells which characters are going to move next. Cutting in front of your enemy by utilizing Boost (Hold / and press , , or can often save you from a world of hurt, if you can finish off the foe before its next turn. However, using Boost in excess can leave you at a disadvantage in some of the longer fights. It is wise to conserve your Boost for when you know things are going to get rough.
Boost changes in Episode II. Instead of each character having their own Boost gauge that empties after every battle, there is one Boost gauge for the whole party which remains from fight to fight. There is also an enemy Boost gauge which is displayed under the turn order, which also carries over from fight to fight. Remember that when preparing for big fights.
There are also lots of attacks and Skills which affect Boost levels in battle. You may have full Boost, but then you'll get hit with some move that will drain your Boost gauge and give it to the enemy.
One final Boost tactic involves timing your Boosts so that you finish your enemy off when the Point Bonus Event Slot is showing.
Event Slot Edit
Left of the character turn window is a small window that keeps rotating its images every turn which is the Event Slot:
- CRITICAL - Increases critical hit chance, for you and for your enemies.
- BOOST - Gives you more Boost that turn.
- POINT BONUS - If an enemy dies while that is showing, you'll get either x2, x4, or x10 (!) Tech, Skill, and Ether points after battle for that one enemy. Get this every time you can manage to. It has a huge effect to get x4 or x10 on bosses.
Episode II introduces an addition to the Event Slot, the Random Event Slot. It sits on the Event Slot where the empty one used to be. It can still be empty, but it might also be either:
- ETHER - Ether damage and healing increased 50%.
- TURN CANCEL - If anyone gets hit with this up and their turn is slotted to come up soon, they will be dropped and miss that turn.
- REVERSE BOOST - Gives your enemies Boost when you attack them, or vice-versa.
Now you always need to monitor the Event Slot.
The A.G.W.S. have been replaced by E.S. robots that have a lot more functionality than those of the previous game. There are only three playable E.S. in the game (Dinah, Asher and Zebulun), and no new Frames can be acquired. Unfortunately, only two can be in a battle at once. The reason for that decision by the developers is unknown. The E.S. have their own EXP and level up on their own when enemies are defeated. Like ground battles, only E.S. that are in the battle when it is over gain EXP.
Tech Attacks can no longer be learned or upgraded beyond their initial setting. Money has been completely eliminated as well.
Characters are not as diverse as they used to be. Other than the default attack types that dictates combat maneuvers, the Ether Trees that customize each character to their individual strengths has been replaced by an "everyone can learn the same thing" skill system that makes everyone essentially the same character.
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode II Original Soundtrack
The development of Episode II's music was split between Yuki Kajiura (cutscenes) and Shinji Hosoe (in-game music). Kajiura's soundtrack features vocal pieces by Margaret Dorn and Yuriko Kaida. The ending theme is Sweet Song.
Episode II features a soundtrack with more contemporary sounds; compared to Episode I, Episode II features a large amount of synthesizer usage as well as vocal tracks.
As with Xenosaga Episode I, the English version of the game was censored in order to receive a Teen rating.
In one scene, Albedo attempts to explain regeneration and, in the Japanese version, he pulls a pistol to his head and blows it off. The English version still featured the blood spatter but the gun was altered to be an orb of energy.
The Patriarch of Ormus is known as the Pope in the Japanese version. This was changed because of religious sensitivity.
Though the game was received generally positively, scoring a 73% average on Metacritic, Episode II received criticism for many of its elements and is usually regarded as the worst entry in the trilogy, almost killing the Xenosaga series by turning what was supposed to be a six episode series into three episodes. Some Xenosaga fans disliked Episode II so much that they recommend simply watching a movie version of it and jumping right into Episode III.
On the positive side, many enjoyed the emotional story and the music. The game is a little less claustrophobic, with more outdoor and nature environments (compare Woglinde to Sakura's Subconscious Domain). Players who were annoyed by the long cutscenes in Episode I (7 hours) should be pleased that Episode II is shorter (4.5 hours).
On the negative side, the new voice actors for Shion, MOMO and KOS-MOS were considered a downgrade by some players. Yasunori Mitsuda did not return to score the music of Episode II, despite getting critical acclaim for his musical work on Episode I, disappointing fans of his work.
Episode II was also criticized because of distinct changes with the battle system. Some players argued the changes increased strategy required to win battles, while others found that it was both unnecessarily slow, repetitive and complicated. At the same time, the new skill tree was considered by some to have been vastly "dumbed down" from the skill system in the first game. Many of the skills are left unexplained as well, often leaving many players confused about their use.
Shops, equipment and money are removed entirely.
Some of the graphics were criticized. For example, some character models lack detailed separable individual fingers. This may feel jarring in a game which has an epic space battle like this, yet somehow, modelling characters with individual fingers on their hands is just too difficult.