+++ Best Voiceacting in any game period
+++ Outstanding Storyline
+++ 2 of the top 5 best villains present
++ Excellent Score
+ Kos-Mos is actually equally badass in combat as in cutscenes
+ Fun, if shallow, gameplay
+ Solid graphics
+ Second best minigame in the series
- Fairly Short, even considering half the game is movies
- Bland Environments
- Still manages to have some annoying voices in it
--- Very Easy
--- Erde Kaiser
Ah, good old Xenosaga. In this case I just watched a bunch of movies from a letsplay I've seen before, as wading through the first 4 hours is fairly painful second or third time around. This is that LP, and it is probably in your best interest to just watch that then play the game. There's basically no way in hell I'll play Xenosaga II again, but I may yet play through III since I'm still a bit unclear on what I'd score it. The LP randomly complains about a semi-trivial boss halfway through and says its the hardest thing in the universe or something, that's the only point when it gets pretty stupid. Most of the videos I'm going to link to come from the LP.
As mentioned this game has essentially the best voice acting of any game, and the reason for that is first and foremost Albedo. Albedo is an interesting fellow who at one point rips his own fucking head off(skip to 1:30 in the vid). He has the capacity to fully regenerate himself ad infinitum, so naturally he spends his time raping synthetic human girls and decapitating himself. It may be sacrilege but I don't think he is definitively the best villain in any game, but he's pretty damn close and certainly the best voice acted one. The entire Xenosaga series is censored in some way shape or form in the US as compared to Japan, in this particular scene he has a knife in Japan and merely cuts his Arm/Head off, but obviously ripping them off is so much more badass. There's still a hell of a lot of blood in this episode, but it gets toned down a lot in later ones so I may look up more gruesome scenes on youtube.
Another reason is my good friend Margulis, the other top 5 villain, albeit he really shines in II not here. Still, here's a nice vid of him anyway. What? Expecting him to rip his own head off while wielding a flaming sword and eating babies? You ask too much sir. Margulis' voice actor has the same damn voice in every game and yet seems to always play some random minor character, but whenever I hear it I yell out "Margulis!" at my screen as a reflex. His best moments are in II as mentioned, so you'll have to wait till next week on that front.
These next two voice actors aren't quite as good as the previous two but this is just to give you an idea how good it is in the game (and I'm sure Shion opens her worthless spout so you can see the bad point as well), here's 1 2 3 Virgil movies and 1 2 KOS-MOS movies, these are all very early in the game so they're not too "Spoiler"ish. *Waits patiently for 30 minutes* Back yet? Pity there weren't more self decapitations, truly this game is slacking on that front.
The storyline is also excellent, which more or less goes hand in hand with good voice acting these days, if a bit hard to follow. There's a database within the game that makes wading through exposition easier, and as there are numerous literary allusions it's much easier to follow if you do (perhaps the major reason to play the game over watching it), still there's a ton of hanging plot threads at the end of this, the first episode, what could happen next? Could the next game be received so poorly as to sabotage the plot in the third game!? Insanity.
This game is very linear, which as we learned from Yahtzee Croshaw is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a JRPG. In these games you tend to run around aimlessly for about 5 hours at some point doing random sidequests, which greatly weakens the plot, however forced linearity strengthens it quite a bit. While Final Fantasy XIII is not an amazing storyline in and of itself it still feels pretty sweet for the first half or so of purely linear gameplay, and weakens quite a bit once it opens up later (it also has the same database function, thus making me suspect that they assimilated parts of the Xenosaga team once more), which is a common theme in a lot of Final Fantasy games, the FFVI World of Balance/World of Ruin dichotomy has spread to almost every other game in the series just as the good plot/bad plot components that go with them have.
Okay on to the major flaw, this game is trivially easy, and as badass as Albedo certainly is when you fight him (multiple times) he's still a pushover, if he hadn't been maybe that would make his ludicrously awesome character even better. Having discovered their game was extremely easy Namco-Bandai decided to put in a "summon" of a mech from Power Rangers that does 9999 damage every time, whereas virtually every other ability can only do around 1500 at maximum, and every enemy in the game save the final stage of the last boss has less than 10,000 HP. Brilliant! As much as the first 4 hours of non-combat would have annoyed me I think rampaging through every battle without thinking about it would have annoyed me much more so.
That said this is a great start to the series, which was originally planned to have 6 games. The second game was negatively received and the third game overcompensated and jumbled the last 4 games into one, I still think its debatable whether this or the third game is the best, one having a much better storyline and the other having much better gameplay... I'll have to decide over the next few weeks.
Final Grade: 8.5/10