+++ Outstanding Voice Acting (Kos-Mos' original voice returns!)
+++ Awesome soundtrack
++ Very good Storyline until the Third Act
++ Best combat system in the series
++ About as good as jumbling 4 games together could possibly be
+ Poor Character Redesigns from II are fixed, better ones remain
+ Decent Graphics
+ Margulis is the hardest boss
-- Plot centers around Shion moreso than before
- Fairly Easy
- Margulis and Albedo's respective roles are relatively minor
- Storyline goes from solid to craptastic Boss gauntlet in a rather jarring fashion
- Large amount of Fanservice
- For the first time the censoring is absurd
Let's get this part out of the way as quickly as possible: The plot of the last game of this series, whether it was 3 games or 6 games was going to have a really crappy plot at the end. This is how longwinded inconclusive series go, much like a JJ Abrams Television show. But apart from that the best two characters would presumably be dead before it even started and the only 3 villains you'd have would be Wilhelm, the Red Testament, and T-elos. T-elos is a very solid villain, one might say superior to almost every villain in Final Fantasy games (Delita and Kefka excepted), but hardly amazing even with more development. So, this game's plot not being so stellar at the end is acceptable, and hell it does a better job with a crappy situation than most other JRPGs do with good ones.
Despite somehow taking 10 more hours to complete it than I did the first time I still only died once (hadn't played the game in 4 years so I didn't have any incredible advantage or knowledge of the game) despite playing with the dumbest party possible. And of course that death was in a Mech battle so it didn't even matter (only 4 Mechs to choose from all rather powerful). The end of this game has 3 boss gauntlets in a row, the first being relatively solid plotwise and the other 2 being a mess though mildly entertaining.
The second gauntlet is the hardest part of the game by quite a lot, the Black Testament's Mech (ES Dan) is what killed me, so fuck Dan and his worthless tribe. He doesn't really have a gimmick he just powers up by a shitload halfway through and you have to be more careful. Margulis is the boss after this, who has two gimmicks, one of which isn't too hard to figure out but the other took me a while first time through but I did actually remember it this time (or figured it out quickly due to my ES strategy changing after doing that battle). There is an optional Mech battle with a lot more HP and it's not harder than either of these 2, though it is a nice throwback to Xenogears. The easier of his two gimmicks is that he will occasionally hit one mech for 99999 (there are no revives in Mech battles), and that will happen more than 4 times in the course of the fight.
Margulis Boss Theme
Testament Boss theme
The third boss gauntlet which again features T-elos, Red, and (some variant of) Wilhelm, isn't all that hard. I suppose apart from the Optional monster boss which actually is a lot harder than everything else, the Red Testament is the hardest boss fight non-mech but I don't recall ever dying to it regardless. His difficulty is fine, the other 2 are both pieces of cake. The last boss has a fuck you attack that hits your whole party for 16000 damage (non mech battles HP cap is around 5000) and can't be guarded but you have abilities to avoid it or auto-revive yourself by then so it's not that bad. The real glaring issue here is that the first battle with T-elos (the third or fourth boss fight in the game) is harder than this one.
Major Boss Theme
Last Boss Theme
T-elos Second Battle Theme
I have no problem with boss gauntlets in general as long as they have a consistent difficulty curve and the last few are very difficult (Final Fantasy XIII's last chapter is a really long boss gauntlet where everything is difficult except the last boss, which is weird as fuck), if they're all pretty easy it's just a really boring way to slow down the lack of plot. The first gauntlet in this game is the only one that makes sense plotwise and is basically taken completely from Xenogears' last area. Yuriev would have been the last boss of the third game, with Margulis and the rest of Ormus or a couple of the Testaments (Black) being the respective bosses for the fourth and fifth games (or vice-versa). The absolutely last area actually has an okay plot sequence, but up to that point the boss gauntlet is pretty silly. Hi there, let us fight nobly, noes I can't believe you died repeat.
Normal Boss Theme
Yuriev Boss Theme
This is probably the only game I can think of that has 4 or 5 different last boss themes tossed in it, which makes the soundtrack pretty kickass. If every one of the bosses was extremely difficult I might be inclined to toss this game a perfect score, but alas. As for action scenes the only person vs X ones are the last area and the Kos-Mos vs. T-elos fights; here's the first one. If for some reason you are compelled to watch the last scenes watch the uncensored version as well, since this game is the most heavily censored. More T-elos and Kos-Mos vs. the Last boss of the second game in the third game somehow or other. Unfortunately Jin vs. Margulis only takes place in Mechs this time, but here's the only one worth watching. I suppose technically with that sword toss he changed the course of the plot.
Summing up this game: Awesome battle system without much challenge to it, Great plot that falls off at the end, and very shiny with good music to boot. (Aside: Final Fantasy XIII's battle system is extremely similar except for taking out the irritating wading through menus part and it's a hell of a lot more difficult.) It is as good as possible given the limitations of forcing 4 games into one. If Xenosaga 2 had been more well received I imagine we'd be on around the 5th game by now, alas. The first game still has Albedo ripping his own head off, the second game has the Jin vs. Margulis fights, but this game is still better in general.
Final Grade: 9/10
Random Favorite Song: Play at Your Own Risk
Last Boss Theme performed Live
Despite this post being around noon I did just wake up so quality should be fine.