Table of Contents:
- MonolithSoft's Project X
- Unveiling the XENOSAGA project
- Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
- Official Design Materials
- A new stance -- series cut down to 1/3
- Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose
- A(nother) remake
- Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
This article is a direct continuation of the History of Xenogears and will assume that the reader has read that article as well as having experienced both Xenogears and Xenosaga. If you are only familiar with Xenosaga and didn't or don't want to read the Xenogears history article then be aware that there are spoilers for both Xenogears and Xenosaga here along with a comparison of the plot and story outline side by side. However, for the most part, this article can be read without having read the prevous one on Xenogears and the ultimate origin of the series.
* Contains spoilers
MonolithSoft's Project X
Without Namco, Monolith Soft would've had big trouble existing, and without Hirohide Sugiura the cooperation would've been impossible. Martin Johansson writes in his article, "It was the industry-veteran Sugiura who convinced the capitalists and Namco to invest in producer Tetsuya Takahashi's up-and-coming RPG project X, [...] And it was not an easy task considering that RPGs are one of the most expensive types of games you could possibly produce."
Monolith Soft's "Project X" promotional poster (2000)
Presumably the X in "Project X" was always symbolic of the Xeno- prefix, and that Tetsuya Takahashi intended to name it something as close to "Xenogears" as possible. It probably did not take long for Takahashi to settle on the "Xenosaga" title. "We created Monolith Soft in October 1999. At the same time, we began development on 'Xenosaga.' Or, that is what I'd like to say, but in the beginning we were scrambling to bring together talented people," says Takahashi in the December 2001 issue of Dengeki PS2. "So in actual fact, development began sometime around the end of 2000."
The flyer that appeared as work advertisement on the net had pictures of early skeleton computer graphics renderings of the interior of spaceships, and a character (chaos) who unmistakenly resembled Kunihiko Tanaka's designs.
MonolithSoft's work advertisement (2000)
Although an odd caribbean-styled artwork by Yasuyuki Honne (later said to be a "joke," or promo for Baten Kaitos) had thrown some people off, a lot of Xenogears fans were thinking these posters evinced that MonolithSoft were working on Xenogears Episode I. Having to leave the company who held the copyright to Xenogears, however, meant that Tetsuya Takahashi could no longer tell the same story over again, or make a sequel to it, and fans were aware of this. The fans hoped for MSI to obtain the rights to Xenogears but it never happened, and it is unknown whether or not Tetsuya Takahashi and MSI even tried. But it remains clear that Tetsuya Takahashi had wanted to make a better saga anyway, despite the somewhat successful Xenogears.
Soraya Saga recalls in 2010, when asked how she felt about starting the Xenosaga series, "We missed Xenogears so much but overall Xenosaga seemed a fresh start full of hope." Tetsuya Takahashi stated in an interview with GameSpot in 2001 that "Xenogears ended up differently from how I envisioned it. So we [Monolith Soft] have decided to hit the reset button and start all over again with a science-fiction [story], which will be presented through a series of episodes encompassing the beginning to the end of the universe."
"There will be six episodes planned in all, all of which are divided into three major parts. I already have the story plotted until the middle of episode five in my mind, but certain ideas may be perceived as old-fashioned as time goes, so we'll try to be flexible to changes."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (interview with GameSpot, Jun 8, 2001)
Both the "6 episode" plan, and the concept of "3 major parts" expressed here, echoes what Takahashi had already stated in Perfect Works, and here was a chance to structure the whole thing more evenly. Each major part; the story of humanity in outer space; the story of Fei's planet; and finally the story that tells of what comes after, would now consist of 2 episodes each, (2, 2, 2) instead of 1, 4, 1, like in Xenogears: Perfect Works.
The six episodes divided into three major parts.
Perhaps now we should examine some of the changes that appears between Xenogears and Xenosaga. Most notably, the story of Fei's planet would no longer be an unknown planet. The idea was re-conceptualized so that it would take place on Lost Jerusalem instead. This concept changes the premise very little, in fact, since Deus was already trying to reach Earth according to Xenogears: Perfect Works when it got forced to crash on "Fei's planet" before it could accomplish this aim. The reason for this change is not hard to understand, since a story arc that spans one third of the entire series on a single planet should arguably take place on the central, most important and enigmatic planet in this universe: Earth - the motherworld that was abandoned thousands of years ago and keeps a yet undiscovered secret.
Another change was Deus itself. Deus was originally not Takahashi's creation, but the combination of Soraya's original story ideas of a "female A.I. that gives birth to a new mankind" and a "terraforming weapon out of control." In the previously referred to Super PLAY article "The Power of Will," Martin Johansson writes, "He [Takahashi] also tells me that the original idea for Xenogears was not his own, but that he had help from Kaori Tanaka [Soraya Saga]. Building Xenosaga from [his own] foundation seems to have increased his level of ambition and when I ask how many parts he can imagine Xenosaga to go on for he answers without hesitation: 'Six episodes'."
Deus, it seems, would've now been re-conceptualized into something that more literally alludes to "Yahweh" - the original name for Deus. It does not actually appear in Xenosaga's first story arc, (and thus not in the current Xenosaga trilogy), but the hints are strong that the many pieces and plotting of the "Deus System" were now incorporated into KOS-MOS and T-Elos as Animus; chaos as Anima; Omega as the potential defense system; the Collective Unconscious as a second allusion to the Gnostic Demiurge concept; and finally the consciousness of the being "Mary" as a new Miang - the will of Yahweh. In Western tradition, Yahweh/God is male, but in Xenogears it seemed that Deus, by proxy of Miang, acted as a "Mother God" type being, more akin to the Japanese goddess Amaterasu and the like, rather than a male deity, and this concept of a female deity appears to repeat itself in Xenosaga with Mary.
The Zohar, as has been mentioned, was reduced from its convoluted evolution from a mystery object with magnetic properties to a phenomenon alteration engine to simply be a "door" to the Higher Dimension for an access to infinite power. Finally, Elly and Fei were re-conceptualized into Nephilim and U-DO (Abel). In Perfect Works, while Abel is stated to be a "mysterious boy," he was most certainly still a human at that point, and not an extension of the Wave Existence. This is supported by the following line on page 158:
"The Wave Existence incorporated both Abel's human nature and his desire for a Mother in the lower dimension. For the Wave Existence to return to its own dimension, it must reverse this process; it must sort out those elements which belong to itself and those which are alien to it, expelling those foreign elements and returning them to their original source."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenogears: Perfect Works~The Real Thing~)
The central, recurring characters in Xenogears had been Fei and Elly, but the two recurring characters in Xenosaga, it was said, would be chaos and KOS-MOS. Although many of these interviews have been lost, both I and many others remember this statement and Martin writes in the Super PLAY article, "KOS-MOS and her antithesis Chaos will exist in all six games." What had also been mentioned in the now lost interviews was that they would not necessarily exist in the same "forms" (and probably not playable in every story arc). chaos and KOS-MOS, being "Anima" and "Animus" respectively, would naturally exist in some form throughout the series.
But in hindsight this statement seems a little inconsistent. After all, if some form of chaos and KOS-MOS would exist in every episode, why wouldn't some form of Abel and Nephilim (Fei and Elly) still exist in every episode? The revelations at the end of Xenosaga III as well as the fact that Abel is U-DO gives even more support to the idea that they will continue to exist in some form in future episodes as well. One might suggest that Takahashi directed this comment towards a new audience who weren't ready to accept Abel and Nephilim as important characters yet, when they are not main playable party members in the first game. But it doesn't stop with just Nephilim and Abel, or chaos and KOS-MOS existing - through rebirth and reincarnation - in every episode. The Database entry under Jin Uzuki in Xenosaga III reads:
"Though his life was lost defending chaos in the Zarathustra battle, his spirit--his consciousness-- travels alongside Nephilim to the distant land of Lost Jerusalem. Perhaps his consciousness, like those of countless others, lies in sleep eternal, awaiting the appointed day. Until a time when all had gathered."
- Xenosaga III database
The last sentence here, could imply that possibly the entire cast - playable and non-playable character alike - would have taken part, with new identities (forms), in future episodes and story arcs. The statement that some form of chaos and KOS-MOS would exist in every episode, then, loses its uniqueness. The most unique trait this pair possess is that they are complementary existences, perhaps more so than any other two characters in the Xeno-verse.
The evolution of the concept of chaos and KOS-MOS appears to have gone something like this: There were two opposing forces in Xenogears; Deus and the Ahnenerbe. And at the core of this; Miang (as the representative of Deus); and Emperor Cain (as the representative of the Ahnenerbe). This is the focus of the "After Word" in Perfect Works that was set up as a teaser for the story's progression in a sequel/prequel. It can also be said that the Ahnenerbe were similar to the civilization in outer space who was in opposition to Deus' aim and tried to seal Deus into parts. Thus we have one force that promotes unity and order (Deus) and another that promotes independence and chaos (both the Ahnenerbe and the civilization in outer space).
KOS-MOS and chaos, thus, represents re-conceptualized representations of these two opposite forces; order and chaos. chaos is the existence that the power of Anima had actualized from the Collective Unconscious. His existence is that of chaos; there is a separation between his own intention and his reason for existence as the Failsafe of the 4-dimensional universe that functions in order to protect the entirety of the universe. Like Emperor Cain he harbors hesitation towards his own reason for existence, and the consciousnesses of humans that wish dispersal, not unity, will directly act on the power of Anima - giving birth to the collapse phenomenon that will destroy the universe.
In a sense, the "will to power" theme of Nietzsche, the strength of the strong, rebellious and selfish individual, is what resonates with the power of Anima - the "shining will." On the other hand, KOS-MOS, or Mary, is the existence that the power of Animus had actualized from the Collective Unconscious, and holds the function of controlling Anima. Animus, thus, is something that can bring order to the universe, but only by supressing the strong will and ego of mankind. Like Miang (Deus), she - Mary (KOS-MOS) - obeys the rules of order and takes control of Anima, perhaps in the future wishing only to help humanity survive and could potentially keep them from growing selfish, even ruthlessly so.
With the Judeo-Christian allusions going in a more literal direction, the story's genesis scenario had to shift from the Eldridge origin to the original origin of humanity on Lost Jerusalem, and allude to the biblical and esoteric stories of genesis and the fall of man that way. This time "fear" was not only referenced, but was expressed as being the catalyst for the very fall itself:
"In ancient times, people used to be together with God. People loved God, revered and even feared God. Out of fear of the undying God, they sought divine power. This was a way for the ancients to resist Him. Eventually, they found a method to become gods themselves."
"In ancient times, people used to be together with God. People loved God, revered and even feared God. Out of fear of the undying God, they sought divine power. This was a way for the ancients to resist Him. Eventually, they found a method to become gods themselves."
U-DO and Abel's Ark, from the very beginning of development on Project X, must have been the natural evolution of the Wave Existence concept from Xenogears, despite what some fans may speculate about the changes that occured throughout the Xenosaga series. Other concepts that were in play and part of the plan from the beginning were Mary Magdalene, Rennes-Le-Chateau, Zarathustra and Eternal Recurrence as they appeared as keywords in the very first trailer when Project X was unveiled as "Xenosaga" in 2001, so none of those were additions or changes to the scenario either.
The "broken mirror" imagery of humanity was now expressed beginning with the Collective Unconscious concept and humanity's dispersal in the 4-dimensional universe's Imaginary number domain. The term "4-dimensional universe" was now abreviated as simply "dimensional universe" or "lower domain."
Takahashi states further, in the Dengeki PS2 interview, that as a consequence of the first game going into development first at the end of 2000 the actual development time of "Episode I" would be about a year. "The scenario, character design, mechanics design and aspects like that were given priority and put in first. It felt like walking a tightrope at times," he continues. Why they didn't take their time to work on the game further remains unknown, though a big possibility would be the lack of disc space since they wouldn't be able to add much more content even if they wanted to. In fact, a lot of scenes would be scrapped or saved for "Episode II."
Besides stating that "Fear" would be a main theme in the game, Takahashi also said that "The people in this game are all living with some past put upon them, filled with regrets and unavoidable destinies. They all need to find their own identity, and they all need to find the power to go on in life. That's the "desire for power" I wanted to show in this story. The villians in the story are exactly the same; as the game goes on, their wills begin to clash with those of other people."
Soraya described it even better in her interview with Siliconera in 2010, "We tend to depict human characters as a strong will in a fragile flesh and blood." KOS-MOS, in fact, was created as a contrast to this usual depiction in their characters. "So, we wanted KOS-MOS to be a complement to it by being the delicate pieces of soul in an unbreakable vessel." KOS-MOS was created and written by Takahashi, as was chaos, Shion and her family, Allen, Kevin, Andrew, Margulis, Pellegri, Febronia, Virgil, crew of the Elsa, Miyuki, Nephilim, Abel, Sellers, T-elos, and Wilhelm.
Shion Uzuki has many characteristics in common with the title character of Sailor Moon, such as liking curry and being afraid of thunder. In fact, Soraya hinted that she was a big fan of Sailor Moon on Twitter in 2014 and MOMO's character was also influenced by the magical girl concept. It is interesting to note that Sailor Moon R features a green-haired female villain named "Esmeraude" (Esmeralda) and a red-haired male villain named "Rubeus" who may very likely have been influences on the names of Emeralda and Rubedo, both characters named by Soraya Saga and who are mirrored in their original intent of growing to adult size during their respective story.
Takahashi comments on the characters in the Official Design Materials: "That Shion has to wear glasses was decided from a fairly early stage. But if it's just having to wear glasses, that makes for a simple image in any case...... Eventually, I guess we just ended up going with a simple image (laughs). Concerning her voice, Shion is constantly in situations that strained the tension, so perhaps she's a character who potentially breaks down at the occurrence of some trifling things. Meaning peril, or fragility, we wanted to request the kind of voice that possesses that sort of thing. At the audition, we selected Maeda Ai, who had a voice close to our image.
"The concept [of KOS-MOS] was long hair, a personality that was of an intense sort, but we were having a rough time with the body design. And so, since it was supposed to be a Vector product, Mugitani-san, who was in charge of mechanical systems design, designed the body for us. Tanaka-san took that and finished it up. Mugitani-san thought a sexual impression would be good, or so he said, and so he also researched underwear. It's a collaboration between artists Mugitani and Tanaka. The "image" for the voice was surely an android-like voice (laughs). As with Shion, we didn't want to be tied down with stereotypes, so we decided at the audition. Suzuki Mariko-san was decided upon unanimously.
"For MOMO, we requested an image of a courageous, good child, but also a slightly troubled young girl. Since she belongs to an organization, we also wanted her to wear a uniform. MOMO ended up very close to our initial concept of her. We didn't have any worries there. Her voice would naturally we that of a young girl, but rather than a having a cute voice, we wanted to emphasize her uncertainty. Her cuteness should feel genuine rather than coy. At the audition, we decided on Rumi Shishido-san relatively easily.
"We decided on ascepts of [Ziggy's] personality at a late stage, and worried about whether to make him more robot-like or human-like. As a 100-year-old cyborg, we decided to having his mechanical parts showing to give him a somewhat anachronical feel. As for the image of his voice, we decided on Masashi Ebara-san right away. When it comes to [acting] skill and weight, I can't think of anyone other than Ebara-san who could bring such depth to the game so skillfully.
"We considered making chaos to have darker skin, and we told Tanaka-san we wanted his skin color and related things to give that kind of impression. We said we wanted him to be boyish. We requested that he should definitely wear gloves. chaos' voice was also decided at the audition. We worried whether we'd find someone who fit the mold of having [the necessary] gentleness and boyishness along with acting ability. We put a higher priority on the acting part and decided on Souichirou Hoshi.
"Our concept was that [Jr.] looks like a boy on the outside, but is more of an adult inside. He has short hair with a modern style. Also, Tanaka-san was waiting for "The Matrix" at the time, so he [made him] wear a longcoat. (Laughs) As for his voice, we actually wanted a boy if possible. But when we predicted how long the Xenosaga series itself would go on for, we started thinking his voice would [probably] change, so we requested Eriko Kawasaki. Design-wise, Albedo and Gaignun were like two parts of a single character set, and I felt like Gaignun followed from Jr., while Albedo followed from Gaignun. Actually, in the beginning we were going to have all the U.R.T.V.s as adults. But an opinion appeared within the staff that Jr. should be a child, and that came up whenever the character was brought up, and so we made Jr. a child. And so there's Gaignun, who was able to stay objective towards Jr., and to be more dangerous than that, there's Albedo. Albedo depended on him as an instinctively loyal character. As for their voices, Albedo is eccentric, while Gaignun is the composed, handsome type, and for one person to become these two roles, we requested Yamadera Kouichi-san. Keeping up Albedo's tension for more than an hour at a time put quite a strain on his voice. So to make sure Yamadera-san's work wasn't affected, we recorded at the end of the day.
"Our concept was that Allen is the only calm character in an [otherwise] serious story. We designed him as a kind of bystander-type character. As for his voice image, we decided on Hirata Hiroaki from the beginning. [For Andrew Cherenkov we] asked Tanaka-san for a character who was miserable and hard to please. Andew's voice was actually done by someone else in the beginning. But our image changed a bit, so we hurriedly requested Engawa Hisao-san [instead]. [His wife] got a role as the story moved on, so we quickly designed her. We had an image of "a bad feeling" both for her voice and design. [For Kevin we] had Tanaka-san depict a character who was a gentle man, but also had a feeling about him that there was something behind his facade. Actually, his voice actor was Ishikawa Hideo-san, who did Auron in "FFX". Kevin's voice is [more of] a plain one.
"We told Tanaka-san our concept [for Virgil] was that he should feel menacing and have short hair as a military man. We decided relatively easily where to place his scar, since it'd be almost unnoticeable anywhere but on his face. Since we had so many female characters with long hair, we had Febronia depicted as a kind, short-haired woman. She is a ghostly presence and a character burdened with a sad history, and we asked her voice actress, Kouda Mariko-san, to give a performance to reflect that.
We had an image of Margulis using a sword and looking strong. He was one of the characters we came up with relatively early. I think it'll soon become clear how he got his facial scar. We decided on Nakata Jouji-san for his voice. For Shelley and Mary, first of all, we requested that they should be divided into two types, the intellectual one and the lively one. We struggled quite a bit with Mary's hairstyle. Having her wear a cap was Tanaka-san's idea. As for their voices, we held an audition, and we easily decided for both of them at the same time, with Kugimiya Rie-san for Shelley and Takada Yumi-san for Mary. We felt that it really should be these two together. Since Takada-san is from Kantou [Tokyo area], some of our staff from the Kansai area helped her with Mary's Kansai dialect. Matthews is a courageous leader, and Tony is a delicate man, which I thought was a good fit for Ishizuka Unshô-san and Koyasu Takehito-san. The model for hammer was my friend Hamasaka-kun. (Laughs)"
"Since Nephilim is a character who's lived for a long time, we imagined her as being the most objective one when seen from a third-person perspective. I told Tanaka-san that she should feel strongly influenced by the image of "that character". As for her clothes, we considered the era the girl who would become Nephilim once lived in, since she would be wearing clothes from that period.
Even though [Wilhelm's] the polar opposite of chaos as a character, we gave him the same silver hair color. The main thing about Wilhelm is probably that you don't know what he's thinking. That's where his mysteriousness comes from. By giving this role to Hiyama Nobuyuki-san, who usually voices main characters who are trying to overcome that kind of mysteriousness, it becomes even more prominent. TO show off his classy demeanor, we made him wear a stand-up collar.
Miyuki was born because we wanted a character at Vector that wasn't a source of tension. She's an otaku for all things mechanical, and as soon as I told Tanaka-san that, he came over straight away. (Laughs) So he drew me a full-body portrait even if I hadn't really asked for one. Since we wanted the voice of a girl who's loyal to her own desires, we decided on Uwagawa Emi-san.
I imagined Joachim as a researcher in his 50s. I didn't really worry much about him design-wise. In the end, he was descriped by people as a wayward scientist, but in actual fact, he's a decent man. Along with his design, I decided on the voice at the same time. Noda Keiichi-san was a perfect fit, both for his age and his voice. [Juli's] image was of determination, with some stubborn traits visible for all to see. I requested the same kind of image from Shindô Naomi-san, who was voicing her.
As for Pellegri, I wanted to move forward with a design that took care not to overlap too much with Juli's. I asked for a dignified, calm voice to reflect her being second in command of the U-TIC Organization from Hara Eriko-san.
-Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-)
Soraya Saga created Ziggy's family and enemy, the U.R.TV.'s, Helmer, Yuriev, the Mizrahi family, Lapis Roman, the Godwin sisters, concept of Realians, Life Recycling Law, the S.O.C.E. and more. Soraya Saga wrote half of the story and script for the original Xenosaga, which is even more than she wrote for Xenogears. She also worked as 2nd Unit Production Designer together with Tsutomu Terada and Tadahiro Usuda.
CG Supervisor Norihiro Takami and Programming Director Toshiaki Yajima (2004)
Non-Xenogears team ex-Square employees, Norihiro Takami and Toshiaki Yajima, worked as CG Supervisor and Programming Director respectively. Koh Arai worked as Map Planning Director, Yasuyuki Honne and Makoto Shimamoto served once again as Art Director and Battle Planner respectively, Hiroshi Uchiyama worked on 3D Character Design, and Tanegashima Takashi worked as one of the Quest Planners along with newcomers such as Koh Kojima. Another ex-Square employee, Norihiko Yonesaka, worked as a Quest Scenario Writer.
Original KOS-MOS and T-elos concept art by Koichi Mugitani (2000)
Mugitani designed the VX units, and goes on to elaborate on his intent and process in the Xeno Emission E1 book:
"What I intended to do with the design work for EP1 represented a breakthrough in terms of values. I like new things, and seen from the viewpoint of users playing the game Xenosaga, it's clear that the VX units designed by me are a really high-risk design lying on the outside of that value system. That's because what I wanted to present followed a plan incorporating the elements listed below.<br>
1. Conditioning through authority
There was already a brand established by Xenogears, with its corresponding fanbase.
2. Conditioning through repetition
By their nature, RPGs are expected to span tens of hours, like it or not.
Also, this game has many female users, including fans attracted by the charm of the characters. Couldn't it be possible for us to open up a new fanbase by targeting this group of users who don't want adherence to classic robot designs, but rather hope for someone to see it from a neutral viewpoint as [merely] an extention of the product design we're all used to seeing? That's the possibility I was betting on.
[...] You'll see that the position of the VX units is in the far upper-right, quite far from the female users (included in the "light users" group) that we wanted to target. When I was doing design work for EP1, I didn't have this kind of positioning map in mind at the time, and decided on those positions based on my own preferences without being able to differentiate between myself and others. I thought it'd be a major breakthrough to let users decide their own position instead, through the methodology I described above."
- Kouichi Mugitani (Xeno Emission E1, page 53)
Regarding composer Yasunori Mitsuda's contribution, Takahashi says in a Famitsu interview, "Mitsuda's schedule was tight at the beginning, but we managed to get him into the game. As for the performance, we figured if we were going to do it, we might as well go with one of the best in the field [the London Philharmonic Orchestra]. I had some great expectations for them; I wanted to pull myself up to the huge amount of ability they have." Takahashi also says in the Dengeki PS2 interview, "... for the BGM, we're including Gregorian chant, since religion is one of the fundmental aspects of the game, and I wanted to create that atmosphere. Of course, this is also something Mitsuda-kun requested. Between us, we agreed that in existing RPGs, the same music loops over and over during most events, so we tried to avoid that as much as possible. We decided to do our utmost to make unique music for every scene."
He goes on to speak about his approach: "I was in charge of the script while also serving as director, so naturally I began by deciding on the characters of Shion and KOS-MOS and working on the scenario. The characters have deeper personalities and more backbone than before. Basically, the story proceeds from main character Shion's point of view, but we will also get the chance to switch focus to other characters, which is good." Takahashi also says that he was careful about "not making a fuss over rhetoric or focusing on it too much." Since Takahashi felt there's sometimes a strong inclination towards that in games, he wanted to do it another way.
"Of course, intentionally using rhetoric isn't [necessarily] a bad thing, but one trend, at least in my opinion, is that writers just include cool-sounding or moving dialogue without really thinking about rhetoric, and somehow the means end up becoming the goal. The message they originally wanted to convey doesn't get across. All the characters just end up becoming poets. In actual fact, when we think about how we live our everyday lives, it'd be strange if the people around us were like that, wouldn't it? (Laughs)
Considering the situations they're placed in, what would be the most natural thing for the characters to say based on their personalities? I'm constantly thinking about that when I'm writing. Even language that is close to us can leave a strong impression if it fits the scene. That's the kind of dialogue I want to have my characters speak."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Dengeki PS2 interview, December 2001 issue)
Since a lot of characters appear in Xenosaga, and are characters who will be important to the coming story, Takahashi wanted players to start by getting a sense of their individual qualities. "I'd like [players] to enjoy the reflective parts before tearing into the gameplay parts. When I think about what else I want [players] to pay attention to, it would have to be the characters," he continues. "With this work, we've included foreshadowing and hints for the later story at every turn---from dialogue to character backstories to the setting, things that could be seen by a casual glance at the backgrounds---so as for what I'd like [players] to learn from this, the keyword would be to imagine how the near future might turn out. That would make me happy [if people would do that]."
The Voice Actors reading lines for Xenosaga Episode I.
Considering how far along Takahashi must have been when it comes to the scenario, having basically worked on it since 1998 when it was still a Xenogears prequel, it makes sense that he would know what's ahead in great detail. Xenogears went from a conceptual idea to a full screenplay in about 2 years time (1994-1996), so it isn't hard to imagine Takahashi having already begun writing for the second story arc at this point. In an interview with GameSpot in 2001 Takahashi said "Though Monolith Software was established about two years ago, I already had some ideas in mind when I left Square, so [the planning stages for the game] would actually [begin] more like three years ago."
If Takahashi started planning for the game in 1998 then that coincides with the time Digicube released Xenogears: Perfect Works~The Real Thing~ where early ideas for Xenosaga were outlined as part of the Xenogears universe. And the scenario and characters would be the first thing he planned.
Let's take a look at how this process likely began by examining how a story arc by Takahashi in this series is structured. In an interview in the Xenosaga II Weekly magazine, he refers to the immediate drama of the games as "momentary checkpoints" in time with "important modules before and after" them.
The modules listed are as follows:
Opening movie event: Lake Turkana/Earth 20XX (Xenosaga), Eldridge crash/Abel's era (Xenogears)
"Modern day" type story: Pied Piper/T.C. 4667 (Xenosaga), Zeboim/Kim's era (Xenogears)
Central backstory conflict: Miltian conflict/T.C. 4753 (Xenosaga), Solaris War/Lacan's era (Xenogears)
Momentary checkpoint: Present day (Xenosaga), Present day (Xenogears)
I assume that a similar structure would be used for each story arc, though the events depicted in the "Xenogears reimagining" may be of a different nature depending on how much Takahashi decided to alter. For example, even if Zeboim was absent in the reimagining, I assume a different "modern day" type story would still appear as an important module sometime in the past of that story arc. Now let's "zoom in" on the structure of the actual screenplay for the "momentary checkpoint," i.e. the scenario in the present, by using the Xenosaga trilogy and Xenogears as examples:
The chart I drew is a very crude description of the story structure and its parts but there will be more details as this article continues. You'll notice I haven't divided Xenosaga into episodes in the chart. Most likely the first episode was originally going to cover the first 4 acts, while the second episode was going to cover the rest. You'll also notice that Xenogears and Xenosaga mirror one another in the structure. In fact, in a 2001 interview with GameSpot, Yoshidumi Makoto (assistant manager at Namco) would state that Xenosaga "...follows the direction and style of Xenogears."
The same mirroring principle can be used to compare and examine the characters. For the sake of simplicity, I will only examine the main playable characters here. Xenogears had 9 playable main characters, and each, with perhaps the exception of Chu-Chu, had some part of the story devoted to them. The playable characters, in the order you get/encounter them, were as follows:
Fei Fong Wong
Elhaym van Houten
Billy Lee Black
Elhaym van Houten
Billy Lee Black
* Margie was originally meant to be a playable character, and she still helps out in some of the battles with healing and weaker attacks, even if you don't control her. Chu-Chu is playable, but doesn't become a party member or playable until the end of the Shevat arc. For this reason, and because Margie mirrors MOMO and MOMO's introduction, I decided to lump them both together at the time the heroes recover them.
From the beginning of planning in 1998, then, it would make sense that there would be 9 main playable characters in Xenosaga's first story arc as well, and, as we will discover, they each seem to play a similar role as well as borrowing traits from different Xenogears characters. To start with, the story - if it were to adopt the same style and feel like a sequel - would require a hero who was optimistic on the surface, but filled with pain and angst underneath; who has a painful past that he or she repressed, and who is responsible for horrific things happening to the world in the central backstory conflict that people continue to suffer from. The result was the character Shion Uzuki:
Shion Uzuki, rather than suffering from multiple personalities and destroying the world in a previous incarnation, was someone who had summoned the Gnosis as a child, and created a darker world that way. And like Fei she was oblivious to this fact. (In turn, the Fei/Id dynamic would be mirrored with the Jr./Albedo dynamic.) Next would require a character like Citan, a guardian or protector of the hero, who would be with Shion from the set-up, and who would sometimes converse with some mysterious figure. The result was KOS-MOS - who, like Citan, would become one of the more popular characters:
(2nd character: protector of hero)
Each character would also borrow traits from more than one character, as to make it less monotonous or predictable, and so Shion got martial art traits, glasses, and her name borrowed from Citan. KOS-MOS got to be a special, "self-sacrificing," woman in the past like Elhaym. And so on. The third character should be a mysterious character the hero had already met, like in a dream or a past life, and who would have a special body with god-like attributes. If Elly was God's body - Persona of Kadmoni - then this one would be male and made out of "Anima." The result was chaos:
(3rd character: his physical body is plot-relevant)
Next up would be Soraya's character. She had previously written Bart, who made a stealthy infiltration mission to rescue Margie in Bledavik. To mirror this, Soraya would reuse the infiltration mission and the rescue of a girl, but instead of a desert prince rescuing his cousin, this time it would be a cyborg rescuing an artificial girl with important data. The result were Ziggy and MOMO:
Ziggy and MOMO
(4th and 5th character)
And so it would continue, up until there were 9 characters created: corresponding to the 9 playable characters in Xenogears. However, in the end only 7 were used as main playable characters. We can determine, then, that something changed along the way, which resulted in two characters - who originally corresponded to Maria and Emeralda - were cut out from being playable characters in the main games:
Fei Fong Wong -- Shion Uzuki
Citan Uzuki -- KOS-MOS
Elhaym van Houten -- chaos
Bartholomew Fatima -- Ziggurat 8
Chu-Chu/Marguerite Fatima -- MOMO
Ricardo Banderas -- Jr.
Billy Lee Black -- Jin Uzuki
Maria Balthasar -- ???
Emeralda Kassim -- ???
Citan Uzuki -- KOS-MOS
Elhaym van Houten -- chaos
Bartholomew Fatima -- Ziggurat 8
Chu-Chu/Marguerite Fatima -- MOMO
Ricardo Banderas -- Jr.
Billy Lee Black -- Jin Uzuki
Maria Balthasar -- ???
Emeralda Kassim -- ???
Some might suggest that Allen and Miyuki were meant to correspond to Maria and Emeralda, since they become playable, temporarily, in Episode III. But their introduction is very jarring with the mirroring of Xenogears [see the complete Mirroring article], and they were likely, at least in the case of Miyuki, added as fanservice by Arai and Yonesaka. My analysis of the mirroring between the two series has instead led me to the conclusion that Doctus was likely the 8th playable character, while Bugs may have stood in for Chu-Chu as a cute mascot type character and for Emeralda as an artificial "person" with a child's persona. I don't feel confident enough to elaborate too much on Bugs, but I do believe that Doctus/Melisse Ortus had more of a presence in the original scenario, and that she was one of the early characters created, just like T-elos was conceptualized as early as 2000.
And so I don't think Shion's story arc was written chronologically, or was still vague and unfinished by the time Episode I was released. Rather, I think the story arc gradually took shape in the form of a whole. That is the way character-driven writers tend to approach their story. This also seems to be the approach the developers took with the actual creation of the game's cutscenes, as we will examine later.
Episode I storyboards (Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-)
Takahashi, being the fan of cinema that he is, naturally jumped at the chance to direct the cutscenes as if he was directing a movie. "Of course, this is CG we're talking about, so as a director I want to take advantage of the things you can't do in real life. The biggest difference is in the camerawork. Angles that'd be impossible to shoot from in real life are accessible in the world of CG. You can have the camera go into objects and still be able to shoot right through them."
"The animation's become quite complex, since the enemies are right on the map this time. They've been given a fair amount of strategic AI -- some of them come right up when you get near them, and some you can tiptoe right past without them noticing. A side effect of that is that we had to include a fair amount of freedom in character movement as well. Technically [programming all of this in 3D] wasn't a problem, but the sheer quantity was a headache. The maps in Xenogears were done in 3D, so generally speaking it had three times the graphic data to deal with over 2D games. Xenosaga has about three times more data than that. In the beginning we had the mechs walking on the maps themselves, but the units are too big and the map data would've become too much to deal with. I hate randomly running into enemies while going around the map, so in this game, battles only begin once you get within a certain range of enemies you can see onscreen."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Interview with Famitsu, 2001)
Koh Kojima, one of the Quest Planners, who later would serve as Director for Monado: Beginning of the World (Xenoblade), stated in 2010 that at this time Takahashi's directorial style was "to work in his own office space and communicate his ideas via email, or speak to the team leaders, without coming into the development section."
Unveiling the XENOSAGA project
After "Project X" was revealed to be ' Tetsuya Takahashi's XENOSAGA ', the first trailer (2001 Spring TGS 2k1 trailer) was shown to start building its momentum. It began with a passage from John's Book of Revelation, 20:13-15, and then moved on to show a number of quotes and keywords flying over a wavey background (similar to the dark wavy water surrounding the X in Xenogears' Thousands of Daggers album) that appeared and disappeared on the screen with background music 'Pilentze Pee' (A Little Bird Singing) from Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares Vol.1 (a collection of Bulgarian music using the same female Bulgarian Chorus previously known as the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir that contributed to "The Beginning and the End" on the Xenogears soundtrack.)
You can read a translation of this trailer and the keywords [here].
The very first Xenosaga trailer (2001)
Hardcore fans were quick to recognize several words from Xenogears:Perfect Works~The Real Thing~, specifically from its History section on "EPISODE I" (such as "Lost Jerusalem," "Planetary disappearance incident," "Michtam04B" and "Pilgrimage Fleet") which seemed to suggest that Xenosaga was indeed a "prequel" to Xenogears that would follow the story as outlined in the book.
An unusual Monolithsoft conference was held in the summer of 2001 where the developers talked about Xenogears and the new Xenosaga series (which is available on the Xenosaga Special Fan book with DVD). What was unusual about it is that in Japan, this kind of on-stage interview they made with Tetsuya Takahashi and others is something that a director for a movie or a writer for a book would do, not developers for a game. This event and everything surrounding the development of Xenosaga Episode I was the culmination point of Takahashi's vision and ambition with the series. The following is a translation from: http://game.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/20010708/namco.htm, which also reports from that period:
The first to walk up on stage was Namco president Mr. Masaya Nakamura. He started off by saying "This tale, 'Xenogears', still has much more to be told even with 'Xenosaga'. With the strong support of the fans, we want to do our utmost to present further sequels," clearly very enthusiastic about it. "Until today, you haven't heard everything about 'Xenosaga Episode I: The Will to Power'. We want to share our happiness with the fans who have gathered here in the conventional hall [today]," he said.
Mr. [Nakamura] is also the president of Nikkatsu Film Corporation. "I've been talking about how films are [part of] this country's culture, and games are the same way," he continued. "I very much want films, music and games to be recognized as [examples of] excellent Japanese cultural products [lit: culture]," he concluded.
(Translated by Gwendal)
Composer Yasunori Mitsuda was then revealed to be working with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yasunori Mitsuda and Tetsuya Takahashi (July 8, 2001)
"'The music is overpowering the graphics!' This is what I realized after Mitsuda-kun returned from London and I heard the music recorded with the London Philharmonic during the mix-downs. He had already decided to go for a more cinematic style than he'd used in the past, but this music seducing my ears vastly exceeded my expectations. And already, a premonition formed in my mind: 'There are places where this music is going to save the game.' Mitsuda has achieved a complete revolution in his sound. The true highlight is 'Gnosis.' Many people probably heard it on the promotional DVD, but in the game it's used during the battle scene between the Federation Army and Gnosis - 'S27' as it was referred to among the staff. This piece, like a lot of the music in this game, was directly scored to the finished visuals; the visuals were certainly not subordinated to and edited around the music. However, this cue syncs to its scene perfectly. From Gnosis' appearance at the beginning, to the final fade to white, the two elements of pictures and sound achieve a perfect marriage of synchronization. Supported by this strangely and unexpectedly overwhelming music of sheer force, Xenosaga was made complete.
'The music is overpowering the graphics.' I would like you all to experience this same shock of mine with your ears and body - nay, with the mobilization of all your powers of perception.
Lastly, I would like to express some words of appreciation to Mitsuda-kun for composing this music for me under the ghastly pressures that my inhumanly tight schedule brought to bear. Thank you for supporting me to the end. Next time we'll reach even higher."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenosaga Original Soundtrack notes)
The promotional DVD contained the infamous "8 min 8 sec" trailer which contained a lot of unused scenes, some of which were not seen until Episode II - which is pretty amazing when you consider the fact that Der Wille zur Macht at this point had only been in development for about 6-7 months. The trailer is included on the Alle Spezielle DVD that came as a preorder bonus with Episode III, which states:
"This was the last item shown at the Tokyo Exhibition (in July 2001). At this time, Xenosaga EPISODE I [The Will to Power] was still in development. This video includes unused scenes and events, which were delayed until Xenosaga Episode II [Beyond good and Evil].
The content in this video is the same content as was originally shown on July 8, 2001."
- Xenosaga Alle Spezielle DVD, 2006
A second trailer later on in 2001 would also feature a few scenes not used in the final product. A translation of the "8 min 8 sec" trailer transcript from the Xenosaga Special Fan Book with DVD can be found [here].
Three scenes from the trailers that never appeared in the game or the sequels (2001)
One can perhaps conclude from this that the cutscenes were not developed chronologically, and so there wouldn't necessarily exist a full "Episode II"-like game on Episode I's engine at this time. More evidence of this is suggested from what was revealed during a Xenoblade Chronicles interview in 2010, where it was stated that MonolithSoft's approach is to develop games by "starting from a broad, thin base and building on it over time." Though, we do know that beta screenshots from Second Miltia in the original Episode I were shown on the net.
Early screenshot of Second Miltia city (unknown date)
Once Xenosaga was unveiled many Xenogears fans were rejoicing, and it started to build quite a momentum. Unlike with Xenogears there were now expectations, and the fact that Tetsuya Takahashi, now openly recognized as the mastermind behind Xenogears, expressed a clear desire to reboot and properly make the Xeno saga in his own vision simply made fans' expectations of the Xenosaga series rise even higher. After all, he had now established an entire company for the main purpose of telling this epic tale. He emulated the style of a film director appearing in the previously mentioned on-stage interview. There was even going to be an orchestral score with the famous London Philharmonic Orchestra.
But being so similar to Xenogears fans wondered if Square wouldn't be concerned about Xenosaga, especially since around the time there were certain issues like the lawsuit between Nintendo and Enterbrain concerning the PlayStation title Tear Ring Saga.
"We're always in contact with Square, and we haven't had any problems at this point. Also, with the recent alliance between our company, Square, and Enix, there are talks amongst the top management group on a regular basis, so I think things are going smoothly," said Yoshidumi Makoto (assistant manager at Namco) in an interview with GameSpot on Nov 8, 2001. When asked about whether or not Xenosaga was a direct prequel to Xenogears, the following was said:
"Though the development team is the same, they were previously working under Square for Xenogears, and now they have shifted to Monolith Software for Xenosaga. But with our relation between Square, I think it is difficult for us to say it is a direct sequel or prequel. It's probably more suitable to say that it follows the direction and style of Xenogears."
- Yoshidumi Makoto (Interview with GameSpot, 2001)
"Now that we are under a different company, we figured we should start everything from scratch all over again. Though there are familiar faces that serve as important characters in Xenosaga, others are more like self-parodies, so we don't really want Xenogears fans to overreact. Like movies, sometimes you have the director of the movie or friend of the leading actor appearing as cameos, so it's similar to that."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Interview with GameSpot, 2001)
When asked about the new direction and a possible reimagining of Xenogears down the road, the following was said:
"This is something which won't happen for a few years--we haven't even decided if we're going to do it in order. (laughs)"
- Yoshidumi Makoto (Interview with GameSpot, 2001)
"Well, we have to make sure the first game sells. (laughs) But yes, when that time comes, we'd like to make sure it will be something worthy of presenting to the players."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Interview with GameSpot, 2001)
The first Episode of Xenosaga, subtitled Der Wille zur Macht - a reference to german philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche which translates to "The Will to Power," was greatly anticipated by the Xenogears community who had longed for a sequel or prequel to Xenogears. While Takahashi stressed that Der Wille zur Macht was the first part of a different conceived six-part epic than Xenogears, most fans were overjoyed that the 'Xenoverse' would essentially be 'remade' on the PS2 with a cinematic approach. Although a few were skeptical and complained about the key character KOS-MOS being an android, among other things, most people were optimistic and the thought of having a female lead in Shion was welcomed as a nice change of pace.
"The 'will for power' is borrowed from Nietzsche, so [the] two characters [chaos and KOS-MOS], each carrying a philosophical meaning, have a lot to do with the main theme. However, that's merely the way I think about the story. It was deliberately devised not to be highly involved, so anyone should be able to get into it easily," said Takahashi at the time. The 3D character design, however, was subject to some criticism as many fans didn't feel Kunihiko Tanaka's anime designs translated well to 3D.
"We used regular animation in the previous game [Xenogears], but around the point the 3D screens and maps were completed, I suddenly realized I really wanted to go for 3D instead. I didn't follow through with it back then, but this time around I managed to follow my desire. I've been blessed with some extremely talented people in the field of 3D animation as well.
I had Tanaka work on the design, giving him character descriptions and comparing the image I wanted with real-life actors and such. I tried to be as close to his designs as possible while modeling them in 3D. The toughest part was facial expressions. With the big-eyed characters he drew, the face can be completely destroyed depending on lighting and a thousand other tiny little balances. The knowledge base for realistic, smaller-eyed characters is much larger, so expressions are a lot easier for them."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Interview)
This difficulty with turning Tanaka's designs into 3D was also the reason why he had originally gone for traditional animation in Xenogears.
The Xenosaga promotional poster (2001)
Unlike its predecessor there was also a lot of merchandise surrounding Xenosaga, with it being the company's flagship series, and was soon referred to as a potential "Final Fantasy-killer" by their parent company Namco. Once Episode I was released in Japan the anticipation grew stronger, and while gaming sites criticized the game for having too many long cutscenes, a lot of Xenogears fans liked the sound of that. Western fans would soon get their first taste of the English dub, which would turn out to be a good job, but just like Xenogears this game would never be released in Europe.
Lia Sargent, the English voice of Shion, made some comments about working on the game in 2004, stating she was pretty indifferent about working on Xenosaga. "Doesn't excite me...it's a game...I don't follow games very well. Sorry. I love to play the characters, but...." She claims she didn't see the finished game and that she "felt detached from the process and the character."
"The way games are recorded is so different then a movie or a series. And as a voice talent one tends not to get very involved with the character. It's hard to, the pace is so fast and you never get to really connect with the other characters. It's more technical work than anything else.
- Lia Sargent (http://www.animedream.com/ad/interviews/view/1808 - January 15, 2004)
In December 2001, once the roughly 7 hours and 30 minutes' worth of cutscenes were 99% completed and they were making the master, Takahashi stated that "Considering our capacity, there's no way we could just abruptly make [all the story right now]. So, I think we should do it gradually. But in any case, the scale of this work alone is suitably large. The staff played through half the content the other day, and it took them about 14 hours and 30 minutes. So the playing time for the full game should be about 40 hours."
Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht was something that felt completely new. It continued the style started in Xenogears with often using silence and sound effects instead of music - this time to give a feeling of the emptiness in outer space similar to movies like Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Indeed, Tetsuya Takahashi did not want Xenosaga's content to be associated with traditional Japanese animation, but rather with cinema. "It might look like anime, but if you look at the scenario, camerawork, and the clips you'll clearly notice that inspiration is borrowed from various existing movies," says Takahashi to Super PLAY magazine.
An obvious example of Xenosaga borrowing cinematographical inspiration from an existing movie would be the escape from a collapsing Proto Merkabah at the end of Episode I, in this case taken from the escape from the collapsing Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. In a 2012 interview Takahashi mentioned the 1983 movie Brainstorm, which opening scene appears to have inspired the opening scene in Episode I where Shion is preparing to dive into KOS-MOS' encephalon. Blade Runner was another influence, mainly felt with the Realian story angle, and referenced with "Nexus 6," the artificial dog that Jan bought his son. Jan, or Ziggy, in turn, was a reference to Robocop.
"Monolith Software and Namco have much to be proud of with Der Wille zur Macht. As the first episode to the six-part epic of Xenosaga, the game sets a new standard for RPG storytelling. By embracing Nietzsche's concept of "the will to power" as a central theme, they've managed to drive a stake through the heart of cliche and create something gloriously original. The depth of characterization and the degree of intricacy found in Der Wille zur Macht is simply remarkable compared to other contemporary RPGs. Namco and ZRO Limit are to be applauded for preserving the integrity of the script as well as the dialog during the game's localization. Although the adventure is a brisk one, drawing to a conclusion after roughly 40 hours of play, the experience is memorable."
- Stephen Harris (RPGFan)
The amount of drama and psychological exploration had also become larger than its predecessor, this time even focusing on supporting characters, and perhaps this was one of the reasons Xenosaga would attract a larger female fanbase compared to Xenogears', which had consisted in large parts of mainly guys doing translations of source books and maintaining fan sites. With Xenosaga the most prominent contributors would be female.
Xenosaga used a lot of minimalism and subtleties, focusing also on minor, detailed drama, such as exploring relationship issues, or having Jr. suddenly shout out at MOMO, for the purpose of displaying his wavering mind between the steadiness and the non-steadiness of his specifically appointed Enneagram type health, which made some critics feel that "the story would genuinely appeal more to lonely housewives than gamers." Certainly, for anyone who wants to play a game - not watch so much drama - this is perhaps a valid criticism, and Xenosaga Episode I would not turn out to be too successful.
Initial reactions were mostly good, but the game was hardly considered perfection. Though most people simply enjoyed the game for what it is, others complained about things like the "lack of realism" while some fans tried to defend it. However, fans who enjoyed talking about and discussing the finer points of Xenogears soon realized that Xenosaga Episode I did not give a lot in the way of coherent story to discuss - comparing the game to that of a "prologue."
This resulted in attempts by almost every fan to try and use Xenogears: Perfect Works~The Real Thing~ in order to form a cohesive story that Xenosaga might be about. But Der Wille zur Macht did not flow very well with the story about Deus and the community got increasingly tired of these speculations and questions. Furthermore, hardcore fans were quick to pick up on the fact that the early trailers featured several scenes that were not in the game, and the database even apologized for not including Jin Uzuki, a Citan look-alike character that had been hyped up in the trailer. The official soundtrack featured tracks which had names that weren't in the game either; such as "Zarathustra," "Omega," "Ormus," "The Resurrection" and "The Miracle." And they were either barely used or left out from the game completely, even though they must have cost alot to record with a live orchestra. It appeared as if Episode I's story was cut down due to time, budget, or disc space issues and never completed as originally intended. Players were robbed of the 'climax' of Episode I that would have rounded the game off and made it more self-contained in the larger saga.
Several of the keywords that appeared in the very first trailer were not in Episode I either such as "Proto Omega," "Ormus Society," "Rennes-le-Château," "Mary Magdalene" and "Eternal recurrence." And a few keywords would in fact never appear in the Xenosaga series at all, such as "Four Ancient Texts," "Book of Splendour," "Masochism," "T.C. 4775" (not the same as 4770 that was printed on KOS-MOS ver.4 without making much sense) and "The Last Sparrow," etc... or the quotes "Fill up my heart with you," "I always wondered... Why were we brought into this world?," "Then, you're carrying the burden of yet another sorrow, aren't you...", "You will kneel before the power of Omega!", "It is... the Will to Power." and "Now, come... Our time is just beginning..." Also, the '04beta' term was removed from Planet Michtam.
"Many items and spells were dummied out in Xenosaga I. Most of which were uber powerful items that were probably required to beat the originally planned later portion of the game. Such items like agility boosting ones etc. I believe people also found fragments of maps, and character data on Jin as well, but not enough to put to use. (I did find that Jin had a data entry point along side the other PCs, but he had a null value)"
- Xenosaga Fan
Before Episode I had even been released in Japan, someone from MonolithSoft's staff posted spoilers on a Japanese Xeno forum. They were translated into English by someone and fans started to argue whether or not they were real or fake, and some people based their theories on them. Information about this leaked material can be found [here].
(I'm not going to examine that information in this article since most of it is pretty straight-forward (if awkwardly phrased/translated) spoilers, and the short, speculative inclusion of Raziel and the Eldridge were most likely empty guesses made by the MSI employee.)
Furthermore, a pre-order art book for Episode I showed a Realian tank onboard Proto Merkabah that was apparently removed from the game. A Realian called "Vwud Uzuki" was in the tank, featuring a U-TIC outfit that would not be seen until Episode III when Shion and Allen wears it.
Vwud Uzuki screenshot, from pre-order art book (2002)
The common theory is that Vwud was an Uzuki family Realian that they registered under the Uzuki name, since they may have wanted to expand the feeling of connection Shion has with Realians, but was ultimately not important to the story. She might've been like Febronia, raising Shion because her mother was ill. MOMO is registered as Mizrahi too, so it seems normal to register a Realian that some family "own" under their name.
In fact, much of Shion's childhood appears to have been cut. The Xenosaga -Official Design Materials- features an interview with the Sound Staff affiliated with Mitsuda's Procyon Studio, stating "'GreenSleeves', the song Shion used to sing as a child, made an impact on [Miki Ito]. During the recording session, they were in a completely dark room, where the voice actress turned her back on her and sung with all her heart. It was a recording session with a very particular atmosphere." The scene with Shion singing the "GreenSleeves" appears to have been cut and was never restored for future episodes.
"There were many brutal scenes with Albedo appearing, so a lot of shots and lines got cut. Naturally I saw these scenes during the development process, before they were cut, and they were considerably shocking."
- Yasunori Mitsuda (Composer)
Episode I also dealt with the censorship of several cutscenes in the North American release of the game, all of which take place during a confrontation between Albedo and MOMO. This was done presumably to avoid any possibilities of the title receiving an ESRB M rating. A scene involving an arm being snapped was removed, the corpse of a kirschwasser being thrown away was softened, a knife that Albedo draws out and uses to cut off his arm and head was removed (although the sound effect is still heard), and the scene where Albedo draws out information by "reaching inside" MOMO was also altered so he simply puts his hand over her face. However the scene of Albedo's head talking on the floor was uncensored in the NA version.
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht was released in Japan in February 2002. The game, it seems, was much shorter than originally planned. Namco had advertised the game as being 80 hours long on the back of the box, but the game was more like 35 hours. In a 2003 interview, Takahashi would state that "With Episode I, we've only managed to show about 20 percent of the complete scene...."
In other words, if Episode I and II were to cover a 100% of this scene (the first story arc), then Episode I should have covered at least 50%. This means that less than half of the intended scenario for Episode I actually made it into the first game. And in terms of the scope for the entire series the game was only 6 or 7 percent, when it should have been 16,5 percent at the very least.
In the above chart I have tried to illustrate how small the first game was in relation to the saga as a whole. Each block (with 50% story) represents each of the 6 episodes in the original plan.
If we compare the screenplay of Xenosaga Episode I to that of Xenogears then it becomes clear that Xenosaga's scenario mirrors that of Xenogears. It is therefore logical to expect that Xenosaga's first story arc (Episode I and II) would've been roughly the same size as the game Xenogears in content:
|XENOSAGA Episode I:||XENOGEARS:|
|Opening movie - hook||Opening movie - hook|
|The discovery of Zohar before Earth was abandoned.||The dark dawn when mankind fell to Earth.|
|Act I - set-up||Act I - set-up|
Introducing the Hero: Shion Uzuki
This is what Shion is doing before the story begins.
Foreshadowing Events to Come
A storm is coming: Gnosis arrives
Introducing the Hero: Fei Fong Wong
This is what Fei is doing before the story begins.
Foreshadowing Events to Come
A storm is coming: Kislev gears arrives
|Inciting Incident / Plot point one||Inciting Incident / Plot point one|
KOS-MOS / Gnosis
Story's primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance.
Shion begins her long relationship with the android KOS-MOS up until the end. What the rest of the story will be about is defined here.
Virgil dies from being gunned down by antagonistic force; KOS-MOS. Hero's importance is central to this action (protect Shion).
Weltall / Gears (Grahf)
Story's primary conflict makes its initial center-stage appearance.
Fei begins his long relationship with the machine Weltall from this point up until the end. What the rest of the story will be about is defined here.
Timothy dies from being gunned down by antagonistic force; Gears/Grahf. Hero's importance is central to this action (awaken Fei).
|Act II - response||Act II - response|
Shion is now a wanderer, staggering through a forest of options and risks, not sure where to go or what to do next.
Ambivalent towards KOS-MOS.
Shion's reaction to the new journey that's just been launched for her, and reluctance to accept it.
Fei is now a wanderer, staggering through a forest of options and risks, not sure where to go or what to do next.
Ambivalent towards Weltall.
Fei's reaction to the new journey that's just been launched for him, and reluctance to accept it.
A central antagonist, already foreshadowed in the set-up, is introduced; Margulis.
Pellegri: "They're innocents! Surely they deserve more respect."
Margulis: "Respect? For what? Save your philanthropy for someone that cares."
A central antagonist, already foreshadowed in the set-up, is introduced; Grahf.
Fei: "Why!? Why did the villagers have to die...?"
Grahf: "Who cares why! It does not matter how many of them died..."
|New character is introduced: Ziggurat 8.||New character is introduced: Bartholomew Fatima.|
|Andrew is nervous around- and strongly dislikes KOS-MOS.||Old man Bal is nervous around- and strongly dislikes Weltall.|
Rescue of MOMO.
Shion eats lunch with the crew of the Elsa.
Fei drinks Maison's tea in the desert pirates hideout.
Rescue of Margie.
Flashback of Andrew Cherenkov under spotlight. Psychological issues. Drama.
Symbolic imagery with the beach of nothingness during Andrew's death that relates to the theme of the story.
Nisan and the desperate counterattack.
Symbolic imagery with the two Angel statues in Nisan's cathedral that relates to the theme of the story.
Flashback of Elly Van Houten under spotlight. Psychological issues. Drama.
|Pinch point||Pinch point|
Back onboard Elsa / Durandal
Reminder of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force; Gnosis, KOS-MOS "blue eye mode".
Yggdrasil in a pinch / Desert
Reminder of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force; Grahf, Weltall, and psychology of Fei.
Change of scenery: Kukai Foundation.
Sub-story: Prisoners of the Federation. Quest for freedom. Encephalon Dive.
Change of scenery: Kislev Capital.
Sub-story: Prisoners of D-Block. Quest for freedom. Gear Battling.
|Pinch point||Pinch point|
Reminder of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force; Gnosis returns. Albedo is takes action.
Masked man with hidden identity appears in front of hero:
Blue Testament: "You don't get it? Well, how about I show you..."
Song of Nephilim/Proto-Merkabah Factory.
Escape Proto-Merkabah/Outer space and arrival at 2nd Miltia.
Reminder of the nature and intention of the antagonistic force; Grahf returns. Gazel Ministry takes action.
Masked man with hidden identity appears in front of hero:
Wiseman: "You still do not understand do you? Then let me show you."
Escape Goliath Factory/Ignas continent and arrival at Aquvy.
|Xenosaga Episode I Ends||Xenogears continues...|
Once you realize that Episode I ends at what corresponds to Fei and his friends escaping Ignas and arriving at Aquvy, it becomes clear that Episode I doesn't have a lot of content. 20% of the complete scene sounds about right. Most fans would agree that Xenogears' half way point is probably once Fei and the others get a Limiter removed in Shevat before going for Nisan, which means that if Xenogears' story arc had been two episodes, the first one should have ended there and the second should begin with the liberation of Nisan and Aveh while getting the first Omnigear. One also has to take into account that Xenogears was abridged in the second disc, with many scenes and events being narrated rather than shown, which means that even placing the half way point after the Shevat scenario is ending the first half uncomfortably early. Takahashi had likely wanted to have a more involving experience with Xenosaga, which means that Xenosaga's scenario for the "true" Episode I must have gone at least past the point that corresponds to the Shevat scenario. However, as we will examine, not even by the end of Episode II had they reached this half way point.
It comes as no surprise, then, that neither Tetsuya Takahashi nor anyone else from Namco or Monolith Soft would refer to the Xenosaga series as a 6 episode epic ever again once Episode I hit the shelves. It simply would not have been possible to compress the rest of the series in merely five more episodes, unless those episodes covered at least 18,7% of the entire series each (in contrast with Episode I's 6 or 7 percent), and Episode II covered 80% of the first story arc. To accomplish this the series would have to ditch most of the the prerendered cutscenes and the voice acting if they even wanted it to fit on two or three discs.
But this wouldn't even become much of a concern, since Episode I would only sell copies up to half the number of what Xenogears had sold in Japan. It was more successful in the West, even "greatest hits" worthy - having sold 514,401 copies in the U.S. compared to Xenogears' 252,588 copies - but was not the hit that would justify pursuing the full scope of the series. In another Dengeki interview with the Xenosaga staff they said "Yes the sales have been disappointing, but we promise we will not forget the fans." They owed it to the fans to at least finish telling the story of Shion, but they must have dropped the plan to make the other two story arcs at this point, even if it wasn't revealed until May 2003.
A Namco press release in early 2002 had already stated that they intended to release a new game in the series every year:
"After the release of Xenosaga Episode I in Japan on February 28th, Namco intends to release a new game in the series every year. At present, there are six episodes scheduled. The game is scheduled for a fall release in the US; presumably, the series will keep a yearly schedule here as well."
- TheGIA, January 12, 2002
This was a fairly interesting announcement, especially in hindsight, and could mean one of two things.
It could mean that MSI and Namco had, from the very beginning, intended to complete the saga on the PS2 console generation, probably by using the same engine for all the episodes. It would make some sense to plan it that way, since that would allow the saga to be consistent in style and presentation for its entire run, before gamers moved on to a new machine.
However, the proximity of this announcement to Episode I's release is more likely to mean that with the game being shorter than expected, and already having more material to put in the sequel game (such as the 2nd Miltia parts and Jin's duel with Margulis in Labyrinthos as seen in the Episode I trailers), they might have intended to keep the ball rolling with a new, "shorter" game, every year, since they were already ahead. Of course, this would mean more than 6 episodes for the entire series, but we don't know what MSI were thinking when they released an Episode I that only covered 20 percent of the first story arc. (The "there are six episodes scheduled" assessment was certainly conjecture on the part of TheGIA based on earlier interviews, not on what the actual present situation was.)
But when the first game didn't sell, they hesitated, started pondering ways to "reinvent" the series once more, and consequently the whole engine they had going died. And if Takahashi knew that Episode I only covered 20%, which is 1/5 of the first story arc, then he may have decided to only make 5 or 4 "episodes," and these would now only cover the first story arc.
So then, the plan to complete all three story arcs seems to have been aborted. We also know they had discussed not doing the episodes in order, possibly to postpone the "Xenogears remake" for last. At least this was their original response to a question about the issue:
GameSpot: We've heard that you already have the majority of the plot in mind. So, for instance, Square's Xenogears is technically the fifth episode in the story. Where do you intend to go from here?
Yoshidumi Makoto: This is something which won't happen for a few years--we haven't even decided if we're going to do it in order. (laughs)
Tetsuya Takahashi: Well, we have to make sure the first game sells. (laughs) But yes, when that time comes, we'd like to make sure it will be something worthy of presenting to the players.
A reason for not wanting to do it in order could only mean that they wanted to postpone the "Xenogears remake," likely because they simply didn't want to remake a familiar story too quickly. Since the re-imagining would have begun at Episode III in the original plan it would've made the most sense for them to now focus on the arc at hand - Shion's arc - and put everything beyond that on hold, perhaps even cancel the two other story arcs as early as 2002. The series of leaked information on a Japanese board from a source within MSI that I referred to earlier had stated that Nephilim would grow into an adult in Episode II, which is what she does only at the end of Shion's story arc.
While starting work on Xenosaga Episode I with great gusto, Takahashi expressed his aim with the following optimism:
"I want to keep making games that toe the line of current graphic capabilities. If technology continues advancing as it has, the line between games and movies or TV will become more and more ambiguous. As the more "game-like" styles of expression fall out of fashion, I want to direct in a way that doesn't have to accept compromises and isn't beholden to any particular game style."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Interview with Famitsu, 2001)
But already in the Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-, released not long after Episode I, Takahashi lamented the fact that games probably are not a good media for telling stories:
"Being a sci-fi product exerts some influence [to get messages across to the audience], but there are things that even if you try to plan for you'll never be able to express. With games as a form of media, no matter where you set it you have to make towns and all the little accessories. With movies, for example, if it's based in present times you can just shoot on location. You end up doing annoying work with games. That's why I don't think it's a good medium for telling stories. I think it's better to call it a media for telling narrative things. Without a doubt, there are things you can't get across in a game."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-)
So why didn't Xenosaga sell? Logically, it was for the same reason that Xenogears didn't catch on in the beginning. Xenosaga may have had a more compelling presentation and an original setting, but it was not produced by Square, so a few Square fans didn't even give it a chance. Those who had tried Xenogears and given up on the game early on or didn't like it had no interest in trying out another Xeno game. Neither were those who were generally not fond of JRPGs willing to spend time on a game that was hyped up as having more cutscenes than game play, even though this wasn't an entirely accurate statement. Many Xenogears fans were turned off it once they got wind of the fact that it wasn't actually a prequel, and a few were skeptical of a sequel altogether. For all they knew Xenogears could have been a one hit wonder from these guys, and Tetsuya Takahashi hadn't directed any other games apart from Xenogears. There existed no Takahashi or MSI brand yet. Since Masato Kato was still mistakenly assumed to have written the script for Xenogears, many were disappointed when they learned that Kato was still employed at Square (though he would team up with MSI later, but not for Xeno). The graphics designs also rubbed many fans the wrong way with CG instead of Anime cutscenes, and, as stated before, many fans didn't feel Kunihiko Tanaka's anime style translated well to 3D design.
Most importantly though, was that Xenosaga was still primarily a drama with a Character Emotional Driven story. Takahashi's flaw were still his plot holes, and it appears he still mostly used the plot elements as an excuse to explore drama and characters' inner emotional journeys. Some of the criticism even sounded like criticism such authors as Fyodor Dostoevsky has tended to receive - that Takahashi has interesting ideas but don't know how to write his work properly. D. F. Smith of G4tv.com wrote in a review of Episode III in 2006 that, "Xenosaga features a grand scale even by space opera standards -- kind of like a Russian novel for nerds. The cast is enormous, the plot threads are a tangled cobweb. Three or four storylines often take turns progressing, and rarely does the player understand what the hell is going on."
Charges of having chaotic and disorganized plots, lacking in polish, and even being obscure, pretentious, artificial, and sentimental have been leveled at Takahashi and Dostoevsky alike.
I would certainly say that the psychological depth in Xenosaga is on the level of Dostoevsky, and both have disorganized plots with multitude of minor characters and subplots, inserted anecdotes, philosophic dialogues, etc that isn't always "well structured." Considering they operate in different mediums and in very different genres, this is a little fascinating. The narrative disorganization of Takahashi fall well into criticisms of science-fiction literature and in turn videogames, which is quite different from Dostoyevsky, yet the linear view that tends to be adopted by action-driven expectations ignores what can often be a wealth of paradigmatic structures which can do quite as much to integrate the script to form an organic whole. For further understanding about this I suggest reading Victor Terras' essay on "Dostoevsky's Detractors" (http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/DS/06/165.shtml).
Note that Xenosaga too uses plenty of paradigmatic structures such as leitmotifs (for example Gnostic Christianity), recurrent imagery (waves, ripples, beach, ocean), mirroring (in particular across the 3 parts of the overall series), doubling (the case of MOMO and the Kirschwasser's or Jr. and Albedo, especially when taken in concert, or MOMO and Sakura), symbolic foreshadowing (Jr.'s numbers, KOS-MOS' crucifixion), parallelism (Cherenkov/Albedo's different reactions to seeing themselves disappearing, Erich and Yuriev's similar yet different reactions to U-DO and becoming a "voyager"), situation rhyme (such as Albedo's yearning for U-DO's power vs. Yuriev's yearning for U-DO's power, etc), and other such devices.
Ultimately though, Takahashi has fairly little in common with Dostoevsky besides producing philosophical, psychological, and existential works. And there's not really any reason to believe that Takahashi has in any way been influenced by Dostoevsky (though the character Doctus using Latin phrases in Episode III is reminiscent of Dostoevsky). Since Dostoevsky did not base his characters on modern psychological studies, but more on his own mentality and having his own psychology projected onto those he observed, he has sometimes been charged with having faulty psychology in his works. Dostoevsky is known as "the Mad Russian" for having characters that are all "mad" and motivated by ideas instead of normal human drives.
If you are interested in a science fiction version of Dostoevsky I suggest watching Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972) which has a very similar feel to Dostoevsky with slow and odd pacing, the shame and the suffering, and the Christian symbolism. Tarkovsky even referenced Tolstoy and Dostoevsky's names in it, and so if there is a sci-fi link between Takahashi and Russian literature I think it may well have started with this film. After checking up on the book to see how much the movie differed from the source material, I came across an interview where the novel's author accused Tarkovsky of doing "Crime and Punishment" instead of "Solaris" when he made the movie, and I'm not surprised at this reaction. Since I do not consider this film inferior to Dostoevsky, I think it can be used to compare how the psychological depth of Dostoevsky would express itself in the cinematic medium.
Further criticism towards Xenosaga Episode I was that it was not a self-contained story arc and that it felt more like a prologue than a complete "Episode," which becomes understandable when you compare it to Xenogears' screenplay. The early part of Xenogears, exactly up till the escape on the Goliath, is usually considered, even by hardcore Xenogears enthusiasts, to contain the game's more tedious parts: Margie's rescue and Kislev's prison scenario. As with Xenogears, Xenosaga didn't start to become truly engaging until the sequels, where the story corresponded to Xenogears' post-Kislev parts and the meat of the story.
Also, perhaps because fans expected a truly "artistic masterpiece" now that Tetsuya Takahashi had the freedom of his own company to do what he wanted, the game was heavily criticized for having almost the same amount of kitsch and camp as Xenogears did. Scenes were cinematic, but not realistic. Tetsuya Takahashi may have wanted Xenosaga's content to be associated with cinema, but Xenosaga's cutscenes often had more of a B-movie feel to them, and the costumes of the characters felt more like they came out of a 60's or 70's sci-fi TV show like Gerry Anderson's UFO - complete with close-up shots on womens rear - or the original Star Trek with its scantily clad women and female officers with extremely short miniskirts. Japanese culture suddenly stood out so much more with the PS2's graphics capabilities when compared to Xenogears and fantasy RPGs. After all, Xenosaga is supposed to be not only Japan's future, but the future of the entire humanity, and Westerners do not perceive our advanced future the same way we did during the 60's anymore.
While on the subject of 60's sci-fi, it might be a good time to examine how Star Trek has influenced Takahashi, since he has compared Xenosaga to both Star Wars and Star Trek in interviews. Besides the female uniforms, there are similarities such as chaos, Wilhelm and Mary having eternal lives and having existed as famous people in recorded history. In the episode "Requiem for Methuselah" a character named Flint is an immortal that had been known as Da Vinci, the composer Brahms, as well as Solomon, Lazarus, Methuselah and Merlin, besides a hundred others. The holographic alien female projection in "That Which Survives" teleports to anywhere in space in what may be the original sci-fi "folding" effect that is almost identical to the way holograms and the Blue Testament appears in Episode I. The idea of reviving human consciousness in robots is another theme seen in episodes such as "What Are Little Girls Made of?" and "Return to Tomorrow."
The highly cerebral and literary aspect of the original Star Trek, which was never really re-captured in the spin-offs, can be felt in both Xenogears and Xenosaga, although the Xeno series is much darker. The plot-holes and inconsistencies in Star Trek were as common as they are in Xenosaga since they were never the point (although fans of both series tend to fixate on them anyway) and despite this Star Trek is still one of the best TV-series ever made - rivaled possibly only by The Prisoner and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
It is difficult to say whether or not Takahashi is artistically inclined, but the question becomes irrelevant once you recognize that in Japan the line between art and commercial products is less defined, both by the culture and by the post-War economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended, and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of 'high art.' In the West it can be dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. As an example, a Xenogears fan - only 15 years old at the time of playing Episode I (which, when you consider the high level Japanese Xenosaga's script was written in, should be the minimum age of the target audience) - expressed on the forum of zenosaga.com (a large Xeno community that existed at the time) his criticism of KOS-MOS' appearance and the "fanservice" this way:
"This can be demonstrated by observing the differences between Michaelangelo's David and the sculpture of the same figure by Donatello. (I give credit to my AP European History teacher for this explanation of the concepts.) Michaelangelo's David has an upright, heroic stride, and is completely without clothes. This makes logical sense: back in Old Testament times, people probably wore little, if anything. One could say that the sculpture's stylistic and media elements were all chosen with the plot in mind. His particular birthday-suit condition is called "nudity". On the other hand, we have Donatello's David. His posture is softer, more curved and relaxed, and far more sexually suggestive. He does not look much like he's just won a seemingly impossible battle against a monstrous opponent. Moreover, he is naked, not nude, for one funny reason: he retains his hat. Though people wore little back then, there would be no reason for someone to decide to wear a hat but nothing else. The nakedness comes from the suggestion that he had other clothes on, and has taken them off, leaving – in a display of sexual playfulness – only his hat. This is incongruous with the mythological David figure. Both sculptures are idealized conceptions of human beauty, and both have no doubt left equal numbers of elderly women a bit flustered during museum visits – but I'm sure you know which one is more famous."
- R.F. (zenosaga.com forum, 06-06-2004)
It appears though, as Takahashi later stated in a Xenoblade Chronicles interview in 2010, that his approach at this time was to simply make something in his own taste, rather than aiming for some kind of supreme artistic recognition:
"my sole aim was to express myself. If I enjoyed it, and could give the players a product that reflected my own taste, it was enough if it appealed to those players who understood what I was doing. I was compelled by the belief that this was where the appeal lay in an RPG."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Iwata Aks - Xenoblade Chronicles 2010, Vol. 3: The Development Process, 1. Seeing it Through to the End)
Although many fans may want Xenosaga made to their own taste, ultimately the creator will make it in his own taste, and from a creator who has vintage Chogokin Toys in his room and wants a Chu-Chu stuffed animal, one should expect a certain amount of kitsch. If it helps fuel his passion for creating then an awkward product is better than nothing if it still gives the player an enriching experience, and Xenosaga did attract a fair number of fans who do love it deeply. At the same time it is clear that Takahashi is open to compromise and wants his staff to feel motivated, which is why he doesn't overly object in case one of the artists wants the main robot to wear lingerie-style accessories.
While Takahashi had expressed a desire to write novels, as mentioned in his profile in the Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-, he would also state in an interview at the time that "Gamers are my number-one motivation and spiritual support; it's thanks to them that I was able to build Monolith Soft," so perhaps he will always gravitate more towards gaming and game development than any other form of artistic expression.
Official Design Materials
About eight months after Episode I was released in Japan, MSI would release Xenosaga -Official Design Materials- which would serve as Episode I's equivalent to Xenogears: Perfect Works. The ODM was a very cerebral book that allowed great insight into the minds of the developers. It also revealed things like how the Earth was lost, some notes on Zohar made by Joachim Mizrahi and other things the fans couldn't fathom why Takahashi would put in the book rather than in the game or its database.
The cover of Xenosaga Episode I -Official Design Materials-
The Xenosaga -Official Design Materials- is a book that gives a number of hints and even various in-game "hypothesis" on various phenomena and where the story was going. And fans tried to use translations of the ODM to try and figure out what it was all about. Reading through the ODM post-Episode III, one will discover a number of awkward suggestions in it, which may be due to either a change in scenario, a deliberate "red herring," a poor translation, or some confusion on the part of the author who transmitted Takahashi's ideas (the same problem that Xenogears: Perfect Works suffer from) since Takahashi isn't credited in the book as author. However, going into detail here is not something I'm too interested in at this time. So I will leave that untouched for now.
I just want to point out that I tend to disagree with the notion that "Probability of unchanging corresponding phenomena...", which is printed at the bottom of each text (usually fixed around 90%), was written by the developers as a way out for themselves in case they wanted to change anything later. The way I always interpreted the "Probability of unchanging corresponding phenomena..." detail was that it was more in-game related than developer/scenario related. The information stated has a 'X percent' chance of changing (from the perspective of in-game humans) if more information about the truth is unravelled. Another way to look at it would be something like what Wilhelm reads in the Compass of Order and Chaos. That is to say it isn't Takahashi's vision of his story that has 'X percent' chance of changing, but the in-game information and outcome that has 'X percent' chance of changing - which would be related to the current cycle of Eternal Recurrence and how identical the outcome will be compared to the previous one.
The Foreword in the ODM states the following:
6. The invariability of the these materials
(1)Since the various phenomena were confirmed at the time when KOS-MOS and the others broke into the stratosphere of Second Militia, the contents of these materials are limited to describing what could be confirmed up until that point. Consequently, at that point the contents should be 100% trustworthy, but after that the various phenomena change, and there is a considerable risk of discrepancies between them and the descriptions.
(2)For the reasons stated in 6.-(1), at the end of the last sentence of the description of each phenomenon, there is a title called "Probability of unchanging corresponding phenomenon", recording the probability the described phenomenon won't change after this/from now on. The [statistical] dispersion can also be seen depending on the phenomenon, with a majority being 90% the same before and after. Accordingly, these numbers also support the validity of these materials. Furthermore, the probability of every phenomenon being unchanging was 89.4099099% on
- Foreword, About "An analysis about all the matters"
The fan translator of this part also thought it was referring to in-game information:
"I tried translating it, but I'm not sure all of it makes complete sense. It seems a bit complex, and the language used is a bit formal and technical too. It seems to be talking about whether or not the text's description of the characters is reliable from an in-universe perspective."
- Gwendal, fan translator, 4-24-2012
The ODM was also the first and, to my knowledge, the only source that revealed that the writers used the Enneagram of Personality for creating and writing characters; a dynamic psychospiritual typology (a model of personality types). Although the Enneagram of Personality isn't the most famous model of personality types (that probably being the MBTI), it is, as the ODM refers to it as, a "modern personality assessment" method. It is difficult to say whether this particular typology was used because of its mystical and even religious roots (it was first introduced in Japan by Jesuits) or because of its modern attempt at being "scientific" (when it is not the only model to make that claim).
Taking a look into this, it soon becomes clear that this personality assessment tool was also used to write the characters in Xenogears as Fei is even referred to as a "peacemaker" and his personality type is listed as running the risk of developing Disassociative Identity Disorder (the psychiatric diagnosis that describes the condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities) at the lowest level of health in some versions the Enneagram system. Perhaps that's why the Enneagram of Personality system was utilized, since it is the only typology to make such a correlation between "personality type" and that particular mental illness.
There is, however, several different "schools" in regards to the Personality Enneagram, and it appears the source Takahashi and Soraya used were the Riso & Hudson version, at least going by the ODM. Don Riso's book Personality Types published in 1987, and likely translated into Japanese by Tim McLean and Yoshiko Takaoka (of Riso's Enneagram Institute in Tokyo) not too long after that, features a passage that is remarkably similar to a passage from the Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-:
"The connection between genius and madness has long been debated. These two states are really poles apart, the opposite ends of the personality spectrum. The genius is someone who fuses knowledge with insight into the nature of reality, someone who has the ability to see things with utter clarity and with awe-inspiring comprehension. What separates the genius from the madman is that the genius, in addition to extraordinary insights, has the ability to see them correctly, within their context. The genius perceives patterns which are actually present, whereas the madman imposes patterns, projecting erroneous perceptions onto every circumstance. The genius may sometimes seem to be out of touch with reality, but only because he or she operates at a more profound level. The madman, however, is truly out of touch with reality, having nothing but delusions to substitute for it."
- Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery (1987 / 1996)
"While the type of person like him who joins himself to the world through thought could potentially be called a genius, at the same time, there is also the hidden possibility that he could be called a fool. What is the difference between a genius and a fool? They both deviate from the beaten path, that is to say that they are unique. However, the direction of that uniqueness is very different. Geniuses have the power to understand the world through lucidity. On the other hand, fools try to force their own logic on to the world. They are both people who can talk about the world using a fundamental logic, but the former talks about theories based in facts while the latter twists it into facts based on theories. Which kind of uniqueness did Kevin really possess?"
- Xenosaga -Official Design Materials- (2002)
And the talk of healthy and unhealthy "levels of health," along with a brief description such as "calm," "passive," and "makes other people relax" (for type 9 in this case), also implies Don Riso's material as a primary source. Among the organizations making use of the Enneagram are the Walt Disney Company, Silicon Graphics, Kaiser Permanente Research Center, the Federal Reserve Bank, the CIA, and Rational Software. These and other companies and institutions use the Enneagram in the areas of communication skills, conflict resolution, coaching, leadership development, team effectiveness, strategic planning, and organizational culture change.
Another aspect that is possibly tied to the Personality Enneagram system, is the recurrent parallelism of 3, as well as the Grief theme for Xenogears, and the Fear theme for Xenosaga. There are 3 core emotions that give rise to the basic human ego defense, and these are Fear, Grief and Anger (though sometimes other words are used for them, such as "Sorrow" instead of "Grief"). These 3 core emotions are not exclusive to the Enneagram, but it was through the Enneagram system I noted the pattern and how they correspond to the 3 story arcs of the series.
I also find it interesting that when Nomura suggested "an Asian, tactician type of a character," Takahashi created Citan from the type 6 personality. According to the estimation of some Enneagram authors, Japan is a very "type Six" culture. And again, in Xenosaga, we see Jin being rooted in Japanese tradition.
Of course, not everything needs to have had a specific source, as Takahashi claims he mainly reads when he feels he needs to.
"As someone who writes for a living, I don't really think I read that much. When I need to read something, I do so. I read quite a few books on subjects such as science, technology and religion [among others]. I also read essays/articles from time to time. On the other hand, I probably don't really get to read novels very often.
When it comes to books and movies, and games too for that matter, there's not really anything I'm too fixated on. I'm willing to try anything instead of dismissing things without giving them a chance. You could say I'm just not [picky]."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Famitsu Episode II Interview, 2003)
Towards the end of 2002, MSI would begin to release a trilogy of Drama CDs called Xenosaga OUTER FILE which were intended to be told as sub-stories with the first one explaining the past of the Elsa crew and how they became friends with chaos. The Drama CDs also introduced Richard and Hermann into the story. These were written by Anime writer Yuichiro Takeda and would mark the beginning of a lot of collaboration between Takahashi and Takeda.
It would soon become apparent that Namco's plan to release a new game in the series every year was scrapped and after a whole year of waiting the only thing happening on the Xeno front was Xenosaga Episode I: Reloaded - the U.S. version released for the Japanese audience with Japanese sub and some new features. (The voice acting track, however, appears to have changes from the official U.S. version. The really noticeable thing is that all the lines with "Realian" have "synth" spoken instead. One theory is that this is an older version of the dub, and they had been thinking of localizing Realian as synth and then changed the decision for the final release.)
The question on every Xeno fan's mind was "where the heck is Episode II?" and the word would spread in May 2003 that Episode II was only 40% complete at this stage. Why not more after a year and a half had passed since the release of the first game? And with seemingly a big portion already completed on Episode I's engine as evinced by the old trailers? What in the world were MonolithSoft doing? Fans were anxiously awaiting, what many thought would be (and what should have been) the conclusion of Shion's story arc, but big changes were coming...
A new stance -- series cut down to 1/3
After Episode I, the staff at MSI decided to refresh the series and a transition within the company occured. Hirohide Sugiura (CEO) said in a May 2003 interview that this transition had everything to do with both Monolith's structure and where they wanted to take the Xenosaga series in the future. He had begun to feel that game creators were getting older and there weren't many younger ones coming out and if that keeps up, we'd never see a shift to a new generation, which he didn't think was healthy from an industry standpoint. So he decided to change the structure starting with Monolith Soft, his own company. He wanted to free Takahashi of his old position and let him work more freely as a creator and act more as the supervisor and provider of the original story.
Hirohide Sugiura, CEO of MonolithSoft and Producer of Episode I (2003)
"I'll be stepping down from the producer role, Takahashi will drop the heavy-sounding job of executive vice president [of Monolith Soft], and another person will handle the direction this time," he continued. The new director turned out to be Koh Arai, who had previously worked on Xenogears as Chief Artistic Designer and on Xenosaga Episode I as Map Planning Director. Takahashi explains:
"When you deal too long with a single project, I feel like it becomes harder to chase after new possibilities. I don't want to limit the Xenosaga series to its current state; instead I'd like to explore other genres and other possibilities.
If you want to make a single game, that basically means you need to spend two or three years of your life completing it. However, with the world we're trying to display here, that's really nowhere near enough time. With Episode I, we've only managed to show about 20 percent of the complete scene.... and, of course, I always come up with new things I want to present in the middle of development, so it'd probably take me decades to finish everything if it keeps going like this. That's why I'm in the position I am now---I can work on presenting the world of Xenosaga in all sorts of different ways, unfettered by company management or anything else that doesn't have to do with creation."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Famitsu Episode II Interview, 2003)
Although Tetsuya Takahashi used to describe Xenosaga as a "six part series," after the release of Episode I the saga was never referred to as a 6-part story again. When the Famitsu magazine wondered about the status of "episode III, IV, and V" there was seemingly never a direct question posed to Takahashi and Sugiura, or a direct answer to this question, but at the end of the interview Sugiura would say:
"I guess the first thing Takahashi and I should do is thank [the fans] for waiting so long. I know a lot of them were worried sick that it wasn't going to come out at all, but don't worry--we are making the game. We couldn't have begun work on a Xenosaga sequel without the fervent support our fans have given us. Our plan is to continue with Episode III and IV later on, so please visit us during our public gathering in July."
- Hirohide Sugiura (Famitsu Episode II Interview, 2003)
This is actually the only time Episode IV was mentioned, despite rumors that Episode III and IV were in development at the same time. It is actually from this very comment that the rumor originated. Sugiura specifically says that they will "continue with Episode III and IV later on," which implies only four episodes were planned from then on. A quote from zenosaga.com's forum at the time also confirms it:
"i remeber reading awhile back that Monolith had said they had signed with Namco to do 3 more xenosaga games."
- Riverking (zenosaga.com forum, 10-13-2003)
Xenosaga as a 4-episode series at this point in time...
So at this point in time, May 2003, 6 episodes had shrunk down to merely 4 episodes. This further suggests that my hypothesis about the episodes now being shorter episodes - only covering the first story arc - is most likely correct. The fact that the saga was never referred to as a 6-episode story again from here on cannot be stressed enough, since while a lot of people assumed (and still assumes) that 6 episodes was still the plan all the way up till Episode III's announcement, the fact that Episode II was not planned to end Shion's arc at the point it entered development effectively dispells this assumption.
In fact, in a Japanese interview with Koh Arai, the new director, Arai had clarified that Tetsuya Takahashi had "a new stance" on the series' further development. The stance, and the clarification that Arai had been given, was that the RPG Xenosaga was now the story of Shion. The interview with Arai had for the most part remained off the radar of the English-speaking internet, but a game reviewer named Chris Winkler would pass this bit of info along in his review of Xenosaga Episode II as well as responding to my E-mail when I asked him about it. Because the story was about Shion, it was also, in that sense, about KOS-MOS, since KOS-MOS plays an important part of the first story arc in relation to Shion. However, this should not be confused with Takahashi's earlier statement that KOS-MOS and chaos would appear in all the episodes, because he never specified that the story was about them, and having "a new stance" clearly implies a change of plan.
Takahashi himself would state in the May 2003 interview that Xenosaga was mainly about KOS-MOS and the Zohars*, but this would've been after he had already clarified it to Arai since he would have had to state that the series was now mainly about Shion (and KOS-MOS) before Arai started the planning and the development of new episodes.
"...as far as the RPG Xenosaga goes, the story is mainly about KOS-MOS and the Zohars. However, we likely won't be dealing with the exact same KOS-MOS for the whole story... We'll also probably explore the inner emotions of Shion as well."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Famitsu Episode II Interview, 2003)
* This can also be translated as simply "KOS-MOS and the Zohar," which perhaps makes more sense when you consider the fact that the Emulators don't play a big part in the story.
Thus, according to both Arai and Takahashi, the RPG Xenosaga was now "Shion's arc," which is indeed mainly about Shion, KOS-MOS and the Zohar. Thus no remake of "Fei's arc" or the final arc. And the series was now planned only as far as 4 episodes - which could only cover the first story arc. It makes sense, since Episode I only covered 20% of the complete scene (he says "scene," and scene usually refer to one setting; the context and environment in which something is set as part of history, not across multiple generations. If 20% referred to the entire series, then Episode I would've been as big as 1/5 of the entire story, which would mean that Takahashi wouldn't even need 6 episodes to tell it. That wouldn't make sense).
Thus they'd covered 20% with Episode I and would probably plan to cover 60% divided among 3 more episodes, which would be 80 percent of the complete scene, and cover the rest in spin-offs like Pied Piper, etc.
Now, let us examine the planning and development of Episode II and the continuation of the Xenosaga series more closely. In order to do that we need to go back to 2002, right after Episode I was released.
At that time Takahashi must've realized that he couldn't tell the entire 3 part series in just 6 episodes, and probably not even in 7 or 8 episodes at the rate he was going. That's why he decided to focus only on the first part - the story of Shion - and cancelled the rest of the series. Realizing that he only needed three more episodes to make up the remaining 80% of Shion's arc, MSI don't seem to have intended to go beyond an episode 4.
Koh Arai stated in Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 that the development period of Episode II "was a full 2 years," which would mean that Episode II went into development late spring/early summer of 2002. This means that Arai and others were entrusted with the series before Xenosaga -Official Design Materials- was released, which gives even more credence to that book having been written by someone who attended Takahashi's study groups:
"In order to hear everyone's [collective] opinion during development and to avoid fundamental errors, [Takahashi] held study groups with everyone, [...]. Still, when you have this many people involved in making the game, some mistakes will always be made towards the end [of development]."
- Tomohiro Hagiwara (Producer), Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 interview
"It's absolutely necessary to have an explanatory briefing every time. I give them information directly instead of keeping it vague. Maybe you could say I'm instructing them...? For example, if I gather everyone who has to do with the scenario, I consider it a scenario briefing. If we write down things like scenes and plans in a document, in the worst case scenario there's a chance it could leak. That's the kind of security I'm thinking about.
If I should die, we'd have a problem, wouldn't we? (Laughs) In that case, if they take a look inside the PC at my house... That PC is stand-alone, so even if someone tried to get a look at the data from the outside they wouldn't be able to. If that PC breaks, we're in big trouble.
But even if I said [I'm] 'instructing' them, I don't tell them what to do about every little thing. Instead, I say 'This is the recipe for the story, and you can cook it however you like'."
- Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 interview
Tomohiro Hagiwara, a Namco staff Production Manager back on Episode I, would serve as Producer for Episode II instead of Sugiura. Norihiko Yonesaka also returned, and would handle the scenario this time. These two, along with Arai, would make up the core of the "new team" that handled the series from then on.
Producer Tomohiro Hagiwara, Director Koh Arai, and Scenario Writer Norihiko Yonesaka (2004)
Apart from Arai, the only Xenogears team members returning would be Junya Ishigaki, Makoto Shimamoto and 2nd Production Designer Tadahiro Usuda. Hiroshi Uchiyama (3D designer) went on to work on MonolithSoft's Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean as did Yasuyuki Honne (art director) and Masato Kato who had now teamed up with MSI. What happened to Tanegashima Takashi is unknown, and Tsutomu Terada left and joined Capcom. Soraya Saga and Yasunori Mitsuda were not rehired. Kunihiko Tanaka would be credited in Episode II, but Soraya's FAQ implies he was actually not rehired. Possibly his credit merely reflects that some of his designs from Episode I appears in Episode II such as Allen, Ziggy, Margulis and others. Instead Mugitani became the series' primary illustrator and character designer, while Yuki Kajiura, Shinji Hosoe and the less known Ayako Saso would compose the music for Episode II. (Kajiura wrote music for the pre-rendered cutscenes, Hosoe wrote music for the interactive parts, and Saso wrote music for the real-time cutscenes and Xenosaga Freaks.)
Mitsuda would state in his diary that it was "regrettable," but that he would still follow the series as a fan. Soraya Saga explained her situation in her infamous FAQ in 2005; "Supposedly previous story I wrote in the first episode did not appeal to the new team's taste. I'm working on freelance basis. If clients say they don't need my work anymore, that's all. No conflicts, no quarrels there were. A number of official comments from the new team mentioned Takahashi and I were marginally involved in the 2nd episode by contributing the first version of the script."
Makoto Shimamoto continued not only as Battle Planner, but served as a Battle Design Director this time. Non-Xenogears team but ex-Square employees Norihiro Takami and Toshiaki Yajima remained, and Takami would serve as Art & Event Movie Director this time. Some newcomers on the previous game, such as Koh Kojima, also remained. This time Koh Kojima served as Battle Designer.
Battle Design Director Makoto Shimamoto (2004)
It is clear that somebody pushed for a lot of change in Xenosaga, and it seems to me that the biggest offender was Producer Tomohiro Hagiwara, who was originally from Namco staff, while Director Koh Arai would be secondary. Hagiwara expresses in the Xenosaga II Weekly magazine that "Rather than 'An unchanging Xenosaga', I wanted to aim for 'A constantly evolving Xenosaga'. If you restrict yourself to one method, you'll dwindle in the long run, so I also think it's important to use a method where I do things I haven't tried yet. I don't think you can progress without doing that. Of course, there's also cases where you'll need to use traditional methods to finish things up, [but] from my position, I can't authorize things that aren't possible within the schedule that's been decided, [...] Instead, if there are things we can do within the schedule, I want to apply as much effort as possible towards that."
It seems that everyone acknowledged that time was a major issue, and it seems that the Xenosaga staff simply tried their best within the parent company's expectations when it came to development period and spending money. Though it needs to be acknowledged that Namco themselves didn't try to make changes to Xenosaga, unless you count Hagiwara pushing for "A constantly evolving Xenosaga" to be Namco. In her FAQ, Soraya would state that "The parent company [is not responsible to the changeover and] has been kind enough to allocate reasonable budgets, development times, and promotional campaigns for the series. I've been grateful to them for their help."
In regards to time, Takahashi would state that "we really don't have enough time to present all of [Xenosaga]," while Sugiura added "If we write it all down and save it, maybe someone will turn it into a work many decades from now. Like with Stanley Kubrick's movies (laughs)." He also stated that "long load times, play time being too short and being forced to watch movies all the time" were the main criticism of Episode I that left an impression. "All of those [issues] will be fixed in 'Episode II'. This time, 'pleasant play' will be the main proposition, and we will increase the parts of content where you control your character holding a controller."
Tetsuya Takahashi said "I finished writing the first draft of the plot and script last fall," in a message on MSI's website in the fall of 2003, which confirms that the first draft of the script for the original scenario for Shion's arc was finished in the fall of 2002. This was not just an outline, since Soraya states in her FAQ:
# Soraya and Tetsuya Takahashi were marginally involved in the Episode II by contributing the first version of the script. (It was not a plot outline but a complete script including actual characters' lines.)
Director Arai reflected on Takahashi and Soraya's original script and plot in the following quotes:
"Takahashi's original plan for the scenario has an extraordinarily complex vision of the world, and that's good, but when it comes to knowing enough about and controlling that from the production side, it can be quite... It's a part [of development] we really have to put all of our strength into. Since it's been entrusted to us, this is an absolutely essential part. We decide how to put together what we call the "game parts" as part of our duties, but I really think we [also] have to take the utmost care to handle the feel of Takahashi's treasured characters properly.
Rather than being a game scenario, Takahashi's original work was just in the form of reading matter. Reconstructing this into an actual game was Yonesaka's role. It's kind of similar to how they make a movie from an original work. But as for story organization, Yonesaka handles directing the story. When it comes to directing camera angels and things like that, we mostly decide on that after discussing with the people in charge of storyboarding.
In the beginning when Yonesaka had written the scenario, he consulted with the graphics people, and Hagiwara when the situation called for it, to decide where to have gameplay parts and what parts would be cutscenes. At this [early] stage, when looking at the game as a whole, I was thinking about tempo and atmosphere. Actually, even if we had a new organization, it probably wasn't that different from before. On the last game, Takahashi was the one who brought everything together, but this time each section had a big framework, and we were told to use our own judgement within that framework, so..."
- Koh Arai, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3
Yonesaka went on to explain, "This was my first experience of doing things this way. Since it was necessary when I presented my own interpretation of the story and characters and my reconstruction of the world vision as the scenario, I often went to Takahashi's study groups in the early days of development. We didn't have very many of them during the second half [of development], but I felt I had to keep going anyway, so... Honestly, even now I still worry about my interpretation of the characters."
"Both back then and now, I'm thinking about nothing but Xenosaga, when I go to sleep and when I wake up, so it's probably already become a part of my life (Laughs). Since I've been making the concept for 'Episode II', and also been allowed to write the scenario after 'Episode I', I have a special affection [for the series]. I feel that the world of 'Xenosaga' is something deeper than [just] fantasy. I still don't understand all of it, and I think it might take me years to arrive at Takahashi's level of insight."
- Norihiko Yonesaka, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3
Arai also said, "The actual presentation method needed various adjustments in terms of things like time and cost, and the responsibility for that was entrusted to us. But by holding the study groups, [Takahashi] also had the goal of getting us to talk frankly and without restraint to each other from the beginning about the parts that constituted the 'soul' of the project, and what things each [member of] staff most wanted to do. On Takahashi's part, there were also things he wanted to do, so he had to tell us early on. We'd have a problem if he started telling us later, after all. (Laughs) Really, no matter how hard we worked on the game, I don't think it's possible for Takahashi to tell us the reasons behind everything he's thinking. That's how grand it is. But in turning it into a game, that's only a small part of the whole organization. But the fact that he has just that energy is what's charming about Takahashi, and I was very aware that this was the driving force behind this game."
As early as 2002 it had already been decided that Ziggy's backstory would be explored independently, either as its own episode, or outside the PS2 episodes. And consequently Soraya Saga had to make some rewrites. "I rewrote The Pied Piper [script] free of charge. I haven't heard from the team since October 2002," she explained. In fact, as early as 2003 there were rumors floating around that she would be leaving after Episode II, which probably originated from her website, but nobody seemed to take notice of it at that time.
Monolith Soft also revealed in a press release in the summer of 2003, during a Monolith Soft conference event, that there were plans for the Xenosaga series to be novelized along with an Anime adaption.
"Monolith soft also revealed that there are plans for the Xenosaga series to be novelized and also released as an anime. More details on the two projects will be announced in the near future."
- GAME Watch, 2003-7-21
Mariko Suzuki, Rumi Shishido, Ai Maeda, Koh Arai and Tomohiro Hagiwara (MonolithSoft conference, Juli 2003)
On March 15, 2003, some game news website had reported that Episode II's title would be "Der Aufstieg Des Gottes" which means "The Rise of God." This was obviously a joke, as it sounds forced in German and isn't a title by Nietzsche. It was probably invented by someone who expected Deus from Xenogears to make an appearance and wanted to create excitement. On June 18, 2003, the real title of Episode II was revealed to be Jenseits von Gut und Böse.
Arai and Hagiwara would later state in an interview with Play magazine that "We felt making the characters more realistic would help us break into the North American market. These changes also enabled us to create models with a wider range of emotions, allowing us to create cutscenes with expressions much richer than Episode I." On picking another composer they said "We chose Ms. Yuki Kajiura because we thought her mystical, mysterious sound was perfect for Episode II. We showed her the script and movies and let her use her imagination to freely create the music to fit. We really like what she came up with."
Kajiura herself would later say in an interview in 2009 that "I used background pictures and the worldview mainly for my inspiration. As for my work with Shinji Hosoe, I never actually met him, unfortunately, so we didn't work together on any pieces." (http://www.originalsoundversion.com/anime-boston-2009-interview-with-kalafina-and-yuki-kajiura/)
Composers Yuki Kajiura, Shinji Hosoe, and Ayako Saso (2004)
Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso tend to work together. Hosoe said in an interview with RocketBaby, "Ayako is the newcomer who came aboard when I did my company movement. [...] She is very dexterous. She knows a lot about music and can write any style of music. I want to follow her example."
He also commented on Yasunori Mitsuda, stating "His sensitivity is very wonderful. The depth of his musical knowledge about Northern Europe has charmed me very much. He is one of the musicians you respect."
Hosoe also said in an interview, regarding Xenosaga II, "I did the sounds for the gaming parts, not for movie parts. I think the sound is promising, and I created the sound in my own style and I think it turned out well. I don't know if I will be involved in the future series of Xenosaga III as it will depend on Namco to choose the sound creators." He later admitted his music was not well received and explained some of the technical issues he faced when asked if he regretted that his music for Xenosaga II was never released on CD:
"I regret it if I think about it, since the music was much criticized on this title. I guess I cannot help it? I had predicted many problems for changing composers on a series like Xenosaga anyway.
I mainly worked with the PlayStation 2's built-in sound chip, SPU, for this game. Since the rest of the sound was in the CD quality, I completely slashed the orchestral sound while creating the music, in order to avoid the difference in sound quality as much as possible. It was a desperate measure because the given amount of the memory for the music was very low. It is even playable on the PlayStation 1!
Speaking of which, I regret why the sound balance turned out to be like that and also the direction for certain parts. We could technically release the soundtrack if there are demands, but perhaps it is kind of like pouring oil on to the fire?"
- Shinji Hosoe, January 2010 (http://www.squareenixmusic.com/features/interviews/shinjihosoe.shtml)
On October 14, 2003, it was reported that the titles of Jenseits von Gut und Böse and Also Sprach Zarathustra would be utilized for the remaining games, indirectly confirming that the Xenosaga series had now been cut down from 4 episodes to merely 3. As I said earlier, Episode IV was only mentioned once in May 2003. Thus it seems reasonable to assume that Takahashi expected Arai's Episode II to be longer at this point (October 2003) than it ended up being. Otherwise it'd be terrible planning.
A short while before that, the developers had left messages on the official website, where Takahashi would say that he expected the series to continue for 2-3 years, again confirming there would be only 3 episodes and no more story arcs. He also said "I made the first draft of the script, but I get really nervous when I think about how Arai is going to use the abilities of the Monolith staff for the first time to cook that recipe into a delicious game. Unlike [last] time, when I've been so busy, I'll rather be enjoying the launch of Episode 2 more from a user's position." When contemplating the future at this time, he would go on to say "after this my plan is first of all to tightly weave together the ongoing Xenosaga story. In any case, that's my top priority (laughs). After that, I don't really know at this point, but naturally one thing I'd like to do would be to make a supplement to Xenosaga itself to expand the Xeno world--a new work involving the time axis and characters." He would not get around to make something like that however.
"After that...hmm. There's been a marked decline in high fantasy-themed works lately, so I might want to try making something like that, or maybe something that takes place in the present day rather than SF...I feel like doing a variety of different things. I don't know whether or not I have any news about any of that for the users (laughs), but if I get the chance I'd definitely take the challenge."
- Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenosaga II "Who", 2003
Yonesaka would say in his message that "Since I'm such a modest person, you won't hear me saying something like 'But it's not what I've written!'..." which could imply that others were tampering with the scenario during the course of production, while Director Arai said "the concepts this time for Episode II are to make it...'Flashy!', 'Understandable!' and 'Easy to play!'." Arai seemed to know already that the focus was "on Jr. in particular." It is likely that Takahashi wasn't aware of what exactly was going on with Episode II at this point, and that Soraya was aware of even less, since Soraya hadn't heard anything from the team since October 2002. She likely sent in her message from home, where she also left a message in English: "I'd like to sincerely thank you for your support. It is a great pleasure for us to bring out the episode II. Let the saga take you!" She would later take this message back in her FAQ:
Q13. You said it is a great pleasure to bring out the Episode II. Wasn't it true? (01/30/05)
A13. It was supposed to be a great pleasure in the beginning. Even now I wish it were.
Director Arai would end his message by saying:
"As for the game systems... The main parts will basically be inherited from Episode 1. Of course there'll be a new essence, but I wouldn't presume to change the fundamentals. So, what I set out to do thoroughly was to 'Extend the good parts and get rid of the bad parts', which is a simple but significant 'evolution'.
Flashy action scenes with huge robots!
Event scenes with spectacular expressiveness!
Game scenes with a dramatic increase in tempo!
Anyway, I want a lot of people to play it. We will soon complete a new, immersive and addictive world of Xenosaga.
Look forward to it!!
- Koh Arai, Xenosaga II "Who", 2003
In November 2003, Soraya Saga, according to herself later, tried to hang herself from guilt following the suicide of her brother. Fortunately her own attempt failed. "I only bled from the nose and left eye. People asked me 'What happened? Your eye is so red!'. I said 'Uh, it's...an accident.'," Soraya said on her blog on Saturday March 12, 2005. The suicide of her brother left Soraya with a lot of guilt, probably for not noticing his depression or helping him, a guilt she still feels to this day. On her Twitter page in late December 2009 she wrote "I still feel guilty about not having been able to save my brother's life, and wonder why I'm here without him." Her brother was also a game developer and had worked with Takahashi on Chrono Trigger.
In February 2004 Soraya saw a promotional video of Episode II by courtesy of another department. "And in April 2004, I learned what the adapted game was like," she explains further in her FAQ. Official announcements would read that Episode II had a new look, new sounds, easier story to read, and more explosions. Ony two months until the release of Episode II on June 24, this came as a bit of a shock to Soraya, and, out of frustration and disappointment, she would state on her website that she had now "quit" the series, rather than just getting fired. She would state that her original script were left intact only very fragmentarily. "The scenes for analyzing Momo in the UMN administration center, memories of Sakura in Momo ENCEPHALON are tolerably faithful to the original."
From Soraya's FAQ:
# You can see Soraya's mark she left to the Episode II in:
* The conversation between Juli and Ziggy
* Momo Encephalon (In first version, It was not Juli's idea of destroying Momo's memory, but a subcommitteeman's. Juli hesitated.)
* The story about U.R.T.V. (with the exception of the chapters after Momo Encephalon and young Albedo's verbal abuse/violent acts against Sakura. They were added by Monolithsoft.)
* Albedo's short speech about the higher dimension. (His last words "You look like you lost your sweetheart ... anyway I hate you both" were added by Monolithsoft.)
Soraya also stated that Episode II had the same budget as Episode I.
Soraya was now no more than a person outside the project.
Takahashi saw the finished game at some point in late spring/early summer 2004. He would give his "official" thoughts in the Xenosaga II Weekly magazine by stating: "I had a look at the messages included with the quest parts, but other than that I let those in charge of the cutscenes and gameplay parts take care of their respective tasks, allowing the younger hands make what they wanted to for the most part. With Arai serving as director for the first time, everyone were very reliable/level-headed, so I think I'll be taking the same kind of role for 'Episode III'." When asked how he felt about the finished game when he saw it he would go on to say: "I think they did a pretty good job. For one thing, they've become more used to/better at the cutscene parts, and the designers' great efforts are really showing. That, and Yonesaka's scenario. Soraya Saga and I made the base parts of the original scenario, while Yonesaka turned it into a volume suitable for a game, heavily compressed it and brought it all together, and he also did a very good job."
Interviewer: So, are you saying the original plan for the "Episode II" scenario was much bigger?
Takahashi: Yes. But we're nonetheless planning to clearly depict and finish the main flow of the story featuring Shion, KOS-MOS and the others in "Episode II" and the upcoming "Episode III" that we've just started working on.
One has to ask how honest Takahashi is being here. His and Soraya's reactions are so radically different it's awkward. And how can he not be frustrated about having to cram the rest of Shion's arc into just one more episode? Episode II and Episode III are, after all, so radically different that they cannot have planned them to be that different in length and style during the development of Episode II unless they were mad.
Interviewer: Out of the entire history of the "Xenosaga" world, roughly how much does "Episode I" and "Episode II" make up?
Takahashi: Far from being a part worth mentioning, the drama parts in the games are something more like a momentary "checkpoint". Honestly, there are important modules before and after them. We have absolutely no idea whether we're going to make works based on those parts, so...we should probably finish "Episode III" first, right?
Interviewer: Since "Xenosaga" will end with "Episode III", do you have any future plans?
Takahashi: Actually, I feel like trying to do something for younger people, including children. After all, if we don't recruit younger users, I fear the entire industry will go under sooner or later. That might go against the image of Monolith Soft in peoples' minds, but someone has to do it, so...
Soraya states in her FAQ that, due to the changed position, Takahashi didn't have the power to make any artistic decisions. Soraya also states "Soraya and Takahashi have been willing to help the new team if requested," which suggests that Takahashi couldn't make any calls on Episode II's direction whatsoever after handing it over to Arai and Hagiwara, unless it was requested. That must have been the agreement, which is how positions within Japanese companies tend to work.
From a psychological standpoint, it is also possible that Takahashi had given into negativism following the lackluster sales of Episode I and the unaccomplished 50% of story that Episode I should have covered. In other words he'd feel a resignation in that it wasn't worth making a fuss about. He might have been a little tired of it all anyway. One who feels like it is a burden going to the office and meeting with people, as Takahashi had expressed in the ODM, will sooner or later want to escape from the burden of being in charge of everyone in the company who are working on the series. Thus it is entirely possible that Takahashi "gave up," and resigned himself to the fact that Xenosaga would no longer go past "Shion's arc" and left the remaining games up to MSI to do whatever they wished with in order to make it somewhat successful. After all, in the end we would not even get a Xenosaga novel written by Takahashi - something he should have been able to write.
In fact, in a quote from the "Iwata Aks" interview series on Xenoblade Chronicles in 2010, Takahashi would indirectly admit that he "gave up" on Xenosaga by comparing himself to a cricket from an old Japanese proverb that refers to anything which someone starts with great gusto, but quickly gives up on (and originated in the fact that the cricket is not a strong swimmer):
"There's an old Japanese proverb about a cricket trying to swim across a river. At first it's swimming away happily, but halfway across, it just seems to give up. I'd worked on a lot of games up until [Xenoblade], and there were times when I've done the same. So this time [making Xenoblade], I was prepared to accept that I wouldn't be able to achieve all I'd set out to, and was mentally preparing myself to shift directions somewhat. But then Yamagami-san told me to see it through to the end, and I was really taken aback by this experience of Nintendo's willingness to keep working at something until they're satisfied the job is really done."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Iwata Aks - Xenoblade Chronicles 2010, Vol. 3: The Development Process, 1. Seeing it Through to the End)
Arai and Hagiwara would also acknowledge the lack of time, stating in the Weekly magazine: "I shouldn't be saying this, but there's a lot of instances where I think 'If only we had more time...'."
"Each [member of] staff has a lot of things they want to do, I think. But when you're thinking about finishing a product, you have a rather limited amount of time to make it in. If you're making a work of art on your own, you can take 5 years, 10 years... But on the other hand, seeing what kind of presentation you can make within those kinds of limits I was talking about, that would be a show of skill in my opinion."
- Tomohiro Hagiwara, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 interview
"[...] we apologize for ending with 'Episode III'."
- Hirohide Sugiura, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 interview
"The original plan for Episode 2 can be roughly divided into three modules, with what we depicted in Episode 2 being one of them, and one of the remaining [modules] going into Episode 3. The last one is in Pied Piper, which while being Ziggy's story, is also important for giving valuable information on things like the Salvator and the Immigrant Fleet."
- Tetsuya Takahashi (Xenosaga I-II DS interview)
Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose
On April 28, 2004, Namco released Xenosaga Freaks in Japan, a supplementary game including a Xenosaga–themed word–puzzle game based on Namco's Mojipittan called Xenopittan, a comical adventure game Xenocomi, the complete dictionary of terminology from Episode I enhanced with audio and video clips, and a playable demo of Episode II. Xenocomi was written by Yonesaka and appears to have been done on Hagiwara's initiative.
"Before I knew it, [Xenocomi had] become something cool. (Laughs) It was [a result of] something I said myself, so I got what I deserved. It began with Hagiwara telling me to write an interesting story without minding if it was on the small side, but I just kept writing without thinking about it, and eventually it ended up at that size. I got carried away working all night, so I couldn't restrain myself."
- Norihiko Yonesaka, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol. 3 interview
The cover of Xenosaga Freaks (2004)
While fans had mixed reactions to Episode I (the consensus being that it felt "incomplete"), Xenosaga II was still (and therefore) something the fandom was highly looking forward to. When trailers and screenshots had been released people had mixed feelings about the redesigns and the two new composers Yuki Kajiura and Shinji Hosoe, feeling that Kunihiko Tanaka and Yasunori Mitsuda, who had been with the series since Xenogears, and in many ways defined the Xeno-verse's look and feel, were irreplaceble. As the game was released, Soraya Saga updated her work profile info frequently to reflect how little she and Takahashi had to do with the game, and even before the game was out she specified that the screenplay is "heavily adapted" by Monolith Soft.
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose was released in Japan on June 24, 2004. The game, no longer following the original plan of finishing Shion's arc, proceeded to mainly focus on the story of the U.R.T.V.'s that Soraya Saga had created for the series. In other words, the second episode would have a new central protagonist, Jr., even though Shion had been established from the story arc's set-up to be the main character until the story arc's end.
The problem with this deviation in central character becomes evident when we again examine how Xenosaga's original scenario mirrors that of Xenogears' scenario. If anyone other than Fei would be the main character for a portion of Xenogears' story, then it would not last much longer than Bart's attempt to rescue Margie and free Aveh, or Billy's arc in the Aquvy portion of the game. Besides Fei and Shion, the other supporting characters don't have as much story to cover individually, which is why their arcs are more fitting of smaller games, like Xenosaga: Pied Piper on Vodaphone for Ziggy's story. Indeed, Jr.'s arc doesn't cover much more than Billy's arc does in Xenogears once we examine the screenplays side by side. Consequently, Episode II doesn't actually cover more story than Pied Piper does.
If they needed to complete the remaining 80% of the story for Shion's arc in 3 more episodes and Pied Piper, then it makes sense that each of them would have to cover at least the same amount of story as Episode I did. However, when we examine Episode II's screenplay it is revealed that it does not even cover 20% of the story like Episode I did. It is extremely short, and merely corresponds to the Aquvy arc in Xenogears:
|XENOSAGA Episode II:||XENOGEARS:|
|Begins after escaping Proto-Merkabah in Ep.1||Continues after escaping a shot down Goliath|
U-TIC makes a move; subordinates of Margulis (Pellegri, Richard, and Hermann) attacks on 2nd Miltia.
Shion and the others eat lunch at Moby Dick's.
Gebler makes a move; subordinates of Ramsus (Elements Dominia and Kelvena) attacks in Aquvy ocean.
Fei and Elly eat food in the Thames' beer hall.
|Shion's reunion with Jin. Drama, conflict.||Fei's reunion with Bart. Drama, conflict.|
Albedo makes a move. MOMO is damaged and needs immediate help.
Ramsus makes a move. Fei is damaged and needs immediate help.
Sakura's Domain / Rubedo arc begins.
Fighting contaminated U.R.T.V.'s in Encephalon.
Orphanage / Billy arc begins.
Fighting Wels in Reapers Ship.
|Ormus stronghold.||Ethos church headquarters.|
Labyrinthos - Old Miltia.
Battle with Margulis on bridge. Cecily and Cathe have been sealed for 14 years. Shion has a reaction.
Ethos' Dig Site - Zeboim.
Battle with Id on bridge. Emeralda has been sealed for 4000 years. Elly has a reaction.
|Confronting Sergius XVI ~ End of Jr.'s arc.||Confronting Inquisitor Stein ~ End of Billy's arc.|
|Xenosaga Episode II Ends||Xenogears continues...|
Once you realize that Episode II ends at what corresponds to the end of the Aquvy arc before proceeding to Babel Tower, it becomes clear that not only does Episode II not cover as much as 20% of the complete scene, but that it doesn't even reach the mid-point of the story. I'll be generous and give Episode II an estimate of 16% of the complete scene:
One more episode to go. MonolithSoft is making real progress here...
While the game was released in Japan, western fans started to wonder why there was so little talk about it, asking around if the game would be as intriguing as Episode I, or finally answer whether the series follows Xenogears: Perfect Works or not. But the truth seemed to be rather depressing for all Xeno fans. Episode II did neither wrap up Shion's arc nor give a satisfying continuation to the story. The game was much shorter than the first, had a rather poor sense of continuity, fans were again left with a cliffhanger, and looking back on the old Episode I trailers fans would soon realize that Episode II was nothing more than "the rest of Episode I" (and probably not even that). And this after two years of development (compared to Episode I's development period of roughly one year).
Scenes cut from Episode I
Xenosaga Episode II
In Japan there were also negative reactions to Episode II. A Japanese fan on the fansite Godsibb would write in 2011, "In the past, Japan had many Xenosaga communities. But shortly after release of the Ep.2, they had closed most."
Episode II only sold 218,899 copies in its first two weeks. Episode I sold a little over 301,000 copies in the first couple weeks for a total of about 450,000 in Japanese sales. Episode I sold a little over 440,000 copies in America.
(Numbers taken from posts on the zenosaga.com forums at the time. Not sure how reliable they are.)
And while the game had been in development for two years, the game still felt rushed and had dummied out codes for shops and money that they seemingly didn't have time to implement.
"Xenosaga II had dummied out code for shops and money.. The theory on this is that they were originally planning on having the shops, equipment, and what not. However they ran out of time, so they dummied out the shops/money, and quickly re-hashed the fighting system so equipment wouldn't matter. Probably one reason why the fighting system, while good in theory, seemed rushed and was flawed.. It was originally meant for equipment etc, but they had to quickly change it around and probably didn't have much testing time."
- Xenosaga Fan
Xenosaga: Pied Piper, the 3 chapter-long cellphone-based game depicting the history of Ziggy 100 years before the start of Episode I, was released in Japan in July 2004. Soraya Saga at this point updates her blog again to mention that she and Takahashi worked on Pied Piper's original story and it was only "mildly adapted" by Monolith Soft. Then, as the final chapter is about to be released, she supposedly updates with specific scenes Monolith Soft added that weren't in the original script. Unfortunately I haven't seen this scenes list from Soraya, and nobody seems to have saved it so I can't examine them. But a fan at the time said the following:
"Takahashi and his wife Soraya Saga wrote the design plans and screenplays on Episode I and then Takahashi directed the game using his key staff from Xenogears to create the same feel, worldview and atmosphere. XS Ep1 is crafted with love and even featured an awesome Limited Edition Box version with an excellent action figure, a pretty nifty keychain, a designs book and a binder.
After XS Ep1 "flopped" in Japan, and I say flop not as a speculation but as a QUOTE from a Dengeki interview with the XS staff that said "Yes the sales have been disappointing, but we promise we will not forget the fans.", the entire Xenosaga momentum DIED. We're talking about a game series that was planned to be out once every year for 6 years and this was mentioned in a press release. The game had tons of advertising and whatnot in Japan. After it failed to meet sales expectation the entire engine died.
Fast-forward a few months, Xenosaga Freaks is released, a series of minigames and graphical adventure comedies packed with a XS Ep2 demo. It's obvious MLSI is milking the series now and making it less serious than it should be. But no harm done, it's all in good fun, XS Ep2 will NOT disappoint!
Fast-forward a few more months. XS Ep2 is released. It sucks donkey balls. It's 20 hours long. The game feels nothing like XS Ep1. The battle engine is retardedly slow. There are NO minigames. The writing stinks. Takahashi isn't even credited with the actual screenplay. The cutscenes feel far more actiony and the new characters have zero development. The project screams rush-out-of-the-door development. To add insult to injury, the even MORE expensive Limited Edition Box for XS Ep2 features what can only be described as a figure that was DELIBERATELY made disgustingly ugly. At this point, Soraya Saga is already bitching about it on her blog. She updates her work profile info frequently to reflect how little she and Takahashi had to do with the game. Even before the game is out she specifies that the screenplay is "heavily adapted" by Monolithsoft. One of the two key persons responsible for what the series is is telling us herself "it was taken out of my hands".
Subsequently Soraya Saga declares that she has QUIT the series, and as all fans will notice, there's no "Official Designs Materials" book like there was for Episode 1. Why? Because books like that are usually put together by the core development team based on how much more they have to offer to fans from working on the project. Obviously there was no love at all in XS Ep2, this is not speculation, this is from reading how jaded and angry the creators are at Monolith.
Moving right along, XS Ep2 flops terribly in Japan, and Monolithsoft announces XS Pied Piper. A game they bill as WRITTEN BY ORIGINAL CREATOR TETSUYA TAKAHASHI. Wow! But wait, it's a fucking cellphone game. I guess they don't want to give him much budget. Anyway the game supposedly has awesome writing and so forth. Soraya Saga at this point updates her blog again to mention that she and Takahashi worked on Pied Piper's original story and it was only "mildly adapted" by Monolithsoft. Then as the final chapter is about to be released, she updates with specific scenes Monolithsoft added that weren't in the original script. These are consistant with some pretty random WTF events in XS Ep2 which made fans pretty pissed because of their poor implementation and writing."
- Duckroll (Zenosaga.com forums, 2005)
While there is some conjecture in this citation, it exemplifies the kind of impression a lot of fans had of the series at the time. Western fans didn't know that Takahashi had "a new stance" and that Xenosaga would now only be "Shion's arc" - so the slow pace, especially for fans of Xenogears and the Perfect Works outline, was unbearable. And there would indeed not be a follow up to Episode I's neat Official Design Materials book, instead there would be analysis in official guides, starting with Episode II's "Official Complete Guide." There appeared to be not much of interest in the Episode II guide though besides a list of terminology to make up for the lack of an in-game database this time.
Screenshot of Xenosaga: Pied Piper (2004)
The purpose of Ziggy's flashback was to develop the back stories of some of the most important yet rarely felt presences in the Xenosaga series, including Ziggy, chaos, Wilhelm, Voyager and Dr. Dmitri Yuriev. It centered 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. Putting this flashback into an obscure Cellphone game took away some of the 'scope' the series should've brought by seeing various eras of the T.C. technology as well as render Ziggy and Voyager's presence in Episode III almost meaningless.
But as they were only going to make one more "episode," Takahashi probably realized they would have to cut corners some more. With Pied Piper, regardless of how it was told, would at least cover a few more percent of the complete scene. I'll give it 15% and place them where Pied Piper fits in according to the mirroring with Xenogears:
This, however, still leaves 49% untold, which is half of the story arc. Because of this it is not surprising that Takahashi would state in the Weekly magazine that "I think we'll release more sideways expansions [of the story] like [Pied Piper] from now on. These [will be] elaborations on the main flow [of the story]. The main premise is to make each of them independently in an enjoyable manner, and by connecting each module with a vertical and horizontal thread, you should be able to gain a deeper understanding...that's how I feel about it. I think there will probably be various developments like that in the time before we're able to release 'Episode III', so I'd like you to look forward to that while you're waiting."
Tetsuya Takahashi, trying to make it seem like everything is going well (2004)
On January 15, 2004, Shion's voice actress Lia Sargent was interviewed by Anime Dream (http://www.animedream.com/ad/interviews/view/1808) where she was asked:
Anime Dream: Are you aware that Xenosaga 2 is in the work right now, and will you return to the role as Shion Uzuki, if asked again?
Lia Sargent: Sure I would. And no, I wasn't.
Why Lia Sargent wasn't asked to return for Episode II remains a mystery. Instead the less experienced Olivia Hack would voice Shion for Episode II. Several other new voice actors, including Ali Hillis who would voice Mary and Shelley Godwin for Episode II and III, were brought in instead of the old ones. Ali Hillis comments on her work in an interview with The Gaming Liberty.com in 2011:
"When I did Xenosaga I had experience with the wonderful company that was making that game and the audio engineers that were working on it too at a little recording studio called Cup of Tea- it's my favourite name of a recording studio! Cup of Tea, I love it!
When I did Xenosaga I really wasn't privy to the fact that you could make a career out of doing voice over for videogames. I wasn't even sure what that game was because we were putting the words into flaps- we were doing ADR- instead of being able to use our own inflections and our own timing. We had to try and make our words fit into the Japanese flaps. I had never done that before and I had never done a game before so the only voice over things I'd done before that were commercials and doing my own ADR for my own films. Like, we're doing a scene in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang or Must Love Dogs and an aeroplane flies over head and we have to re-record the lines in the studio. So that was basically the extent of my experience with that kind of thing (laughs).
That was really a huge challenge and I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to do. I wasn't sure about the style, was I supposed to make these characters real? were they supposed to be more cartoony? I just wasn't sure. When I go back and listen to Xenosaga I really had no clue what I was doing. Well now I play Karin in series and games of Naruto so now I know how to do it and it's a whole different ball game. But I hope, I hope when the fans listen to Karin and look back to Xenosaga they'll see that I have developed. It could be funny to listen back to it. I'd love to go back and take another crack at Xenosaga, those guys were so good to me, sent me my free game
- Ali Hillis, August 24th, 2011 (http://thegamingliberty.com/index.php/2011/08/24/liara-tsoni-speaks-an-interview-with-ali-hillis-part-1/)
In another interview with The Nerd Appropriate she said:
"I stumbled into the video game industry...literally... A wonderful friend of mine introduced me to a V/O agent and I started auditioning for things and ... I did Xenosaga a long time ago and didn't even know what it was, really. It was kind of just a job and I didn't even really understand what I was doing. (The job was) also ADR (automated dialogue replacement) or having to put English words into the Japanese mouths for that game."
- Ali Hillis, June 17, 2011 (http://www.nerdappropriate.com/2011/06/17/mass-effects-ali-hillis-the-nerd-appropriate-interview-w-exclusive-liara-tsoni-wallpaper/)
The North American version of Episode II would get rid of some of the really bad Hosoe music and replace it with silence or Kajiura tracks, but the dub was of much lower quality than Episode I with few Voice Actors returning to give it a sense of continuity. One of the few who were consistent during the course of the three episodes was Richard Epcar who played Ziggy:
"I really love Ziggy too because of the pathos of the role. He's a great character to play as an actor-because there are many levels to him. We don't have a lot of time to prepare in voice work. We basically cold read everything and do it when we're in the booth-we don't get to read the script beforehand."
- Richard Epcar, March 17, 2008 (http://www.juniorscave.com/RichardEpcar.html)
Enter 2005, with the U.S. release of Episode II closing in. After IGN and other gaming sites in January 2005 finally caught wind of the fact that Soraya Saga "quit" the series (as written on her site) a ton of Western fans started bugging her by using the easy to use mail interface she had on her site FRIDGE back then.
"How could you desert the series? You Traitor!"
- Xenosaga Fan
"Why could you make such a stupid decision to leave?"
- Xenosaga Fan
"Do you have a marital problem?"
- Xenosaga Fan
"Did Takahashi send you home?"
- Xenosaga Fan
"Your leaving doesn't really matter. Episode II will go well in America."
- Xenosaga Fan
"You may be an expensive artist. So they kicked you out. Isn't it?"
- Xenosaga Fan
This is when she posted her FAQ that most fans are familiar with.
Soraya thus went on to clarify "this is not a breaking news. The fact has long been known well in Japanese game players because it can be seen in official articles about the game. I wonder why people suddenly have an interest in the matter. I have no intention of announcing this loudly. And I sincerely hope people would leave me and my site in peace. Can you imagine what it feels like to be reported worldwide that "Look! That woman lost her job because her writing may have been so boring!"? I never [quit the series]. A couple of years ago, the new team had decided to refresh the series. Simply I was one of unneeded things." She later changed the last sentence to "Simply I was one of the people not invited to the new voyage."
"My average annual income has been less than one-tenth of company employees' annual income. Do you think it's expensive?
Thank you for letting me realize my worthlessness. Enjoy Episode II."
- Soraya, 2005
Soraya then went on to reveal a depressive och self-defeating character, with a great deal of dependency on the love of fans. You'll find this being expressed in what she wrote from that time, such as:
"Thank you. But I know well the saga no longer needs Saga. Don't worry. It will go on."
"I had lost confidence in my own ability in past several years. Your messages have let me know that a lot of people are loving the game."
A person who feels the need of acknowledgement from others or with a tendency use pain as a form of vindictiveness will sometimes manipulate through the use of drama of various sorts. I believe this is one factor to consider when interpreting her comments from that time and why she came across as emotional and "unstable" to a lot of people. Some fans became quite concerned for her well-being. Of course, to gain more sympathy, she would then go on to tell the story about her brother and her attempted suicide that occured back in November 2003 (and it should be noted that she had already gotten a lot of encouraging letters from fans at this point):
"A perfect world
The world without me will be beautiful.
These days I feel that way. Like my brother did.
Actually, I tried to hang myself in November 2003. (Not literarily but literally.) Unfortunately, it failed. I only bled from the nose and left eye. People asked me "What happened? Your eye is so red!". I said "Uh, it's...an accident."
In the past couple of months, I've been said as if I'm a traitor, a deserter, and a lame duck. A deserter? You can call me a garbage rather than a deserter. Please be patient awhile till a stain (=me) will be removed from the world."
- Soraya (Saturday March 12, 2005)
And this caused the outbreak of quite the circus among fans, some of whom blamed other fans for writing insensitive questions and comments to Soraya, and others who became even more angry at MSI than they already were. Even Tetsuya Takahashi was called "a bastard" for possibly treating his wife badly. The rumors were endless and getting out of hand, although a few suspected she was just going for attention:
"I think Soraya Saga can STFU with all of this class-A attention whoring bullshit. That attitude is uncalled for considering how many people have apparantly wasted their time writing her messages filled with "I love you" and "Thanks for your contributions." Oh, sure, she'll get her fair share of "Fuck off," and "I hate your fucking guts you fucking traitor" - but isn't that the price you pay when obsessive gaming otakus are an e-mail away?"
- Xenosaga Fan, zenosaga.com forum, 2005
Soraya then realized she had to calm down and after people asked her if she was kicked out because of mental unstability she quickly deleted the "A perfect world" post cited above and replaced it with:
Please stop spreading false rumors that I was kicked off because of a mental unstability. You're getting it wrong way up. And please refrain from making mistaken assumptions.
No offense to anyone or anything. But you would know how it depresses your feeling, if you lost an egg you've been hatching for so many years. I had been really looking forward to see a flight of our dreams."
The "mistaken assumptions" above is, of course, referring to the fact that she got depressed and attempted suicide long after she got kicked off the team, not while working on Episode I, and primarily because of her brother's suicide. Not because of being fired. However, Soraya wasn't done yet. She finally replaced the first FAQ with a new one, this time posting a list of scenes that she claimed had been deleted by Monolith Soft:
# The first version of the script by Soraya and Takahashi was not religiously or politically sensitive. It had just harmless chapters like:
* Ziggy's past history (as seen in The Pied Piper)
* U.R.T.V.'s past history (as seen in the Episode II)
* Shion's past history with Febronia (removed)
* Jr's rapid growing (removed)
* Both juvenile and grown-up Jr. switching available in the battle (removed)
* The ghost of the old Miltia (removed)
* The death of Sakura (removed)
* Brief reunion with grown-up Citrine (removed)
* Gaignun vs Zohar emulators (removed)
* Jr.'s transformation/overdrive (removed)
* Jr. & Albedo vs U-DO vs KOS-MOS 3rd armament (removed)
* Shion's spiritual seeking/witnessing/awakening (removed)
* The truth about KOS-MOS (removed)
* Conversation between chaos and the red cloak man (removed)
* Conversation between Nephilim and the boy with the blocks (removed)
* An antimatter annihilation of Albedo (removed)
# Removed chapter/events were rejected/deleted subjects. It's highly unlikely to be shown in the future Episode.
It should be noted here that when Soraya says the script by them "was not religiously or politically sensitive," she is responding to fans asking if MSI deleted scenes because they thought they would be too controversial, and not that their original script didn't have chaos and KOS-MOS be Yeshua and Mary Magdalene as some have interpreted this in later years (because when fans today read the ver.2 FAQ without reading the ver.1 FAQ or understand the pre-Episode III context when no fan knew that KOS-MOS was Mary Magdalene, they miss the point of the question/statement). Even in their original script KOS-MOS was always going to be Mary Magdalene as per the early keywords trailer.
Of course, the statement that these cut events were rejected/deleted subjects and "unlikely to be shown in the future Episode" was most likely another attempt by Soraya to incite hostility towards the new team that had rejected her. Many of those scenes did end up in Episode III, and once you recognize the similarity of Episode II to that of the Aquvy arc in Xenogears you know that Episode II couldn't have deviated too much from the original scenario (many of the scenes did appear in the trailers for Episode I) and it also couldn't have contained all of those scenes Soraya listed, such as "The ghost of the old Miltia" or "Shion's spiritual awakening."
In fact, Soraya would later remove this statement before the FAQ disappeared from her site completely (as it appeared MSI would reach out to Soraya, stating that she had to remove the list of deleted scenes she had posted in her FAQ, which they probably got wind of after the Japanese fanbase got wind of it since it was posted exclusively in the English section of her site).
Despite the fact that Episode I had never been released in Europe, Sony and Namco decided to release Xenosaga II - the first time a Xeno title reached Europe. In order to explain the events prior, the title was released in a special "Collectors Limited Edition" box that contained a 3-hour DVD featuring edited cut-scenes from the first game. It didn't sell though, and Episode III would not see a European release.
Xenosaga: The Animation, an anime based on Episode I, premiered on TV Asahi in Japan on January 5, 2005. The anime had already been announced in 2003 along with a novelization, but the official Japanese Xenosaga novel book would only cover half of Episode II (of all things) before it would be discontinued, and it was written by someone named Tadashi Aizawa. "Since [Namco Bandai] have copyright, Takahashi cannot bring out [a Xenosaga novel]," a Japanese fan said on a forum in 2011, but whether or not that is true or the only explanation for Takahashi's lack of involvement in a novel remains unknown. But either way it is both disappointing and strange that Tetsuya Takahashi didn't decide to be involved in either of these at all, and that the Anime would only be a retelling of Episode I, and the novel a retelling of Episode II.
An open page from inside of the Xenosaga II novel by Tadashi Aizawa (2005)
The closest thing to an explanation for why Takahashi isn't writing a novel was stated in a 2010 interview on MSI's website where Takahashi said: "I've always preferred to keep my work and hobbies separate from each other. As a game developer myself, playing games is [naturally] one of my hobbies, but there are times when I really don't enjoy it and feel like I'm wasting my time. No matter what game I'm playing, when I get that realization, I find myself researching the game [instead of enjoying it]. So since I'd find it much harder to enjoy things like movies and novels if I were to turn them into my work, I'd rather keep my hobbies as hobbies and treasure them that way instead."
Apart from the Anime and the novel, MSI also registered titles such as Xenosaga: Frontier and Xenosaga: Exceed which were never realized. No matter how hard MonolithSoft tried to sell the series, consumers just weren't buying and only the core fanbase remained...and they weren't exactly overjoyed.
"There is an article that lists [Xenosaga: Frontier and Exceed] along with other new titles that have been registered. I just looked over that article some more and it says something about the DS for them both. Maybe they are DS games."
- BK (Zenosaga.com forums, 2004)
Takahashi stated later in an interview for Xenosaga I-II on namco-ch.net that "everything about the anime, we left it to the production committee. While we were relieved with their choices, there was also a sense of "They beat us to him [Yuichiro Takeda]." Takahashi wanted Takeda onboard for the DS game, so had to put the production on halt until the Anime was completely finished. Takeda is an anime scenario writer, most well known for his work on GAO-GAI-GAR, Banner of the Stars, and Zipang. He was also the editing supervisor for Xenosaga OUTER FILE.
Tetsuya Takahashi and Yuichiro Takeda had known each other for almost 10 years, but would not have a serious collaboration work until Xenosaga I-II for DS. "Apart from [Xenosaga OUTER FILE], we've just kept in touch with email about topics we're both interested in - it has been a private acquaintance. However, this time (Xeno I-II), in the company when we were deciding who to do the scenario, after some serious consideration, we decided to have Mr. Takeda do it," explains Takahashi. "Only after we made our staff choices did we learn that Mr Takeda's also working on the anime storyboard." Takeda clarifies, "Actually, at that time, they (the anime committee) had no idea that I was playing the game [Episode I] and also working on the scenario for the drama CD, but simply looked around randomly and asked 'Is there a scenario writer with strong background in SF and mecha, and likes games?' Then I was dragged over by coincidence."
Xenosaga The Animation (2005)
Neither the Anime or Episode II were received well, and it would seem that Takahashi himself would feel that there was a need to do a complete re-analysis and re-construction of the anime and the PS2 games. The fact that the DS game was put on hold would turn out to be a good thing, as Takahashi himself would now acknowledge.
Work on Xenosaga I-II for Nintendo DS would begin sometime during the spring of 2005, having been postponed until Yuichiro Takeda had finished working on Xenosaga The Animation. In 2004 MSI had already registered titles for the DS, namely Xenosaga: Frontier and Xenosaga: Exceed, so it is possible that these two titles were merely working titles for what became Xenosaga I-II. It is also possible that Frontier and/or Exceed would have covered something like the 'Gnosis Terrorism' (as touched on in A Missing Year) but was later aborted in favor of a much needed remake of Episode II. But nothing is certain. The following is an excerpt from the interview for Xenosaga I-II on namco-ch.net:
Interviewer: So the story for the game and the anime were being worked on concurrently?
Takahashi: Nope. Because this is a completely separate project, so we put it on halt until the work on the anime's completely finished. Of course this puts us on a bit of a strain for time, because this allowed a further understanding of the background settings, and also there was a need to do a complete re-analysis and re-construction of the anime and the original game, so we believed this is actually a plus for working on the scenario for Xenosaga I-II.
Takeda: That is indeed true. While the writing of the scenario for a game and anime is quite different, both requires a good look at the original work again, and also a deeper understanding of the settings. During that period of working on the anime...for about 6 months, I went to Namco once every week to discuss things. When the work on the anime was about to be done, I thought, "Hmm...looks like my time with Xenosaga is almost over..." and I was feeling a little sad. Obviously I was wrong, because then they asked me "Would you please work on the scenario for the game too." This time, for this project, it took more than 6 months, and I have to go to Monolith Soft to discuss things two every week...(LOL)
Xenosaga I-II was released on Mars 30, 2006 on the Nintendo DS and was a retelling of the first two episodes. The game's script was by Yuichiro Takeda and supervised by Tetsuya Takahashi who made several additions not seen in the PS2 episodes, and some ideas from Xenosaga The Animation were reused again here. Some major changes had thus been made to the storyline without changing the pre-existing elements which the first games had already laid out. Some scenarios had been edited and some new but minor characters had been included. The "Episode I" part is mostly the same. The Proto Merkabah dungeon was merged with the Song of Nephilim and the Pope (Patriarch in the U.S. version) shows up earlier. The "Episode II" portion of the game now focused on Shion, much like the PS2 Episode I rather than Jr., expanding and enhancing the storyline to fill in some of the holes caused by Episode II, allowing for a better understanding of the plot and reducing the amount of questions that would otherwise be unanswered in Episode III. However, the original script/scenario for Episode II that included Jr. growing up, and other bits, were not restored.
Hiroshi Takeuchi (Cowboy Bebop) was responsible for character art, which was promised to be "closer to the anime version." Music for the game was composed by Kousuke Yamashita, who scored the soundtrack for Xenosaga The Animation.
Screenshot from Xenosaga I-II on the Nintendo DS (2006)
At this point it seems that Tetsuya Takahashi had perhaps reclaimed some control. He would end up being credited as "Author" and "Music coordinator" for Episode III instead of merely "original Author." With Episode II clearly not being popular with fans, Arai and the new team - along with Tetsuya Takahashi - made the decision to make the final episode very pleasing to fans. The database was back, as was the anime look in addition to more cutscenes using traditional textboxes like in Xenogears with a lot of Xenogears easter eggs - to the point that it is hard to tell if all of the references to Xenogears were always planned to appear that way. For those who might wonder why Takahashi didn't direct Episode III himself: my best guess is that Takahashi had resigned himself from being too involved with the series. Everything points to this, especially the 2010 Xenoblade Chronicles interviews. As will be examined, Tetsuya Takahashi was already moving on from Xenosaga before Episode III was even out in stores. He must've simply been too tired of the Xenosaga project since he didn't even bother with the novel or to write I-II by himself.
And so Episode III is finally unveiled and revealed to be "the end of the series" with the selling phrase "every single mystery in the Xenosaga series shall be unveiled..." As per fan complaints the trailers released this time did not show every single major event from the game like the Episode II trailers did, the database was back - supervised by Takahashi himself (also participating in the coordination of the music), and the character design mixed the anime-ish look of Episode I with the realistic design of Episode II in an effort to make everyone happy. Music was all done by Yuki Kajiura this time, and the scenario/screenplay was again by Norihiko Yonesaka who had written the scenario for Episode II and the first episode of Xenosaga The ANIMATION.
(For the similar reason Masato Kato was credited with "script" instead of "instruction" on Xenogears by SQUARE America, this time Erina Hashimoto was credited with "script" instead of "instruction" (she was credited as a Planner in Soma Bringer) and that's why Internet Movie Database incorrectly credits her with the screenplay. Erina Hashimoto was not the screenplay writer.)
In 2004 it was clear from the Japanese interviews that Episode III would end the series. Not being aware of what was said in these untranslated interviews at the time, or that this meant the end of the series as a whole - since nobody had properly understood Takahashi's "new stance" on the series at that time, fans assumed that Episode IV and more was still a go. But the other two story arcs had been cancelled before May 2003, and possibly as early as 2002. Since the first game only covered 20% of the first arc, it was no longer conceivable that the entire saga could have been told in 6 episodes.
However, not all the story would fit into the DS game and Episode III, so MSI had to release the background story for Nephilim and 'The U.M.N. Gnosis Terrorism' as an event taking place between Episode II and III under the name of Xenosaga II to III: A Missing Year ~A Fragment of Truth Sealed in the UMN~ on the official Japanese site in the form of a series of flash movies released in chapters during the final weeks leading up to the Japanese release of Episode III.
What is interesting about the "Missing Year" scenario is that it roughly corresponds to the Mid-point of the story arc as a whole. Thus Episode III and Pied Piper covers the entire second half of the intended story arc (50%), which surely must mean it had to be somewhat abridged, even while resorting to textbox cutscenes.
|XENOSAGA ~A Missing Year~:||XENOGEARS:|
|Begins after Jr.'s arc in Ep.2||Continues after Billy's arc in Aquvy|
|Gnosis Terrorism.||Babel Tower.|
|Introduces new "aggressive" female character: Doctus.||Introduces new "aggressive" female character: Maria.|
|Mid-point context shift||Mid-point context shift|
New information enters the story that changes the contextual experience and understanding of the conflict for Shion. Shion learns the truth about Vector and learns of her father's involvement with U-TIC.
Story arc of little girl and her father - Nephilim (Almadel) and Grimoire.
New information enters the story that changes the contextual experience and understanding of the conflict for Fei. They learn the truth about Solaris, the surface dwellers, and their history.
Story arc of little girl and her father - Maria Balthasar and Nikolai.
|A Missing Year Ends||Xenogears continues...|
While the A Missing Year scenario is technically pretty short as a flash movie adaption written by Yonesaka from Takahashi's original scenario (as the credits reveal Takahashi to be the Original Author), it would probably have been a pretty long segment if it was told as originally envisioned. It could easily have been the size of Episode II or Pied Piper (and some of it was probably moved to the DS remake of Episode II) and so I regard it as 14 percent of the complete scene at least, leaving 35% for Episode III:
At some point during this time, MonolithSoft rehired Soraya Saga to write the scenario for Soma Bringer, a Nintendo DS RPG that would be released in 2008 and was produced by Takahashi. This coincides with the point in time that Takahashi came up with the idea for a unique world setting that would be the basis for Monado: Beginning of the World (Xenoblade Chronicles), "after a meeting about Soma Bringer" as stated in the Famitsu interview at the time of Xenoblade's unveiling in early 2010. "It seemed like it would be enjoyable to adventure on top of the body of a giant god," Takahashi told the magazine. He immediately returned to the office, wrote up a design document, and showed it to a number of other people, getting a positive reaction in the process.
In order to better get the point across about his plan, he had one of the Monolith staffers, Yasuyuki Honne, create a model of the two gods in their final resting position, and while Xenosaga Episode III was released in Japan on July 6, 2006, Monolith made the models during that same month:
Iwata: Now, this project all began with Takahashi-san's concept that it would be interesting to have people living on the bodies of two giant gods.
Takahashi: Yes, that's right. We began by making models of the two titanic gods, Bionis and Mechonis, and the planning developed from there.
Iwata: At what point did you make the models?
Takahashi: In July of 2006.
Iwata: July 2006 would make it prior to the release of Wii.
About three months before Xenosaga Episode III was out, Monolith released a demo of the game in Japan, featuring the database and some entries were available for the demo. However, some snooping was done on the disc and the entire database appeared to be coded on it. By unlocking it from the code of the disc some major sploilerific material was found. Although nobody had time to translate the entire database to English, the fans who looked at quick translations would know the truth about Heinlein, chaos, KOS-MOS, Nephilim and Abel while Japanese fans had the entire plot spoiled three months before the game was even out. Some fans would scream "MSI you lose!!" at MonolithSoft in a final cry of disgust at the painful "epic failure" that was Xenosaga, while other fans speculated that the full database was intentionally placed on the Xenosaga III demo CD in order to promote the very epic content of the final episode. Though I think we can rule out the idea that it was intentional.
This blunder was big enough to be mentioned on the Japanese Xenosaga Wikipedia page and has most certainly contributed to the future attitude of Monolith that this kind of story-heavy game development has reached a "dead end."
Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
And so we finally arrive at what would be the final installment in the series. The end of the series at "Episode III" can be looked at in one of two ways when examining the saga as a whole. From the point of view of the original 3 story arcs and 6 episode plan, the current Episode III becomes one more "extended" episode of the first story arc, which would make the series 7 episodes long in total if it were to be continued with the other two story arcs. On the other hand, if we acknowledge that "refreshed" Xenosaga was only 4 episodes covering a single story arc, then the current Episode III becomes a "condensed" episode that incorporated the plot of the "post-2003 Episode IV" into itself. But even with 3 episodes the story arc is not a complete experience without Pied Piper and A Missing Year, so, in a sense, the story arc is already more like five episodes.
On June 4, 2008, Soraya Saga responded to a fan on her deviantART guestbook with the following comment:
"The love for the series is always in my thoughts. I hope someday we can have an opportunity to show other episodes + our version of episode III (strange to say, it's so different from the official III :D )."
- Solaryear Jun 4, 2008, 5:03:26 PM
This comment has been brought up a lot in discussions and evaluations of Episode III, and at first glance it seems that Soraya is referring to the fact that since Episode III was still handled by Koh Arai and Norihiko Yonesaka, it ended up very different from the original second half of "Shion's arc" (i.e. the original Episode II from the 6 episode plan). However, if Soraya is really referring to the original 6 episode plan in this comment, which seems most likely, then her comment that their version of Episode III was "so different" may actually be referring to the original Episode III - the first part of the second story arc (Abel and Nephilim's arc) - which would indeed be very different from "the official III." Thus, it is entirely possible that Episode III did make Takahashi's original story justice, except for the fact that it was Episode III instead of Episode II. This is further somewhat supported by the following quote from the Siliconera interview:
"It's so complicated. To fill the unexpected gap that was generated in the episode II, the subsequent plot had to shift its course to some extent from where it was supposed to be. There were many major changes, but what's done cannot be undone, so there's no looking back on those might-have-beens."
- Soraya Saga (Interview wth Siliconera, 2010)
And so, because we cannot be sure, I'm going to assume that the Episode III we got did in fact not deviate too much from the original scenario of the second half of Shion's story arc. And the fact that this last episode still managed to mirror a lot of the screenplay from Xenogears, "Takahashi-style", lends some credence to this fact. As does the "leaked documents" concerning spoilers of Wilhelm, Abel, and Nephilim that came true, along with some of the keywords from the first trailer (Mary Magdalene), and it had been stated in one of Mugitani's art books that Zarathustra was always meant to be the last boss in this story arc.
|XENOSAGA Episode III||XENOGEARS:|
|Begins after Scientia arc||Continues after Shevat...|
|Act III - attack||Act III - attack|
|Time for hero to step up and get down to business. Proactive attack to solve the problem at hand.||Time for hero to step up and get down to business. Proactive attack to solve the problem at hand.|
Fifth Jerusalem / Rennes-Le-Chateau arc.
Ends with destruction of KOS-MOS.
Solaris (Etrenank) arc.
Ends with destruction of Weltall.
|Disc 1 Ends / Disc 2 Begins|
|Shion dreams of Kevin.||Fei dreams of Elly / Elly dreams of Fei.|
Ghost of Old Miltia - KOS-MOS is restored and upgraded.
Taura's House - Weltall is restored and upgraded.
Infiltrating Mass-Driver Facility (narrated).
People in Labyrinthos on Old Miltia are being treated and used.
Attempt to control fear.
Mutated people in Soylent Facilities are being treated and used (narrated).
Attempt to control grief.
|Febronia reaching out to Virgil.||Elly reaching out to mutated people.|
|Professor Mizrahi obstructs the antagonists goal/progress, and is assassinated.||Emperor Cain obstructs the antagonists goal/progress, and is assassinated.|
|Wilhelm and Kevin monitoring progress.||Krelian and Gazel monitoring progress.|
|Abel's Ark arc (includes Merkabah).||Mahanon and Merkava arc (narrated).|
Wilhelm, a god-like being that has existed since man's origin, reveals the truth about religion and Margulis' purpose.
Margulis' spirit and sense of purpose is broken.
Miang, a god-like being that has existed since man's origin, reveals the truth about religion and Ramsus' purpose.
Ramsus' spirit and sense of purpose is broken.
Canaan sacrifices himself for his comrades.
Flashback of 500 years ago. (Episode IV fragments)
Sophia sacrifices herself for her comrades.
Mary Magdalene and Shion/Maiden arc.
Final appearance of T-Elos.
T-Elos: "You've finally awakened. Now that Mary's will has awakened within KOS-MOS, I will take it inside me and complete my resurrection, as the true Mary Magdalene."
Bethlehem / Zohar arc.
Final appearance of Grahf.
Grahf: "You have awakened. This body is now useless to me. Now I must return to my original body... the reincarnation of my body that you inhabit."
|Plot point two||Plot point two|
Zarathustra / Kevin / Wilhelm.
The final injection of new information into the story, after which no new expository information enters, and which puts a final piece of narrative information in play that gives the hero everything needed to become the primary catalyst in the story's conclusion.
You can sense the ending just around the corner...
Zohar / Wave Existence / Excalibur II.
The final injection of new information into the story, after which no new expository information enters, and which puts a final piece of narrative information in play that gives the hero everything needed to become the primary catalyst in the story's conclusion.
You can sense the ending just around the corner...
|Act IV - resolution||Act IV - resolution|
Hero transitions from an attacking warrior to a selfless, heroic and
even martyr-like champion in terms of solving the inherent dramatic
problem the story is portraying.
Hero transitions from an attacking warrior to a selfless, heroic and
even martyr-like champion in terms of solving the inherent dramatic
problem the story is portraying.
|KOS-MOS is in the last shot before the credits.||Weltall (Xenogears) is in the last shot before the credits.|
|Last shot: KOS-MOS and Lost Jerusalem.||Last shot: Kadomony and the land of genesis.|
From comparing the screenplay, we can conclude that Episode III probably is what it mostly should have been, and the much more meaty storyline compared to the previous episodes - mostly corresponding to the epic events on Xenogears' infamous Disc 2 - naturally made the last game a fan favorite.
This time Western fans didn't have to wait long for the North American release of Episode III since the localization team had been working alongside the Japanese production in order to bring it out quicker. Unfortunately the U.S. game was heavily edited. The last game was pretty much a bloodbath, and so to remove all traces of blood, even when it played a pivotal part when young Shion tries to "put it back" in her mother, became jarringly annoying and showed very little regard for the game's artistic integrity.
Interviews from creator Tetsuya Takahashi or even Director Koh Arai were rare (downright nonexistent) after Episode II and Namco Bandai spoke for the game instead:
"We aimed to make the time between the Japan launch and the US launch shorter than in the past Xenosaga titles so fans in North America would be able to play the game sooner. We think fans will be really satisfied with the game, and will be happy to play it many months sooner than they would have had to wait otherwise."
- Namco Bandai, 2006
Why there weren't any interviews for Episode III is unknown, but fan disappointment based on Episode II might have made them hide in shame. It seems pretty clear that they only wanted to wrap it up. Koh Arai had already expressed a desire to move on after Episode III:
"Since I've been involved with this project for such a long time, I think I want to do something totally different after 'Episode III'... Of course I like this project and I enjoy working on it, but if you keep doing the same thing you can start getting dissatisfied with the monotony. I have a lot of good junior staff working with me who'd provide a lot of new strength, so I want to try my hand at various challenges."
- Koh Arai, Xenosaga II Weekly: Vol 3 interview (2004)
The subtitle Also sprach Zarathustra means "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" and is the title of Nietzsche's most famous work of philosophy, which introduced the Übermensch (overmen) and popularized the phrase "God is dead" - a phrase frequently used in the Episode III trailers. Composer Yuki Kajiura said that Episode III wasn't harder to compose even if she had to do much more music by herself this time.
OSV: What is the back story and inspiration for "Promised Pain" from Xenosaga III?
Kajiura: It was used as the song for the last battle. There was such a long history for the individual characters. They have such a heavy history to it and its times three now, being the third game in the series so I felt I had to cover all of [their history] when creating the theme.
However, despite it mostly being hardcore fans who played Episode III, a lot of gamers were not happy with how the last installment wrapped up. The dub was still inferior to Episode I, and perhaps because the voice acting was now being done over dialogue-boxes rather than full cinema as in the previous episodes, even the good actors like Crispin Freeman seemed to be unable to make it sound natural. The over-sexualized outfits for KOS-MOS threw the seriousness of the game off even moreso than Episode I. While Xenogears had had an equal amount of over-sexualized outfits they had been less in-your-face than those in Xenosaga because of the sprites and lesser graphics capabilities. The character designer for Episode II and III (as well as the original designer for KOS-MOS), Mugitani Kouichi (Choco), is in part a hentai artist with a sexual predilection for armed lolita maids.
"Maybe the next installment of the series will get the same artists working on Soulcalibur IV. Then the silicone will surely hit the fan i say."
- Xenosaga Fan
The battle system in Episode III had also become more traditional and it was as if everything had taken a step back and Xenosaga was now just another JRPG only with a much more convoluted story and featuring a crazy database to help anyone who might get lost in it. KOS-MOS' connection to Rennes-Le-Chateau and Mary Magdalene was also not received well and sometimes even referred to as a "Deus ex Machina" by some fans despite the fact that it had been foreshadowed since the very first Xenosaga trailer back in 2001.
"Xenosaga Episode III should conclude with a quiz on the plot of the series. Double or nothing says nobody would pass. This is a sprawling mess of an RPG, ending a story that arguably goes down as the most ambitious narrative in gaming history. The frightening part is, it claims that title even after cutting its planned running length in half. [Actually, cutting its planned running length to merely one third.]
[...] To even try making sense of it all, prior experience with the series is required. If you don't know your U-DO from your U-TIC, don't bother, and dedicated followers of the first two episodes might still have trouble. There's a sizable gap in the storyline between episode II and III, filled by one short flashback and a recap in the database menu. It feels as if an entire Episode Two-and-a-Half wound up trashed on the cutting-room floor."
- D. F. Smith, Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra review (G4tv.com), 2006
An observation many fans had was how much of Episode III seemed to be influenced by the Star Wars prequel films. The political manipulation that Wilhelm pulls by playing both sides in the conflict mirrored the actions of Star Wars' Chancellor Palpatine, and Kevin's loss of his mother and sacrificing the rest of the world for a perfect and safe world with Shion resembled Anakin's story with his mother Shmi and wife Padme. However, since both Miang and Wilhelm are also mirrored in the way they manipulate both sides in a conflict, it is unlikely that Takahashi pulled Wilhelm's political maneuverings from the Star Wars prequels, and more likely that he pulled them from mirroring Miang. The scene where Kevin the Testament betrays Wilhelm to save Shion, however, was certainly a homage to the redemption of Anakin in Return of the Jedi, but fans didn't find it too flattering for the saga and complained that this was the second time a masked/caped villain in the Xeno series pulled a Darth Vader.
Xenosaga III ends with a shot that references the iconic shot in 2001: A Space Odyssey with the Earth, the Moon and the Sun lined up. The same shot was also referenced at the end of Ideon: Be Invoked, a 1982 Space Opera theatrical anime feature by Yoshiyuki Tomino (the creator of Gundam), a film that also served as an influence for Hideaki Anno's The End of Evangelion theatrical film. But while Be Invoked isn't all that similar to Evangelion it is pretty similar to Xenosaga III in that there are two "alien races" fighting each other, even though it's painfully obvious they are both the same human beings that share a common origin, and at the end all of them die and their spirits are brought to Earth which begins a new "genesis" - complete with a shot that references 2001: A Space Odyssey and symbolic of the sunrise of a new dawn of mankind. While 2001 was definitely the main influence, perhaps Ideon: Be Invoked was also an influence on Tetsuya Takahashi.
At this point, many fans tried to get petitions and other movements going to get the series to continue, and a reboot of the Xeno series has also been demanded by many Japanese players. But as has been revealed since then, we now know that Tetsuya Takahashi was already moving on to Monado: Beginning of the World (Xenoblade) before Episode III was even out in stores. Having worked on "Monado" since, up to its release in 2010, it would have been impossible to have gotten anything more in the Xenosaga series between that time. Furthermore, Hirohide Sugiura had already stated in the Episode II Weekly magazine that they were ending the series with Episode III and that only in five or ten years time he'd like to revisit Xenosaga again. Some more comments on all this in the "Future of the series" article, along with a few curious rumors and comments that have appeared since Episode III, not least of which have come from Soraya Saga herself.
(The first rumor started at the Xenosaga forums on Namco's official NA site where someone said that "Xenosaga is rumored to have "Xenosaga Episode IV-Magdeline's Dawn" coming by 2010," which would turn out to be false as MSI and Takahashi was now working on Monado which was released as "Xenoblade" in 2010.)
The cover of Xenosaga Episode III: Complete Guide
Finally, Episode III's equivalent of Xenogears: Perfect Works~The Real Thing~ and Xenosaga -Official Design Materials-, the Xenosaga III Complete Guide and the Xenosaga III Perfect Guide were translated from 2006~2007 (though not a 100% completely) thanks to the effort of a fan (Jinx) and was of tremendous help to fans in understanding the Xenosaga universe better, although a great many things were still confusing regarding the game's world thanks to both the incomplete nature of the series as well as the issues examined during development.