Xenosaga II, Interviews with Koh Arai (2004)

Interview with Play  [November 2004 issue]

First, an excerpt from a RPGFan's Xenosaga Episode II review (Nov 25, 2004) where the reviewer, Chris Winkler, brings up a comment from an interview with Arai that for the most part remained off the radar of the English-speaking internet and is currently unavailable:

"Contrary to Xenogears and Xenosaga Episode I, Episode II's main story and countless flashbacks are presented in a more straight forward and easy to grasp way, as per Monolith Software responding to the criticism of Episode I's often difficult to follow story progression. What the development team also promised were answers to all the questions raised in the prequel. Indeed, the player will walk away with answers to some burning questions (such as: why did Albedo turn into his insane self? Of what quality is his obviously close relationship with Jr? What is the origin of Jr.'s affection to MOMO? What did Wilhelm's cryptic comments at the end of Episode I relate to?). In the process of explaining some things, however, the game raises new questions, which remain unanswered even after watching the ending sequence.

Given that director Kou Arai has already clarified Tetsuya Takahashi's stance on the series' further development, this might not have been a bad idea. According to Arai, Xenosaga is the story of Shion (and KOS-MOS). Hence, explaining every little detail about her and her surroundings in Episode II would make Episode III a rather senseless affair."

- Chris Winkler, excerpt from Xenosaga II Review

When asked about this, Chris clarified that this new stance Tetsuya Takahashi had on the series further development was that Xenosaga was now about Shion, passed along by Arai in an interview:

"In a Japanese interview that for the most part remained off the radar of the English-speaking internet, Kou Arai explained, that Xenosaga was the story of Shion, and in that sense of KOS-MOS (hereferred to this as the vision Tetsuya Takahashi has of Xenosaga)."
- Chris Winkler, excerpt from E-mail.

Now onto the interview with Play.

Subject : Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose

Answered collectively by
Tomohiro Hagiwara, producer
Kou Arai, director

play: Could you explain how Xenosaga Episode II begins? When Episode I ended, the crew was approaching Second Miltia. Does it begin from there, or has more time elapsed?

The story continues right where Episode I left off, on Second Miltia, and the game begins with a playable flashback on Miltia, fourteen years prior.

Why were the characters redesigned to look more realistic? Did it have anything to do with appealing more to a Western audience?

Yes. 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.

There were a lot of questions left hanging in Episode I...what Wilhelm's true intentions are, how Virgil--back from the dead--will impact the story, who or what chaos truly is. Will we finally get some answers in Episode II, or just more questions? Can you give us some hints about what to expect?

Episode II focuses primarily on Jr., Gaignun and Albedo, so a lot of questions regarding them will be answered. Some of the mysteries from Episode I will also be addressed, but expect more twists and turns in the story. It is a deep story. You will most likely be left wondering quite a lot about chaos.

We were also told in Episode I that Shion's brother, Jin Uzuki, would play an important part in Episode II. How does he fit in?

Jin will play a key role in the development of the story. I highly recommend playing through Episode II and watching the events all fall into place. Jin is also an extremely powerful character, so in some respects, he will be extremely important to the progression of the story!

And what about Allen? Out of all the characters, he just seems to be an ordinary, everyday guy. Will he have a bigger role in Xenosaga II?

Allen will be the same old, ordinary, everyday Allen. We feel that is exactly Allen's purpose in life--to be an ordinary human being.

A lot of the story in Episode I seemed philosophical and introspective, as well as religious in nature. Will we see a lot of similar deep themes tackled in Episode II, and how will these themes be explored?

Yes, we are staying true to the Xenosaga series in Episode II and will build upon and play with the philosophical, introspective and religious themes in Episode I. It is hard to discuss just how the themes will be explored without giving too much away, so let me just say that Episode II will be a deep, wonderfully woven tale. We hope the players find it stimulating and enriching.

Is there any difference in the combat system this time? Will the AGWSs have a bigger role in combat?

Yes, we built upon the combat system from Episode I and split up the battles into character battles and robot battles. The character battles will fundamentally be the same as Episode I, but we have added Boost Combos and Weak Zones to bring more strategy to the game. We have created a specialized robot system that will be different from the character battles. To match the new battle system, we created new, stronger ES battle robots to take the place of the AGWSs.

What about the environments? Will there be more organic environments this time, and more diversity in the scenery?

Episode I happened mostly in space, with the Gnosis fighting primarily in battleships, military bases and other highly mechanical areas. In Episode II, you will be fighting the Gnosis acriss many different terrestrial environments.

Lastly, can you tell us about the new music composer in Xenosaga Episode II, why she was selected for the job and what kind of a style she'll bring to the game?

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.

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