In a word, awesome. If you are wondering, “Should I get this game?” the answer is “Yes.”

No, it’s not the obligatory provocative picture of token loli MOMO. I don’t care. It’s from danbooru, so it’s still okay, right?

I’ll make an effort to keep this spoiler-free, since this thing is targeted at people who haven’t played the game yet; if you have, you probably don’t need me to remind you about how much you enjoyed it ^_^

Like many others, I enjoy RPGs for their storylines, and prioritize that above gameplay when discussing games of the genre. In this respect, Xenosaga 3 certainly delivers. Granted, it’s far from perfect. There are a couple minor continuity errors, most likely caused by the numerous staff changes that occurred over the course of the trilogy. A few of the game’s video sequences lost much of their impact due to the censorship of the NA version; I’m perfectly fine with the bloodless player battles, but significantly reducing the impact of certain scenes via censorship is simply unacceptable. And, yes, the game is generally still as pretentious as its predecessors. But, is that really a bad thing? I’d have to say “no.”

Also sprach Zarathustra actually takes place a good amount of time after Jenseits von Gut und Böse, and the events that happen in between are actually quite essential to the game’s storyline, and should probably have been included in one of the games (say, instead of some of the parts of Xenosaga II that were in the long run completely irrelvant – there were certainly more than enough of these). The game does provide you with a database in which you can read up on these events as well as brush up on what happened in the first two games, so it’s no great loss. Despite this, however, the course of the storyline in this game is quite well-done, with pretty much all of the stuff that makes one good – it flowed well, was neither too predictable nor too random, good balance between events and character development, and so forth. It was a bit more emotional than the first two games, and most of the major plot events felt like they mattered. Every character you could possibly care about was given sufficient closure, and the main course of events also closed convincingly (though a couple parts were a bit underwhelming). It did feel a little rushed at times, but part of that could be that I played all fortyish hours of the game in fewer than four days. Even if not, they had a lot to cram in considering that the series got cut three games shorter than the original plan, so if it in fact was rushed you can’t really blame them.

Following the tenets of Xenosaga pretentiousness, many of the newly-introduced names are references to all manner of philisophical and religious works – right in the game’s subtitle (Also Sprach Zarathustra by Nietzsche), the character name T-elos, and an almost overwhelming number of other things. Some were more clever than others, but a lot of the enjoyment I got out of the game was thinking about why they named certain things the way they did. I suppose the whole existentialism thing has been somewhat overused these past few years, but, well, can you really fault anything for being “unoriginal” anymore? Der Wille zur Macht predates stuff like The Matrix 3 and Haruhi anyway.

Oh yeah, gameplay. I hear that’s a pretty important part of most video games. While, as I mentioned above, I think storyline is more important to RPGs than gameplay, I must say I was quite pleased with what Also sprach Zarathustra had to offer in this department. I won’t pretend I can put it into better words than RPGamer’s review did, so I won’t even try and just quote them:

Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht behaved more like an interactive movie than a game. Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose suffered problems in the skill system and the battle system, though the latter was hit or miss depending on how each gamer received it. So, did Monolith Soft manage to pull it off with Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra? Let it be known that the answer is “Yes.” Yes, they did.”

The game is by no means a walk in the park, but most players with any “RPG sense” at all shouldn’t need to reset more than two or three times over the course of the game, if that. The parts of the game in the E.S. units seemed quite a bit easier than the battles fought in person, most likely because they were able to one-hit kill a good percentage of the enemies. The environmental mode is also excellent. I particularly enjoyed how you could see the text bubbles on NPCs just by walking near them, sometimes simply eavesdropping into an existing conversation; it made the game’s “world” feel more like it was, well, a “world” and one that doesn’t revolve around you. The HaKox or whatever it was called minigame is a variant of the Lemmings concept, and an amusing exercise of reflexes and manual dexterity (I’d love to see other people try to press square, R1, circle sequentially fractions of a second apart while holding down L1 + L2. Child’s play for anyone who plays fighting games, but I’d imagine it’s difficult for normal human beings).

As far as graphics and sound and all that kind of stuff, this game unsurprisingly excels. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the video sequences in a Xenosaga game are impressive. Partilcularly noteworthy in this game are a few fight scenes choreographed well enough to be in a Jet Li flick. The soundtrack is done by Yuki Kajiura, so I don’t really need to comment on that. The footsteps in the environmental mode seemed to be disproportionately loud sometimes, but maybe that was just my dated surround sound system, and outside of that, the sound effects generally did what sound effects are supposed to do pretty well.

Basically, if you liked either of the first two, get this. If you haven’t played either of the first two, I’d say play Der Wille zur Macht, and then play this game – the database should tell you all you need to know from that game. I know it might have sounded like I was bashing the game a lot, but… well, let’s just say you shouldn’t read what I have to say about what I consider bad games. :) Despite its flaws, this game is, in my book, definitely one of the top-ranking RPGs available to date.