Space opera at its best
As you can imagine, if I am going to be spending approximately 30 - 40 hours watching cut scenes, the story had better be extremely good. Thankfully, Xenosaga delivers in spades. Not only are the cut-scenes beautiful, but they reek of quality and sport some very impressive voice acting to boot. This is probably the best translation I have yet to see for an RPG, period. The voices all sound spot on, and you can tell that the actors really knew their parts. As for the story itself, it's amazingly in-depth and deeply mysterious with a sweet sci-fi focus. Overall, I loved it and absolutely cannot wait for the sequel as the ending leaves many questions to be answered.
Thankfully, along with the great plot, Namco managed to produce some very interesting and deep characters. Each character in the story is fleshed out nicely and a ton of back-story is given. All of the characters interact beautifully with each other and pretty much all of them boast a fair amount of secrets. You know a game has excellent characters when you find yourself not knowing who to take into battle with you because you love them all. Great design meets incredible implementation in this regard.
Graphically, Xenosaga is one of, if not the greatest achievement to grace the PlayStation 2. Cut scenes look nothing short of magnificent and each character model (NPC or otherwise), is lovingly rendered right down to facial features that convey emotion. Visually, this game is so polished you can see yourself in its reflection. It is nice to see an RPG contender that can truly throw its weight around and go up against the mighty Squaresoft in terms of graphical quality.
A worthy Xeno-prequel
I admit that I cheated a little and had been listening to the soundtrack way before Xenosaga was released here in North America. I had grown quite fond of it in fact, and was quite anxious to see how it would be implemented in the game itself. Unfortunately, while the music is truly excellent, there just simply isn't enough of it. When you have 30 hours worth of cut scenes and a heck of a game attached to it, let's face it, you need a LOT of music to fill the time. What ends up happening however, is a lot of repeat. The result is cut scenes that don't get quite the impact they deserve. It doesn't exactly detract from the experience; it just feels as though it could have been that much better had the musical score been a tad larger.
All in all, Xenosaga is a true masterpiece that belongs in every RPG fan's library. You get all the ingredients of a great package including a wonderful story, incredible graphics, and long (but not boring), playtime (I clocked in at about 50 hours.) You know a game is excellent when the worst thing I can say about it is that the menu takes too long to bring up. However, keep in mind that this game is more like an interactive novel than anything previously released out there. If you are the type of person who nods off during long (but interesting) conversations and wishes the game would just resume already, Xenosaga may not be for you. If, however, you are looking for a solid RPG experience with one of the finest storylines ever crafted for a videogame, then look no further than Xenosaga.