Xenosaga is a great series. Known for it's high cinematic quality, deep storyline and intricate battle system. The first Xenosaga was met with all around praise. Episode II was widely mixed. Episode III, however, is a fine welcome to the series that far surpasses Episode II in places where it counts. The storyline is still brilliant, and the characters return. Xenosaga Episode III is definitely for Xenosaga fans.
The storyline is rather complex. It takes place from where Episode II ends. If you've never played a Xenosaga game before, fear not, there is a database that summarizes the first two episodes for you. It also serves as a handy refresher for those who have played the game. Still, it's much better if you've actually played the first two games in the series. In Episode III, the story goes deeper. It begins with Shion getting involved in a break in to the Vector Corporation Facility. What she discovers will shock her, and will certainly shock Xenosaga fans. Right from the get go, the story grabs your attention.
The storyline is carried out in brilliant cutscenes that look absolutely stunning. This is no surprise to anyone who has played Xenosaga before. The game is full of cutscenes every now and then. Just like the previous two installments the game has long cutscenes, which actually could try even the most patient of gamers. Some cutscenes last for longer than twenty minutes. All in all there are nearly ten hours of cutscenes. For the most part, though, they sound good at least. The voice acting is good and there's true depth and emotion to the characters. There are moments when the voice isn't as strong in some spots as it is others, but thankfully these moments don't populate most of the game. With some cutscenes, though, you'll wonder just when you can start playing the game again, and it's been a problem in Xenosaga ever since the very first version. When you do get to play the game, however, it's pretty interesting.
There are no random encounters in Xenosaga. You can see all your enemies running around. These battles are all contact based. When in battle, the dynamic battle system takes over. In battle your characters will be able to attack and use special magic skills. These attacks fill up a boost gauge which you can use to give your characters extra turns in battle. The battle system is deep, yet very easy to learn and not too complex at all. There's a new addition to the battle system. The "break" meter. This meter fills up as you take damage. When this meter is full your character essentially takes a break for two or three turns. The good news is your enemies also have a break meter so it works both ways. It puts a new twist on battling and calls for a bit more strategy. As with the other Xenosaga games, you can call on giant robots to help you in battle.
The game isn't overly difficult... at first, that is. As you go on in the game the battles begin to get harder, and that's how it should be. For Xenosaga, it begins to get a little hard a little early, though. The game compensates by giving you lots of healing items. So even if you manage to get to the point where your characters are getting low on health rather fast, you can heal them instantly.
Xenosaga also introduces a way of developing your characters. Through this system you can give your characters skill points and abilities. You can choose to give them offensive or defensive skills. Once you start on one path you can also switch and go to the other if you want. Essentially, you could go down one path and start on the other later. It's not really deep, but it does make you think about how to develop your characters.
Xenosaga Episode III also has a few sidequests and extras. There's a mini-game that acts like Lumines and you can even play that with a friend if you wish. You can also go around and collect swimsuits for your characters and complete your database. The game lasts for a long time (about fifty hours or so). There's much to explore, but the heart of the game lies within its storyline. If you were scratching your head at the end of Xenosaga Episode I or II, then Episode III will tie up most lose ends for you.
Xenosaga Episode III manages to be a great game after all. Although, much like the games before it in the series, you've really got to love RPGs and anime to get into the massive cutscenes. It doesn't surpass the first game in the series by any means, but it comes awfully close to reinventing the same magic found within the first game.
+Good voice acting
+Great battle system
+Engaging and involving storyline
+The cast of characters returns
-The cutsenes are very long, so there are many more moments of watching rather than playing. The storyline is good, but even the most patient of gamers will find themselves waiting for some of these overly long cutscenes to end