yet more characters?!

Well, after stalling briefly at a boss battle, I finally triumphed and defeated the big robot thingie that looked a lot like a futuristic Volkswagen gone awry. It was a thrilling victory, and led me to enjoy another thirty minutes or so of cut scenes. I like that. Ah, plot!

Between my first encounter with the Evil Beetle and my victory, I learned the basics of using the skill system. mdxi called it “complex in the extreme.” He was right. There’s a magic tree (I will not bother with the euphemism “ether”), objects from which to extract skills, objects that provide extra points for both of those, and then points to spend on upping stats. While it’s far more complicated than the traditional CRPG, I really like it. It puts me in charge of my development far more than just picking characters for my party, or what Materia to equip. It also fills me with dread that I’m going to upgrade something useless and really hinder my progress. I’m never big on using powers that do things like “temporarily boost attribute X,” and that’s usually one of my big weaknesses. Also, I’m trying to be a good boy and avoid consulting guides to find out what skills will prove most valuable.

The lack of random battles is great. While I like overworld travel, I generally despise random attacks. If travelling from Footown to Bartown always involves defeating a pile of Level 99 Deathagogs, how does Footown ever sell its popular cheeses? It just Doesn’t Make Sense. Some games work around this with safe roads or limited random attacks. Xenosaga, like Chrono Trigger, makes it very clear when you’re going to be attacked, and lets you avoid it – at least for a while. This led me to feel that I just hadn’t spent enough time levelling up. In FF7, I can spend a whole session wandering around Kalm gathering XP and GP. In Xenosaga, less so; it’s still possible, though, and I did it for a bit. I think that’s not the point, though. The battles require well-equipped and well-used combatants, but the boost from levelling up isn’t what helps, so much.

Shortly after defeating the Evil Beetle, I started playing as another character, the unhappily-named Little Master. I’ve now played as three main characters, and have something like seven possible party members. I’m eleven hours through the game, and the box promises eighty hours. Even if it’s lying, I expect to see a good deal more party members before the game is through. Shion still seems like the real central character, but just barely. The authors have done a decent job of making the player into a third party who is clearly associated with no one character. I’m hoping that before the end I can play as some of the villains for a while, but I don’t really expect it.

I’m going to try to get through another chapter tomorrow, but on Tuesday the new Zelda comes out, so I expect my Xenosaga time to decrease; we’ll see.

Written on March 24, 2003
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