Der Wille zur Macht, German for "The Will to Power", is a reference to philosopher's Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the main driving force in humans — namely, achievement, ambition, and the striving to reach the highest possible position in life. In other words, the power of will to succeed, make, change and create. It is also a reference to free will, a major theme of the game and series.
Xenosaga is set thousands of years into the future (sometime in the year 6000-7277 in the 61st century to 73th century), humanity exists only in deep space. Brutally opposed by a merciless hostile alien race called the Gnosis that are pushing humanity on the verge of extinction, humanity faces an uncertain destiny as it unlocks the secrets of the universe in search of the ultimate truth. Players take the role of scientist Shion Uzuki and her android KOS-MOS, as well as a ragtag cast of characters who become involved in the devastating conflict against the Gnosis.
Episode I mainly serves to introduce the Xenosaga universe and characters. Xenosaga Episode I spawned two sequels, a Nintendo DS remake, an anime adaptation, a manga adaptation, spin-offs, and more. Episode II and Episode III must be played in order to comprehend the entire story.
In Lake Turkana, northern Kenya, Africa, 20xx CE, during an archaeological excavation funded by Vector Industries, T. Masuda and his team uncover an altar, where Masuda placed a Zohar Replica, causing a giant golden rectangular object - a monolith adorned with an aquamarine jewel - called the Zohar to rise from the lake's depths. The Zohar is a mysterious source of power which serves as a portal between the Upper Domain of U-DO (God) and the Lower Domain of the human collective consciousness (Unus Mundus), something Masuda and his team were unaware of.
The Zohar discovered by Masuda was transferred to Vector's labs in Toronto, Canada, where various examinations and experiments were performed upon it. An experiment conducted by Vector scientist Grimoire Verum began a planetary space-time anomaly, forcing humanity to abandon Earth. The Immigrant Fleet were one of the peoples who successfully escaped Earth. Since then, Earth became abandoned and has been renamed "Lost Jerusalem" and erased from star maps, the way to it no longer known due to the space-time anomaly.
Afterwards, the game is warped 4000 years into the year 4767 T.C. (Transcend Christ), which is approximately between 6000-7277 A.D. Humanity has colonized 500,000 planets in the galaxy. The original Zohar has been proven to be too dangerous, and was sealed on the planet Miltia (called "Old Miltia" during the game) 14 years ago, most humans resorting to use less powerful device called "Zohar Emulators" instead. However, the devastating Miltian Conflict which occurred 14 years ago locked away Miltia and the Zohar into another space-time anomlady called the Abyss, and the path to Miltia is no longer known. Some organizations still want to re-discover the true Zohar, believing it to be the path to Lost Jerusalem, the forgotten homeland of humanity.
Meanwhile, a new race of hostile aliens known as Gnosis has emerged since the Miltian Conflict and have been killing humans relentlessly, pushing humanity on the verge of extinction. Humanity has been living in complete fear and terror since the Miltian Conflict. Vector Industries, which still exists thousands of years later, decides to develop a blue-haired female android called KOS-MOS to be the ultimate weapon against the Gnosis. In addition, Vector is developing an artificial race of humans called Realians meant to act as weapons against the Gnosis. The Gnosis exist in an alternate plane of dimensional existence and require the Hilbert Effect to draw them into the physical realm, allowing for combat.
Unfortunately for Vector, the original developer of KOS-MOS, Kevin Winnicot, was killed in an accident two years prior to the game, leaving his girlfriend and co-worker, Shion Uzuki, to lead and finish the KOS-MOS project. KOS-MOS is still fairly operational, but she has many unknown "black boxes" left behind by Kevin.
The Galaxy Federation starship Woglinde houses both the KOS-MOS development project and a Zohar Emulator, which was discovered in the wake of the vanished planet Ariadne which has recently disappeared. Vector's KOS-MOS team is deployed on the Woglinde in case of a Gnosis attack.
Shion proceeds with a test experiment on KOS-MOS, which includes a brief appearance of a young girl (Nephilim Verum). Nephilim encounters Shion again while she investigates the Zohar Emulator. After having completed KOS-MOS, Shion and her team are attacked by the Gnosis. The Woglinde is attacked by a group of Gnosis, who are lusting after the Zohar Emulator. This attack is partly orchestrated by U-TIC Organization operatives Vanderkam and Andrew Cherenkov, who wish to acquire the Zohar Emulator for their boss, Margulis. The Woglinde becomes a deathtrap, filled with bloody gored corpses and bodies on the floor in every hallway.
During the attack, KOS-MOS is activated suddenly and saves Shion from almost being killed by a Gnosis. Both Shion and Cherenkov are touched by the Gnosis. Federation Lieutenant Luis Virgil is shot and killed by KOS-MOS; this, according to her, was necessary due to the fact that it would increase her ability to protect Shion from Gnosis. The Gnosis escape with the Zohar Emulator and the U-TIC operatives escape, sans Andrew Cherenkov who joins Shion's group. Many lives on the Woglinde are lost during the massacre.
Through a series of events, Shion becomes the target of the terrorist U-TIC Organization and other mysterious figures, whose goal seems to be the secret path to Old Miltia. Other characters become involved in the conflict, and eventually Shion realizes that she is not alone in her struggle, and that the initial Gnosis attack was but a small part of a complex, multi-layered conspiracy.
After the Woglinde is destroyed, Shion, Cherenkov, Allen Ridgeley (Shion's co-worker), and KOS-MOS are rescued by the Elsa starship, which was investigating the ruins of the starship from the Kukai Foundation. On the Elsa, the group encounters a mysterious boy, chaos, who possesses the supernatural ability to destroy Gnosis with a touch. Unfortunately, this Gnosis still touched Cherenkov. At the request of the new passengers, Captain Matthews escorts them to Second Miltia.
Meanwhile, Margulis explains the significance of U-TIC's plan to recover the Original Zohar from Old Miltia. Immediately after, Vector's CEO, Wilhelm, is shown ordering the Red Testament to "gather the necessary factors."
Cyborg Ziggurat 8 is assigned by the S.O.C.E. founder Juli Mizrahi to rescue the 100-Series Realian prototype, MOMO Mizrahi, who was kidnapped by the U-TIC Organization, as they wanted the Y-Data that she carries inside of her mind by the deceased scientist Joachim Mizrahi (MOMO's creator and Juli's ex-husband); the Y-Data being a mysterious piece of data that contains the steps to finding the Original Zohar on Old Miltia, among other information. The S.O.C.E. then orders Ziggurat 8 to bring MOMO to Second Miltia for testing of the Y-Data. Ziggurat 8 reaches the U-TIC headquarters, Pleroma, and rescues MOMO, who nicknames him "Ziggy". Ziggy and MOMO fight U-TIC leader Margulis on their way out. However, the duo is chased by U-TIC operatives in hyperspace until they encounter the Elsa. The two parties meet, defeat the pursuing U-TIC forces, and decide to join together on their journey to Second Miltia.
During this incident, the never-aging U.R.T.V. unit #666 "Gaignun Kukai Jr." is attacked by a U-TIC battleship while investigating the Woglinde for any signs of the Zohar Emulator. Jr. escapes the U-TIC battleship with a significant amount of U-TIC information.
After stopping at Dock Colony, the Elsa runs into the Cathedral Ship, a planet-sized Gnosis created from the disappeared planet Ariadne and made complete with the Zohar Emulator stolen from the Woglinde. Later, Nephilim appears in Shion's dreams warning her about Andrew Cherenkov's condition, warning that if she doesn't find and save Cherenkov soon, he will die.
Shion and the rest of the party reach the Zohar Emulator facility, Cherenkov is already there and phasing worse. Shion is alarmed and concerned, but Cherenkov snaps at her. He admits his involvement in Ariadne’s disappearance before he is set upon by lights that transform him into a giant, gargoyle-like Gnosis. The Gnosis was called Gargoyle, assisted by two Oudogogues. Reluctantly, Shion and the others had to fight and eventually kill him. While escaping the Cathedral Ship, Cherenkov mutates into a Gnosis and dies.
Shortly before he died, Shion "visited" Cherenkov one final time in his consciousness, where he was sitting on a strange surreal monochrome beach - the Beach of Nothingness. He told Shion how decades ago, killing was his and other human's sole reason for existence, and how after the wars ended, he was unable to live a normal life. Cherenkov told Shion that he liked it there, and that she would be there soon as well. Shion, overwhelmed by his death, falls to the floor and cries, weeping in sorrow for him. Shion is concerned that they may transform into Gnosis in the future, and chaos comforts her. The Cathedral Ship disappears and the team is rescued by the Elsa.
The Elsa is attacked by Gnosis and KOS-MOS uses X-BUSTER to eliminate them, which astonished Shion and Allen as they didn't know she had such a mysterious function. The Elsa and the party are rescued by Jr. and the Durandal starship, which was passing by in search for the Zohar Emulator. Jr. apprehends the Zohar Emulator from the destroyed Cathedral Ship and explains that he now has the twelve Zohar Emulators created by scientist Joachim Mizrahi. However, Zohar Emulators are only contain a fraction of the power that is housed by the Original Zohar, trapped on Old Miltia. The Zohar Emulators are also named after Jesus's Apostles. Jr. also shows them "Betty", one of the test subjects on the Durandal, whose body has halfway turned into a Gnosis.
Jr. takes them back to the Kukai Foundation, where the party is introduced to Jr.'s fellow U.R.T.V. unit, Gaignun Kukai. Eventually, the Galaxy Federation places charges on the Kukai Foundation for the destruction of the Woglinde, due to some manipulation by U-TIC officials and insiders. In order to prove innocence and avoid being framed, Shion leads a dive into KOS-MOS' Encephalon to find her black box, which will prove that the Gnosis were responsible.
In the Encephalon, the party relives Shion and Jr.'s childhood memories, including the Miltian Conflict. Shion encounters the mysterious girl Nephilim, who formally introduces herself as a "moderator of time". Shion encounters a mysterious half-human half-Realian in a church named Febronia. The group enters a place known as the "Acute Neurosis Treatment Facility" and Shion's pain, grief, trauma and psychological damage manifests a Gnosis called Tiamat, which is defeated.
Nephilim explains that a time will come where KOS-MOS will encounter the wave existence U-DO, and in the near future, Shion will free her sisters, Cecily and Cathe. Febronia and Nephilim showed the group a possible future where KOS-MOS fought U-DO and destroyed it along with the universe. Febronia also states that all factions involved must travel to Old Miltia. They promised to eliminate the threat. The group finds KOS-MOS resting on a crucifix in a cave. After awakening her, they were let out of the Encephalon. They tuned in KOS-MOS' AAA level security data to Lapis Roman and were succinctly cleared of all charges from the Federation.
U-TIC realizes that their plot to distract Kukai and Miltia in order to apprehend MOMO has failed, so they dispatch Jr.'s brother and fellow U.R.T.V. unit, Albedo Piazzolla, to formulate his own strategy. Albedo decides to activate the Song of Nephilim, which generates a Gnosis attack around the Kukai Foundation. Shion orders to KOS-MOS to use the Hilbert Effect, and the party proceeds to evacuate the Kukai Foundation. The evacuation is successful, however, in the confusion surrounding the attack, Albedo kidnaps MOMO and brings her to the Song of Nephilim.
Once at the Song, Albedo intimidates MOMO, hoping for her to faint so he can easily get the Y-Data. At the Song, he murders all of his Kirschwassers and tosses them in his chambers. MOMO finds him sitting comfortably on his "throne" of a beheaded kneeling naked woman statue with a sword in its neck, cradling the corpse of a slain Kirschwasser in his hands, before he snaps her arms and tosses her aside.
Albedo vents to MOMO about how humanity is useless, unnecessary, worthless, dispensable, pathetic and powerless and that all human art and culture is simply delusions and says humanity's efforts are a form of terror management as a distraction from the inevitable terror of death and non-existence. To intimidate MOMO, he uses a knife to saw off his own arm (edited from the English-language version of Xenosaga Episode I and made to look as if he rips it off), which he then regenerates. He then decapitates himself, lets his severed head taunt MOMO, and finally crushes his head underneath one foot before regenerating that too. Albedo is greatly amused by the fact that MOMO wants Rubedo (Jr.) to come and save her. Once MOMO lost consciousness, Albedo began to absorb her mind, learning every thought and memory that MOMO ever had.
Shion and the party use a Phase Transfer Cannon to bring the Song into real space. Shion's party enter the Song and defeat Albedo. Before escaping, Albedo successfully searches MOMO for the Y-Data, but is interrupted and only receives fragments of the Y-Data. Afterward, Blue Testament appears and demands that the party travel to Old Miltia. The Song deactivates, and the Gnosis attack is thwarted. However, Albedo has one last goal to accomplish; using the Y-Data fragments, he summons Proto Merkabah, the space station created by Joachim Mizrahi, in an attempt to destroy Second Miltia and the Kukai Foundation. Albedo methodically destroys the Federation fleet in the region, and prepares to fire on Second Miltia. This does not follow the plans of U-TIC, but the Blue Testament (now revealed as Virgil) decides to leave him be.
Inside Proto Merkabah, the party encounters Albedo, who summons a Gnosis called Sophie Peithos to "test" the party and give him time to escape. Albedo sets Merkabah on a collision course with Second Miltia, which the party stops by breaking the space station into thousands of pieces. However, during re-entry, the Elsa's heat shield begins to disintegrate; KOS-MOS briefly morphs into a powerful being to prevent the Elsa from being destroyed.
Shion's brother, Jin Uzuki, visits his parents memorial on Second Miltia, and sees the Elsa arrive. Meanwhile, Albedo discovers that the Y-Data is protected; he tells U-TIC that MOMO will have to connect to the U.M.N. for the data to work. While these events are transpiring, Wilhelm stares at his Compass of Order and Chaos, realizing that the chaos ring is finally moving, understanding that his plans are going in full motion. He tells Red Testament that Albedo is the only key to open the way to Abel's Ark. Back on the Elsa, Shion welcomes KOS-MOS's safe return and the group flies to Second Miltia, leading to the next installment.
The player controls a party of up to three characters, one of which represents the group on the map screen. Players progress the story by traversing the areas and fighting various enemies and bosses along the way. Enemies are not encountered randomly; they are placed at select locations on each map. When the player touches an enemy, they will enter a battle.
Like many RPGs, battles feature turn-based combat, which involves a numeral system that determines health (Hit Points), magic/Ether (Ether Points), and damage (numbers appearing after each attack or healing). Status Effects are common in Xenosaga. Characters gain experience points after each battle; when a character obtains a certain amount of points, they level up. Levels measure a character's statistical power, although there are other ways to increase statistics (see below). However, Xenosaga introduces several concepts into the battle system.
When attacking an enemy, characters may initiate a string of different attacks using . However, the number of attacks that may be used is determined by the amount of Action Points (AP) that the character has stored. Characters obtain AP at the start of their turn, but they can also save up to six unused points.
When a party member attacks, their "Boost gauge" will increase. When the gauge increases by one unit, that character may "Boost", which means they will immediately receive a turn in battle, interrupting the enemy and other party members. Each character can hold up to three "boost" commands in one battle. Boosting is extremely important.
Players can summon attack mechs called A.G.W.S. The character assigned to the summoned A.G.W.S. will board it. Although the A.G.W.S. units generally feature special attacks and higher statistics, they are limited in turns, ammunition, and actions (for example, a character may not heal another when they are inside an A.G.W.S.). This system is similar to the "Gear" battle system from Xenogears.
In addition to monetary and experience awards after each battle, characters will obtain Ether, Tech, and Skill points upon completing a battle. Ether points can be spent to obtain new Ether, or magical spells that are unique to each character. Tech points are used to increase stats, such as attack power, Hit Points, and dexterity. Finally, Skill points can be used to obtain special commands, status attack guards, or other features.
The game features no universal world map, but the player can travel to several regions of the game through the Encephalon, a location replicator also seen in Episode II and Episode III.
While walking around, the a mini-map features a small radar that detects the locations of enemies and allies.
Other features include an in-game database, several mini-game "plug-in" systems that can be accessed from Shion's portable U.M.N. console, and an e-mail system that allows players to make playful decisions that have little significance to the main plot, although some e-mail answers can result in earning extra items.
Episode I includes a treasure hunt sidequest, in which the player may find decoders for fifteen locked doors scattered throughout the game. The doors lead to various treasures and skills.
Episode I contains four mini-games, but they must be obtained with Passports. After obtaining a Passport, go to any save point with a blue EVS plate above it and enter the menu. Select items and hit the R1 button and select the Passport.
- Xeno Card - A card-based game that requires "Card Passport". Talk to bartender robot on the Elsa in the dining room.
- Drilling - A drilling game that requires "Drill Passport". On the Woglinde before the Gnosis Attack, on the east side of the ship near a giant drill (looks like a spread out crane game) with debris around. Talk to the operator and use the drill to get rid of the debris. The operator will then give you the passport.
- Poker / slots - Poker and slot machines that requires "Casino Passport". Find it in the residential area on the Durandal.
- A.G.W.S. Battle - Requires "Battle Passport". You can get it as soon as you exit the KOS-MOS Simulator in the Woglinde. Talk to the scientist by the red chair and go back in the simulator. Run back to the room with the red box and open it.
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode I Original Soundtrack
The soundtrack was composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The soundtrack for Episode I was the orchestra's most prominent Xenosaga-related project. The score of Xenosaga is intended to be beautiful, haunting, melancholic, and emotional.
Episode I featured one battle theme that was used in all fights and bosses except for the final boss.
A scene of Albedo menacing MOMO on the Song of Nephilim was censored.
The Japanese version has him snapping a Kirschwasser's arm. In the censored English version, he merely lets go of it. Despite the censorship, the sound of the Kirschwasser's broken arm and Albedo whipping out his knife remain, which can lead to confusion.
The Japanese version has him whip out a knife and cut his arm and head off, with blood. In the censored English version, he physically tears his arm and head off his body.
Episode I received praise from critics, earning a generally favorable 83% on Metacritic.
Most critics enjoyed the well-developed plot, characters, and music.
Some argued that the long cutscenes ruined the pacing of the game. The game has about 7 hours of cutscenes. At one point in the game, there's a 40 minute cutscene and the game actually asks the player if they wish to save between cutscenes. Some boss battles can also take a long time.
Although the music was well-received, there are long moments of silence when exploring some dungeons - some players felt it made the dungeons feel hollow, lifeless, boring and empty. Also criticized was the lack of diversity of battle themes.
On November 6, 2003, Namco released a special version of Episode I in Japan called Xenosaga Episode I: Reloaded, which featured the English voice-acting and a few special features, including two additional armors which serve as alternate costumes for KOS-MOS (Archetype outfit) and MOMO (Kirschwasser outfit) and a play-back library of all the game's movie scenes. However, this version was not released outside of Japan.
The Archetype outfit is found in the Woglinde A.G.W.S. Hangar. The Kirchwasser outfit is found during the Song of Nephilim in the third tower.
Reloaded appears to use an early version of the English dub, as Realians are called "Synths" in some cutscenes. Also, the censored scenes with Albedo from the American version are also used here.
Xenosaga: The Animation
- Main article: Xenosaga: The Animation
A 12-episode anime based on Xenosaga Episode I, titled Xenosaga: The Animation, premiered in Japan on January 5, 2005.
The anime itself follows the story of Xenosaga closely, albeit removing several scenes and adding others. Some scenes were entirely re-written for the show's purposes. The pacing has the viewer running through the first ten to fifteen hours of gameplay of Episode I in the first five episodes. Given the nature of the anime, it works best as a supplement to Episode I; some points that the game explained poorly or didn't explain at all are revealed in the anime.
- Website (Japanese)
- Cutscenes (English)
- Cutscenes (Japanese)
- Movie version (English)
- Movie version (HD) (English)
- Xenosaga Episode I FMV Pack