Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra (ゼノサーガ エピソードIII ツァラトゥストラはかく語りき Zenosāga Episōdo Surī Tsaratusutora wa Kaku Katariki, lit. Xenosaga Episode III: Zarathustra Speaks) is a JRPG for the PlayStation 2. It is the third and final game in the primary Xenosaga series, following Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse.
A year after the Pope's assassination and the war in Miltian space, a new pope has taken his place. The amount of Gnosis terrorism has increased but Vector Industries has denied involvement. Suspecting corruption in the church and religion and Vector, Shion Uzuki decides to investigate Ormus and the Zohar to discover Ormus' origins and find some truth about the Miltian Conflict.
Episode III begins with Kevin Winnicot's memories of Michtam's destruction in 4747. Gnosis were unleashed when the Zohar went out of control by the Galaxy Federation. A fleeing eight year old Kevin and his mother escape to the spaceport. After Kevin was loaded into the escape pod, his mother gives him her pendent and locks him in the escape pod. As his mother places her hand on the glass, a horrified Kevin watches as she begins to transform into a Gnosis. His mother gives Kevin a final sad smile as the escape pod shoots into space.
The story shifts back to 4768 T.C., a year after Abel's Ark's first appearance, which had swallowed the Zohar before disappearing from normal space. The various parties had went about their lives; Jin Uzuki continues to work with Jr. and gang behind the scenes to investigate Ormus, while Shion Uzuki returned to Vector Industries with KOS-MOS.
Approximately 6 months after that event, Gnosis attacks began to happen more frequently, targeting cities around the star cluster. Due to the precision of these attacks, many believed that someone was controlling the location of the attacks that were happening. These attacks are termed Gnosis Terrorism.
Due to the acceleration of the Gnosis phenomenon, the Galaxy Federation government issues an evacuation order to planetary governments in the outlying areas of Gnosis activities, stating that the Gnosis phenomenon that occurred in Ogdoas space has resulted in the disappearance of over 100 planetary governments in that region. The Galaxy Federation government has established an emergency task force and deployed A.G.W.S. to the regions in question, but it is believed that it has not resulted in the reduction of the phenomenon.
In a broadcast in Café Stream on Fifth Jerusalem, a news announcer explains that Jose Xavier, commander of the Andras fleet, had declared that his fleet had engaged with an Ormus fleet. The Andras fleet had been sent to investigate an asteroid that was recently discovered in the Gedalya region, where they became locked in a stalemate with the Ormus fleet, which claimed ownership of the asteroid.
Upon receiving this information, the Ormus fleet occupying planet Michtam commenced military action towards the Federation fleet in the region. A spokesman for Ormus has states that they have no desire for combat, and it is believed that the Ormus fleet commenced military action after several of its requests to the Andras fleet to leave the region were ignored.
During one of the investigations by Jin's group on the Gnosis terrorism, Shion discovers a link between her father and the U-TIC Organization. Shion suspects Vector and the U.M.N. are involved in these terror attacks. Having resigned her job as Chief of First R&D of Vector, Shion joined the underground organization Scientia, an anti-U.M.N. rebel group. Enlisting the help of Miyuki Itsumi, her assistant from Vector, Canaan and Doctus, a prominent member of Scientia, Shion breaks into Vector's secret facility to obtain valuable information that was originally only accessible to high level members of Vector. The information leads to the discovery of Project Canaan, of which its true purpose was unknown at this point.
Meanwhile, Vector transfers the KOS-MOS project to the Galaxy Federation military. Allen Ridgeley, the new Chief, is sent together with KOS-MOS to the Federation capital, Fifth Jerusalem. Six months after Shion resigned, Allen invites her to visit him at Fifth Jerusalem. Shion arrives to discover that KOS-MOS was scheduled to face off against the Federation's newest weapon in a public demonstration.
At the CAT Testing Grounds, Shion meets Abel, a boy who is involved with the Zohar Project. With the help of Juli Mizrahi and Allen, Shion was able to witness the Federation's weapons, T-elos and Omega Res Novae. KOS-MOS was badly beaten by Omega Res Novae, which resulted in the termination of the KOS-MOS project.
It was at this moment that a huge mysterious landmass appeared in space. Jr., together with MOMO and the Elsa, departs to investigate it. When they arrive at the area, they are attacked by Margulis in his E.S. Levi. During the battle, the Elsa is damaged and crash-lands on the asteroid, which Margulis refers to as Rennes-le-Château. A hypersphere of energy erupts from the landmass, wrapping around it and trapping the Elsa within, while Jr. and gang barely escape to the Durandal.
Juli deduces that only KOS-MOS has the ability to break open the hypersphere for them to rescue the Elsa. The team makes their way to Fifth Jerusalem and meets up with Shion. Together, they break into the Federation compound to salvage KOS-MOS, which had been dumped at the scrap yard.
With KOS-MOS's help, they manage to break into Rennes-le-Château and make contact with the Elsa. While investigating the area, they are attacked by the Blue Testament, who revealed himself as Lieutenant Luis Virgil, the very man who was killed by KOS-MOS in Episode I.
After fighting Virgil off, the team comes upon an old tomb. T-elos appears and begins a one-sided fight with KOS-MOS, destroying her. Roth Mantel then appears, revealing himself as the Red Testament. At that moment, Shion's pendant began to emit a bright light, engulfing all of Rennes-le-Château.
When the party comes to, they find themselves back on Old Miltia, exactly 15 years ago, days before its disappearance. With no sign of both T-elos and KOS-MOS, the group proceed to look for the Elsa. During the journey, they rescue a young Federation soldier from U-TIC soldiers, who was revealed to be a young Virgil. They bring him to an old church, where he is treated by Febronia. Febronia donates parts of her organs to him, saving his life. It was there that they meet the young Shion, who was just a child 15 years ago.
When the group finds the Elsa, they discover that KOS-MOS's core module was damaged and she may never wake again. Also, the Vessels of Anima that powered their E.S. machines were missing. They then meet Mai Magus and her grandfather Aizen Magus.
Determined to investigate her father's involvement with U-TIC, Shion infiltrates Labyrinthos with Allen. While there, Shion meets up with her father, Suou Uzuki, and discovers that her mother, Aoi Uzuki, was one of the patients housed in the facility and confined his involvement with U-TIC. She also meets a young Kevin Winnicot, her deceased lover and KOS-MOS's creator, who was serving as Joachim Mizrahi's assistant and caretaker of Febronia. Shion finds KOS-MOS's basic theory on Kevin's computer and hastily copies it, in hopes of saving KOS-MOS.
Shion and Allen return to the team with the information that they obtained. With the data from Kevin and the help of the Professor, they rebuild KOS-MOS into version 4. The Black Testament, Voyager, then attacks the Elsa in an attempt to steal the un-activated KOS-MOS. When the Black Testament is about to kill Shion, KOS-MOS awakes and rescued her. With a newly awakened KOS-MOS's help, the team fights off the Black Testament.
In an attempt to change history and prevent the Miltian Conflict from happening, the team returns to Labyrinthos in hopes of stopping U-TIC's experiments. Shion also theorizes that if they obtain the Vessels of Anima, they might have the energy necessary for them to return to their original world as well as discover what Joachim Mizrahi was trying to do. In Labyrinthos, they find the Vessels of Anima in the base and steal them. When they escape with their E.S., Shion hears her mother's name, Aoi, being called over the public announcement system. Returning to Labyrinthos to find her, Shion is caught in her attempt and is questioned by the younger Margulis, Kevin and her father.
Hours away from the Federation's third descent operation, the team decides to return to Labyrinthos to rescue Shion. While held captive, Shion realizes that her father, who does not know her true identity, was secretly aiding her. In the battle between the U-TIC soldiers and the Federation forces, he asks Shion to go look for his daughter at the church and bring her to safety. Unfortunately for them, the Miltian Conflict had already began.
When the team reaches the church, they realize that it was being attacked by Realian troops, who had gone berserk due to the Song of Nephilim. Febronia is killed in her attempt to save the recuperating Virgil and the young Shion. Virgil, who developed a relationship with Febronia during her care, fights the Realian troops to help the rest escape. It was during this moment that the Blue Testament appears. Just as he was about to attack the team, Febronia appears and convinces him to abandon this Testament duty. Together, they disappear into the twilight of the Collective Unconscious.
Young Shion returns to Labyrinthos to look for her parents. The team return to Labyrinthos and find the place to be a mess, with berserk Realians overruning the facility. In a bid to save the young Shion, Shion's father sacrificed himself. The Realians had also brutally murdered Shion's mother in her ward. Filled with grief and anger after witnessing her parents' death, young Shion cries out to the heavens, summoning Gnosis in Old Miltia. Shocked by the realization that it was her who had originally caused the Gnosis to appear, Shion began to glow as well. Abel's Ark appears in normal space and Wilhelm proclaims the first awakening.
The Red Testament appears with T-elos and reveals himself as Kevin Winnicot. He begins to explain how Shion, like her mother, has the ability to "talk" with U-DO. By staying with KOS-MOS, who draws power from the Zohar, Shion is slowly and surely losing her life. Filled with conflicting emotions, Shion attempts to leave with Kevin, but is stopped by the team. The team escapes to the Elsa and return to the present.
It was later that the group realizes that they had made a dive into Shion's subconscious, not the past. Due to the trauma of her parents' death, Shion had suppressed those memories deep inside her. The goal of the Testaments was to re-awake her conscious, in order to bring the Abel's Ark back into normal space.
Meanwhile, Dmitri Yuriev, who had took over Gaignun Kukai's body, sets off with Merkabah and his Federation fleet for Abel's Ark. To stop him, the team infiltrate Merkabah in the Elsa during the chaotic battle between the Gnosis, the Federation, and an Ormus fleet led by Margulis. The team meet Sellers, who reveals that Yuriev needed the Zohar Emulators to unite with Abel's Ark.
At this moment, the Federation forces attack and board the Durandal, killing all the crew except for Mary Godwin and Shelley Godwin, who both held the Arbiter code that seals off the Zohar emulators on board the Durandal. The team returns to the Durandal but was too late to stop Yuriev, who succeeded in activating the Zohar emulators. The team were also forced to kill Citrine. The team almost manage to escape from the Durandal before it was rammed into Abel's Ark, transforming the Ark.
Determined to stop his father, Jr. leads the team into the Ark and defeats Yuriev. At the final moment, the White Testament appears and reveals himself as Albedo. Albedo draws out the Zohar and Abel, and sends them away. Together with Jr., they link up to try to absorb Gaignun's will into Jr.'s mind, in order to save him.
Sensing Albedo's wish to kill Nigredo, who was created to kill the Red Dragon, Gaignun forces himself into Albedo's body and transfers Albedo's mind into Jr., sacrificing himself to perish together with Dmitri Yuriev. Finally fulfilling his wish of psychically linking with Jr., Albedo disappears into Jr.'s consciousness. Just before he disappears completely, he informs Jr. that the Zohar and Abel was sent to the planet Michtam. The team leaves in the Elsa for Michtam, which was currently engulfed in a fierce battle between the Ormus fleet and the Gnosis.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Heinlein reveals himself to Margulis to actually be Wilhelm in disguise. Wilhelm reveals that he created the Ormus religion, as well as the Vector and Hyam Industries for his own purposes. Shattered by their blind faith, Margulis and Pellegri descended into Michtam and fight Jin's group to the death.
In the main Archon cathedral of Michtam, the group fight against the Black Testament, who Ziggy remembers as Voyager, the very man who murdered Ziggy's wife and child. Ziggy tries to face off against Voyager, but Ziggy is no match for him. Voyager reveals that he had tried to convince Ziggy to be a Testament together with him, and that many of the group's members are also suitable candidates to be a Testament.
It's then that Canaan reveals himself as Lactis, and explains the true purpose of Project Canaan. He was created by Wilhelm to observe for suitable traits in the team as candidates to be a Testament. Sensing Voyager's greed for power, Canaan tricks him into attempting to link with Wilhelm's Compass of Order and Chaos. Upon doing so, Voyager is unable to absorb that power, causing the both of them to vanish into another dimension.
The team continue to breach the facility, and fight with T-elos again. T-elos reveals that she has the body of Mary Magdalene, while KOS-MOS has Mary's will stored in her. Thus, T-elos needs to destroy KOS-MOS to absorb Mary's will into her body for her full awakening. T-elos also calls Shion the Maiden of Magdalene, who holds the key to Mary's will. KOS-MOS defeats T-elos and fully awakens.
Kevin appears and tries to convince KOS-MOS and Shion to his side. Shion, blinded by her love, joins him temporarily. When Kevin begins to torture Allen, Shion realizes that she couldn't be with him, and that the happiness she will receive will not be true happiness if she cannot share it with her friends. Kevin, disappointed by Shion's resolve, is called back by Wilhelm.
The team proceed to Zarathustra and along with it, Wilhelm. He reveals that the universe is on the verge of being destroyed. To save the world, he will need to use the power of Anima, as well as the Zohar and Zarathustra, in order to remake the world, and bring it back to the origins again so that they can live this life over and over again through the process of "Eternal Recurrence". To do this, he needs the desire of Shion, as she holds the key to Mary Magdalene's will.
It is revealed that chaos originally had the power of Anima, but was deemed too dangerous and sealed away by Mary Magdalene. The process had caused Mary's death and that power became the Vessels of Anima. Only Mary can unseal that power, and only Shion can make Mary do it.
In order to force Shion to will KOS-MOS to unseal the power of Anima, Wilhelm tortures Shion. Unable to bear seeing Shion being tortured, Kevin attacks Wilhelm, stopping him. Wilhelm reveals that he had anticipated that Kevin would betray him, as he became a Testament only to save Shion. Wilhelm then resumed torturing Shion and Kevin together.
Zarathustra is then unleashed, and seizing his opportunity, Kevin lunges his arm through Wilhelm, in an attempt to control and suppress Zarathustra through Wilhelm, the self proclaimed "operator" of Zarathustra, even if the end result would end in both Wilhelm's and Kevin's deaths. Before this, chaos tells Wilhelm that he believes mankind has the will to change that future and prevent the universe from destruction. The party then attacks Zarathustra and maintains it. Afterwards, Wilhelm acknowledges chaos's will and disappears together with Kevin.
In order to fully stop Zarathustra, which had gone out of control due to the collective minds that were previously gathered by Wilhelm, Mary releases the seal to chaos's power. Together with Nephilim Verum, KOS-MOS, and Abel, chaos attempts to bring those wills back to Lost Jerusalem, to the origin of time. He urges the rest to escape, that they have a mission to change this world.
In their escape, they notice a lot of Gnosis gathering around the area. These Gnosis did not want to leave the world and were determined to stop chaos and Nephilim from completing their ritual. After alighting from the team in Asher, Jin bid them farewell, departing to assist chaos in fending off the Gnosis. A battle erupts as Jin and KOS-MOS fight against the Gnosis to shield chaos. Jin loses his life and KOS-MOS sacrifices herself in an explosion. At this moment, space and time warps and all U.M.N. networks disappear. The Elsa escapes from the space warp and mets up with the Dämmerung.
Afterwards, Jr., Shion, and Allen, together with the Elsa, set off to look for Lost Jerusalem, the land where Jin's, chaos's, and Mary Magdalene's consciousness sleep, and also the land where the key to saving the universe lies.
The game ends on KOS-MOS floating in space. Her right arm and both her legs are gone, and what remains of her body is badly damaged. As she drifts she hears chaos' voice in her head, telling her that apparently the universe still needs them. He then tells KOS-MOS to sleep until they are needed again. KOS-MOS then closes her eyes as she drifts through space, toward the sun rising over Lost Jerusalem.
Enemies are sorted into three types: biological, Gnosis, and mechanical (robots).
Battles are completely different from those in the previous two installments. It is no longer a matter of pressing // to hit Zones to make Breaks. Now there is simply only one command for attack and a list filled with skills called Techniques (Tech), as well as a list full of acquired Ether. The Stock system from Episode II, as well as the "event slot" system from Episode I and Episode II are absent.
The Boost gauge returns and is similar to Episode II in that it is shared with the team instead of each individual member in Episode I. The Boost gauge carries between battles so it is recommended to only use Boost when necessary and save Boost for harder enemies and bosses. A good tip is to keep the Boost one below the maximum (for example, 2/3) and only use a Boost when at maximum (in this example, 3/3). When an enemy is Breaked, the player can use all their Boosts to inflict massive damage in a row. There is various equipment which will increase the maximum boost gauge, with the max being 9.
Techs are centered around doing mainly one of two things: dealing larger damage than normal attacks, or dealing moderate damage with larger Break damage. Both Techs and Ether use EP.
Break is indicated by a red bar. When a player or enemy has Break status, they will kneel with two spinning stars over their head and be unable to act for a few turns. There are Tech attacks which specifically target Break, as well as healing Ether (Break Heal) which can decrease Break damage. When a party member's Break gauge is almost full, it is recommended to use a Break Heal or swap them out for another member. Breaks are mainly a concern in harder longer fights and bosses, instead of fast and easy battles. The Break gauge is emptied between battles.
If the player uses a Special Attack (which uses conserved Boost) to finish a foe or foes, they will receive a "Finishing Strike" bonus, which gives everyone more points and money after battle. The player should power them up by using them a lot (the more you use them, the more powerful they get). The player should use a Special Attack when it looks like an enemy's HP is just about zero, although it may be difficult to predict at times - the player may accidentally defeat the enemy through a non-Special Attack, or their Special Attack may not defeat the enemy. In addition, Special Attacks do not always have to be used at the end and can be used during battle, especially when an enemy is Breaked. Regardless, it is ideal to try to get 2 or 3 conserved Boost for the Finishing Strike at the end.
HP is not restored between between battles so the player should heal after battle when necessary. The player should also walk across yellow save points as they fully heal the party.
A new feature is "trap". There is a Trap counter in the bottom-right of the screen as the player moves around. To use a traps, hold to project where the Trap will be tossed, then press to toss it. Use again to detonate it at the right time.
The player can gain new abilities and stat increases using the Skill Line in the main menu. The Skill Line branches in two main lines, the A line and the B line. Each line is structured to make your character play a defined class, and the two lines are defined according to the character's strengths. Pay attention to the titles of the lines and the Skills (Skills meaning Techs and Ethers both) which you are purchasing to know the general role of each character as you develop them. Much later on, toward the end, the player will get the opportunity to unlock both lines with massive amounts of points you potentially accumulate. However, for most of the game, the player will want to stick to one line, as you they will need higher level Skills for the later and tougher Bosses. Usually, the A line is the character's main class, the role they are used to fulfilling from the previous episodes. It is recommended to build up the A line first, but if the player thinks they can do better with a B line, just stick to that B line.
E.S. battles return. Now, the player can control three at once instead of two like in Episode II. They have "Anima" which fills up when they successfully attack, allowing them to perform a Special Attack, ideally with a Finish Strike at the end of the battle.
Episode III has a mini-game called HaKox. It can be accessed in the G.F.G. Showroom on Fifth Jerusalem, or the diner in the Elsa. It is basically a timing-based game where the characters are in a 3D space on blocks, and the player must press certain buttons to safely transport the characters to a certain destination.
HaKox is divided into 6 worlds. Upon completing a world, the player unlocks:
- Beginner - Decoder 2 and Skill Upgrade A
- Medium - Skill Upgrade B
- Advanced - Skill Upgrade C
- Expert - Ziggy's Swimsuit
- Extreme - Vaquero (Jr.'s final weapon)
- Master - Brave Heart (a necklace which can be worn by anyone which gives Max Boost +3)
- Main article: Xenosaga Episode III Original Soundtrack
Yuki Kajiura (Xenosaga Episode II, .hack//SIGN, Noir, and Madlax) became the sole composer in Episode III. Various remixes, arrangements and reappearances of tracks from the "Xenosaga Episode II: Movie Scene Soundtrack" appear in the game. The soundtrack follows the style of Kajiura's Episode II soundtrack with several key themes from Episode II, chief among them KOS-MOS' theme, appearing throughout the game.
The game soundtrack, "Xenosaga Episode III: Original Sound Best Tracks (Yuki Kajiura selection)" was released on July 12, 2006. It consists of 40 tracks selected by Yuki Kajiura from the game, though it is not a complete release of all the tracks.
The ending theme is "Maybe Tomorrow" sung by Emily Curtis. The soundtrack also contains vocals by Eri Itoh.
The English version of the game was censored. The majority of these edits were for scenes of violence and blood that would have elevated the game beyond the "Teen" rating given by the ESRB to the "Mature" level. The storyline remains identical.
- Shion's shower scene was edited so that less of her lower body is seen during the shower.
- During the Miltian Conflict, all blood is edited from the bodies.
- When Shion's parents are killed, all instances of blood are removed. When Shion sees her mother in the Japanese version, she notices the blood on her mother's bedsheets, while in the English version, there is nothing to confirm that Shion realizes her mother is dead.
- A noticeable instance is a scene in which a horrified young Shion reacts to the death of her mother, Aoi, by wanting to put the blood back in her mother's body. In the Japanese version, her hands are cupping the blood dripping from her mother's bed. In the English version, Shion has nothing in her hands. Also removed was the sound effects of the blood dripping on the floor.
- During the occupation of the Durandal, a Durandal crew member is seen begging for her life. She is seen being kicked to the floor and receiving a gunshot to the face. The English version fades-to-black before the gun fires, but still has the sound effect of her being shot.
- During the assault on the Durandal, all of the corpses lack blood.
- Margulis's death is censored. In the Japanese version, Margulis kills himself with his sword.
- When Allen is attacked by Kevin, there is blood and bruises on his face in both versions of the game. However, for the later scenes, his face is fine in the English version.
- In the ending, while fighting Gnosis, a Gnosis' sword falls from the air and pierces Jin's back, causing him to bleed profusely. Jin removes it and uses his last strength to fight the Gnosis, which pierces him from the front. Jin removes it, causing him to bleed even more from his chest and mouth. In the English version, all the blood is removed.
Xenosaga was a very ambitious project, intended to be about 6 episodes long. Unfortunately, due to budget and time constraints and other factors such as the mixed reception of Episode II, Episode III was forced to condense the rest of the story into a single game, and a lot of ideas were cut out. Story writer Soraya Saga once said that the Episode III in her mind is "so different" from the final game.
Episode III received generally positive reviews and many Xenosaga fans feel Episode III is the best game of the trilogy.
Regarding Episode II, the majority of media and fan outlets felt that the game improved upon Episode II, which many considered a disappointing sequel to the first installment. Specifically, many felt that the new battle system was an improvement over the complicated "zone break" system used in Episode II, and that the voice acting was improved with the return of several popular voice actors which were recast for Episode II, notably Lia Sargent as Shion and Bridget Hoffman as KOS-MOS.
The long cutscenes of Xenosaga return, with Episode III having almost 9 hours of cutscenes, a record in the series. They are also slightly different, with many cutscenes in the form of textboxes. The player can press select to auto-advance them.
Some criticism was also directed at the censorship, and the removal of blood making key plot moments confusing, such as with Shion holding her mother's blood.
- Japanese website
- Cutscenes (Chapter 1)
- Cutscenes (Chapter 2)
- Cutscenes (Chapter 3)
- Cutscenes (Chapter 4)
- Cutscenes (Chapter 5)
- Cutscenes (Chapter 6)