Not since the release of Squaresoft's 2001 cinematic masterpiece Final Fantasy X has an RPG been as thoroughly hyped as Namco's gargantuan effort Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht. Big not only in name, the plot-heavy epic is also massive in terms of scope, characterization, and focused ambition. Developed by Monolith Software (the same team that assembled the controversial 1998 RPG Xenogears; the universe of which this newest game is loosely based), Xenosaga is an epic six-part story that's rumored to span three different consoles and almost a decade of time before it finally reaches a conclusion. And while there are still no guarantees made as to whether or not that forecast will hold true, the idea of it all still remains undeniably impressive.
Alas there's still plenty of time to pass before we even begin to approach those later games in the series; and for now all that we have in front of us is this inaugural episode. But to trivialize the beginning of a massive RPG serial like this really isn't warranted. As unlike a similarly multi-part collection started earlier this month (Bandai's .hack), Xenosaga is as much a stand alone piece as it is the sum of a much greater scheme. The first step in establishing 15,000 years of conflict and mystery, Der Wille zur Macht has connotations every bit as stimulating as the Nietzsche-philosophy that it's based on. Thought provoking and borderline controversial, Xenosaga is a great many things to be sure; but what it is above all else, is undeniably good.
To speak too liberally of Xenosaga's plot would do a great injustice to anyone who wants to experience it. But for the sake of being thorough and informative, the basic idea is along the lines of this: Six thousand years into the future (aka T.C. 4767) humankind has abandoned their home and left the Earth for dead. Having unlocked the secrets to space travel, the Terrans have taken to the universe in order to feed their thirst for knowledge and become a society of science and advancement. Its latest mystery is a powerful ancient artifact known only as the Zohar. Supposedly in existence since the dawn of time itself, the Zohar represents a great many things to a great many people and could hold the key of all existence somewhere within its confines.
That's where the player comes in. Assuming the role of Vector Industries' Science Chief Shion Uzuki, the game truly kicks off as her team puts the finishing touches on an ultimate android weapon known as KOS-MOS. Built specifically to battle the Gnosis and bodyguard the Zohar, KOS-MOS could be mankind's last and only hope. The storyline doesn't stay simple for long though, as in only a matter of hours, new players, characters, sub-plots, and the involvement a rogue group of terrorists known as U-TIC bleeds into the machination with motion picture-like zest. Calling the game "Epic" would be an understatement, though completionists may be disappointed to learn that several of the underlying subplots go unanswered until the next episode.