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Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra

Xenosaga has bewildered us with its intricate stores as much as it has wowed us with its gorgeous graphics and intriguing gameplay. Now, the series is getting its final episode. The drama is amped up, and the gameplay is streamlined. What we're wondering now is: can the series rebound from an awkward second installment and find the greatness the original promised? There's no more room for mistakes.

Fortunately, signs are looking good that this adventure is worthy of the name. The story has gotten even more exciting - smart and sexy scientist Shion Uzuki has gotten fed up with the role her company played in the alien conspiracy and struck out on her own. KOS-MOS, the ultra-powerful android that combats the unspeakable horror of the alien Gnosis, continues to develop her personality and powers.

And T-elos, her rival, has come onto the scene. She's just as beautiful and even deadlier - and shady super-corporation Vector has complete control. Even worse, Shion suspects that T-elos will be dispatched to combat not the Gnosis, but humankind. This is very, very bad news - because T-elos can destroy dozens of Gnosis with a flick of her wrist. Humans are a lot softer.

Gameplay wise, we're back up to speed. The foolish changes made to the last game - the abolishment of shops and money, the dull character skill system - have been totally rectified. Basically, the game's being fleshed back out to what you'd expect. A multiplayer minigame and the Xeno Bible, which should answer the inevitable hordes of lingering questions about the series, are also being crammed in.

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