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Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra

That's not even to speak of the all-new battle system. The basics are the same as ever: turn-based back-and-forth battling with three characters versus the enemies. As before, you'll "Boost" characters ahead in the turn queue, and let fly special attacks that are as devastating as they are beautiful to see. To simplify things, specials will consume Boost. Certain attacks wear down enemy stamina, resulting in a "break" state, where the enemy is immobilized. But maybe the best thing about the battles is that they now load instantly: before the transition animation even finishes. It's the fastest yet on the PS2. The E.S. mechs also make their return - with a new one for Jin, Shion's brother, to pilot. You'll explore and battle in these robots whenever the plot determines it's time.



Outside of battle, there's a brand new character development system known as the skill line. Though building your characters' special moves was interesting in the first game, the second game totally dropped the ball. While the new system is still under wraps, anything would be an improvement over Xenosaga Episode II. Xenosaga Episode III is hardly a reinvention of the series, but it's looking to bring things back near the standards set by the original game. With hours of story that should finally answer the questions raised in the original game three years ago, this game's pretty much a no-brainer for any serious RPG fan. But this time around, it looks as if enough improvements are being slotted in to reawaken the interest of those who, maybe rightfully, totally skipped the second game.

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