Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra - hands on

The battle system remains mostly out of reach for the first several hours of play - if you've played Xenosaga before, you know how it is. All the same, we've gotten a bit of a handle on it, and we're happy report that it seems to be right this time. The first game's was confusing and slow, if deep; the second had good ideas but was too rigid to be much fun.

This time, simplicity is still the order of the day, but you'll still be able to pick and choose your tactics, balancing whether you wish to get more attacks by Boosting your characters in for additional turns or using that Boost power for more devastating special moves. You'll also be able to decide whether you want to concentrate on Break - which leaves enemies helpless - or big damage; balancing your fighting style is up to you. Similarly, the in-mech E.S. battles offer opportunities to gang up on enemies but, if anything, we've had even less of a chance to try these out. Our last preview still offers the best look at Episode III's armed conflict.

Xenosaga has always been a series of high-tech mystery. That's the key thing we've taken away from several hours of the last installment, as well. As Shion shakes off her self-doubt and gathers together her companions, new and old, to take on all comers head-on, everything we've seen indicates that Xenosaga Episode III will be the climatic finale that befits its ambitious setup. We're sad to see it go. There's little doubt from what we've seen so far that the no-expense-spared initial installment will remain the most technically and artistically impressive one, but the epic sweep the series has always had - which often makes Final Fantasy seem small and personal - is in full effect. And that's what we play RPGs for, right?

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