Thursday, October 18, 2012

Xenosaga 3's Boss Fights

After screwing up my courage for years after the mess that is Xenosaga 2, I finally got around to playing and beating Xenosaga 3 recently. While the phrase “narrative clusterfuck” is a tremendous understatement when describing this game’s plot and characters, and I’m fairly certain I could easily create a list of 50 mistakes Xenosaga 3 makes in its storytelling just off the top of my head, I actually did enjoy it a good deal more than Xenosaga 2, and I’d even say it has some worth and meaning in it...if you really, REALLY go diving in deep for it. But heavier discussions such as those are for another day (or maybe never; if I got started talking about the problems with Xenosaga 3’s story, I might never stop, and I’m saving my “Never Ending Discussion of Why it’s Stupid” energy for an eventual rant on the Synthesis option of Mass Effect 3’s ending). For this rant, I’m just going to pose this annoyed question, instead:

Why the hell can’t the player ever seem to actually win in this game?

I’m talking about the boss fights, specifically. Oh, sure, you get into a boss fight in this game, well, you can pretty much always actually beat the battle itself (kinda have to, or it’s Game Over). I mean...okay, look, there are, basically, 26 bosses in this game, not counting the 2 super special ultra bosses. Now, after winning the boss battle, these are the bosses who are, once the battle is over, completely gone, completely dead/destroyed, or thoroughly defeated and unable to fight more or flee: Sigdrifa, Aludra Calf, ES Nephtali, Mai and Leupold, Pellegri, the three Asura Series 27, Citrine, each of the 4 elemental thingies in Abel’s Ark, ES Gad and ES Joseph, ES Issachar (piloted by Pellegri), ES Levi (piloted by Margulis), and the final boss, Zarathustra. That’s 15 of the boss battles in this game where you actually can beat the boss. Just a little over half.

That means that almost half of the rest of the boss battles in this game end up having the enemy either being quite strong enough to escape, strong enough to keep fighting, or, most often, shrugging the whole fight off and behaving as though they were not hurt at all. The first time your characters fight Margulis in the ES Levi, he is, immediately after the boss battle, still up and ready for more. The Omega Universitas is clearly damaged by your boss fight against it, but more than capable of escaping (which seems pointless; it’s never seen again to my knowledge, so why not just have it get scrapped?). Beat Virgil and Voyager in combat, and each time they’ll obviously be totally unharmed afterwards, taunting the player’s characters about it. Yuriev is only defeated when an outside party steps in after the battle (as was the case with Virgil and Voyager, for that matter). And so on.

I mean, alright, this sort of thing is not exactly unknown to RPGs. It’d take me a while to name a full dozen RPGs in which there are no instances of the plot dictating the heroes be unable, at one point or another, to defeat an enemy. Lavos is supposed to win in the Ocean Palace in Chrono Trigger, Kefka perpetually gets away from every battle he loses in Final Fantasy 6, and and the Exile can’t manage to counter Darth Sion’s regenerative powers during their first battle on Korriban in Knights of the Old Republic 2. And those are all games of distinctive quality. Plot happens, certain individuals can’t be eliminated too early, I get that.

But 11 times in one game? And nearly always these instances occur when the Xenosaga cast is engaging in combat with anyone of any significance. I mean, most of the boss battles in Xenosaga 3 that you CAN beat are just the random filler enemies--large monster-ish things, momentarily misguided good-guy NPCs, flunkies, etc. It seems like any time you actually fight someone that matters, it’s utterly pointless; they’re either going to be totally fine after the boss battle and get away, or they’re going to be totally fine after the boss battle and require defeat through some other story-driven means. What’s the point of fighting the game’s villains at all if you’re never going to be the one to actually defeat them?

Is this a small gripe? Well, yeah. Certainly not worth even the time it’s taken to write this rant. But all the same, it DOES get annoying at a certain point, and I believe that it does lessen the narrative strength of the game (in addition to the countless flaws that already turn Xenosaga 3’s storytelling into a horrible mess, I mean). Because after a certain point of watching deus ex machina get called in for the tenth time to take care of an enemy that you just spent 20 minutes beating on, you start to wonder why the hell you’re being partnered with heroes who can’t actually accomplish their goals themselves, and question the strength of a plot which would necessitate so many of its important conflicts be rendered bogus.


  1. Minor Final Fantasy IX spoilers ahead.

    This is the kind of thing that bugs me with RPGs. I may be a bit high-minded - or just a snobby elitist - at times, but I can enjoy the silliest premise if it's at least consistent, and some thought apparently went into making the package a cohesive whole.

    Gameplay doesn't need to have textboxes throughout to complement the storyline, but it can reinforce certain things entirely through gameplay mechanics. Even if it's not complementing the story at all, it's still not compelled to contradict what you're being told.

    This split between what games tell me and what they show me is annoying. Even hopeless boss fights can have mechanics that indicate a sense of helplessness or futility without having to retcon events you created moments ago. Or, like in Final Fantasy IX with Beatrix, just have this obviously superior foe knock me flat on my ass. Don't give me a drawn out, seemingly legit battle that may or may not go so far as to hand me experience, money, and a VICTORY SCREEN, just to see the script go "STFU gameplay, you're wrong". Because the gameplay, in most of the JRPGs I've played, is the only time I as a player can "make a difference". When I "complete" a game, it's because the game is "incomplete" before I take it and finish it. To take my input and discount it entirely is a bit of an insult.

  2. Ah.."Unwinnable" boss fights they such a pain to begin with but 11 times? damn that's way too many times but oh well you should at least something special for winning hopefully and by that I mean outside of EXP and such.

  3. The Heads I win Tails you lose Trope

    It's even more Glaring because of how "Powerful" KOS-MOS the only one that would not be dead (besides in ES fights) would be TELLOS and even In that cutsceen KOS-MOS dose all the fighting while the other 7 cowers behind her.


    1. 1. Yeah, I was hitting my head in frustration for that whole scene. "WHY. WON'T. ANYONE. HELP. HER." That sort of thing.

      On the plus side, guess what's going to be another rant's topic at some point? Hint: It's related to what I just said, as well as that time in Mass Effect 3 where Shepard and company just stand back and watch their friend get stabbed.

      2. You noticed that, did you? Yeah, I finally managed a (sort of) short rant. Party indeed!

    2. Really? I must be Psychic :P seriously to in two in row?

      Also have you heard of the game Okami and Okamiden its something up your alley especially because your a Persona/zelda fan just a warning charcterization is all over the place sorta because it has to do with Jap mythology.

    3. Well, not in a row, no. "Another rant" "at some point" means some time maybe this year, perhaps, heh.

      I've heard of the game, but I don't know much about it. Might check it out some time, but I've got a pretty full gaming plate, so can't really guarantee anything.