First Impressions: Two times the fun, two times the story, two times the length, two times the KOS-MOS!
The Nintendo DS certainly isn't devoid of role-playing games; after all, there's titles like Lunar Dragon Song and Lost In Blue out there, as well as an extensive library of RPGs on Game Boy Advance. However nothing can prepare you for the doozy that DS owners are set to get soon, in the huge project known as Xenosaga I + II. Though technically these are 'ports' from the PlayStation 2 releases, Xenosaga DS is combining these two PS2 hits into one massive title, crammed with practically everything you need to get the full Xenosaga experience, on the go no less ? and that's not even mentioning the all-new content exclusive to the handheld edition. Right now information is a bit scarce as Namco is focusing on the upcoming Xenosaga Episode III for PS2, but there's just enough to give you a little taste of what will almost certainly be the largest and most comprehensive RPG for the Nintendo DS.
Perhaps you aren't a PS2 owner, so perhaps you know little, if anything, about Xenosaga. A quasi-prequel to the PlayStation classic Xenogears, Xenosaga tells the tale of a world far ahead of our own, where humans have abandoned Earth in lieu of space colonies and 'clones' of what you will come to know as Lost Jerusalem.Though on the surface, Xenosaga looks like a simple science-fiction RPG, with robots, synthesized humans, dead humans recycled into another life...you know, stuff like that. However it goes beyond mere sci-fi fare, with a far deeper and more thoughtful plot that is deep in religious overtones, though it really never gets too preachy unlike Xenogears. As the somewhat bland title (which likely will change as the game nears release) hints, this DS conversion will combine both Xenosaga Episode I and II together onto one game card, letting DS owners see the entire scope of the story, with no PS2 required (though a PS2 would be needed to play the forthcoming finale, Xenosaga Episode III). Better yet, Namco and Monolith claim that there will be even more
story this time around. So if you're already a fan of KOS-MOS, Shion, Jr. and company, there's incentive to revisit the past as well.
The question on everyone's mind though, is "how?" After all, Xenosaga I was a huge dual-layered DVD game, and its sequel was a 2-disc epic, and the DS version is supposed to offer even more. That's a whole lot of content to shrink down into a little package. Clearly, the main change will have to be cutscenes; as those monstrosities likely were the culprit for all that occupied space. Instead, the cutscenes will use the in-game engine without the heaping helping of voice acting to further cram space. For some, this will be a great change, seeing the #1 complaint about Xenosaga is the vast number of cinematics which sometimes makes you think there's more watching than playing. Combining the two plots will be easy enough, since Xenosaga II picks up exactly where Episode I left off without anything in between. Though we don't know exactly how it will be handled yet, its likely the two stories will be sandwiched into one without any in-game interruption, which would be fitting because, as many Xenophiles know, Xenosaga II was supposed to be part of the first Episode anyway. Chances are though, even with two games comprised into one, it will be shortened up a tad, rather than having one game that lasts 60-70 hours.
One thing about the two Sagas is they both had different battle systems, making them far different games. With this DS version, the two will now share the same combat system, which seems to lean towards the Episode I system, a move that will make Xeno fans happy after the whining about the Xeno 2 changes. But that's still up in the air as Namco hasn't released a whole lot yet. There will be both regular combat, and AGWS mech combat too, naturally. Not much has been said about the touch-screen features, but something will likely be implemented even if it's just thrown together simply to make it a 'true' DS game. The 2nd screen will be used for battle info during encounters, and hopefully for some sort of map option when not in fights. It would also be cool to access status screens and whatnot without actually having to access a menu. The 3/4th perspective and sprite-based visuals don't look like they'll be the class of the handheld, but seeing that Namco is cramming two entire PS2 games into one game, I would hope they would get the benefit of the doubt. It may wind up resembling Xenogears more than anything.