Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra | Official Artwork

If you know me just a little bit, you know Xenosaga is my life. Ever since Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht released back in 2003, I can’t get the series off my mind. I’ve worked on a few fan projects and even wrote some fan fiction. I’ve even accumulated a substantial Xenosaga figure collection. However, when the series was cut short from its original six game saga to just three, I was devastated. The ending to Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra tears me up to this day, for being a beautiful ending and for reinforcing that this is it, that’s all we get.

Suffice it to say, you can imagine my reaction when Soraya Saga, former co-writer for Xenosaga  and wife of fellow co-writer and creator, Tetsuya Takahashi, posted this Tweet:

 

At first, I was incredibly excited. After the hardship that went into the Xenosaga series (Soraya Saga was removed after one game and a cell phone spinoff, Tetsuya Takahashi stepped down from director after Episode I), I had a bad feeling the two wouldn’t want to return to the series, especially after the popular success of Takahashi’s most recent series, Xenoblade. At least, I had thought it would bring up bitter memories. However, to see that Tweet made me feel like a teenager again, giddy with excitement at some scrap of news for more Xenosaga.

But then good ol’ pessimism made its way into my mind, as it usually does these days.  “Of course, if anyone would like to invest in it.” Invest being the keyword here. Xenosaga started with some decent sales. If you trust VGChartz, Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht sold roughly 1.74 million copies worldwide. Even if you don’t, the game did achieve Greatest Hit status in North America. However, these sales dipped with the next game, Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse, to around 580,000 worldwide. And then the nail in the coffin, Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra sold roughly around 370,000 copies worldwide. The series ended prematurely for a reason: it just wasn’t selling very well. If Nintendo hadn’t purchased 80% of Monolith Soft’s stocks back in 2007, we may not have seen any more titles out of the company period.

Is it possible for the Xenosaga series to revive? Let’s look at this in a few ways.

Xenosaga HD Collection

Back in 2014, Katsuhiro Harada, producer for the Tekken series at Namco Bandai, mentioned the possibility of creating an HD collection for the Xenosaga series. Doing so would not only improve the games but also introduce the series to a newer generation of gamers. And, who knows, if sales are good, we could see a Xenosaga Episode IV. Granted, the HD collection of Zone of the Enders pretty much killed the possibility of seeing a sequel in that series due to bad quality and poor sales.

Xenosaga HD Collection | Operation KOSMOS

I’m getting ahead of myself. Harada said this in 2014. Where is the Xenosaga HD collection? Back then, he said the best way to get the HD collection approved would be the support of “several tens of thousands” of fans. In response, a fan petition was created, but, as of this day, it has only generated 11,341 signatures, a far cry of the “tens of thousands” the company needs. Even tweeting Harada, as the #OperationKOSMOS movement originated, did not stir enough responses. Xenosaga fans are a dying breed.

However, with the recent announcement of an HD collection for the .hack//G.U. series, hope isn’t completely lost. The .hack series is roughly around the same age as Xenosaga, the G.U. trilogy beginning around the same time Xenosaga ended back in 2006. That series too has not had a new game in a long time. However, the .hack series is a tad bit more popular, with around 10 games under its belt along with several anime series. Xenosaga received a single anime series, but, well…I wouldn’t recommend it.

If anything, it would be great to have Xenosaga on the PlayStation Store as a downloadable PlayStation 2 Classic. Currently, only a handful of games are available on the PlayStation 4, none of which being a Namco Bandai game. Sony even took suggestions via Twitter for PlayStation 2 Classics on PlayStation 4. Even if Namco Bandai wanted to add Xenosaga to the list, the phase of putting PlayStation 2 games on the PlayStation 4 seems to either have come to an end or Sony is being really quiet about when they will add the next batch of titles. With only 47 games after two years, one can have their doubts.

Kickstarter

As soon as Tetsuya Takahashi said the word “invest,” I immediately thought of crowdfunding. If Namco Bandai isn’t interested in reviving Xenosaga, put it in the hands of the fans! Take my money!

But seriously, Kickstarter has become a healer of sorts, reviving video game series, TV shows, etc. Shenmue III became Kickstarter’s fastest funded game, reaching its $1 million goal in less than two hours. Even cult hit Torment: Planescape was able to get a sequel, Torment: Tides of Numenera, earning over $4 million.

Shenmue 3 | Kickstarter
Shenmue 3 | Crappy, squiggly line added for emphasis.

Of course, there’s always the horror stories of failed Kickstarters and campaigns that left backers empty handed. However, this is Monolith Soft we are talking about. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is releasing two years after their last game, Xenoblade Chronicles X, because of their efficient use of the same engine. They know how to manage their time and resources.

In an interview with Gamespot, Takahashi mentions Monolith Soft sustains itself by working on big projects. Xenosaga Episode IV would potentially have to set itself up as a game accessible to newcomers in order to increase interest. However, with Kickstarter, I feel Monolith Soft would be given a little bit more freedom in terms of how to create their project. They could create a project without worries of losing money or catering to a user base who can’t tell KOS-MOS from T-elos. Granted, since Monolith Soft is owned by Nintendo, there could still be a limitation on content due to censorship, but every single Xenosaga saw some sort of censorship when it was localized. Not that I’m defending the practice. I still have a sore spot for the edits done to Xenosaga Episode III: blood was removed from the game entirely, making some cutscenes thoroughly confusing with its absence.

However, with a Kickstarter campaign comes the headache of backer rewards, stretch goals and hidden fees. What would be the best way to handle rewards for Xenosaga Episode IV? A good reward can entice people to spend more money than they intended. Some Kickstarter games allow for backers to either become NPCs in the game or create them. Something like that could work if implemented properly, or it could add unnecessary time to the project. Furthermore, the world of Xenosaga could be bloated with goofy and random characters that don’t fit at all. The Professor and Assistant Scott fill this role enough.

Xenosaga Emission E1
Xenosaga Emission | One of three art books created for each game, showing not only art but other tidbits about the games.

So, how should Monolith Soft reward its backers without impacting the game itself? If anything, a soundtrack would be great, even cheaper if it is just a digital copy. (Side note: Who would you want to compose Xenosaga Episode IV: Yasunori Mitsuda or Yuki Kajiura?) I know I would pay top dollar for a Xenosaga Episode IV Emission art book, though a physical copy would be ideal. In essence, rewards for the campaign would be beneficial to long-time fans but without corrupting the integrity of Tetsuya Takahashi’s vision of the game.

However, this is all a fantasy. As mentioned earlier with the HD collection campaign, the Xenosaga fanbase is dwindling. Would there be enough interest to invest in such a project? I mean, I’m raising my hand all the way to the ceiling, but let’s be honest. The good part about a crowdfunding campaign, one individual can invest as much money as they want. On the downside, one individual can invest as little money as they want as well. In the words of chaos, “I want to believe in the light of human beings’ will,” but, unlike him, I am skeptical.

Why Not Nintendo?

When Xenosaga was created, the series was published by Namco (later Bandai Namco). Once sales dropped, Bandai Namco cut the series short. However, Nintendo owns Monolith Soft and publishes most if not all of their titles. So, the easiest question you might be asking: Why doesn’t Nintendo fund Xenosaga Episode IV? After all, Nintendo did earn a $569 million profit last year. Why not slide some of that money Monolith Soft’s way to make their own passion project? Nintendo still takes risks creating unique and innovative consoles, even if they don’t always perform so well.

As things usually are, it’s not that easy. Before Xenosaga, before Monolith Soft was even born, there was Xenogears. First proposed as Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears became a new IP over at Squaresoft (now Square Enix). The game was part of an ambitious series directed by Tetsuya Takahashi. However, only one game, Xenogears Episode V, was created. When Takahashi and several others left Square to create Monolith Soft, they couldn’t take Xenogears with them. Instead, Xenosaga was born, a series imbued with similar themes and characters but ultimately a completely different series. The same story repeats itself with Xenoblade, but that series is even more different than its Xeno siblings.

What am I getting at? Xenosaga was published by Bandai Namco. Nintendo is now the owner of Monolith Soft. Meaning, we have a similar situation as Square: Bandai Namco owns the rights to Xenosaga. If anything Xenosaga related happens, Bandai Namco has to be a part of it.

Project X Zone
Project X Zone | Let’s play a game of “Where’s KOS-MOS?”

Does this make the idea of Nintendo pushing for a Xenosaga Episode IV impossible? Certainly not. After all, Nintendo did something similar with the Bayonetta series. Originally published by Sega, the sequel might not have seen the light of day if not for Nintendo’s interference. Furthermore, Monolith Soft has created several games that happen to feature characters from Xenosaga, most recently the Project X Zone series. The relationship between Bandai Namco, Nintendo, and Monolith Soft does not seem bad in the slightest.

So, how do we send a message to Nintendo that we want more Xenosaga? Easy: support Xenoblade. I know what you’re thinking. The Xenoblade Chronicles series has already proven more financially successful than Xenosaga and even Xenogears. What’s the point of supporting another series?

Xenoblade Chronicles X
Xenoblade Chronicles X | The KOS-MOS I created. Uncanny, no?

Imagine a game that fuses the amazing story telling of Xenosaga and the addictive gameplay of the Xenoblade franchise. Xenoblade Chronicles X may have been the closest we will get to that idea: a mysterious story with Xenosaga references so blunt that it made me swoon. Sales were pretty good for that title, if not comparable to the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Takahashi himself admitted X is a completely different series from the original Xenoblade, which I hope means we’ll be seeing more in the future. I mean, the game wasn’t the next Xenosaga by any means, but it slowly started to bring back the magic that made old Xeno games so appealing: great characters, mysterious story, philosophical themes, and the ability to pilot awesome giant robots. With Xenoblade Chronicles 2 using the same engine established with X, development time could be cut just the same if Xenosaga used the same engine as well.

In the end, though, Nintendo is a company that wants to make money. Whether they would want to support the Xenosaga series seems pretty low, given the series’ poor sales.

So, the likelihood of a new Xenosaga is…

…really low. Granted, I’m a pessimist, but with bad sales and even a failed fan campaign, I just don’t see it happening. Tetsuya Takahashi is right: someone will need to invest in a new Xenosaga, but it seems more and more likely that no one is willing to take the risk. If anything, I would love Monolith Soft to at least give crowdfunding a chance just to see how willing the die-hard fans are at getting a new game, or even an HD collection. However, one thing gives me hope these days: If Twin Peaks can get a third season over two decades later, anything is possible.

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