#2 - The Xenosaga Trilogy (Der Wille zur Macht + Jenseits von Gut und Bose + Also sprach Zarathustra)
I'm one of the rare few who never really got into Xenogears, and while that's extreme blasphemy in some circles, I mostly attribute it to the fact the script was done by Masato Kato, someone who's work I've never enjoyed and found overwrought and pretentious (and also the main reason I wasn't able to fall in love with Chrono Trigger like everyone else did but that's neither here nor there). But Xenosaga? Xenosaga blew me away.
You ever play a game at the right age and the right time under the right circumstance? Even more than Lunar fit me like a glove, Xenosaga washed over me and made me feel welcomed its whole ride, as bumpy as production could be (thanks for nothing, Namco). I was about 17 when I first played it and nearly out of school, and almost nearly an adult. By the time I was 20, the trilogy was over and I had become a full adult. I feel like these games helped prepare me for that and I look at them now as my Childhood's End. We all get one; whether we realize that's what it is at the time or not, something will help usher us in to adulthood and Xenosaga was there for me in many ways.
It's not an easy series to describe. It's soaked deep in many philosophies and religious theory, and was cited frequently by people as a source of frustration and dislike for making them look things up in order to understand things, even with built in game encyclopedias. There was even some baffling accusations of it being a veil for Japan sympathizing with the Nazis, because it had influences from Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself was very anti-Nazi and was saddened that Wagner, whom he most likely was in love with, was a raging anti-Semite. It was Nietzsche's sister that sold his work to Nazis to use as propaganda after his death, and we have her to think for this unfortunate association. The games are ultimately about two major themes in Nietzsche's work; eternal recurrence and existentialism with an emphasis on individual virtues. It's a series about being human, even if you're not A Human. It's about giving life and the universe a chance, even if it looks like entropy will swallow us all any second now, we should have the right to face that instead of being babied. It's also a game about curry, internet rabbits, a man's dream being a giant robot, and shorty shorts. It's not a game for everyone, hell, it's not a game for most people, but it was definitely for me.
But that last paragraph alone is part of what these games did is they made me curious. They had me reading religious text and theory, I was reading the history or people like Jung and trying out short stories from people like Asimov. Ultimately, I wound up reading Nietzsche's book "Thus SPake Zarathustra" and found it immensely inspiring and insightful, and while a couple parts of it are dated, 98% of it was usable and applicable to my life, and I've been able to develop myself much better as a result of reading that.
I wouldn't have been inspired to do so without this game. This game also teaches hope. Its development cycle was supposed to span 7 games and much more information (a lot of it only existing now on wikis or in Japanese guides) but Namco kept slashing at it and screwing with it until it was doomed to end at 3 games. But it still ends with an underpinning of hope.
Maybe I'm biased because I'm on a first name basis with Soraya Saga, one of its creators, and she is one of the most genuinely kind and warm people on this planet. I was able to meet her thanks to her making this, and she is a genuine inspiration to me, and I am honored to be able to call her my friend, and honored more she calls me her hero. It was just before Christmas, shortly after Xenosaga 2 came out, and despite the executive meddling, and a warning on her now defunct website to not ask her any Xeno related questions, I summoned my courage anyways and emailed her letting her know simply she was one of my heroes, not just in the industry, but as a creative force. That was it. She emailed me back, much to my surprise, and drew me a Christmas card and said she ought to be thanking me, since young female gamers are her heroes and what gives her hope and inspiration.
Now the part that's amazing is years later, I found her on her now defunct DeviantArt and spoke to her and she remembered me. And then again more years later on tumblr I found her and she remembered me well enough to draw me a birthday card. She's done this for others too and she is just an incredible human, and you can tell she did her homework for these games, and it's a shame more people can't appreciate what I think she's done for us all.
I also have this series to attribute many very long term friendships I still have to this day, despite all the forum and website drama we had to endure, though nowadays I can look back on it and think of it as part of the experience. It all happened for a reason and hey, we're still here and we're still friends.
"I still believe, come what may" is a lyric from its final ending song and it's still with me to this day as a reminder.
By the time I finished Xenosaga and all that it entailed, I had made a famous friend and began to understand things like entropy and the human condition, since it encouraged me to try and learn. Most of my other favorites made me want to be a hero and a swordsman, but Xenosaga legitimately made me a better human being. It set me on a course to go find myself, embrace it, and use it to better humanity. If I can. I still had a lot to sort out but with that hope, I knew I could get there, come what may.
The moon is gone. And the night is still so dark. I'm a little bit afraid of tomorrow.
But I will go. I'll go over. I will go.
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