Incessant self-reminders finally convinced me to complete Xenosaga II since I was in the last area of the game. The goal was to complete it and move on to Xenosaga III which has been sitting around for a couple months now.
It was easy to see why I stopped playing Xenosaga II. Unlike it's forebearer, it housed an over-complicated battle system. To add insult to injury, there's no monetary exchange or even shops for that matter. Even though I had painfully worked all the way to the end of the game, I just lost interest a long time ago. But after completing the game, I deem the experience worth it. In an RPG, sometimes a good story can supersede bad gameplay.
Xenosaga III combines the good things about it's prequels and it leaves for solid gameplay within the realm of familiar RPG mechanics. Gold (or "G"), shops, weapons, armors; the works is there. I was sad to see the button-sequence initiated attacks fade into the night, but they should become easily missed.
I'm on the fence about the new cutscene format. Subtitles are fine, but the addition of the facial expression image in the subtitle bar is a little annoying. It detracts from the feel of the game provided by Episodes I & II. After the usual barrage of scenes though, I think I've adjusted. At least they can be sped up and the entire scene can be skipped if so desired.
One huge praise is the added Database. This provides an overview of Episodes I & II, all the characters, events, history, and concepts. Realistcally, this game couldn't thrive without this information, since it is supposed to make up for the dropped three episodes from the six that were originally planned.
All in all, Episode III has returned me to Xenosaga fandom. I look forward to completing the game (and secretly hoping the Xenosaga universe can see more games).