Retro: VC Weekly #148

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe's guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo's download service. Written by Sam C Gittins.

If you're a fan of RPG's then you may have heard of this cult-classic NES game and if you haven't well... you're in for a treat if you decide to download this newly added title. Anyway enough from me and on with the game!

Available for download this week we have...

  • Faxanadu

Points: 500
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Released: 1990
System: NES

There aren't a huge amount of people that have actually heard of Faxanadu and even fewer still are likely to be less than familiar of its spiritual prequel Xanadu or even the Dragon Slayer series that started it all, unless you live in Japan of course. That's because Faxanadu was the only entity in this 'series' to be released within Europe and as a result has become a bit of a cult classic; and rightly so indeed.

Anyone who fondly remembers Zelda II will no doubt love this game because in many ways it's a spiritual successor to it except in the areas where the former game falls down, Faxanadu actually excels. It actually came about in a similar manner too owing to the fact that games in the 'series' that proceeded it had been from the overhead perspective whereas this game is purely limited to side-scrolling, which is a definite positive.

You take on the role of a hero who has no name as you return from a great adventure to your home-town which is situated at the foot of the great World Tree, no sooner have you returned though your people inform you of the dire circumstances that have befallen the land since your recent departure. Both the Dwarves and the Elves who once lived in peace inside the World Tree have been turned against each other by an interstellar traveller known only as the 'Evil One' and ever since these tragic circumstances occurred every last one of the trees water springs has dried up and all of the towns upon the great trees branches are slowly being overrun by monsters.

Of course being the Hero the task of defeating the Evil One and restoring all of the water springs falls upon you as you set off from your once peaceful home-town of Eolis as you climb the gargantuan tree, visiting many dungeons along the way in the pursuit of your eventual goal of bringing the one responsible for all this to swift justice by your own blade. From this point everything feels like Zelda II but oh so much better, as you go about dispatching enemies with your might and magic, jumping perilous gaps and obtaining many keys and important items that will aid you in your quest.

Much depth is added to the experience through the ability to upgrade your equipment at each town which is most definitely recommended as each upgrade bestows upon you that much more power which will in turn make your quest just that little bit easier. Experience is earned from defeating enemies but it only amounts to a change in title which in turn will ensure that you start off with more gold in the unfortunate event of your in-game demise.

In a stark contrast to Zelda II which could be hard to figure out even at the best of times, here the way forward to you is always clear as the Townsfolk are genuinely helpful in their limited dialogue so you should never be wandering around aimlessly for too long. Another nice touch is that you can purchase potions that will either heal you are revive you upon death rather frequently not to mention being able to buy keys for dungeons, this usually ensures that you're always able to make progress quickly which is most welcome in this type of game.

Visually this may not look like the prettiest NES game at first glance but take a closer look and you may start to notice the subtle detail that is present in many areas throughout the game, while aurally the accompanying music is quite stunning as it becomes more hauntingly beautiful the higher up the tree you go. The only major complaint is the password system whereby you have to visit a church and then be given a lengthy string of characters to remember, fortunately the Virtual Console's suspend feature helps matters somewhat but it would have been nice to have had the same save system that was present in the original Japanese version.

Overall this is a thoroughly decent and enjoyable RPG that manages to take the best elements from Zelda II and then refines the experience to a point where it's a masterful example within its genre. Faxanadu is a rare example of how to create a side-scrolling adventure title and it succeeds on nearly every level; you'd be hard pushed to find a better example or even a title of equal excellence on the NES.

Verdict : Faxanadu is a fantastic and rare example of excellence within its genre.

That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of the week and Game On!

Sam Gittins
[email protected]

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