Review by Saikyo Ki
"An almost perfect adventure game. One of the finest NES games ever made."
If you ask an NES veteran about classic adventure games, this will without a doubt be one of the games they will describe to you. Faxanadu is one of the most fun games ever created for the NES. It combines an interesting storyline that unfolds as you go along (something that didn't happen often in NES games) plus a great mix of action and RPG game elements.
The World Tree was at peace and people lived in, on and around it happily. Everyone wondered, however, what was beyond the great stone wall east of the Tree. Their question was unfortunately answered when monsters started flying over the wall and attacking. Monsters pillage everywhere, but they hit the center of the tree the hardest. Strangely enough, the one who is chosen to save the World Tree is an outsider. He must climb the Tree to get over the wall and stop the leader of the monsters.
You start out at the base of the World Tree, where the capital of the Tree resides. Here you find out about the chaos that has begun and receive provisions to help you on your quest.
During your journey, you will end up buying different types of weapons, armor (protects from physical damage), shields (protects from magic damage) and magic spells. There aren't that many types of weapons and armor, but they are all different and interesting to use. All of the magic spells are attack spells, sadly, but they all serve a purpose (i.e. the Fire spell is not very strong but moves fast and the Death spell is slow but powerful). You will also buy healing items and special keys that let you advance up the World Tree. There are also a few event items you will need to find. Speaking of items you find during your journey, you can find special items that temporarily boost your character's abilities. Once you pick it up, it begins being used, so get the most out of it quickly.
The game world of Faxanadu is quite big, but sadly linear. Although you can return to previously conquered areas, there is absolutely no reason to once you do everything in that section of the world. Thankfully, each section of the world is large in it's own right, especially the final one.
The first world you explore is the trunk of the World Tree. Once you climb up the trunk, you get to the middle of the Tree, which has been heavily attacked and corrupted with a thick black mist. Once you emerge from this, you will find yourself at the branches of the World Tree. This is an extremely exciting area, because you can fall long distances if you aren't careful. The final world is the world beyond the stone wall, the Evil World. You will no longer be traveling upward anymore, but deep down into a huge labyrinth.
You save your game with a password by going to a town and talking to a priest inside a church. The password is long and tedious, but oh well.
Dungeons are complex and will take you a good amount of time to explore. The enemies you find in this game are numerous and varied, meaning that you won't get bored fighting the same monsters over and over. In fact, you will have to formulate quite a few different battle strategies.
If you get a certain amount of experience points, you will get a ''title'' from the priest of a church. This title does not do anything to your character's abilities whatsoever; it's merely decorative. Why this is in the game is uncertain.
Characters you talk to in towns and other places sometimes say different things if you come back and talk to them after certain conditions are met. Usually the new words they tell you are helpful.
Although they give you good information, characters could have had more personality and better dialogue at times. Also, your main character talks to himself. ''I've used Red Potion.'' Eh?
Characters on screen are large, well colored and nicely detailed, but some of the enemies seem to lack a good amount of frames of animation. Backgrounds are quite nice, being well colored and detailed as well. Towns for some reason have no background, which is puzzling. These small flaws keep the graphics from being perfect, but they're still great.
The music in this game is very medieval sounding, and adds to the fun of playing the game in spades. Right when you start playing the game and get to the capital of the World Tree, you will notice how the music adds a nice touch by setting an exploration mood. Almost all of the songs fit moods perfectly. My favorites are the Branch world song (fast paced, suspenseful medieval battle music) and the Evil world song (soothing and creepy at the same time; a chilling combination!). The only song I didn't like was the town song, which doesn't even sound that townish.
For the most part it's fine, but your character isn't that good of a jumper and platform maneuvering may be a little annoying. Also, no matter what enemy hits you, you instantly are hit a few feet backwards, making it too difficult at times to stay on a platform you have to be on. For item and magic use, there are easy to use menus. You also have an equipment/stats menu.
Replay Value: 5
Even though there isn't much more to find once you've won, you'll still wanna play again just to experience the World Tree and the Evil World once again. This game is presented in such a way that it's design alone is reason enough to play it again. Oh yes, there is one hidden town that I haven't even been able to get to. On top of these two reasons, you can also try playing through without buying the best weapons/armor/spells.
It's a captivating adventure game that will keep you enthralled the first time you play and will make you come back for more on one occasion at the very least. The only thing keeping this game from getting a 10 is the fact that although each section of the world is big, once you beat a section you can forget it even exists. Despite this, there is still exploration fun to be had, plus fighting enemies is fun and challenging, which is why I give it a 9.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/05/01, Updated 08/05/01
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