Review by Celtic Forest
"Shabby and outdated, but I guess it has its charm...sort of.."
Out of all the classic adventure games that made it big on the NES, there were some who were better than the average, and some who were worse. One of the games that got famous, but in fact didn't have that flawless production other adventure games had, was Faxanadu. This game, made by Hudson in 1987, wasn't produced without any motivation from the creators. No, in fact, I believe the company really wanted to make a great game, and tell us an epic story about an elven knight whose mission is to save his beloved people from the curse of the poisonous water. Faxanadu is not a bad game. It's just that something went wrong within the fundament of its basis. Either it was the funds for production, that went ballistic, or it was the hired programmers, that had no skill.
Either way, let's sort out this game. Faxanadu is an adventure platform game in the traditional style of Castlevania II, Rygar and Battle Of Olympus (all three classics on the NES console). The concept is various platform landscapes, all tied together into one single round, meaning there are no level 1, 2 or 3 or anything like that. The whole game is basically just one level, but with many passages that are uncrossable in the beginning. As the player obtains new items and abilities, he can proceed through these passages, and uncover more levels, and other towns and castles. During the quest, he must build up experience points, and obtain gold to buy new armour and swords. The scenery is set into a medieval fantasy world, and you play as an elven knight, who wants to battle the evil dwarfs that have poisoned the holy spring of the elves, condemning them to a painful death of poison and lack of water.
The first thing that hits you when you play this game is...how UGLY this game is! Fair enough that the NES console can't produce top graphics, but this...I couldn't believe my eyes. Even the earliest video games had better graphics than this. The game is dark, grainy and lifeless. The pixels are big and undetailed, and the choice of colours are ridiculous. Let's take a normal village scene for example. We expect humans with skin colour, houses that are either grey (stone-made) or brown (wood-made), and a sky blue heaven scenery. What do we get? We get humans with RED skin, GREEN houses and a GREY sky! Now what is this? The writers seems to have used only one single colour for every object. I don't know if it was because of laziness or to save memory, but either way, it's damn ugly for sure.
The rest of the surroundings do not look much better. The mountain areas consist of only two colours: Dark brown (ground) and dark blue (sky). The "holy" castles are made up of four shades of dark green, which make it look more like a sewer than a castle. The "misty path", which is covered with fog, has just a big grey goo spat around on random places. I put on Battle Of Olympus after having played this game for an hour, and what a change it was! Battle Of Olympus looked like a Da Vinci-painting in comparison to this game. After some minutes with Faxanadu, your eyes begin to hurt, and your brain starts to lose its power.
The problems do not stop here. Faxanadu has also a couple of programming flaws that make it even worse. Thankfully, none of them are so terrible it makes the game uncontrollable, but they do slow down the player a whole lot. Examples are the slow text speed when the villagers talk, and the dumb system of the shops and menus, which make you want to rip the hair of your head in frustration. Furthermore, the game introduces a pointless and annoying key system, with different keys required for different doors. Of course, you must buy the keys in the villages, and there are many types, and you don't know which ones you need for your upcoming quest, unless you go all the way to the locked door to find out. And the keys take up place in your inventory, where you also need to store potions and such. I think I can stop explaining now, because you get the point, don't you? Ah yes, I thought so.
The controls are not too bright either. Jumping with your main character is often a nightmare. Timing perilsome jumps from a single block to another often results in falling down and getting hurt, only to have to do it all over again. Defeating some enemies are almost hopeless. Unless you do a perfect jump-and-slash attack, you will only end up getting damaged. In the beginning of the game, you will die over and over again. Not only because of the little energy you have, but also because the first enemies require a perfect timed jump to make you pass over them, and if you miss, you land on them and get damaged. You are also incapable of ducking, which makes it even harder to avoid the enemies shots. When you get hit, you get pushed back, which can quickly toss you down into a pit, or even into another scene, which makes all the previous enemies respawn when you re-enter. Oh, and the game does not scroll at all. It is made up of different static screens that you travel between when reaching the edge of one of them.
The other classic platform adventures had similar flaws, but they did the best they could of them. In Rygar, for example, you could duck, and jump a lot more freely and attack swiftly, which gave you a better chance. Faxanadu is so stiff that it's sometimes only luck that matters if you will win or not.
For being declared an all-time adventure classic, Faxanadu is just above average. The awful graphics and the program glitches make your journey too painful to be satisfying. However, I still feel the game has something more to give. I played through it after all, and without too many bad thoughts once I had got used to the graphics and the controls. I guess Faxanadu is nice in some weird sort of way. Sometimes when I walk on the streets of its towns, and listen to the people at the bar moaning about the end of the world, I do feel some kind of excitement and atmosphere. I bet the creators really loved their game, and wanted to make the best, but failed on many vital parts. If you can forgive the shabby graphics and the incomplete programming, you might have a nice time with Faxanadu. I suggest you try it out at least once, and see what you think.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/20/06
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