Review by nastynate3118
""Make sure you live up to it.""
Faxanadu is essentially a repaired version of Zelda II. This platformer has a lot of RPG elements and may be considered an early example of a true action-adventure RPG combination. The game has a certain charm to it and while frustrating at times, is an absolute blast to play. Allow me to explain
Gameplay - 8/10
The gameplay in this game takes some getting used to, but once you get past the (short) learning curve you will have fun hacking and slashing. It is very similar to Zelda II in that it is a side-scroller hack-and-slash game, however there is no overworld component. The beginning of the game is rather annoying due to your character's very short reach and inability to hit small monsters, but over time you gain better weapons with farther reach that make the gameplay more enjoyable. You essentially walk from town to town collecting items to improve your equipment and gain access to new areas with the ultimate goal of defeating a monster that is plaguing the country you are in. It is a very fluent and smooth transition that is not tedious at all. I only had to level grind twice during my playthrough, but it is entirely possible to get through without ever doing that. This allows for the gameplay to be very action-oriented and put the RPG elements in the passenger seat. It also helps that the NPCs in this game are very helpful and finding out your next objective is never a mystery.
Like most NES games, there are a few features of this game that are absolutely infuriating. Enemies respawn as soon as you leave a screen and if you need to backtrack through that area you must defeat the same enemies again. This is especially annoying when there are very powerful enemies that impede your progress and require a lot of magic to defeat. Worse, sometimes when you are in the middle of a dungeon and step out of a door, enemies will instantly attack you and there is nothing you can do to defend yourself. These poor level-design choices make the game frustrating at times.
Another strange challenge in this game is that there is essentially no way to refill your magic bar in a dungeon. In the first town of the game Elixirs are sold that can do this, but you never see them again during the course of the game. The only way to refill your magic is at a hospital in a town. It creates the innovative challenge of strategizing what magic you have to use in a dungeon and when to use it. Some players may be annoyed by this but the concept is an intriguing one.
The interface in this game is rather odd. When you enter a shop and you want to buy something, you have to jump onto the store counter and walk right into the face of the shop keeper (which is actually pretty funny). For some reason when I played the game the Sell option never worked and I could only buy new items. Another annoying interface problem comes when you visit a hospital and talk to the doctor. He will automatically heal you and take the hefty sum of money without asking if you want to pay that much for treatment, unlike virtually every other RPG in existence.
The password system in this game is pretty nutty. I never understood why NES games required extremely long passwords, but this game utilizes passwords ranging from 16-20 characters. To make the problem even worse, there are numbers, upper case letters, lower case letters and random punctuation marks. Players should be weary of this, especially when a password has the characters o, O and 0 in it. Upon entering a password, you are returned to the town guru with a certain amount of gold depending on what rank you are (determined by experience points). This can be exploited pretty easily by simply spending all of your money, writing down a new password and then restarting with the same items but replenished gold. The ranking system serves no other purpose and is ultimately a useless feature and interface problem for the game, especially since it can be exploited so easily.
The story is not anything too special. The local King at the beginning of the game chooses you to go on a quest to deal with evil dwarves that are harassing the citizens of the country. You ultimately have to find a sword called the Dragon Slayer to defeat the leader of the dwarves. The presentation of the story is often unclear and interrupted by tedious side quests that involve fetching items to reach new areas. On the other hand, the NPCs of this game do an excellent job of conferring the situation these dwarves are causing in the country and helping the player move along in the story. It is very simple and gets the job done, but the presentation could be a bit better.
Graphics - 9/10
The graphics are outstanding for an NES game. Every equipment change that your character makes is reflected on their sprite, with the final equipment in the game resulting in an iron-clad knight. The amount of detail given to the monsters and townsfolk is also impressive. When you speak to an NPC, an animation will appear with them moving their mouths as if they were talking to you. The boss creatures look especially terrifying.
Detail is also given to the dungeons and various areas of the game, making them distinct from each other and allowing the player to easily identify where they are. Sadly, this level of detail does not translate to the town areas, with each town looking exactly the same as the last. You have to rely on NPCs to figure out which town you are in.
Sound/Music - 9/10
The music of this game is very catchy and appropriate for the type of game that it is. Each type of area has its own theme, with unique themes for the final dungeon and the final road between two towns. Despite this lack of variety, the music is well done and will stay with you after you play the game.
The sound effects are noticeably lacking in this game. I can only recall the sound of your sword doing damage to an enemy and the sound of magic being fired off, but besides that there are very few sound effects to enhance the game.
Play Time/Replayability - 9.5/10
My playthrough of the game took 7 hours and 14 minutes to complete. I collected every single item, most of which are not even necessary to beat the game. One could easily play through this title in a couple hours, which helps with the high replayability factor. It is annoying to relive some of the more frustrating parts of the game, but fortunately there are very few of these thus creating a joyous experience in subsequent runs of the game. The player can challenge themselves to beat it with fewer items and in a shorter amount of time.
It is a shame that the other titles in the Dragon Slayer series were not released in the United States. Faxanadu is a very fun game and has the perfect length if you are looking for a relatively short action-RPG for the NES. There is a mild challenge present due to some frustrating areas and poor design choices, but the fun factor of the game easily overcomes these flaws. If only Zelda II was this good
Final Score: 8.42/10 rounded to 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Faxanadu (US, 02/21/11)
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