Saturday, 17 November 2012

Happy 25th Anniversary Faxanadu!

Box Art for the North American version of Faxanadu
It's very simple, but this was all the
box art I needed to get interested in
Faxanadu as a kid.
Today marks 25 years since Faxanadu first came out on the Famicom. If you're not familiar with the game, it was a side-scrolling action RPG, and one of many installments in the popular Xanadu series from Falcom (though Hudson Soft had a hand in this particular game's development from what I understand). In fact, the name Faxanadu is derived from the word "Xanadu" combined with "Famicom" since this was the first time the series appeared on Nintendo's console, so yank of the "Fa" from Famicom, slap it on the front of Xanadu, and you've got Faxanadu.  I'm not going to go into much more detail about the game, that's what Wikipedia is for.  Instead, I'd prefer to wax nostalgic about it.

The game is actually pretty special to me because it's the first I ever got for the NES as a kid. I remember seeing it at a local Costco and being mesmerized by it. While my parents were shopping, I'd just stare at the thing wondering what it would be like to play it. I guess my folks took notice because it was the game that got with the system when my sister and I received it for Christmas one year.  After that I proceeded to play that game religiously, maxing out my level, acquiring all of the armor and weapons I needed to face the final boss, and finally beating the game.

Looking back at Faxanadu now, it's easy to see that there were a lot of archaic features in it that have long since gone the way of the dodo in RPGs. For instance, the game didn't have a save feature. Instead, you'd visit a cleric at a temple who would give you a password. When you wanted to continue the game, you'd need to enter the password in order to pick up where you left off. This was quite common in the late 80s. Even the original version of Dragon Quest had passwords when it debuted on the Famicom with a proper save feature not coming into the picture until its western release on the NES. So, I needed a pad of paper and a pen on hand while playing the game in order to maintain my progress. Like I said, it was the norm back then, but boy am I glad that isn't a thing anymore.

Hero in best armor with excalibur
Towards the end of the game your character looked pretty awesome in his
fancy armor.
Also, it's a fairly grindy game. Pretty much every time you reach a new village there will be a shop or two with various new weapons, items, and spells for sale that are obvious improvements over what you're currently wearing. So, it's a no-brainer to earn the gold needed in order to buy these things. What this results in is marching your hero just outside of town, and beating down the same monsters over and over again until you've earned enough to get all these delightful doodads. As a kid I was okay with this, as I had all the time in the world and, again, this was just the norm when it came to RPGs of the era, the emphasis on grinding, but nowadays this is probably the single biggest facet of the game that makes it difficult to come back to Faxanadu.

An illustration from the instruction manual for Faxanadu on the NES.
There was some cool art in the
game manual too.
Regardless of these old fashioned features, it was still a fun game for its time. I was impressed by the graphics as a kid, and there are some really memorable tunes in it. About the only area in the game I never liked was the mists about a third of the way up the tree. The area sort of dragged on, I was never fond of the gray-ish brown colors everywhere, and the song got on my nerves. After that, the areas were great. Lots of green, interesting dungeons, and some amazing bosses. Oddly, I have fonder memories of the second to last boss than I do of the last boss. This is because the second one guarded the sword I needed for my final armor set. I'd gotten the armor, and was looking pretty badass, but I still had this three pronged sword that looked more like an accessory for a barbecue than a tool for dispensing of monsters. Killing that boss would get me Excalibur, a nice big broadsword. It was actually really tough for me to beat the stupid boss too as a kid. I remember banging my head against him for a couple of days before finally downing him, and I was ecstatic about it. After that, killing the final boss and finishing the game almost felt anti-climatic.

Still, it was a lot of fun playing Faxanadu all those years ago, and since it was my earliest experience on the NES, it will always be a special game to me. So happy birthday to you, you fabulous game. It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years already!

Have you played Faxanadu? If so, share your thoughts in the comments section below. I'd love to hear what you think of the game! ^_^

No comments:

Post a Comment