Fighting does take some getting used to as judging hit distance is a little tricky in the beginning. Learning the right timing for jumping and slashing is necessary for long-term survival. The variety and originality of enemies invigorates the game in such a way that it feels fresh compared to other action-RPGs and adventures of the time.
However, random enemies become pointless quickly, and so long as you don't die much you'll find yourself with plenty of gold that bypassing them will still allow purchasing the best items and equipment. Magic offers some variety, but most of the spells fire a single shot forward with varying range. Once the best equipment is in hand, enemies will drop fairly quickly, including the final boss.
|Who's ever heard of a dwarf with wings and firing fireballs?|
The nameless hero represents the player in the game world, yet it still lacks many of the customizations to truly feel like an accurate personification. Ranks are the only thing gained from experience, and improving your character is not possible except in this way. These ranks are supposed to allow equipping more costly armor and weapons, but they also determine the exp and gold total you have upon remembering your mantra and resuming the game.
One of the greatest advancements the game made is the paper doll effect as I've heard it called before. The equipment currently selected is represented on the character in the game world. (i.e. the Hand Dagger is small, but the Long Sword is much longer.) It's very noticeable when wearing all of the high end gear. Seeing him decked out is pretty cool. Magic like other equipment is selectable, and I suppose this can be considered is a customizable feature. The controls are smooth and consistent, although jumping takes some getting used to.
|Three pronged sword is probably the coolest weapon|
Aside from the main quest--and the side adventures necessary to complete it--there aren't any other quests to be had. There aren't any mini-games, riddles, or puzzles to really piece together, and getting to the end really just comes down to exploring, killing, and speaking to all NPCs. There's no need to figure things out.
|Is this enough to consider it a side quest?|
The story is all rather cliche and shallow. In fact, the writers obviously didn't try very hard (or maybe it was just the translation) with references to the Evil One and the Evil Place. Still, it's enough to keep the game flowing towards the end goal, and there's hardly ever a feeling of being lost. That is unless you get lost because you weren't paying attention to the one NPC that hints at what to do next.
Yes, there are hints, but they won't always seem relevant. They also change based on the rank you currently have, so if you're too low level you'll miss hints entirely. I'd already found a shield and helmet, and talked to the Guru. Unfortunately, it was an armor I needed before I talked to the Guru to receive the next ring to unlock the way to the final area. Even with a couple missteps, the story elements fit well with each other a produce a consistent narrative. I only wished more was done to draw out more of the lore, and there was more involvement on my part.
|Fascinating and completely irrelevant|
This is definitely not a collector's game. There are only four of each type of equipment, and a handful of items--most of which are keys. Many of the items become useless, and stuck in the inventory since you can only sell them to a store that sells those items in the first place. I bought a Mattock late in the game because a town near the end had one, and ended up not having a place to use it.
Relative strength of equipment is fairly easy to evaluate since there are only four choices, and the graphical upgrades are obvious. Sadly, the item portion of the inventory is maxed out fairly quickly, especially with wanting to fill the inventory with red potions for excessive healing. Completion is tracked somewhat, yet I believe there was a spell or two I may have passed over and it's not reflected in the menu. Max rank seems to have more negatives than positives as the Wing Boots timer is shortened the higher rank the player achieves. I'm unsure of the real benefit of rank beyond resuming the game with gold.
|That blank space is I'm guessing the elixir|
The atmosphere in the game makes it a unique experience unlike any other game I've played since. It takes a hit from the closed off sections that require certain rings to make any further progress. Getting these rings isn't difficult, so having them in the first place definitely feels arbitrary. How does a ring even unlock a door?
The music and sound are enjoyable, and exploring is engaging even if the world is relatively small. Yet, I found very little that stood out on its own to give any unique features to the landscape. Most of the changes came from transitions between areas; one is filled with mist while another looks like tree branches. Towns reuse the exact same graphics.
|Does it look like I'm climbing a tree?|
Final Rating: 19 (32%)
The rating is reflective most on the shallowness of the game compared to other CRPG experiences. It did end up edging out Willow, and Ultima, which I think is fairly accurate. Not quite as fun or challenging as Zelda II, and not quite a classic CRPG as Dragon Warrior to compete, I believe Faxanadu holds a place in history. It's short enough to be enjoyable to most, but as a CRPG it's rather light. By my own standards it skates by barely with the implementation of ranks (whatever those determine), and without that I don't believe it fits in the RPG genre.
Let's move on now to a game that spawned a series with many sequels, yet I've only played one of those games. Ys Book 1 & 2 is next.