This game starts off like your average Nintendo game, the opening screen consisting of the title of the game and two options, Start & Continue, pretty straight forward. Selecting start takes you to the intro: a lone man returning to your home town. There is a tall tree in the distance, wait, the tree is taller than the town? That wasn’t a lazy developer mistake, my friend, the tree is actually the setting for the whole game! From your home town in the roots, to cities inside the tree trunk and finally to the branches high in the sky.
“You have been on a long journey. You come back to find your home town is almost deserted. The gate is closed, people are missing and the walls are crumbling. You wonder what happened”. By NES standards, that’s a great back story for your character even though I’m pretty sure this game is the 9th in it’s series. That’s right! It derived from the Xanadu series which merged with Famicom and you get Fa-Xanadu but I’ll save that story for another day. This is the first game of the series for NES.
Instead of doing a step-by-step and ruining any of the story for you, I’ll talk about some of the pros and cons of the visuals and gameplay. Starting off you’ll find that the movement is a little stiff and when you get hit you get pushed back a space that tends to always knock you off platforms or into the previous scene. Jumping across gaps can be really annoying since there is usually some fiend waiting for you on the other side or that you have to time your jump perfectly for the wider gaps but most of these “controller biting obsticals” are common occurrences in NES games. The world of Faxanadu is similar to Castlevania II and Zelda II whereas you can backtrack through the world, buy items and talk to the townsfolk! A major plus for adventure fans! There is no top view like the Zelda II world map, it’s strictly side-scrolling like the great Castlevania, Metroid & Megaman franchises that we all know and love!
The equipment system is superb for an older game, you get weapon, armor, shield, magic and item slots plus inventory space for potions, keys, winged boots and so on. You will find towns all throughout your adventure in the World Tree, each populated by the same storekeepers that you met in your home town with their excessive blinking and repetitive “I sell tools, what would you like? (Buy/Sell) …What would you like?”. To find passwords you must pray within the temple and you will get what is called “Mantra”, just a fancy word for “get out your pencil and paper!”.
The visuals are captivating for an 8 bit game as that you really get the feel of traversing a gigantic tree inhabited by various races dwelling in their respective civilizations. The music and sound effects really bring the game to life adding to the sometimes eerie, alien-like atmosphere of the World Tree. The dungeons, towers, castles, and ruins that you will enter during your quest are populated by all sorts of nightmarish creatures that can only be rivaled by Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. They range from mutant dwarves to flying squid! There are also gargoyles, dragons, mages, what appear to be myconids and a whole mix of other well drawn and animated monsters. This is one game you’ll never forget and it will leave you urked that there was never a Faxanadu II.
A truly admirable Side-Scrolling Adventure/RPG for NES and I highly recommend it to anybody who is willing to take a step back in time and embark on this memorable quest.