No, it’s not a communications device and cow pie, and no, we don’t want you to fax Ana, so don’t! Once you learn to pronounce the name, I’ll go on. You have it? Good. Let’s get to the review.
In the far off elven kingdom of Eolis, disaster strikes. Built at the bottom of the World Tree, Eolis lives off of the Life water that flows from above, but the evil dwarves-that-don’t-look-like-dwarves have blocked up the source. Plants are withering, people are dying, and civilization is going through the usual collapse that follows these sorts of things. All appears lost, but a single hope appears.
You had left the town of Eolis, your home, long ago to explore the world, but now you decide to return. However, much has changed. The massive walls around the town are crumbling and the main gates are closed. Shocked, you rush inside to speak with the king. He quickly informs you that you are the great elven hope, that only you have the strength, the courage, and so on to save the world. I know it’s corny, but it was made in ’88, and they didn’t have many stories to choose from back then. Alone, you must go up into the World Tree, undoing the evil dwarven work and saving your race. Or you could fail. It’s your choice, really; so don’t let me boss you around.
This game might not really qualify as an RPG, but it has many RPG elements in it. In this 2D platformer, you control the hero as he jumps around, climbing the branches of one really big tree. Towns and caves have been carved out of this arboreal wonder, and several races are there to talk to and buy things from. Experience is gained by killing everything you see, but you only get levels by reporting to a priest, and he will be glad to give you a new title with a few new status bonuses. You can slash your enemies to shreds with a small collection of really cool looking swords, or you can nuke them with an equally small number of magical spells. The two bars above the screen show HP and MP, and when you die, you can start back at the last church you were at (with a small penalty, of course).
Items can be bought or found, and most can be carried with you. Some, like poison juice or the glove of strength, are used immediately. The game is a pretty standard platformer with a few twists, but it is enjoyable, so Gameplay gets a 77%.
The graphics in the game were high quality for the NES at the time, and nothing in it is really bad enough to point out. Also, Faxanadu has many nice backgrounds and the strangest enemies any game has ever seen (well, maybe not Earth Worm Jim). The bosses early on are a little boring, but the ones at the end of the game are large, imaginative, and just plain cool. As I said before, some of the weapons are notably imaginative, and imagination is what made this game’s visuals shine. Graphics get an 89%.
The music from Faxanadu still follows me to this day. I like the theme for the outside world more than I like many of the recent compositions in gaming, and the rest of the music is nice too. Sound, however, was weak. Nothing was impressive, but some of it was bothersome. Whenever someone in a shop would talk, you’d hear the sound of a typewriter clicking in the background, and even now as I hit the keys on my keyboard, I am filled with a certain rage that makes me want to hurl this noisy box of flashy lights out the window. Oh well. The strength of the one department balances the weakness of the other, giving Sound/Music a 76%.
The story is quite old and overused, and the spoken sections of the game contain a few typos and pack about as much punch as Homer when he fought with Drederik Tatum (Not much). There are no plot twists or surprises, and even the ending is pretty standard. Storyline was definitely the weakest point in an otherwise good game, so I give it a 67%.
The controls in Faxanadu were also poor for one reason. Like many NES games, Faxanadu was a 2D platformer, and 2D platformers all include some amount of leaping over holes and obstacles. Thus, it would seem quite important for a game of this genre to have smooth jumping capabilities, but Faxanadu flopped here. Your character jumps much like the princess in Super Mario Bros. 2, going up and hovering for a moment before falling. The countless enemies that fly around ruin many of your jumps, and other leaps require a well-timed slash to clear the path. It’s not that I don’t like the challenge, but I wish I could control this guy a little better. Controls get a 70%.
I loved this game not just because of the psychotic enemies and the music, but also for the mixture of 2D platforms and RPGs. Like most games, it has its flaws, but the strengths of the game are worth playing for. If you can find it, buy it. It can’t cost more than ten bucks. If you have it but gave up, emulate it. I did and it was worth it. An enjoyable creation from Hudson Soft, Faxanadu gets an 81% Overall, in spite of a few problems in it.
Gameplay – There was once a time when every game was like this. 77%
Graphics – DWARVES HAVE ARMS, TWO LEGS, A BODY, AND TWO EYES! 89%
Sound/Music – Ah, the good old days… 76%
Storyline – This time you get to save the world in a big tree! 67%
Controls – We know why the princess hovered, but why does this guy? 70%
Overall – It’s an enjoyable challenge from the past. 81%