By Fabrice Stellaire / November 21st, 2016
|Publisher||XSeed Games,Marvelous Usa,Inc|
|Release Date||November 3,2016|
In 2005, Nihon Falcom released Xanadu Next, a spin-off of the action RPG Dragon Slayer: Xanadu. The game was brought to PC and N-Gage, but never made it to the West on PC, though a non-official translation in english was released by fans. Eleven years later, the game is finally available on Steam, but how good is it? Let us find out.
Knighthood has been banned and the life of the protagonist, who is a knight, has become meaningless. He is hired by a young scholar named Charlotte L. Wells to investigate the ruins of Harlech Island. This island is full of mysteries as a castle shrouded in mist sometimes appears, only to fade away soon after. While exploring the island, our hero is mortally wounded by a man called Dvorak. Fortunately, he is saved by a priestess called Liese, who ties his soul to a guardian in order to save him. Guardians are astrological spirits who are tied to newborn babies on the island of Harlech. Since he is an adult foreigner, the hero shouldn’t be able to have a guardian, but being at the very frontier of life and death, he is both dead and reborn. He will however soon die, unless he can find a legendary sword called the Dragon Slayer, which could restore his body.
This is the beginning of the quest. Our hero will have to face various monsters including slimes, bats, salamanders and liches in order to find the Dragon Slayer. He can use different weapons and spells for that purpose, and each weapon can grant him a unique skill. The more you use a weapon, the more it becomes effective, and if you use it for a long time you can acquire permanently the skill tied to the weapon. Some skills will add an element to the weapon, like thunder or fire. Others will grant you a passive bonus or a special move. It is important to note that weapons and armors do not only require strength to carry them, but also intelligence and other stats, which means you will have to balance your statistics when you level up. When you earn a level you have to speak to the priestess in order to allocate 6 bonus points. As long as you don’t earn another level, you can at any moment reallocate your points if you changed your mind, or even level down. In my opinion this leveling down option is not really useful, and there is little to no benefit from it. You will also find new Guardian cards during your journey, which means you will be able to tie a different spirit, with a different bonus, to your soul. Some guardians are more useful than others. I often used Vanaporte, who gives a discount for all merchants, and Flugel, who can raise the XP earned during fights. Since only one guardian can be used at a time, you often have to switch between different options.
This is an action RPG and, as expected, fights are numerous. You also have to solve some riddles that often require you to break or push crates, much like the puzzles you would find in games like Vagrant Story. The level design is rather linear and you won’t have much freedom while exploring the island, but this is not really frustrating. What is more frustrating are the issues I had with the controls. While you are supposed to be able to play with a 360 controller, the interface is not very intuitive, and does not always work as intended. I found myself unable, for example, to switch between my inventory and the skills and spells section, until I found out this problem could be solved by running the Configuration tool of the game. I was able to play with the controller, but sometimes I also used the mouse in my inventory because it really isn’t easy to use the controller to manage the interface.
Graphically the game is dated, as expected, but this is not really a problem. Environments still look decent and convey an atmosphere of magic. The music reminds me of JRPGs from the past. The theme of the village, for example, is rather relaxing and reminds me of themes I could hear in Final Fantasy XII. There is little to say about characters themselves, as their personalities and psychologies aren’t really developed. Those who have played the previous games from the Dragon Slayer series may be able to understand some references made in Xanadu Next, which mentions events from the previous episodes. While the game doesn’t have many bosses or dungeons, the adventure will still last for about 30 to 40 hours and you may have to grind a bit in order to improve your statistics and make fights easier. You probably won’t reach the level cap upon beating the final boss, but there is an optional and very challenging dungeon called World of the Dead which could help you if you are willing to reach level 30. I did not try it myself as I was rather satisfied after defeating the last boss. On a side note, I really would like to warn you against going for a “full strength” or “full magic” build. The game was really not designed for such builds and it appears someone on the Steam forum of the game has been spreading wrong information on that matter. Doing so would prevent you from using better gear and weapons, really, since all of them have several statistical requirements.
Xanadu Next is a decent action RPG. Its gameplay and its graphics may feel a bit dated, but you will still enjoy a good adventure. I only regret the issues met with controls while playing the game, and I wish Japanese developers communicated more with players in general in order to fix such issues. Lately games that are ported to the West often suffer from a lack of technical support and I hope this will change one day. Available on Steam for $19.99, Xanadu Next will certainly please classic RPG fans.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
action jrpgNihon FalcomPCSteamXanadu next