North American cover art
|Release date(s)||Family Computer/NES
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Faxanadu (ファザナドゥ Fazanadu ) is an action role-playing platform-adventure video game for the Family Computer (Famicom) and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The name was licensed by computer game developer Nihon Falcom ("Falcom") and was developed and released in Japan by Hudson Soft in 1987. In 1989, Nintendo of America released the game as a first-party title in the United States under license from Falcom and Hudson Soft. Nintendo also released the game to the European market in 1990.
Faxanadu can be considered a side-story of Xanadu, which is the second installment of Falcom's long-running RPG series, Dragon Slayer. The title Faxanadu is a portmanteau formed from the names Famicom and Xanadu.
The player-controlled protagonist of Faxanadu is an unidentified wanderer. He has no name, though the Japanese version allows the player to choose one. The game begins when he approaches Eolis, his hometown, after an absence to find it in disrepair and virtually abandoned. Worse still, the town is under attack by Dwarves.
The Elven king explains that the Elf fountain water, their life source, has stopped and provides the protagonist with 1500 golds, the games currency, to prepare for his journey to uncover the cause.
As the story unfolds, it is revealed that Elves and Dwarves lived in harmony among the World tree until The Evil One emerged from a fallen meteorite. The Evil One then transformed the Dwarves into monsters against their will and set them against the Elves. The Dwarf King, Grieve, swallowed his magical sword before he was transformed, hiding it in his own body to prevent The Evil One from acquiring it. It is only with this sword that The Evil One can be destroyed.
His journey takes him to four overworld areas: The tree's buttress, the inside of the trunk, the tree's branches and finally the Dwarves' mountain stronghold.
Players guide the hero through a screen-by-screen series of fields, towns, and dungeons. The hero can walk, jump, and climb ladders — all typical characteristics of a platform game. Along the way, he may also purchase usable items with golds, equip and use bladed weapons against enemies, equip armor, and cast magic projectiles. In addition, he can access information regarding the game's events by speaking with townsfolk or by consulting other sources.
The limits of physical damage the hero can sustain from enemies is tracked by a life bar, and the magical power he can exert is tracked by a magic bar. These are listed on the top of the screen along with total experience, total golds, time (for items with a timed duration), and the currently held item.
When the hero defeats an enemy, it usually leaves behind golds or life-giving bread, and the hero gains a set amount of experience. Experience points help increase the hero's rank (see below). Occasionally, an enemy will also drop an item, some of which activate specific effects when touched and some of which can be stored for later use.
The game utilizes not a saved game system, but a password one, allowing players to stop and restart their journeys by entering a sequence of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Passwords, or "mantras" as they are known in the game, can be obtained from church-dwelling Gurus. Gurus also bestow ranks to the hero when he meets certain experience totals; these determine the amounts of experience and golds a player will possess upon resuming a game via password as well as allowing the player to use certain pieces of equipment that are otherwise unequippable at lower ranks.
Faxanadu employs a color palette that relies upon browns, greens, reds, and blues, creating an earthy atmosphere to complement the underlying, real-world legends of Elves, Dwarves, and the world tree itself. This was somewhat atypical compared to other games from its era, as many showcased bright, cartoonish graphics and outlined sprites rather than the more flushed, slightly Gothic style of Faxanadu. Similarly, the game's music (the work of June Chiki Chikuma) is designed to convey a rich, sometimes haunting tone during play. From the pedestrian beat of Eolis and the majestic melody in the Elven King's throne room to the driving theme of The Evil One's fortress, the compositions are intended to set the mood for each area, assisted by an array of organic sound effects.
Many aspects of the game's setting, especially the different shapes and forms of enemies, are largely inspired by a mixture of Norse mythology and Japanese mythology with some derivatives of Eastern religion, with several reminiscent of the works of H. R. Giger.
Christian icons found in the Japanese version are removed in the international release. In the Japanese version, Gurus can be seen holding a Holy Cross and images of Jesus' crucifixion are displayed inside the churches.
In the November/December 1989 edition of Nintendo Power, Faxanadu debuted on the magazine's "Top 30" list at #6. It gradually fell from the list in subsequent issues.
The game world was featured in two Season 2 (1990–1991) episodes of the Nintendo-based, Saturday morning cartoon series, "Captain N: The Game Master". They are "The Feud of Faxanadu" and "Germ Wars". The Elven King was named Melvis and looked and sounded like Elvis Presley for his first appearance; the voice was changed in the latter episode. The Dwarf King was not featured and was replaced by Queen Dwarfine.
- Faxanadu - Game Info - GameFAQs. Retrieved 30 July 2005.
- IGN: Faxanadu. Retrieved August 3, 2005.
- MobyGames - Faxanadu (various pages). Retrieved 3 August 2005.
- "Top 30". (November/December 1989). Nintendo Power, p. 81.
- Faxanadu at GameFAQs
- Faxanadu at MobyGames
- Faxanadu guide at StrategyWiki
- Faxanadu version differences