Xak: The Art of Visual Stage
|Xak: The Art of Visual Stage|
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Xak: The Art of Visual Stage (サーク?) is the first game in the fantasy role-playing video game series Xak developed and published by Micro Cabin. It was originally released for the NEC PC-8801 computer system, with subsequent versions being developed for the NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, MSX2, PC-Engine, Super Famicom, and mobile phones. The first four versions were re-released for Windows on online store Project EGG. An English translation of Xak: The Art of Visual Stage was also released in 2007 on the now-defunct retro gaming service WOOMB.net, and is now to become available on Project EGG.
Setting and story
Xak: The Art of Visual Stage features a typical high fantasy setting. According to the game world's legends, a great war was fought between the benevolent but weakening ancient gods and a demon race, which led to the collapse and eventual mortality of the gods. After this 'War of Sealing', the gods divided the world into three parts: Xak, the world of humans, Oceanity, the world of faeries, and Xexis, the world of demons. The demon world of Xexis was tightly sealed from the other two worlds as to prevent reentry of the warmongering demon race. Some demons were left behind in Xak, however, and others managed to discover a separate means to enter Xak from Xexis anyway. This ancient history is displayed in the introduction of Xak II.
One of them, Badu, was a very powerful demon, able to use coercive magic to make humans do his bidding. Duel, the god of war, managed to defeat Badu and seal him away in a mountain of ice for 250 years. The god later settled in a village known as Fearless to live out the rest of his mortal life.
At the beginning of the game, Badu's prison is broken. Demons overrun parts of Xak once again. In order to stop the ravaging of his lands, the King of Wavis sends a messenger faerie to Dork Kart, a famous warrior living in the village of Fearless. Dork, however, has gone missing. The player takes on the role of Latok Kart, Dork's 16-year-old son, as he meets the messenger faerie, Pixie. Latok embarks on the King's quest to slay Badu, hoping to find his father along the way.
In his travels, Latok is guided by Duel's spirit. Over the course of the game, it turns out that Dork and thus Latok is a descendant of Duel.
Latok is the only playable character in the game. Notable non-player characters Latok meets include:
- Lou Miri Pixie, the green-haired messenger faerie sent by the King of Wavis that guides Latok along his way.
- Freya "Fray" Jerbain, a blue-haired girl Latok rescues from a wolf-infested forest. Fray is the main heroine of a Xak series spin-off, Fray In Magical Adventure Please see also Fray CD However, during the course of Xak she does not know yet how to use magic.
- Rune Greed, a green-haired warrior. He is a descendant of Duel as well and is on a quest to slay Badu of his own.
- Rabby, a magician's familiar rabbit given to Latok.
- Duel, the god of war, living on in spirit form.
- Elise, a childhood friend of Latok and the granddaughter of Fearless's mayor. She could be considered as a possible romantic interest of Latok.
- Saria, Latok's Mother, who is blind. Latok has taken care of her ever since his father disappeared.
- Bobby, the pacifist son of the blacksmith Dac of the town of Fearless.
- Nurse Elle, the nurse of the village of Fearless.
- Kane, a magician in the hobbit village of Nemnu who gives Latok a mascot familiar named Rabbie.
- Rachael, a girl whose father is in charge of a resistance hideout against the demons in the Land of Fire.
- Zwoon, a demon disguised as a human man who Latok accidentally sets free.
- Necromancer, a powerful black-robed demon with power over the dead. Necromancer is a recurring villain in the series.
- Badu, the main villain of the game who was recently released from his 250 year imprisonment.
Xak is a classic dungeon crawl, in that the game proceeds by the player finding his way through labyrinthine maps, defeating opposing monsters on the way. In each map, keys, NPCs and other objects have to be found to gain entrance to the room where a boss dwells. After defeating the boss, the player can proceed towards the next map, where the structure repeats. Various subquests involving non-player characters are present, most of them obligatory.
Combat is in real-time. The player's character walks around on the game maps, as well as the monster characters. Each character has an attack and defense rating, different for each of its four sides. Moreover, Latok's ratings change depending on whether he has his sword drawn (as the player keeps the space bar depressed) or sheathed. As Latok or a monster takes damage or wards off an attack, the character is pushed backwards. This combat system requires some manual dexterity, especially during boss fights—bosses are generally several times larger than Latok himself.
Latok advances in power through a classic leveling system. Moreover, there are several shops scattered through the game where Latok can buy stronger swords, armours and shields. Gold, the game's currency, and experience points are awarded for killing monsters that wander the map.
The initial versions of Xak: The Art of Visual Stage were released for NEC's PC-8801 and PC-9801 systems in June 1989. These were then followed by graphically distinct releases for the MSX2 (November 1989) and Sharp X68000 (April 1990). In 1992, the game was released for the PC Engine along with its sequel, Xak II: The Rising of the Red Moon, in the one-disc compilation Xak I & II. Ported by Riot, the game features animated cut scenes and requires the Super System Card update if played on the PC Engine's original CD-ROM add-on. Another console port was published by Sunsoft for the Super Famicom in February 1993. The latest visually enhanced remake was developed for Japanese mobile phones and became available on Vodafone live! on June 1, 2004. The game was the first release in Bandai's "RPG Empire" line of role-playing games.
During 2001–2008, the PC-8801, MSX2, X68000, and PC-9801 versions of The Art of Visual Stage were made downloadable for Microsoft Windows through D4 Enterprise's Project EGG online service. The first official English translation of the game was also released on Dutch MSX games distributor WOOMB.net in early 2007. Although the website was shut down in 2008, its content is being transferred to the English counterpart of Project EGG.
The musical score of Xak: The Art of Visual Stage was composed by Ryuji Sasai and Tadahiro Nitta, marking the first collaboration between the two musicians. The game's soundtrack comprises 42 tracks and was released on May 5, 1989 under the title All Sounds of Xak: The Art of Visual Stage. From 2007 through 2008, music from the game's PC-8801, MSX2, and X68000 versions was added to the catalog of D4 Enterprise's video game music service EGG Music. The site offers both a PSG and an FM variation for most of the MSX2 tracks. The use of a FM sound source is most extensive in the music of the X68000 game.
Praised for its storyline and music, Xak: The Art of Visual Stage has been referred to as Micro Cabin's breakthrough title. The website of Famitsū magazine described the game’s story as "magnificent". Jayson Napolitano of Original Sound Version stated its music was "some great stuff for fans of that distinct sound from the late 80s." The audio of The Art of Visual Stage has been regarded as being of higher quality than that of most games of the time. It has also been noted for its use of a visual representation system which gave an impression of depth and three-dimensionality.
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