Over the years, Nihon Falcom has become a well-known and loved developer to both fans of action and RPGs alike, due to the mix of great gameplay and narrative they spin into each of their creations. What’s interesting about the latest Falcom title publisher XSEED Games has brought over, however, is that unlike the frantic action of the Ys games (or the more narrative focus of its later entries) or the RPG-bent of the Trails series, Xanadu Next has an older bent to it. So how does that hold up in today’s era, even with some minor upgrades to run better on today’s modern systems?
While not the most amazing story, you must remember that thus game originally was released back in the thick of the PS2 era. It centers around a former knight and the scholar he's guarding, who both are tracking down the origins of a nearby mysterious castle. The knight finds some nearby ruins and begins to explore them. He finds the artifact at its center, but is fallen by a mysterious enemy and essentially is left for dead. He miraculously survives, but he’s now living on borrowed time due to an intervention by a local priestess. So unless he finds the legendary Dragonslayer sword, he’ll be dead permanently.
So first thing’s first — you need to gain experience. Similar in some respects to other Falcom games, Xanadu Next is an action RPG with some occasional puzzle elements thrown into the mix. Unlike Ys, which generally had Adol utilizing a sword most all of the time, you get to use a variety of weapons including swords, axes and of course magic. Each style starts out at 0%, but as you use it more you can extend your proficiency upwards to its max of 200%.
The game in particular wants you to try out different weapons and styles, as each weapon has a skill attached to it which is available after you gain some proficiency with it. If you get 100% proficiency, you permanently unlock that skill, although the catch being that only four skills can be equipped to your character at once — including magic. It’s a simple mechanic, but it creates some interesting choices for the player, as one is faced with deciding how they want to build out their skills. It’s important to note that these skills have a set amount of uses before they deplete, upon which time you’ll either need to return to the town’s inn or find a save point in the dungeon.
Another old-school approach to Xanadu Next is in its leveling mechanic. Instead of the usual leveling up upon reaching the next level gaining enough experience points, you need to return to the church to allocate points, six per level (among five different stats). This also comes into play regarding equipment in particular, as there will be times when you come across a new piece of armor that is slightly higher in a stat than you currently are, and thus you’ll need to gain more experience before you can equip it. Overall though, the mechanic alongside the enemy stat uptick throughout the game provides a nice sense of challenge and progression for the player as they progress.
While the core mechanics are great and are executed wonderfully, it’s the issues inherent to the PC version, likely due to its age and how it was originally designed compared with today’s modern systems, that becomes an issue. The game was designed around mouse-based controls, and while the developers added in gamepad support later on in the Japanese release (which the western release also carries over), it doesn’t translate well at all. Let’s say you need to switch out a skill/spell, you need to hit the Y button then use the mouse to switch things out. Note that the game doesn’t pause while this all occurs, either. Additionally, while the game does support resolution options (via a options launcher menu outside of the game itself), some of the UI elements didn’t scale or position themselves right in certain resolutions for me. Granted this was only on a few of them, so for most players this latter issue probably occur.
While the gamepad controls aren’t quite up to par, the core gameplay of Xanadu Next is still exceptionally solid and is a great window into the earlier development aspects of Nihon Falcom before their more recent releases as of late. Western gamers never got the chance to play the “true” version of this title, getting cut-down releases of the game, so getting the real thing is a joy. If you have a PC and mouse handy, it’s worth your time to enjoy some good, classic action RPG goodness.Xanadu Next was reviewed using a digital copy provided by XSEED Games. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|For old-school Falcom fans, it's a true treat.|
|Great sense of progression as you move throughout the game.|
|The mouse-specific controls are spot-on.|
|While gamepad controls are supported, it's clear mouse-based controls were how this game was designed.|
|Resolution options are supported, but some scaling choices cause weird rendering artifacts and/or issues.|
|If you're used to newer Falcom games, the extremely old-school nature of this title might dissuade you.|