For 2019's Alternative to E3 series, we're looking at a bunch of Falcom games! I've loved this RPG developer for a while and have been searching for an excuse to talk more about them, so that's what we're doing this year instead of poring over E3 trailers and news. Be sure to check Day -1 for more information via the table of links above.
Day 2: Xanadu
Ys and The Legend of Heroes have become Falcom's biggest flagship properties, but the most venerable of the franchises Falcom regularly revisits is Xanadu. Named for the nigh-mythological summer capital of the Mongolian emperor Kublai Klan - who actually gets namechecked in these games, despite being set in a fictional fantasy world - the original Xanadu was released in 1985 for Japanese home computers. As with Dragon Slayer, Falcom's previous game, Xanadu has a side-scrolling perspective while exploring or in towns. However, this switches to a top-down view when encountering enemies - the protagonist sprite doesn't change, but they can now move in four directions as they defeat large numbers of enemies using crowd control and hit-and-run tactics.
Xanadu was enough of a success that Falcom revisited it with an expansion pack the following year. Xanadu Scenario II still required the original Xanadu disks to play, but was so packed with new content - including some non-linear branching paths - that it practically served as a full sequel. Xanadu would be introduced overseas via its off-kilter Hudson-produced NES port, Faxanadu (a portmanteau of Famicom and Xanadu, "Famicom" being the NES's Japanese name), in 1987. After that, Falcom would occasionally resurrect the original spirit of Xanadu into fresh new reincarnations. In 1994 and 1995 they released Legend of Xanadu and Legend of Xanadu II: a two-part graphical reimagining of Xanadu and Xanadu Scenario II that was exclusive to the PC Engine CD-ROM (i.e. the Japanese TurboGrafx-CD), and in 2005 they released Xanadu Next for PC and - for some godforsaken reason - the Nokia N-Gage. The most recent Xanadu entry is the 2015 Vita game Tokyo Xanadu (or more specifically the 2017 Tokyo Xanadu eX+ remaster for PS4 and PC), which moved the franchise to a near-future, Persona-style setting. Given this trend, we'll probably see the next Xanadu game in 2025.
Xanadu's various remakes and reimaginings retain some of the trademark innovations of the 1985 original, as well as new mechanics and features inspired by same. Chiefly, up until Tokyo Xanadu they were single-character dungeon-crawlers with hub towns and action-RPG combat. Players could also choose to prioritize magic or melee strength: there was a separate XP gauge for both that would only increase with magic or weapon usage, respectively. Ahead of its time was the idea of weapon experience: the more you used a weapon, the stronger it became, at least up to a fixed point. When deciding to switch to a new weapon, players often had to suffer a stat drop despite the new weapon being stronger as it meant effectively resetting the weapon XP bar back to zero - however, it wouldn't be long until the new weapon surpassed the old. This also meant that if you hadn't found new gear in a while, what you had equipped could at least continue to keep up with the stronger enemies you were fighting.
I'm fortunate to own versions of both Xanadu Next and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ - both are available digitally via Steam and GOG, and also PS4 in the case of Tokyo Xanadu - so today I'll be playing the former. It's a bit more deferential to the original Xanadu - you can even find tablets that recount the story of it and its scenario pack - though still packed with enough new ideas of its own to be pretty fun. I'm considering playing more of it once E3 is over.
Worth noting here before we start that while the game itself is relatively old, the localization is as recent as 2016. That means the game is packed with handy tutorials and other user-friendliness inserted by the localization team at XSEED (if only they could've extended that same friendliness to its former staff, eh?).
Next Time On "Mento's Alternative to E3 2019: My Passing Interest in Falcom-ry"
I'm not 100% certain where I want to go for our final E3 alternative, having exhausted all the easily accessible Falcom franchises. Maybe I'll find some fancy older series to brandish in front of you all.