Mento's Alternative to E3 2019: My Passing Interest in Falcom-ry (Day 2: Xanadu)

E3 Day -1: YsE3 Day 0: The Legend of HeroesE3 Day 1: ZweiE3 Day 2: XanaduE3 Day 3: Everything Else

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.

Gameplay

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?).

Welcome to Xanadu Next! My, is this is an attractive start screen. Can't go wrong with any RPG that uses a sword instead of letters.
Welcome to Xanadu Next! My, is this is an attractive start screen. Can't go wrong with any RPG that uses a sword instead of letters.
Jeez, Xanadu Next, I haven't even sat down yet. (I neglected to mention this during the Ys segment, but all of the Ys games are told from the perspective of Adol's travelogues of his adventures, written many years after he retired. Xanadu Next is going for something similar, writing from the perspective of your scholar companion Char.)
Jeez, Xanadu Next, I haven't even sat down yet. (I neglected to mention this during the Ys segment, but all of the Ys games are told from the perspective of Adol's travelogues of his adventures, written many years after he retired. Xanadu Next is going for something similar, writing from the perspective of your scholar companion Char.)
Speaking of whom, she's the pigtailed anime on the left. The one that looks like KOF's Blue Mary on the right is the protagonist (and also a boy, but who's going to pay enough attention to know for sure?).
Speaking of whom, she's the pigtailed anime on the left. The one that looks like KOF's Blue Mary on the right is the protagonist (and also a boy, but who's going to pay enough attention to know for sure?).
There's a pretty deep backstory concerning your knight hero: he was one of the few survivors of a war between the country's monarch and the
There's a pretty deep backstory concerning your knight hero: he was one of the few survivors of a war between the country's monarch and the "incorruptible" chapter of knights, leading to their near-extinction and fugitive status. You've been a little out of it ever since, which is why Char - your best friend from the orphanage you both grew up in - invited you to an archeological tour of this island. Castle Strangerock is of particular interest, due to the strange way it manifests when mist is around and disappears just as quickly.
The local settlement of Harlech Village is your classic dungeon-crawler hub, filled with vendors and other NPCs. All equipment has stat-restrictions - I'll need to improve all five of my stats to wield this Zweihander, for instance, let alone the 900 gold to actually buy it.
The local settlement of Harlech Village is your classic dungeon-crawler hub, filled with vendors and other NPCs. All equipment has stat-restrictions - I'll need to improve all five of my stats to wield this Zweihander, for instance, let alone the 900 gold to actually buy it.
There's a murder but it's nothing to do with us. We just got here, honest. Can't leave the town yet, but there are rumors that there's some ruins to visit here in town...
There's a murder but it's nothing to do with us. We just got here, honest. Can't leave the town yet, but there are rumors that there's some ruins to visit here in town...
The local magic shop also carries potions and keys. The game's key system is a bit strange: there's way fewer keys in the wild than there are locked doors and chests, so you either have to buy them in bulk from this guy or make your own via monster bones. Running out of keys is usually a good sign that you need to return back to town and save.
The local magic shop also carries potions and keys. The game's key system is a bit strange: there's way fewer keys in the wild than there are locked doors and chests, so you either have to buy them in bulk from this guy or make your own via monster bones. Running out of keys is usually a good sign that you need to return back to town and save.
Finally, we have the local Spirit Sanctum. Here, you can distribute stat points between strength (physical damage), intelligence (magic damage), reflexes (accuracy and evasion), constitution (HP), and mind (magic resistance). As you saw above, most of the game's gear requires specific minimum stats, so early on it seems it's a smart idea to level up whichever stats you'll need for your next gear upgrade.
Finally, we have the local Spirit Sanctum. Here, you can distribute stat points between strength (physical damage), intelligence (magic damage), reflexes (accuracy and evasion), constitution (HP), and mind (magic resistance). As you saw above, most of the game's gear requires specific minimum stats, so early on it seems it's a smart idea to level up whichever stats you'll need for your next gear upgrade.
Entering the local ruins now, and some bats show up. Combat's real-time, so enemies will follow you around and attack. The trick here is to let them attack, get out of the way of their strike, and maneuver around to their flank or rear to do extra damage. They'll recover and reposition themselves quickly, but you can keep this pattern up until they're dead. One issue is that enemies are rarely fought on their own...
Entering the local ruins now, and some bats show up. Combat's real-time, so enemies will follow you around and attack. The trick here is to let them attack, get out of the way of their strike, and maneuver around to their flank or rear to do extra damage. They'll recover and reposition themselves quickly, but you can keep this pattern up until they're dead. One issue is that enemies are rarely fought on their own...
You can also switch perspective making it easier to find chests like this. I'm playing with mouse controls and the camera is bound to the mouse wheel, which is a little odd.
You can also switch perspective making it easier to find chests like this. I'm playing with mouse controls and the camera is bound to the mouse wheel, which is a little odd.
You can see the enemy's HP bar in this shot. The red is elapsed health, the yellow is the damage I've just done (some handy visual language for how effective your current weapon is). That little bit of green is what HP the enemy has left.
You can see the enemy's HP bar in this shot. The red is elapsed health, the yellow is the damage I've just done (some handy visual language for how effective your current weapon is). That little bit of green is what HP the enemy has left.
Reaching the end of this little tutorial dungeon, we find ourselves a glowy crown of obvious story significance. I can tell we have a fun adventure of finding more mystical haberdashery further down the-
Reaching the end of this little tutorial dungeon, we find ourselves a glowy crown of obvious story significance. I can tell we have a fun adventure of finding more mystical haberdashery further down the-
Oh wait, this knight dude wants it. Well, tough, I found it first.
Oh wait, this knight dude wants it. Well, tough, I found it first.
I guess he's a little insistent. Still, we won't be taken down that easily!
I guess he's a little insistent. Still, we won't be taken down that easily!
Oh no.
Oh no.
Oh good, I'm not dead.
Oh good, I'm not dead.
Oh no, the frogurt is also cursed. By which I mean, I think I'm dying?
Oh no, the frogurt is also cursed. By which I mean, I think I'm dying?
Fortunately, the game set up earlier that there are such things as Guardian spirits and they can be magically latched onto newborns for lifelong divine protection. Since I was
Fortunately, the game set up earlier that there are such things as Guardian spirits and they can be magically latched onto newborns for lifelong divine protection. Since I was "born" after dying briefly just now, I can now also attach Guardians. And because I'm in a permanent state of near-death from here on out, I can get rid of them (Guardians depart when their host is about to die) and switch them with others. Silver linings and all that. Did I mention I can't leave the island or I perish?
We get more backstory here. Xanadu Next isn't anywhere near as bright and cheery as other Falcom games, and our knight character has been through a lot of bad business. Feels very Final Fantasy Tactics; kids, never become knights because it'll end in tears.
We get more backstory here. Xanadu Next isn't anywhere near as bright and cheery as other Falcom games, and our knight character has been through a lot of bad business. Feels very Final Fantasy Tactics; kids, never become knights because it'll end in tears.
So now we have this Sylphid Guardian card attached. She provides a HP boost which increases the longer I have her (everything has XP in this game). There's other cards out there with more interesting Guardians too.
So now we have this Sylphid Guardian card attached. She provides a HP boost which increases the longer I have her (everything has XP in this game). There's other cards out there with more interesting Guardians too.
Agnes is cool. She partners up with you early on, though in her vernacular
Agnes is cool. She partners up with you early on, though in her vernacular "partner" is akin to "sucker who does all the work". She can be handy at times, though, selling you keys, potions, and other special items while out on the field. Just gotta luck into finding her first.
OK, so, how many of you played Final Fantasy IX? Remember how gear had skills attached, and you had to use that piece of gear for a while before you could keep that skill permanently? Same kinda thing here, only it's just for weapons. Moreover, you only have four slots for acquired skills - the F1-F4 hotbar on the top right - and that includes passives. I eventually decide on three passive skills and one active skill. Oh, and another thing: weapons get stronger with use, even beyond the point where you can acquire a skill. This
OK, so, how many of you played Final Fantasy IX? Remember how gear had skills attached, and you had to use that piece of gear for a while before you could keep that skill permanently? Same kinda thing here, only it's just for weapons. Moreover, you only have four slots for acquired skills - the F1-F4 hotbar on the top right - and that includes passives. I eventually decide on three passive skills and one active skill. Oh, and another thing: weapons get stronger with use, even beyond the point where you can acquire a skill. This "affinity" caps at 200% - enough to make even weaker weapons formidable.
It isn't long before I find another Guardian card. Cute, it's referencing another Dragon Slayer game.
It isn't long before I find another Guardian card. Cute, it's referencing another Dragon Slayer game.
This is kinda fun: ts there one enemy in this screenshot, or are there several? The water makes it tricky to tell.
This is kinda fun: ts there one enemy in this screenshot, or are there several? The water makes it tricky to tell.
If you didn't think there wouldn't be block-pushing puzzles in this game, shows what you know. Between these crates and the angled perspective (and the semi-tragic backstory), it's starting to feel a bit Vagrant Story-like.
If you didn't think there wouldn't be block-pushing puzzles in this game, shows what you know. Between these crates and the angled perspective (and the semi-tragic backstory), it's starting to feel a bit Vagrant Story-like.
The next dungeon is guarded by this salamander boss. The first time I met him, I was doing chip damage. After exploring the other paths (most are blocked), earning some XP, and getting better gear, I'm actually hurting it now. Like in Ys, your stats count for a *lot*. Don't be afraid to grind sometimes, is what I've learned with Falcom games.
The next dungeon is guarded by this salamander boss. The first time I met him, I was doing chip damage. After exploring the other paths (most are blocked), earning some XP, and getting better gear, I'm actually hurting it now. Like in Ys, your stats count for a *lot*. Don't be afraid to grind sometimes, is what I've learned with Falcom games.
Anyway, I'll leave you here at the precipice of what will no doubt be a very linear and easily navigable dungeon. Tata!
Anyway, I'll leave you here at the precipice of what will no doubt be a very linear and easily navigable dungeon. Tata!

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.

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