Xanadu Next on PC
Very often games that get released in Japan never see the light of day in the west, or only see a limited run here. Xanadu Next was one of those games, seeing a worldwide release on the N-Gage, but only making it onto PC in Japan. Now, XSEED has brought the game to PC worldwide for the majority of people that probably missed the game back in 2005. Coming to Xanadu Next in 2016 is interesting, as it feels almost like a combination of Zelda, Ys, Diablo, and, surprisingly, Dark Souls. For better or worse though, this is a game from 2005, and it shows at times.
Xanadu is a series created by Nihon Falcom, and one that can be overshadowed by their similar and more well known series, Ys. Xanadu Next follows the story of a scholar named Charlotte L. Wells and the player character, who happens to be Charlotte’s brother and a disgraced knight. Your sister has brought you along to help investigate the ruins on Harlech Island, and a mysterious castle that appears and disappears. As you begin to explore the ruins you come upon a strange crown, and are promptly met by an unknown swordsman who kills you and takes the crown.
You undergo a life-saving process that binds your life to the island and a Guardian, unless the fables are true and you can obtain the Dragon Slayer sword. This weapon was once wielded by a great warrior, and is said to give its wielder great life and power. Xanadu Next sets up its stakes early on, as you’re literally questing for your life.
The story is spread thin over the game’s 20 or so hour runtime, but that’s intentional as the main appeal here is the dungeon crawling. There is an interesting central mystery however, and although your character is silent, he serves as a vessel to communicate with the interesting characters and world of the game. Tablets and journals can be found throughout the world that your sister will translate, providing interesting pieces of lore and history.
Dungeon crawling lies at the heart of Xanadu Next, something similar to Ys or Diablo. The game is presented in an isometric style, with a 3D world, and there’s actually a very simple control scheme and interface used. Clicking and dragging your mouse moves your character, or, of course, by using your control stick.
You have a basic attack that you can use by clicking on enemies if you’re using a mouse, or by mapping whatever button you want on a controller. Additionally, you have four skill slots for abilities and magic that you can map and switch between at any time, using the right mouse to activate. Each skill has its own set of skill points, a system that actually works quite well. As you’re exploring ruins and dungeons, skills almost become a resource you need to manage, as some have unique abilities to knock down enemies or cause elemental damage. It’s something you really need to think about as you’re exploring, and plan accordingly.
As soon as you’ve completed the opening sequence, you’re let out onto Harlech Island and into the ruins. The starting town serves as your hub, and where to return to in order to rest and recover, purchase items and equipment, and distribute stat points after you level up. Proceeding into the ruins shows a deep and complex system of maps that run together.
This can start to be a problem, however, as certain dungeons and areas drag on exceedingly long. All you have is a basic map with no icons or hints as to what each room is, which can become very frustrating. Keeping track of which rooms chests or special areas are in can get confusing, and it’s very easy to get lost and not remember where you were heading.
You’ll need keys to progress further in the world, similarly to a Zelda dungeon, but used throughout the game. You can purchase keys from a shop in town, and each key you buy ups the price. By selling bones that enemies drop you can reduce the price of keys, and you also gain an item that lets you craft these valuable items from bones.
This all forms the heart of Xanadu Next’s gameplay. It’s a cycle that has you stocking up on keys and seeing how far your stock, and your health, can get you in exploration. Luckily, the game makes it fairly easy to return to town, so the cycle isn’t overly repetitive and it’s easy to grind gold from enemies along the way.