Xanadu Next (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 16.11.2016 4

Review for Xanadu Next on PC

In Xanadu Next, the lone knight, with no kingdom to call his own, wanders the world in search of a purpose. His travels lead him to a distant village on a forgotten island. While investigating some ancient ruins, he is struck down by a mysterious soldier. Through pacts with beings known as Guardians, the knight is revived. However, his health is fleeting, and his only chance at a full recovery is via the power of the dragon slayer. This legendary blade hasn’t been seen for centuries, and the island’s surroundings are rife with dread beasts and evil beyond imagination. Yeesh, that doesn’t sound like much of a chance, does it?

Xanadu Next is an action-RPG, just like Falcom’s trademark Ys franchise. The silent hero explores an island filled with secrets, while destroying any monsters that dare to cross his path. The key difference is in the combat. Basically, attacking a fiend while directly in front of them isn’t the greatest idea. For a knight, this may sound a little dishonourable, but working around enemies and repeatedly slicing into their backside is the way to go. The frontal approach is usually more trouble than its worth, as monsters are rather adept at dodging attacks they can actually see. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to adjust to this style. Moving and fighting become second nature due to the great controls.

Screenshot for Xanadu Next on PC

As is typical of the genre, adventurers are prone to purchasing or discovering equipment. In a manner similar to Final Fantasy IX, every weapon has a skill attached to it. Whenever a weapon is equipped, its skill is immediately made available for use. However, it’s best to become proficient with that weapon, even when the knight comes across a better one. After achieving 100% proficiency, the weapon’s skill is permanently unlocked. Since only four can be enabled at a time, there’s an incentive to experiment with combinations. Not everything can be dealt with in the same manner. For example, skeletons can only be destroyed by the elements. A mace might shatter their bones, but they’ll reform before long.

Unlike most other knights, this one knows a thing or two about spellcasting. He learns new magic by discovering lost grimoires, and can equip them much like skills. There will be times where melee isn’t the solution, so having fireballs or bolts of lightning on standby makes sense. Unfortunately, it’s not quite optimal for the hero to focus all of his energies on spellcasting. There aren’t any staves or wands that can be equipped to boost the necessary stat. All techniques are limited by SP, which only refills at save points. Since magic-refilling potions are hard to come by, some people might find themselves being overly conservative with their SP. It’s a lot like how Resident Evil players will horde the herbs and ammo, and then not bother to use them, until well after the game is completed.

Screenshot for Xanadu Next on PC

When not engaged with fierce adversaries, the knight is certain to find the island inhospitable in other ways. Aside from the prevalence of crates that need to be pushed around, there are also a number of wide chasms, boulders, or other obstacles. Special items such as the gravity-defying wing boots or the stone-crushing gauntlet are required to progress. Anyone familiar with Metroid and its ilk will feel right at home. There are even a few opportunities to return to earlier areas, just to collect treasures that couldn’t be reached before. The island is very organically structured, thanks in part to its numerous shortcuts. It’s also appreciated that early on, the knight finds a charm that immediately transports him back to town at no cost.

Preparation is just one of the many keys to completing this game. The other is…many keys. It seems that the previous inhabitants of the island made a habit of locking every single door. Although there are multiple ways of obtaining keys, the average playthrough requires well over a hundred, so take every opportunity to stock up. The town is also home to the priestess, who distributes stat points whenever the hero levels up. She handles Guardian transferring ceremonies, as well. There are several Guardian cards to find, and they confer powerful abilities. A couple of shopkeepers and a scripture-translating researcher who also makes a decent lunch are further incentives to come back. The aforementioned shortcuts ensure that progress is never halted for very long.

Screenshot for Xanadu Next on PC

Rather than traditional difficulty settings, Xanadu Next opts for something a little more creative. After defeating the final boss, the player is ranked in several categories, including time spent, number of potions quaffed, and so on. It’s a really cool system because the challenge becomes a matter of efficiency. When somebody plays through this game for the first time, they’re probably going to ignore certain skills, not use very many spells, or forget to try different Guardians. When they get to the ranking screen, they realise where they went wrong. After re-evaluating, they’ll take another crack at it in the hopes of achieving a higher rank. It’s a better idea than merely boosting enemy stats, which tends to be the case for most other action-RPGs.

There are other factors to account for, as well. Time doesn’t wait for the knight to sort through his inventory. Either prepare in the comfort of an empty room, or try to keep from getting slapped around, while fishing for a healing potion. There are rare items that can only be obtained off of fresh monster corpses. Every piece of equipment has a stat requirement. It might even be necessary to level down, just to redistribute the points. It’s more grinding, but it’s better than starting over from the beginning. It’s a lot to absorb, but Xanadu Next comes together in superb fashion. It utilises several risky design decisions, but also has the good sense to follow through on all of them. Everything just “clicks,” so what could be disastrous in a lesser action-RPG helps to make this one memorable.

Screenshot for Xanadu Next on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It’s not uncommon for a video game to borrow ideas from other titles. However, it is very rare to see something like Xanadu Next. It takes full advantage of every influence to deliver an absolutely terrific adventure. The engaging combat is bolstered by a variety of subsystems. These ideas are seemingly disparate in their inclusion yet harmonious in their execution, which is exactly why they work together to create something very unique and impressive. Despite being released in 2005 by a developer that didn’t have a lot of experience with 3D graphics, the game has aged quite gracefully. Falcom’s sound team delivers an atmospheric soundtrack that is simply stunning. Altogether, this makes for a classic game that genre enthusiasts should pick up immediately.

Developer

Nihon Falcom

Publisher

XSEED Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This sounds fantastic! It also makes me yearn for a Faxanadu remake Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Gives me a sort of Vagrant Story feel, though they probably play nothing alike lol.

I thought of Vagrant Story more than a few times while playing through this game. 

I wasn't interested in this before but now it sounds pretty cool!

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

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