Nihon Falcom is a game developer that has been around since the 1980s. They were at the forefront of the Role Playing genre then, and are responsible for games that made the Role Playing genre what it is today. Xanadu Next is the successor to Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, which released in 1985. It has come to PC and was created in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original Xanadu’s release. Nihon Falcom was responsible for games such as the Ys series, and Xanadu Next carries on the spirit of Nihon Falcom’s titles, bringing them to a new generation of players. Xanadu Next was originally released by Nihon Falcom for the Nokia N-Gage and has been revived for Steam by XSEED Games for modern gamers to enjoy.
Xanadu Next puts you in a world where a mysterious castle appears over the waters of Lake Orwell, which is a part of the mysterious Harlech Island. Charlotte L Wells is a scholar that wishes to investigate the mysterious castle, and enlists the help of an old friend, a knight that agrees to protect her from the dangers of the castle. The knight winds up fatally wounded by a mysterious assailant, and is tasked with finding the “Dragon Slayer” a mysterious weapon that may hold the key to his survival.
Xanadu Next plays like a real-time action RPG, where the player explores each environment, which seamlessly connects to the next one. These environments are diverse, from lush forests, to frosty peaks, and contain stone tablets and old letters to help you piece together the history of Castle Strangerock.
Combat plays out in real-time, and the player has multiple mechanics at their disposal in order to progress. You can fuse your main character with “Guardians” which provide passive abilities, while weapons and armor have skills attached that can only be learned through long-term use of the weapon or armor piece. You can also choose to tweak your stats by leveling down (or up) in order to learn new spells or build your character in a different way.
Throughout the environments, there are hidden secrets, shortcuts, and intense bosses to find and defeat. While Xanadu Next may seem like a straightforward RPG experience, there is much to discover and enjoy within the confines of the game’s campaign. It should be noted that while Xanadu Next is a new Nihon Falcom game, its visuals are very much of the classic or retro variety.
The cinematics within Xanadu Next look like cinematics from the Sony Playstation era of gaming, while the in-game visuals are more of something akin to the Playstation 2; either way, it maintains a medieval aesthetic found in other Nihon Falcom games, and the music and sounds are in line with it as well. I found myself having a difficult time immersing myself in the game’s story, and becoming interested in the characters. With that being said, I find the gameplay addictive, and amazingly fun.
The main downside of the gameplay is the emphasis on grinding that is required in order to progress. If you are going to get anywhere in Xanadu Next, you have to grind the gold for better equipment. Progression is slow, as there’s no real way to measure the difficulty scaling in the game until you reach an area you aren’t prepared for. There winds up being quite a bit of back-tracking as well, since you’ll often find yourself needing to head back to town to buy keys (if you haven’t found enough monster bones to make keys from) or needing to buy healing items. You’ll also be heading back to town each time you level up to allocate your points so your stats can increase further beyond their limits.
Despite the slow pacing and the grinding aspects, Xanadu Next is worth picking up, especially if you enjoy old school RPGs like the Ys series. It doesn’t really break any new ground, but it makes up for that with deep, addictive combat and character building. Xanadu Next carries the spirit of Nihon Falcom, and reminds us of why the old school games like Ys were so much fun.
A PC Review Code for Xanadu Next was provided by XSEED Games for the purpose of this review