FAXANADU - NES
The game begins with a nameless hero returning from a long journey in which he saw much hardship to find that his home country of Eolis is in a desperate state. The wells have almost run dry, and the walls are crumbling. Upon entering the city you learn from the Church’s Guru that the King would like to speak with anyone who can perhaps remedy the common hardships. The Guru gives you a ring that is proof of your elfish heritage. Elves in this game are visually just humans- no pointy ears, immortality, or funny languages. Upon talking to the local population you learn of monsters appearing soon before the water started to be scarce. The dwarves, one of the races of people who live in the tree have disappeared. You go to see the king and he tells you that they have sent their best men into the roots of the enormous tree from which the water usually flows, but none have returned. He gives you 1500 gold pieces for supplies, and wishes you good luck on your journey.
The game is a 2d side scrolling adventure similar to an amazing game called The Battle of Olympus or Zelda II, the Adventure of Link. Unlike these games though, the world unfolds entirely in two dimensions from start to finish. The game allows the player to purchase weapons, shields, and armor which visibly appear on the character as you equipped them. Better armor gives the character better protection from direct collisions with monsters, better shields give better protection from projectile attacks, and better weapons allow for further reach as well as more damage done to enemies. This is the first time that I know of that game makers had ever implemented gear appearing on the character. The character has a red life meter and a green magic meter. The player can buy magic spells from various shop keepers throughout the game. Magic is simply the ability to shoot projectiles that have different shapes, travel speeds, directions, and amount of damage done to enemies. There is also an experience level feature in this game in which the player can level up the character’s rank. The ranking is what determines the amount of gold that the character starts with upon loading a game via the password interface. The game calls the passwords “mantras” which the guru in every town gives you after telling you to “Remember your mantra.” If you receive enough damage in this game to die you turn to dust and the game infuriatingly intones “Do not have negative thoughts, remember your mantra.”
If you decide to give this game a play through, you are going to have to be patient at first to get used to the character’s tricky inertia and shifty jumping. Often the game feels a little too challenging when it comes to getting the character to higher elevations as you climb the tree, but this can be made easier if you save enough money to stock up on winged boots which allow you to fly for 30 seconds. Also most bosses and monsters can be easily defeated with the use of a flurry of magic projectiles.
Without giving too much more of the story away, for those who would like to experience it first hand- the adventure leads you from the base of the tree- Eolis, to the roots of the tree where you learn of the reason behind the drying up of the water supplies, in to the trunk where a horrible mist has spread driving the dwarves mad, higher even in to the branches where a meteorite previously struck and the monsters are worse.
This game is a reminder not only of my distant youth, skipping school to play Nintendo, but also of the possibility that a game can provide an emotional experience like no other medium regardless of the amount of money that is spent in its production or the amount of zeros and ones used or in its ability to cause seizures. It is simply put worthy of being carried around everywhere I go.
If you aren't fortunate enough to own that old hunk of a system, the game is available on the Wii's virtual console.