|Here I am in front of a castle with a scorpion or something.|
Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II
Nihon Falcom (developer and publisher)Released 1985 for PC-88, PC-98, and Sharp X1; 1986 for FM-7; 1987 for MSX
Date Started: 27 March 2016
Date Ended: 11 April 2016
Date Ended: 11 April 2016
Total Hours: 9
Reload Count: Many. Didn't keep track.
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 26Ranking at Time of Posting: 94/215 (44%)
It's been a long time since I felt this pathetic about my attempt to play a game. The late summer of 2015 brought a spate of games in a row--Antares, Out of the Shadows, The Ormus Saga, and Dungeons of Avalon--that I didn't or couldn't finish, but I at least played them long enough to get a full sense of what they offered. The last time I bailed on a title without feeling like I had at least experienced the totality of the gameplay was back in 2011.
But I just can't bring myself to continue with Xanadu. My sessions with the game have been the living definition of "ennui." Its approach is miles different from what I like about the role-playing genre. I have no interest in watching a GCLM run around, climb ladders, and bump into enemies in a setting that lacks NPCs or a story. I tolerated it for short games like Hydlide and the first Dragon Slayer, but this one is just way too long and exhausting. And as we talked about last time, its closed economy and experience system leave me constantly anxious that I'm doing everything wrong. My game periods keep coasting to a stop with nothing having been achieved. I keep saying, "What have I really accomplished in the last half hour?," coming up short with the answer, and killing the session without saving. I keep getting stuck because I run out of keys and money to buy new keys. I'm sick of Level 2 but the doorways to Level 3 won't open and I don't know why. In 9 hours of play, I don't feel like I did much more than dither around.
The weird thing is, I fundamentally realize that Xanadu isn't that hard--there are paths to explore that I haven't explored and enemies that I haven't slain--but I just get filled with distaste when I think of playing any more. Don't ask me to explain it. I think we can all agree that, despite it being a role-playing game, Xanadu is vastly different in its approach than the types of games I rate highly. Having agreed that it's different, you'll just have to accept that I don't like this kind of game. I promise I won't judge you for liking it. It would be a boring world if we all had the same tastes.
|I guess this would have been the final boss. Screenshot courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101.|
I feel particularly bad because even though Xanadu seems quite popular, there isn't much about it online. I couldn't find any endgame videos, for instance. From descriptions, I gather that the game ends when you find a "dragon slayer" sword and kill a dragon named Galsis. But all I can rate is what I experienced, which is:
- 0 points for the game world. The land has a king is all I can tell you. Even the documentation doesn't seem to have offered anything.
- 4 points for character creation and development. There's a reasonably complex RPG character sheet here, with a full set of attributes and separate experience for fighting and magic. How you spend your initial funds on attributes and how you fight enemies throughout the game helps you define your character as a fighter, wizard, or hybrid. This is all great. But let's not have any more of this individual-experience-per-weapon-and-armor-type thing again. Not unless daggers and short swords can somehow remain relevant the whole game. Also, the "karma" system is pretty nonsensical.
|Some of my statistics.|
- 0 points for no NPC interaction.
- 3 points for encounters and foes. The enemies have some strengths and weaknesses depending on type, and there are boss-level enemies that require special tactics.
- 2 points for magic and combat. I will never like the "bump" combat system. Magic is a little more advanced here, requiring the player to select from a variety of spells. But too much boils down to action and manual dexterity.
|These guys were really hard.|
- 4 points for equipment. I really like the variety of special magic items that you can find and use.
- 6 points for economy. A major part of the game, and a major resource to manage, it never stops being relevant. I just wish it wasn't a closed system.
- 1 point for the quest. I assume there is one, but the game gives you no information about it.
- 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. I didn't have any major complaints with any of them, but they're only good enough for the period. The interface did have a few snags and was clearly optimized for a joystick.
- 3 points for gameplay. It feels both linear and nonlinear, as in many paths are open but you have to complete them in a particular order to have a chance. I guess it has some replayability with different a different approach to class and character development.
That's a final score of 26, a number high enough to describe some games that I enjoyed. I didn't enoy this one at all, but I can't put my finger on the "why" well enough to deliberately subtract any points.
I recognize that I'm in the minority on this one. It was hugely popular. According to Wikipedia, its 1985 sales total of 400,000 in Japan alone has yet to be broken (that seems low to me, but that's what Wikipedia says). The soundtrack was so popular that a Japanese band released a best-selling album based on it. The game influenced later series like Ys and Zelda and perhaps even Final Fantasy. It launched its own sub-series of the Dragon Slayer line, with Scenario II (an expansion pack) coming out in 1986, followed by Faxanadu (1987), The Legend of Xanadu (1994), Revival Xanadu (1995; this one a remake rather than a sequel), The Legend of Xanadu II (1995), and Xanadu Next (2005).
|A screenshot from the "Revival" remake doesn't look much different than the original.|
I gave decent ratings to Zeliard and The Ancient Land of Ys, both clearly influenced by Xanadu, so it's possible for me to enjoy this style of game (at least somewhat) with some additional features. But I didn't enjoy this one. Sorry. I really do feel bad about ending this soon and writing such a truncated final posting. I won't make you wait the usual 3 days for the next entry; I want to forget this one as soon as possible.
After a very frustrating experience trying to start Shadow Keep, I kicked it down the list a little ways. I've lost patience with Mac emulation for now. It took me several hours to get the Basilisk II emulator working properly. I first tried to set up a newer version but got some common "black screen" error so I had to start over with an older version. That worked, but then I couldn't extract the .sit files that the game came in. I downloaded two different versions of StuffIt Expander for Windows, but both just crashed on loading (and messed up my .zip file associations at the same time).
Finally, some readers helped out with extracted versions of the game. I got it started only to find that Shadow Keep runs way too fast in Bailisk II and there's no way to slow down the emulator. Also, it kept crashing during the game. So now if I'm going to run the game, I have to start all over and try to set up a different emulator, like Mini vMac.
Setting up KEGS, the Apple IIGS emulator, was no picnic either, but I seem to have it running. I'll try Dark Designs III next.