Depending on your taste in games, Xseed might be a publishing company that’s flown under your radar. Lately though it seems like a good chunk of my reviews for Gaming Nexus have come from them, either via the name Xseed or their main name Marvelous USA such as Senran Kagura: Deep Crimson, Return to PoPoLoCrios, and Corpse Party, all for the 3DS. I’ve also played through a couple of the games in the Ys series, so when I was asked to check out Xanadu Next I jumped at the chance to see if it was as good as their previous games. What’s even more interesting is that the game was released on PC in Japan over ten years ago, but was released worldwide…on the NGage of all things. Now that the PC version has been released around the globe, it’s time to check out how it holds up.
The game begins with your character as one of a few remaining knights who don’t seem to be welcomed anymore. You’re traveling with your sister Char as she’s brought you along to Harlech Island to investigate some ruins as well as a mysterious castle called Castle Strangerock, within which lies a powerful sword known as the Dragon Slayer. During a trip through your first ruins you come across a crown followed by a swordsman who would also like said crown and is willing to kill you to get it…and he does. However, a priestess in a church performs a life-saving ritual by binding your life to the island as well as a Guardian. Sorry for the spoiler on that but Guardians are a somewhat integral part to the game. Once you’re back amongst the living it’s time to seek out the Dragon Slayer which has been said to give the wielder life and power, meaning you’d no longer need that binding to stay alive.
When you first start up the game in Steam you have the option to play the game or configure the settings. I highly recommend going to the configure screen as it will tell you your controls for both keyboard and game pad. I went into the game blind because I figured the game would tell me the controls as I went, or at least they wouldn’t be that complicated. I was kind of wrong. The game does tell you how to perform various actions but doesn’t really show what buttons perform them. This was quite the issue when attacking as I was able to do a good amount of damage a few times, then I could no longer attack. It took going to the configuration menu to realize that I was using a special attack or spell instead of my normal attack which, as it turns out, can only be used when something you can attack is within range. Once I figured that out and noticed that a lot of the controls are similar to those found in the more recent Ys games, things got a bit better.
If you’ve played any of the more recent Ys games such as Origins or Ark of Napishtim, you should have an easier time picking up and playing the game from a gameplay perspective. Gameplay has the player navigating various ruins and areas outside of those ruins. As you wander around you’ll defeat various enemies, gain experience, level up, the usual RPG stuff. However, similar to games like Diablo you have to allocate your stat points when you level up, but after leveling you have to go back to the main town’s church and talk to the priestess to allocate them. You get six points each time you level up and if you don’t use them all before leveling up again they do carry over.
The awesome thing about allocating points in Xanadu Next is that if you find out later that you want to change your points around, you can do so prior to leveling up again. For example, let’s say I just hit level five and allocated my six points. Any time prior to hitting level six I can go back to the church and get those points reallocated. In other words, while they do affect your stats, they’re not permanently locked in until you level up again. But what if you’ve leveled up and soon realize you screwed up in allocating your points? You can actually level down with half of the experience points needed to level up again and reallocate those points. Very handy in case you want to equip something that requires different stats than what you currently have.
You’ll also learn more about Guardians. As the game progresses you’ll come across various Guardian cards that you can equip back at the church. Each guardian gives off a different effect and the more enemies you defeat with a guardian equipped, the more that guardian will level up to a max level of ten and increase its effect. You can change your current guardian at the church at any time for no cost, meaning you can swap them out depending on the situation. For instance I leveled up the initial guardian, which increase your max HP, to the max level before swapping for another guardian to level it up. You can also level up your weapons by defeating enemies with them. The more you level a weapon (which goes from zero to two hundred percent) the more damage it can do, and duplicate weapons keep any experience you’ve already gained from it the first time. That adds a bit more strategy in determining which weapon to use as a weapon you just found might not be as powerful as what you’re holding at the moment, but using it enough will increase its power in due time.
There are a couple of issues I do have with the game and they both involve grinding. Now it’s not uncommon for some games to make you go through a grind fest or two, especially if you just blow through everything and eventually find yourself quite underpowered. It’s also not uncommon for Xseed to up the difficulty kind of quickly and force you to do several major grinding sessions ala Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim. That said, at least the grinding in Ys VI was enjoyable and you tended to level up rather quickly once you’ve found that sweet spot. In Xanadu Next however, grinding can be a bit of a chore…but not for the reasons you might think. Yes you’ll have to spend some time running around and killing off enemies before returning to town, resting, and repeating the process a bit, especially when you know a boss is coming up. However, there is one other annoying reason you’ll need to grind.
What’s one of the most important non-equipable items in an RPG? Keys. Lots of games have you finding keys to open doors in dungeons. The Legend of Zelda games are notorious for this, but in a good way. In those games you’ll almost always find the keys you need within the dungeons themselves and rarely have to purchase keys, if you even can beyond the early games. In Xanadu Next however, you can find keys, but they’re few and far between it seems. You can buy keys, but there’s a catch. While they start off cheap, each key you buy after the first two or three will cause the price of the key to increase. You can keep the cost low by finding bones to give to the shopkeeper who sells keys, but sometimes finding bones can be tedious. You’ll eventually have the opportunity to purchase a knife that lets you carve keys out of bones yourself, but that doesn’t do anything to the cost in town.
So what’s the problem? You have to keep a steady supply of keys on hand to progress through the game. I can’t tell you how many times in the early game I had to backtrack out of some ruins to go back to town, purchase a few keys, get further into the ruins, and then find out I still didn’t buy enough keys. The first major ruins you come too has a lot of locked doors. In fact, I’d say there are more locked doors than opened passageways it seems. You eventually get an item that lets you return to town at any time, but it’s a one way trip. You can also buy an item that creates a portal back to town that lets you return to where you placed the portal, but it’s five hundred gold a pop and it’s a one-time use, meaning once you step into the vortex from town and go back to where you originally used it, the vortex disappears. It’s a nice item to have on hand if you have the gold though.
Gameplay-wise Xanadu Next is pretty good, but there are a couple of other issues. There are several known bugs in the game that could crop up such as the game possibly crashing after the first cut scene (which it did on me the first time I played it) or after allocating skill points at level three. There’s another bug which is sort of game breaking. When you go into your item menu you can’t click on or select certain tabs or items because for whatever reason the game thinks you’re trying to navigate the ruins still (an optional way to move is to click where you want to move to). This means that you might not be able to select certain skills or items depending on where they are on the item tab you’re on. It’s not a major issue, but this may make certain skills un-useable.
Beyond that, Xanadu Next can be a fun game, but can also be kind of grueling at times. I really enjoy exploring the ruins and thankfully that’s the bulk of the game. However, constantly returning to town to buy more keys when I run out can be a hassle, especially since the price keeps going up unless you've found any bones. At least it’s easy to farm for gold; every enemy seems to drop it and clearing a room will net you a chest that usually consists of gold, so money’s not scarce by any means. The game also looks kind of dated, but then again I’ve never let graphics stand in the way of how much I enjoy a game. If you’re looking for a good dungeon crawler despite a few issues and bugs, Xanadu Next is still an enjoyable game. Maybe not as good as Xseed’s other outings, especially the later Ys games, but still enjoyable nonetheless.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.