Sunday, March 17, 2013

Emulator Hour: Faxanadu (NES)

Why do I love Faxanadu so much?  It's one of my favorite games for the NES that I never owned.  I've spent some time thinking about this game, and I think that the graphics are one of my favorite parts of Faxanadu.  They may not seem like much at first glance, but I think they contribute strongly to my reason for carrying a torch for this game.  In addition, the soundtrack is one of the most interesting from the NES era.  

Below I show a progression of some of the different pallets and musical themes from Faxanadu.  The game's action starts at the base of the World Tree, travels up the tree a bit, goes inside the tree, comes back out, then ends up in the branches.  I love the idea of fighting through a giant tree.  This is a game that warrants a good remake.  Emphasis on good.

Muddy brown brick and a sky with a greenish hue characterize the town Eolis, cut off from their source of water and life.  
Eolis theme.  

The contrast is kicked up at the trunk; bright orange and green dominate, with a deep blue sky. The music picks up a bit.  

Purple foggy good times.  This was the furthest I ever made it on a rental. Delightfully spooky musical accompaniment.  
Mist Theme

Here we are in a branch of the great world tree. The music gets a bit more serious in tone. 
World of Branch Theme

Somehow there's a stone dungeon in the branches of this tree.  Another new pallet.  The music is a variation on the previous dungeon theme.  
Labrynth Theme

Another thing I'd like to mention is that the music is pretty darn good.  Wikipedia gives composition credits to June Chikuma who also maintains a site called  Perhaps her studies of Arabic Nay and Tunisian music have influenced her compositions on Faxanadu for the better.  

WiiGuy has kindly put the entire Faxanadu soundtrack on youtube, in stereo.  Myself, I'm a big fan of the overworld theme.  But I think you should also try this creepy track on for size.  Oh, and check out this guy who arranged/recorded the Faxanadu town theme for classical guitar.  And then why not listen to this orchestral arrangement of the overworld theme? And then there's this Piano cover of the mist theme.  Alright, it turns out there is no end to cool arrangements of themes from this game!

The first minute of this jazz arrangement is worth the price of admission (which is free, by the way).  

I guess what I'd like to conclude is that the sense of atmosphere in Faxanadu sets it apart from 2d platformers of that era.  The music and the graphics are both distinctive and synchronous.  And these elements contribute heavily to my continued appreciation of this game.  


P.S. Here are some passwords I saved from my last play of the NES game Faxanadu.  They're in chronological order, though I don't remember where any of them will put you.  Have fun. 



  1. I remember not making it very far in this game, somewhere in the trunk maybe, unless there was a boss before getting to the trunk, because I don't ever remember fighting any bosses. I do love how, what looks like the final boss (?) is obviously inspired by "Alien."

    I think I borrowed this game from Dellaños on a number of occasions, but never finished it as I became too frustrated. I'd really like to go through it now, now that I have more patience and less time.

  2. I've heard references to HP Lovecraft when talking about the enemy design in this game. Your observation about the movie Alien fits with that.

    I recently beat the game, but was only able to do so with the help of save states etc.

    I forgot to mention that the RPG elements were a big draw for me. I love having the option to grind for a bit if something seems too tough. I could also mention that the play controls are pretty stiff, which can make this game extra tough. And who likes entering passwords? Not me.