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Xak: The Art of Visual Stage

Xak: The Art of Visual Stage is the first game in a fantasy computer role-playing game series Xak developed and published by the Japanese software developer MicroCabin. It was originally released for the NEC PC8801 Japanese computer system. Eventually other versions were developed for the NEC PC9801, Sharp X68000, and the more widely known MSX-2 system. The MSX version supports both the MSX's internal PSG sound system as well as the MSX-Music audio hardware add-on, optionally at the same time. The game was released in Japan only. As of February 28th, 2007 an official English translation of Xak - The Art of Visual Stage is being distributed on the retro gaming service WOOMB.net An enhanced remake for the Super Famicom was later released by Sunsoft. Another enchanced remake was released for the NEC PC-Engine, together with the Sequel Xak II as Xak I & II by Telenet Japan's development team Riot.

Setting and story

Xak features a typical high fantasy setting. According to the game world's legends, a great war was fought between the benevolent but weakening ancient gods and a demon race, which led to the collapse and eventual mortality of the gods. After this 'War of Sealing', the gods divided the world into three parts: Xak, the world of humans, Oceanity, the world of faeries, and Zekisis, the world of demons. The demon world of Zekisis was tightly sealed from the other two worlds as to prevent reentry of the warmongering demon race. Some demons were left behind in Xak, however, and others managed to discover a separate means to enter Xak from Zekisis anyway. This ancient history is displayed in the introduction of Xak II.

One of them, Badu, was a very powerful demon, able to use coercive magic to make humans do his bidding. Duel, the god of war, managed to defeat Badu and seal him away in a mountain of ice for 250 years. The god later settled in a village known as Fearess to live out the rest of his mortal life.

At the beginning of the game, Badu's prison is broken. Demons overrun parts of Xak once again. In order to stop the ravaging of his lands, the King of Wavis sends a messenger faerie to Dork Kart, a famous warrior living in the village of Fearess. Dork, however, has gone missing. The player takes on the role of Latok Kart, Dork's 16-year old son, as he meets the messenger faerie, Pixie. Latok embarks on the King's quest to slay Badu, hoping to find his father along the way.

In his travels, Latok is guided by Duel's spirit. Over the course of the game, it turns out that Dork and thus Latok is a descendant of Duel.

Characters

Latok is the only playable character in the game. Notable non-player characters Latok meets include:

  • Lou Miri Pixie, the green-haired messenger faerie sent by the King of Wavis that guides Latok along his way.
  • Freya "Fray" Jerbain, a blue-haired girl Latok rescues from a wolf-infested forest. Fray is the main heroine of a Xak series spin-off, Fray In Magical Adventure Please see also Fray CD However, during the course of Xak she does not know yet how to use magic.
  • Rune Greed, a green-haired warrior. He is a descendant of Duel as well and is on a quest to slay Badu of his own.
  • Rabby, a magician's familiar rabbit given to Latok.
  • Duel, the god of war, living on in spirit form.
  • Elise, a childhood friend of Latok and the granddaughter of Fearess' Mayor. She could be considered as a possible romantic interest of Latok.
  • Saria, Latok's Mother, who is blind. Latok has taken care of her ever since his father disappeared.
  • Bobby, the pacifist son of the blacksmith Dac of the town of Fearess.
  • Nurse Elle, the nurse of the village of Fearess.
  • Kane, a magician in the hobbit village of Nemnu who gives Latok a mascot familiar named Rabbie.
  • Rachael, a girl who's father is in charge of a resistance hideout against the demons in the Land of Fire.
  • Zwoon, a demon disguised as a human man who Latok accidentally sets free.
  • Necromancer, a powerful black-robed demon with power over the dead. Necromancer is a recurring villain in the series.
  • Badu, the main villain of the game who was recently released from his 250 year imprisonment.

Gameplay

Xak is a classic dungeon crawl, in that the game proceeds by the player finding his way through labyrinthine maps, defeating opposing monsters on the way. In each map, keys, NPCs and other objects have to be found to gain entrance to the room where a boss dwells. After defeating the boss, the player can proceed towards the next map, where the structure repeats. Various sub-quests involving NPCs are present, most of them obligatory.

Combat is in real-time. The player's character walks around on the game maps, as well as the monster characters. Each character has an attack and defense rating, different for each of its four sides. Moreover, Latok's ratings change depending on whether he has his sword drawn (as the player keeps the space bar depressed) or sheathed. As Latok or a monster takes damage or wards off an attack, the character is pushed backwards. This combat system requires some manual dexterity, especially during boss fights -- bosses are generally several times larger than Latok himself.

Latok advances in power through a classic leveling system. Moreover, there are several shops scattered through the game where Latok can buy stronger swords, armours and shields. Gold, the game's currency, and experience points are awarded for killing monsters that wander the map.

Presentation

On MSX-2, Xak is displayed in a screen with a 512x212 display resolution. The game uses a scrolling display, the map scrolls away as the player's character reaches a distance from the screen's side of about 1/3 of the total display. Considering the memory limitations of the MSX-2 system, this scrolling effect was exceptional at the time, in spite of being rather jerky.

The game's music supports both the internal PSG sound system, as well as the optional MSX-Music. In a style that is heard in most of MicroCabin's productions for MSX, the PSG channels are used for the main melody and sound effects, while the MSX-Music channels are used for supporting instruments. This setup was remarkable at the time, as most software that supported MSX-Music declined to use the PSG channels except for sound effects once the MSX-Music was used.

See also

External links

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