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DRAKKHEN / Kemco / SNES
Alright, so I guess when the very first screen of a game tells you it was "developped", that's a sign you should keep your expectations pretty low.
And Drakkhen is a bad game in a lot of ways. But you know what? At least it's interesting. It's not quite like any other RPG I've ever seen, it's actually ahead of its time in several ways, and it definitely has likable qualities.
Oh, and it's completely effing bizarre. Magical hermits appear out of nowhere to speak to you in "teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons" voices. Enemies suddenly fly onto the screen with inexplicable retching noises. Constellations swoop down to attack you for no apparent reason. Gigantic shadow men suddenly grow out of the ground accompanied by freaky music. Huge dragons drop out of the sky to give you directions. The premise of the game is actually to go around and kill dragon princesses and princes holed up in various castles around the land, and to collect their delicious tears. Do this and the Dragon Army apparently approves of your handiwork and decides not to roast all of humanity or something.
Each new game opens up with you creating a party of four characters, or simply selecting a "quick start" option to get four pre-fabs. Initially this seems a little pointless as the game forces you to have a fixed party of four characters - a Fighter, Scout, Magician and Priest. Aside from letting you select names and genders, however, creating a character gives you random dice rolls for your stats, which are truly random - you can end up with a party full of characters with epic stats. You'll basically need it, though, as the difficulty in this one is pretty brutal.
The game runs on a fake 3D sprite-scaling polygon engine that was seen in a few computer RPGs in the early 90s ... the first game it made me think of was Betrayal at Krondor, though I think that actually came out a couple years after this one. You can stop at any time to "deploy" your party in 2D sprite fashion onto any screen to check things out or fight, though. And when you enter the dungeons, you move around more in a 2D adventure game style, able to have minimal interaction with background objects, pick stuff up, and use stuff from your inventory. Battles are totally automated - encounters can happen at random at any time while in the overworld, even when just standing around doing nothing, but once inside a dungeon they only occur in fixed places (and usually don't respawn.) Characters are just given general overall instructions on what to do in battle, then they all run around like chickens with their heads cut off attacking and casting spells as they please, and you just kind of hope that they manage to win the battle somehow.
The game initially seems too hard and confusing but once you adjust it's actually not that bad. You have to get used to the weird undetailed map screen where you basically just navigate by looking at the compass constantly to see what direction you're pointed in relative to where you're trying to go ... just watch out for all the rivers randomly distributed across the land because you automatically drown to death if you stumble into one. Also, there's only one inn/item shop in the entire land, and you can't get to it at the beginning of the game ... there's healing temples scattered about though, but to get to the first one you have to walk around the Dragon Landing Strip to the south, otherwise Helpful Roadside Dragon keeps popping in to give you directions. Characters also heal gradually as time passes, so you can pop into one of the early dungeon screens where there's no monsters and just stand around for a while to refill your health.
The story is about as threadbare as it gets, and the characters have no personality whatsoever. Combat is also pretty tedious as it's so completely passive, plus the overwhelming difficulty of even common enemies necessitates a lot of grinding in the opening areas. Other than that, though, the game is actually kind of enjoyable. There's a neat day-night cycle complete with detailed color gradients, the music is roundly pretty good, and the interface works well (if just a bit clunky at times.) And all the completely random, laughable shit you keep running into almost makes the game worth playing all by itself ... maybe not to completion, but at least worth a look.
well considered review
jammin to character creation
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