So like many of you, Sean and I too had a first RPG, though it’s not one that many can say was their first foray into the genre. You see our dad, being the technocrat that he was, paid almost $2,000 for a Leading Edge Model D with a monochrome monitor. He even paid the extra to expand the ram from 32k to 64k. Long story short, by todays standards the computer was slow, colorless (unless you count that ugly yellow) and driven by DOS, the efficient but non windows based operating system that left much to be desired. This was probably 1988 I’m guessing and others more learned than me could probably point out the exact release date of that particular computer in order to pin down the date in a more precise manner.
The computer was of little interest to me. There was nothing to do on it, and wasn’t bright and colorful like the Apple IIe’s that were available in my grade school’s computer lab. But then, one day, my dad came home with a box with an interesting picture on the front. There was blood, and fire, and dragons, and a hot woman! With a sword!
It turned out that the box contained a game that a guy in our neighborhood (I believe my dad worked on his house, turns out this gentleman was one of my best friend in high school’s neighbor, go figure) helped program. The game was Drakkhen. Released 1989 by Infogrames and modified for North American release by Draconian, a label from Data East, in 1990. Here’s my childlike brain talking to itself, “This games box art kicks so much ass the actual game must be awesome!” or so I thought.
So how did this game strike my 4-7-year-old mind you might ask? Well I didn’t know how to play the damn thing. It was slow, and complicated, and you couldn’t just wander around cause you’d die in two seconds flat, and to get into the first castle you had to time waking across the bridge so an evil shark didn’t jump out of the water and kill you dead. It was a harsh world this world of Drakkhen. On top of it all the PC version has an archaic anti-pirating mechanism that goes as follows: there’s a blue card that came with the game, hard to see what the hell was written on it, randomly a text box appears (it’s a horrible night to have a curse) and requests an input in the form of “Drakkhen Codes. Line 11. Word 1.” What the hell is that you might ask?!? Well the blue card is the Drakkhen Codes list, and if I remember correctly you have to look up the correct line on the code card that will lead you to a page in the manual which you then find the correct word from the correct line in conjunction with the message and, as if all that wasn’t enough, if you incorrectly enter the word that you think is correct from the cryptic clue the game shuts down. What the hell… seriously…
This game on the PC is honestly pretty bad. I’d have to say the worst part is that it doesn’t seem to have a map. I tried all the buttons when I played the version that’s available on the online dosbox library, nothing, nada, zip. Let me ask you this dear reader, in an open 3D style world with danger lurking around every corner and various huts and dragon palaces to visit what do you need most? A MAP! Not some lousy print out version that is in the instruction manual either, but a map that shows your actual location based on a series of icons. It’s a vital piece of directional material! It’s the only way to advance through the game! How long would it take to map out the grid yourself? Who actually beat this game on a PC in the late 80s? I’d honestly like to know.
But you know what, that damn box art got to me, and I couldn’t help but think that somehow, some way, this game has to have redeeming qualities. I mean you don’t just develop that concept art out of thin air. It’s amazing! It makes you feel like an epic adventure is at your fingertips if only you can get past all the interface mechanisms that are holding you back. Alas, it never happened for me on the PC, nor do I think I could stomach attempting to slog my way through it today as an adult, there’s too many other good old computer games that would jump way ahead of this one on my list, ones that even use a similar interface, well, at least for the castle exploration parts. Games like: LOOM, Maniac Mansion, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, FA18 Hornet and Secret of Monkey Island, hell even Paper Airplane and Oregon Trail might beat it out.
Luckily for Drakkhen it was somewhat saved by its 1991 SNES port (I know this sounds insane. A point and click computer game port. Better. On a console.). Sean and I have actually beaten Drakkhen on the SNES, a few times in fact. Probably due to the fact that you can actually navigate the over-world due to an innovative feature called a map. I’d also be remiss to not mention that the music is really well done as the SNES sound chip comes through again in the clutch, providing music that isn’t monotonous through many of the games different settings, from eerie to melodic, this games soundtrack has a song that fits the bill.
So if you’re into grinding, dead ends, hard to find items, miscellaneous items that have no apparent use, clues that have no use, puzzles that have no clues, over powered enemies that come out of nowhere, (I’m talking to you stone that I bumped into in the middle of a crossroad) endless trips to the only guy in the entire world that can revive your characters and dragons, oh… did I mention that there’s eight dragons that rule the world of Drakkhen? Well there are, most of them you kill. If all those things above are applicable then this is the game for you! Luckily Sean and I are planning on doing a let’s play of this gem sometime in the near future so you can save yourselves the punishment and just watch us give it a whirl.
This has been Justin from RPGBros, until next time, keep those buttons moving.
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P.S. Also of note, seeing as it’s Mega Man week, you can check out our Mega Man 2 Let’s Play here!