This past weekend, I did a thing. You see, I kind of, sort of ran out of Super Nintendo game ideas so I asked you guys on Twitter. Honestly, I only really expected one or two answers. Instead, I got a bunch of suggestions. D’awww, you guys. So, I will take those suggestions as you giving me free advice on how to keep you reading and one by one, I will review all of those requests.
Additionally, it is now open season. Have a game you want me to review? Let me know. I will review them all, first come, first served. The first suggestion was made by 1 More Castle’s own Zack Smith. Zack wanted to see me review the SNES RPG Drakkhen. And so it is.
The story starts you out on the conveniently square shaped land of Drakkhen where humans and human-esque dragon people. The game quickly explains in the vaguest way possible that the land is broken up into 4 areas based on the elements of earth, fire, water, and air. [Author’s note: I REALLY wanted to make a Captain Planet reference here but alas, no heart. By your powers combined, I am disappointed.] Anyhow, each area is ruled by two royal dragon people and they hold these magical tear gems. You play as a team of four humans hell bent on collecting the eight gems and combining them to save the human world. That is about as much of the story as you can piece together. Seems kind of like poor translation to me.
Before I go on into the rest of the game, I feel the need to touch on something I thought was really neat. Before you get into the game, you actually get the option of creating all four characters in your party. You can choose gender and class, you can even choose attribute points. I must say, I definitely did not expect to find this on one of the first SNES RPG’s. A game, in fact, that was a port from earlier PC’s and even the FM Towns Marty. Kudos for cool character creation. *Cracks knuckles* On with the rest of it.
The idea was that this was going to be an open world, 3D experience. It was very ambitious for its time, and they pulled it off fairly well. When in the overworld, the 3D effect is really cool. The weird part was that once you got into a building of any kind, the 3D became some kind of bizarre 2D/3D hybrid that was confusing as you tried to navigate front to back in rooms. Other than that, though, the visuals were pretty well done. Colors were bright and vibrant. As you equipped armor, it actually changed your character’s appearance. The sky actually would go from day to night and night to day. I know these days that isn’t very impressive, but when you consider that this was originally made for the Amiga, it is very impressive.
Far less impressive is the actual gameplay. Random encounters happen far too often. You actually wind up hitting random encounters within the first seconds of the game as you try to get to the first castle to get some direction as to what you are even supposed to do. That enters you into the single weirdest battle system you will ever see. You have four characters. The combat is not turn based as you might be used to in say a Final Fantasy game. No, all of the characters are just running around haphazardly, as if they are playing the world’s drunkest game of musical chairs. If you’re lucky, or if you feel like continually switching which character you are controlling so you can keep herding them towards the enemy, they will actually attack the enemy. This is hilarious at first, but quickly becomes annoying as you realize what a chore it is to actually do battle.
Your characters do level up in combat and each successful battle nets you some game cash or jade as it is known. You can use this jade in the various shops around the world to buy spells, potions, weapons, and armor. That armor part is good news because your armor breaks CONSTANTLY. You are always having to replace it or take the disadvantage. Seems unnecessary. Moving around in the overworld is clunky and awkward like a middle school dance. Worst part of that is the water. You know how most people hate water levels? This game makes you hate water in general. It is far too easy to waltz into some and as soon as you do, you start dying. Also, your party will follow you into the water so everyone starts dying. If one of your characters dies, it is an almost unbearably mundane task to go get them healed up.
Then there is navigating the overworld itself. Yeah, there is a mapish item you can reference, but most of the time you are wandering around on a prayer trying to get where you’re supposed to be. It reminded me of everything I hate about Skyrim. Very little direction, rarely a decent grasp of what is going on, and as is my problem with many story driven games, I never cared about the mission. I never cared about the characters or the world I was supposedly trying to save. I didn’t really care if the lizard people kept power or not. Your petty squabbles with the pseudo dragons are not my concern.
For what this game was, it wasn’t all bad. It did a lot of impressive things considering the hardware it was designed for. The unfortunate thing for it, though, is that it exists on the SNES. It has to live on the same console with some of the very best Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, and Earthbound. As long as that is true, it is nigh impossible to actually recommend this one over those classics.