During the early 90s, the SNES was the powerhouse of the video game industry. Despite attempts from Sega to take over with the Sega CD and Atari's short-lived Jaguar, the SNES was still the most popular system until the Playstation came along. This system was the source for countless games of all types, but the RPGs made in this period were some of the best ever. Of course, during the systems early years, there were a few horrors that various companies patched together, and Drakkhen was one of them.
The story begins in the square shaped isle of Drakkhen, a land inhabited by both humans and the lizard-like drakkonians. The mighty dragon kings, holders of the eight Drakkhen tears, rule the weaker humans. These tear shaped gems hold all the power of magic within them, and only by collecting them all can the humans truly become the rulers of the island. And so, a band of the mightiest human heroes decides to go out and demand power of the island from their cruel masters. You must lead them to victory...
Drakkhen is an early attempt at a 3D RPG. The people at Kemco made their first mistake when they decided to use the extremely primitive polygons available at the time to create the world map. The addition of having time pass and letting the sun and the moon show how late it is was a nice touch, but it would have been better if shadows were used.
Your party (consisting of a male or female fighter, scout, priest, and wizard) searches the island's four realms of forest, marsh, ice, and desert to find the eight previously mentioned gems, and to do this, they must go to the castles of each the Dragon kings' children and "convince" them to part with the symbol of their power. Some of them are sympathetic to the human cause, while others are just stubborn. The entire game consists of you going wherever someone tells you to go and not dieing.
Battles are random on the outside of dungeons and set on the inside. There are no towns or shops, but there are bars that offer information. Sometimes a traveling merchant will be there to sell you equipment. Your gear breaks from time to time, so these people are always welcome, especially when you find a traveling merchant when he's traveling.
Whenever a battle starts, your four warriors walk onto the screen to wait for the enemy to rush out. I liked the idea of having the battle wherever you are standing, but aside from an occasional lake or river, every part of the world is exactly the same. Inside castles, you go from room to room, gathering things that aren't yours and pushing switches that you don't understand. Dungeons are usually pretty straightforward, although you might wind up missing a switch in a dark room.
Experience goes to the person who hurt the enemy, so make sure that your weaker characters like the priest or the wizard get a long range weapon. Weapons and armor are sometimes dropped after a battle, but you can only hold so much stuff before you have to start throwing away things. Each piece of equipment changes how your party looks, and getting the perfect equipment is in many ways more fun than the actual game. I thought that it was a standard RPG disguised as something new, so the Gameplay gets a 71%.
Although it was intended to be a 3D masterpiece, the game instead reminded me of my childhood. I suppose it brings back memories of pre-school, the time when arts and crafts consisted of hacking up pieces of construction paper and gluing them together. Various brightly colored geometric figures are used to build the world map, and not just a few enemies are just outlines formed from triangles. The buildings are small, blocky landmarks that have no backs; whenever you try to walk around it and take a look at it, you always see the front door.
Inside the buildings, the game becomes far less corny. Each castle has its own set of decorations and wall types that fits with the surroundings. The characters inside are gloomy yet professional-looking sprites, and I suppose that the occasional boss does look rather scary. Some buildings cannot be entered. Instead, the game gives you a little portrait of the inside as well as a message from whoever is at the door and won't let you in. Sometimes the door is just locked. Oh well. Even though someone had to pioneer the world of polygons before better games would come, the graphics still get a 68%.
The music in Drakkhen didn't fit very well, and that's probably why I liked it so much. All of the music is either very mellow or belongs in a workout tape. Each song is enjoyable and makes you think of where you are in a whole different way. From the hopeful sound of the forest to the stark and awe inspiring vastness of the frozen wastelands, all the music in Drakkhen let me survive an otherwise boring game.
The sounds may not have been incredible, but they also helped the game. As soon as a battle starts, the music stops and in comes a screaming, screeching, stomping opponent. Everything in the game has its own sound, and this lets you know if you should run or fight before you even see the enemy. The clashing swords, the whistle of arrows, the thud of fireballs (They don't have one decent explosion in the whole thing.), and every other noise in the game was done without much trouble. Sound/Music is the best element of Drakkhen with an 84%.
The storyline of Drakkhen was pretty dull. Saving the world from dinosaur overlords may not be an overused plot, but the story just didn't hold together. You get a vague impression of the situation every once in a while, but the entire story in the game could be told in five minutes. That leaves you with a game that consists of walking across a multi colored island and killing one enemy after another. People rarely talk to you, and most of the conversation consists of directions and encouragement. Although the plot of an RPG is the only reason that I would like to play one, this game's storyline was just too weak. Drakkhen gates a 65% in Storyline.
Kemco went out and explored the shaky territory of 3D special effects so that we could eventually have such games as Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG for this mighty system. However, this trip cost them the life of a game that could have been done much better. Drakkhen was an experiment, not an investment, and the people at Kemco killed something that could have been good. (I don't think it could have been great. I mean, let's be realistic here.) Even with this handicap, this game helped me waste a few days, so Overall, Drakkhen gets a 69%.
Gameplay - Walk, kill, walk, kill, walk, kill... 71%
Graphics - Looks like a cross between Southpark and D&D. 64%
Sound/Music - Night in the arctic... 84%
Storyline - This seemed more like an RPG Light than anything else. 65%
Overall - It was as addictive as those mean old Pokemon games were... 69%