Evercade Game Spotlight: Drakkhen (Piko Interactive Collection 1)
The Evercade plays host to a wide variety of different games. Some of them are immediately accessible arcade-style affairs, while others require delving into more deeply before you can truly get the best out of them. One such example of the latter is Drakkhen from the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge — a title which some people find a tad challenging to get started with, but which is actually reasonably straightforward once you understand the basics.
So that’s what today’s article is all about. We’ll give you a bit of history of Drakkhen and where it came from, and walk you through the things you might want to get up to in your early hours with this intriguing RPG. Be prepared for a game that does things a bit differently to the norm; Drakkhen really is a one-of-a-kind sort of experience!
Drakkhen originated as a game by French developer-publisher Infogrames, and was initially released for 16-bit home computers. It first appeared in 1989, and was well-received by magazines of the time.
Dragon magazine, the official publication for the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game, reviewed Drakkhen in its 160th issue, noting that it features “amazing graphics, enthralling music and incredible game environment” but also that it is “one of the toughest fantasy adventures for a novice player to survive that we have yet encountered”.
Popular multi-format video games magazine Computer and Video Games, meanwhile, reviewed the original home computer version of Drakkhen in its 90th issue and described it as a “well-presented, addictive piece of adventuring” and “a super game which should satisfy the adventuring spirit in most of you”.
The 16-bit home console version of Drakkhen, which you’ll find on the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge for Evercade, came about in 1991. The original developer and publisher of Drakkhen initially had no intention of porting the game to other platforms, but given the game’s solid reception, this apparently changed over the course of the years following its release. It ended up being one of the first RPGs on its original host platform, making it a noteworthy historical curiosity — particularly for how very different it was (and still is!) from console-style RPGs at the time.
Interestingly, the console port of Drakkhen was not handled by the original developers, but instead by Japanese company Kemco-Seika. This led to a bit of an interesting game of “telephone” with the game’s script; with it being translated from French to Japanese and back to English again for its western release, there are a few details here and there which ended up a little mixed up! Naturally, fans have chronicled all these strange little quirks over the years, and today this is all part of the Drakkhen experience.
So let’s take a look at how you play this thing, shall we?
Boot up Drakkhen for the first time and you’ll see a short intro sequence providing some context, and then be given the option to use one of two files to save your game. Use the D-pad to select one and the B button to confirm — using B to select remains a convention for the entire game.
You’ll then be presented with the option to either start the game with a pre-built party, or create your own characters. Again, use the D-pad to select and B to confirm.
If you choose to create a party, you need to make one each of the four different character classes. This is mostly self-explanatory until you reach the screen pictured here, which is where you set up your characters’ statistics.
On this screen, you use the D-pad to move the cursor and the B button to assign the currently highlighted number in the lower window to the stat you’ve selected. If you’re dissatisfied with the numbers that have been “rolled” for you, you can press the A button to re-roll them, but you can only do this twice and there’s no guarantee they’ll be better!
Power corresponds to how hard the character hits things with weapons. Agility affects their general effectiveness in battle. Intelligence determines the character’s precision in fights. Knowledge determines the effectiveness of spells and potions. And Physique determines the effectiveness of weapons. You’ll probably want most of these stats to be over 10 at the very least for all four characters.
Once you’re done creating your party — or immediately if you just chose to start right away — you’ll get a brief introduction to the story and the opportunity to read a tutorial about the controls. Note that the Evercade buttons are labelled the opposite way around to Drakkhen’s original host platform, so bear in mind that for any button prompts you see in Drakkhen you should consider the following:
- “A” in game = B on Evercade
- “B” in game = A on Evercade
- “X” in game = Y on Evercade
- “Y” in game = X on Evercade
For the most part, if you remember B is confirm and A is cancel, you should be good.
One thing worth noting about Drakkhen is that its main quest is very linear, so if it tells you to go somewhere, that’s what you should prioritise doing if at all possible. For example, at the start of the game you’re told to approach Hordkhen’s castle in front of you — so make sure you do that! Use the D-pad to turn left and right and move forwards and backwards from a first-person perspective.
Drakkhen will often tell you to head for one of the Prince’s or Princesses’ castles. Since all their names sound like someone hocking up a hairball, it can be easy to get them confused, particularly since the aforementioned translation issues led to a couple of errors in this regard. To save you some time, here’s who lives where:
- Naakhtkha lives in the western castle in the northernmost icy area of the map
- Naakhtkhen lives in the eastern castle in the northernmost icy area of the map
- Haaggkhen lives in the western castle in the second, marshy area of the map
- Haaggkha lives in the eastern castle in the second, marshy area of the map
- Hordkhen lives in the western castle in the temperate area where you begin
- Hordkha lives in the eastern castle in the temperate area where you begin
- Hazhulkah lives in the western castle in the southern desert area of the map
- Hazhulkhen lives in the eastern castle in the southern desert area of the map
You may well find yourself getting into a fight or two on the way to the castle. Combat in Drakkhen is mostly automatic, but you can take control of the character with the red lamp beneath their image on the status bar. Use the D-pad to control them, and if you “bump” them repeatedly into an enemy, they will repeatedly attack with the best efficiency. You can also switch your controlled character with the X button. Be wary, though; your armour can and will break when you engage in melee combat against tough enemies, so make sure to carry spares!
If you would like to give orders to your characters, such as instructing your magic users to cast spells, press the B button to bring up the sword cursor on the icon palette in the corner, and choose the sword icon.
From here, use the D-pad and the B button to select an action for them to take. Characters will learn new spells as they level up. Attack spells such as Fireball will be cast repeatedly, while buffs such as Strength and Invisibility will be cast once, after which the caster will ready their weapon again.
During combat, if the yellow arrow next to a character’s HP value lights up and a number appears, the number indicates how much damage you have inflicted on the enemy. If a number appears without the yellow arrow, that is how much damage that character has suffered.
Enemies will explode, award experience for levelling up and often drop treasure when you defeat them. Alternatively, you can run away from any battle by repeatedly tapping the L1 or R1 button when combat begins. There is no shame in doing this early in the game!
When you reach the castle, your party members will appear on screen, and like in combat, you will be in control of the one with the red lamp under their picture. You can manually cause your party members to appear at any time while you are outdoors by pressing L1 or R1. While your party members are visible like this, they will gradually regenerate both their HP and MP — but note that you are still open to being attacked.
When you’re ready to proceed, use the D-pad to move your active character so that they enter the door of the castle. If you accidentally fall in the moat or any other body of water in the game, hammer L1 or R1 to avoid drowning as you move back to the safety of dry land!
Inside dungeons, the game takes on more of an adventure game feel. The free-moving 3D environment is replaced with static images representing different rooms, and you can move your active character around with the D-pad to interact with objects. In this first room, for example, you can press the B button to bring up the sword cursor, then use the finger icon (second row, right column) to attempt to touch the magic symbols on the walls. Only one of them will dispel the energy barriers on the doors; make sure you remember which one it is!
Also note the two grey rectangles in the foreground. These represent doors that are “behind” the camera, so using these you can walk “out” of a screen.
In some rooms, you may encounter friendly characters who offer information and advice…
In others you might spot hidden mysteries when you approach the items of scenery and furniture in the room…
In others you might find loot for the taking. Use the eye icon in the action palette to look at something your character is standing next to, and the grab icon to take it. If you pick up something which you think is more appropriate for another character, use the head icon to bring up your character’s status, and the Give option from the menu to pass it to another party member for equipping.
The head icon can also be used to equip weapons and armour that you find. Make sure you check your stats before and after equipping something to see whether or not it’s actually an improvement over what you already have! If you run out of equipment, be sure to purchase more from the wandering merchants who occasionally appear outside — or track down the hidden tavern a little to the west of Hordkhen’s castle. It’s not marked on the map, so you’ll have to search for it, but it’s worth it as a reliable place to buy and sell items and equipment.
Sometimes you may also need to use the head icon to cast “normal” (neither attack nor defence) spells to light up rooms or unlock doors. Again, characters will learn these spells as they level up.
Sometimes you’ll be attacked. Combat indoors works exactly the same as outdoors, with one exception: to run away, simply move through an open door rather than hammering the shoulder buttons!
Watch out for small red dots in the environment, as these often indicate useful items or interactive objects. Use the eye icon to look at them and the grab or finger icons to interact with them if necessary.
Pay attention to every piece of dialogue! As previously noted, Drakkhen’s main quest is very linear, so you’ll need to follow instructions carefully in order to progress.
When you’re back outdoors, pressing Select will open the map. Use this and the compass to determine your next destination, and note some important features:
- Up until a particular point in the story, you will not be able to cross the dotted lines on the map.
- Up until a particular point in the story, you will not be able to cross the area marked with coloured triangles in the middle, but you can go around it to either the north or south without crossing a dotted line. There is also a pair of teleporters that will take you from one side to the other, but these aren’t marked on the map.
Be careful at night, because sometimes monsters will come from the stars themselves! Don’t try and take on these powerful foes early in the game.
If the worst happens to one or more of your party members, drop everything and head for the nearest Anak shrine on the map. Here, you can get free healing and resurrection. If you have anything less than a full party, it’s best to run from most battles.
And while we recommend using Evercade’s Save Game feature to store your progress when you’re done with a play session, it’s also worth using the in-game save feature (the bottom right icon) quite frequently during play. This way, if your party gets wiped out, you’ll be reset to where you saved instead of the beginning of the game!
Oh, and one last tip. Don’t bump into any gravestone-looking things out in the wild, otherwise this will happen. And you don’t want this to happen.
And with that, you should be all set for your Drakkhen adventure. Do your best!
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