As an early entry in a now-beloved genre, the late '80s/early '90s (release dates were different back in the day, mes enfants!) role-playing game Drakkhen feels both familiar and weird. Familiar, because it is, at heart, a role-playing game, and weird because of the giant dog heads and ominous shadow men you can run into while exploring the world.
...those were in the version y’all played too, right?
While its inclusion in the early Super Nintendo Entertainment System library has given it more visibility than it might have earned otherwise, Drakkhen has fallen into obscurity. Which is a shame, because the title screen alone deserves universal praise.
(As a Nintendo freak, I am, of course, speaking of the SNES version, but the title screen is rad no matter which of its nine ports you’re playing.)
When you begin a game of Drakkhen, the first thing you see is a blinged out dragon (Smaug, eat your homebody heart out) snarling above a bloodstained altar, summoned by a wizard in white. This wizard somehow has not gotten any blood on themselves while performing a blood sacrifice. This wizard should be feared. As the SNES audio chip growls out an menacing orchestral through your speakers, a tombstone slowly rises up.
And then the dragon shoots goshdarned lightning out of its eyes to engrave the opening prologue onto said tombstone.
TURN ME INTO A VAN AND AIRBRUSH THIS ON MY STURDY SIDES IMMEDIATELY. My inner William "Bill" S. Preston Esq. is wailing in ecstasy and may never stop. When I sink into my usual mudbath of retro video games, this is what I hope for: something to transport me directly into being a scuzzy teen metalhead in my mom’s basement, so fired up by dragon lightning that I don’t even care if the ensuing game is notoriously unbalanced. Sometimes, being so metal as to blow your hair back is all a game needs to be.