Video Viscera: PJ’s Drakkhen “Speedrun” from PLC-a-Thon 7
Today’s Video: The “Speedrun” of Drakkhen (SNES) by PJ Dicesare from PLC-a-Thon 7
Welcome to the first edition of Queen Venerator’s Video Viscera, a semi-regular look at some cool and weird videos across the landscape of pop culture. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now, mostly because there are a lot of things that I’d like to discuss on the podcast that aren’t conducive to the format. Like, I could describe a video where a middle-aged man covered in shaving cream smokes a cigarette while scream-singing “O Fortuna” in the shower, or I could just do this:
Much more effective I’d say.
The topics for these posts are going to vary wildly. There will be music, movie clips, some insane shit that I saw on public access TV, anything I think is important to mention really. Pretty straightforward I’d say.
Now, I didn’t really know how to start this one off properly. There are billions of videos to choose from, but only one can be the first Video Viscera selection, a truly peerless distinction if there ever was one. I had a few options, but this one kept coming back to me over and over again. I’ve mentioned my love of speedrunning on the podcast, and a good deal of that love comes from Team Poor Life Choices.
Team PLC is a ramshackle quartet of speedrunners with a penchant for cracking games open like a cardiac patient. There’s Mecha Richter, a gruff runner of several games including Symphony of the Night, Murphagator, a (comparatively) even-keeled runner of various beat-em-ups, Klaige, a Castlevania: Bloodlines runner prone to seismic laughing fits, and PJ, the dude running Drakkhen in this video. PJ is a master at shattering games and reassembling them to suit his whims. He’s also known for running games that most people will not run for one reason or another. For instance, he runs Mohawk and Headphone Jack, which is basically Motion Sickness: The Game, as well as Lagoon, a game so obtuse and punishing that even he stated at a Games Done Quick marathon event that he could not get out of the first village of the game after playing it for an hour.
This brings us to Drakkhen. Drakkhen on the SNES makes both of those games look like Breath of the Wild. Originally released on the Amiga 1989, the game was ported over to the SNES in 1991. The original game was rather innovative in the 3-D RPG space, but trying to port an RPG with a big world and real-time tactics proved to be too ambitious, resulting in hilarious consequences. Lots of features were sacrificed to make the port function. Features like, oh say, rendering their graphics to convey their story in a cohesive manner, with the most egregious example being one castle that is supposedly the scene of a horrific battle with floors that look like lakes of blood. That would all be fine if they bothered to animate any signs of battle at all, which of course they didn’t. What it does look like is every other castle in the game, only somehow more brown.
But the lost features are nothing compared to the mechanical insanity this game brings to the table. For instance, if you enter combat near a body of water, members of your party will just walk into it and start the battle drowning. The game lacks an on-screen compass, ensuring that you will be in a constant state of disorientation throughout your play through. There’s also a room in a specific castle that gives you experience points for every frame you are standing in it. So, you can enter the room, put down the controller, go make a sandwich, check your tire pressure, take a few cuts down at the batting cages, and come back hours later to your character who has now gained hundreds of thousands of experience points.
The speedrun presents its own set of challenges, even more so than an average speedrun. You are constantly in danger of dying, which is compounded by the fact that in order to go fast, the FIRST thing you do in the run (after saving of course) is drown two party members because having all four party members alive creates something like nine minutes of lag over the course of an hour run. There is a castle you can only enter at dawn (this game somehow has a fucking day/night cycle but no compass), and if you miss your window to enter the castle, you have to wait twenty-three hours in game until it opens up again, which is like five minutes in real time. Since your character has the constitution of a Precious Moments figurine even after the “magical XP room” trick, all boss battles require you to pause buffer to the other side of the screen so that enemies can’t hit you so you can in turn spam a magic spell that has an infinitesimal chance of killing them.
So, yeah, a well programmed piece of business.
All that said, this speedrun is incredible. Not only do you get to see all of the aforementioned insanity on full display, but you get to enjoy some things the developers actually intended for you to enjoy. One particularly great aspect of SNES Drakkhen is the soundtrack. I’m not one for the SNES’ sound chip, as it sounds like every sound it produces was thrown into a rock tumbler before it leaves your speakers, but the music in this game rules. The music that plays when you first enter Drakkhen’s world of insanity is really fucking good, and there’s a lot of awesome ambient overworld music that lulls you into a tranquil state before exploding into some fucking nonsense.
Speaking of nonsense, let’s talk about the other amazing part of this game: the bestiary. The bestiary of Drakkhen is a nightmare mélange of creatures both lifted from your standard monster manual and the darkest recesses of the programmers’ minds. This game has dragons (sure), mummies (yawn), and slimes (whatever), but it also has panther heads, vector graphic models, bread snakes that form from constellations in the sky, and the accursed “I Love You” robot. I’m not joking when I say that the bestiary is seriously unhinged; a bouillabaisse of depraved horseshit. I love it.
I’ve been watching speedruns for almost a decade now, and if pressed, I think that I would say that this is my favorite one of all-time. Do yourself a favor and check it out…
… Oh, also, since I brought up the “I Love You” robot and they don’t appear in this speedrun, here’s a clip of them from the Amiga version, which is honestly way more upsetting than their SNES counterpart.
Bonus Song: D’SECRETS – “Jaggy Love”
Before I go, I’m going to leave you with a bonus song at the end of each of these entries, and since we’re talking about video games I thought it appropriate to bust out this banger. This was the song that played during the intro to the Sega Saturn fighting game Last Bronx, a game I owned as a kid and played a lot. Unfortunately, since I didn’t own a Saturn, I played this on PC, and nothing makes me wince more in 2022 than the prospect of playing a mid-90’s fighting game on a mid-90’s PC. Regardless, this song rules. Worth a listen.
If you want to hear more about video game stuff, we have a two part podcast series ranking 200 video game mascots from the 90’s.