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Title: Chakan - The Forever Man
Rom Player: Genecyst
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: There have been dozens of games made out of popular comic book characters over the years. Unfortunately, they have generally proven to be almost as bad as movies made from comic book characters. In this case, a truly remarkable game has been made from a somewhat obscure, but nevertheless cool, comic book character.

The story behind Chakan, the forever man, is unique, especially for the time period in which the game was released. As it goes, Chakan was once a swordsman of unmatched skill and power. As is the trend for masters of anything, from basketball to canasta, he claimed that he was unbeatable. One day, he said that not even Death himself could best him in battle, again just like a basketball or canasta player might. Death was anxious to prove him wrong, and challenged him to a duel. To sweeten the deal, Death promised to give Chakan eternal life if he won, but if he lost, Death would get to keep his soul to do with as he pleased. After a lengthy battle, Chakan overcame Death, and so Death made him immortal. Chakan should have read the fine print, however, as he had been made to live until he destroys all of the supernatural evil in the world. The moral of this story is never make deals with suspicious deities.

So thereís the setup. All thatís left to do is for you to step up and put evil in its place. At first glance, it would seem that the evils in the game are unrelated, but the manual groups them all together in an organization known as the Inhuman Royalty of Supernatural Horror. What a mouthful. I can only assume that this is from the actual comics. None of the bosses in the game demonstrate their allegiance to any such after school club, but it is a nifty name, isnít it?

The aforementioned evils of the world lie in four separate realms: earth, air, fire, and water. To make your unlife easier, youíll begin your quest in a strange navigational level with portals to each realm, and a large, macabre progress meter in the middle. The portals themselves are especially cool because they appear as archways with a flashing headshot of the boss inside them. After you enter one of the cool portals, youíll get a little bit of backstory from Chakan about who it is that youíll be going after, as well as some minor details about them. Remember kids, knowing is half the battle.

In the first stage of each of the realms, youíll fight through hoards of foes, and at the end of that stage, youíll receive a weapon/tool. In no particular order, they are the grappling hook, battering mallet, battle axe, and scythe. With the exception of the grappling hook, they all do more damage than your default weapon. Their primary use, however, lies in the second stages of the realms. Each realm has a barrier or other obstacle that requires a tool from one of the other realms to overcome it (i.e., cobwebs in the earth realm that can only be shredded by the scythe from the fire realm). Later on, you can use them in combat if you want, but most of the time, they just arenít as practical as the default weapon.

Now, this is by now means an easy game. There are plenty of ways to die, and thus be kicked out of the level temporarily. Since you are immortal, however, this is only a minor setback. Whatís a major setback, on the other hand, comes when you take too much time; when you enter a level, an hourglass will begin seeping its sand. Should it empty out completely before you finish, youíll be boot out of the level, AND youíll have to beat all the stages in it that you had previously beaten, including the one where you obtain the weapon/tool. Plus, youíll get a nagging lecture from Death about how he can only keep the portals between the realms open for so long.

Assuming that the cadre of monsters and pits and such in each level doesnít stop you, youíll get to the third stage, and eventually defeat the boss of that realm. At that point, the portal will close and you can go finish off the remaining stages. Should you do that, you can congratulate yourself, but rest assured, things arenít over yet, as each realm has six stages. The first three are part of the terrestrial plane, while the final three are part of the much, much harder elemental plane. The stages in the elemental plane are different from the terrestrial ones, mainly because they contain far more pits. That translates into greater difficulty, partly due to the fact that you cannot look down in the game.

Sounds overwhelming? Well, donít worry, as our man Chakan is no mere pushover. He comes armed with two schnazzy thrusting swords, which he wields with great dexterity. He can thrust with them in a number of directions, but the most useful of the maneuvers is a jumping flip with your swords aíspinning. That particular move lets you clear out many of the small, hard-to-hit monsters youíll be encountering, plus it lets you hit the larger ones while you leap over them. If you use the other weapons, youíll soon see that he has specialized in two swords while letting his skills in other weapons atrophy, as he can only manage a few awkward swings with them that require perfect timing for them to be even mildly effective.

The most powerful of all the methods at your disposal lies in Chakanís knowledge of alchemy. Iím not talking about that turning lead into gold nonsense, that stuff is for wusses. Iím talking about mixing together potions that give you flaming swords, make you invisible, slow everyone around you to a crawl, and more. Two of the spells, however, prove to be useful outside of combat. One spell allows you to flip the hourglass over, thus turning a hurried dash for the exit into a leisurely stroll through the level, or vice versa if you use the spell too soon. The other spell creates a waypoint in the level so you can jump back in at that spot after you die. Like the previous spell, if you use this one at the wrong time, you are screwed.

Thatís all well and good, but as youíll soon find out, the reason Chakan has lived for more than a thousand years is because his enemies are legion. In many cases, the enemies in a level are very small, thus requiring either precision thrusting, or liberal use of the flip maneuver. The other types of enemies are larger and deadlier. Your life bar is made up of several skulls that are diminished by half when you are hit, but some of the larger ones take an entire skull when they hit you. Thankfully, some of them will relinquish potions upon their demise so that you can cook up a spell to help you out after the fight.

Those guys are pushovers compared to the bosses and mini-bosses. The brief introduction before the first stage of the plane will tell you about the boss, but it only names a few of them, such as the Tundra Beast and Elkenrod, Mistress of Specters. The main bosses of each plane, the ones featured in a flattering headshot within the portal, will generally battle you in the final stage after you have passes through corridors filled with their minions. Some, like the Dragonfly King (I assure you, he is more threatening than his name purports), battle you immediately and throughout an entire stage. Some of the levels contain mini-bosses that need to be defeated before you can leave the stage. The good news is that most bosses and mini-bosses have a pattern that can be learned so that you can defeat them without expending all of your valuable potions.

Sounds fun, donít it? Well, the sounds are fun. Swishes make up most of them because you will spend oh so much time stabbing this way and that way. The others, non-sword effects are thrown together with reckless abandon, producing a sort of audio Freudian slip where an action onscreen leads to a seemingly unrelated noise. The real treat, however, comes from Chakan himself. The one youíll here most often is a pain yell every time he takes a hit. The other sound is one you will be ever more familiar with. At the very beginning of the game (As in when the Sega logo is displayed), youíll hear the other sound: A terrific whooping howl that Chakan lets off whenever he dies. Hell, if he did that while he was fighting, Iíll bet he would scare the crap out of all his enemies.

The music, on the other hand, is always filled with quality. Each song has a different feel, some dark and foreboding, some with a heavy metal feel to them. Even the opening them song, one composed of tribal drumbeats, has a certain flair to it. Each song is pretty short, but I see that as an advantage in that the songs donít go too long and boring.

All in all, what more can be said about how great this game is? You play an immortal swordsman with alchemical skills who takes down evil as a career. Who could beat that, the Powerpuff Girls? I think not!

Best Cheats: None

Game Play: 10
Graphics: 10
Music/Sound: 10
Originality: 10
Overall Rating: 10

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