Through the Retroglass: Chakan (1992)

Chakan

Chuck Norris has nothing on Chakan. We’re talking about a guy who was such a badass that he challenged Death himself to a duel and won. His prize was eternal life, which Death granted him because he’s nice like that.

Yet the reward came with a curse, because Death’s also a devious bastard. Admiring of Chakan’s skills but disapproving of his boastful douchebaggery, Death laid a curse on Chakan: the ‘Forever Man’ would feel the pain and suffering of all mortal souls, and would only be free of this torment if he defeated four supernatural evils: the Spider Queen, the Dragonfly King, Mantis and Elkenrod (the first three are all scary monsters, the fourth is a semi-naked woman with a big sword – go figure).

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As if that wasn’t bad enough, Death re-made Chakan in his own image – “Your face will bear my visage, and your eyes will burn with hellfire.” The result is that Chakan looks kinda like Freddy Krueger’s slightly more attractive younger brother. Still, at least his cool hat makes up for it.

Chakan’s quest forms the central premise of Chakan, the 1992 Megadrive/Genesis game. It’s a game notable for being a) far darker than many of its contemporaries, b) infuriatingly difficult, and C) having the bleakest end-game sequence ever. This was often the kind of game you’d play for several hours and then wonder afterwards whether you’d actually enjoyed yourself. 

Still, it was still pretty fun battling your way through two dozen atmospheric levels whilst wetting your blades in the blood of all kinds of supernatural critters. The additional weapons you could pick up were all inferior to your swords, rendering them almost pointless, but the game was saved from total mediocrity by the alchemy system. Potions of the four elements could be collected and used together to achieve various effects, like the ability to imbue your swords with fire, frost or lightning. Which was cool.

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What definitely wasn’t cool was the end-game sequence. After several hours of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention a dozen or so controller-rages) you could be forgiven for thinking you’re entitled to a decent bit of closure for actually managing to beat this bitch of a game.

But even here Chakan couldn’t resist tormenting you further. Upon completing the game, you’re informed that Death was basically being *gasp* a bit devious. When he said he’d release Chakan from his curse if he killed all evil in the world, he actually meant the universe. Given that the nearest thing to a rocket ship Chakan has on his world is a giant dragonfly with a saddle, he can’t actually get off his own planet. So he’s screwed.

And so are you, as you’ve just spent hours of pain and frustration trying to beat the game, and when you do you can’t even release Chakan from his curse. Which was kinda the whole point. (I did say this game was bleak.)

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But wait! If you waited through the closing credits, you’d be given the chance to fight a final boss, which whoever wrote the Wikipedia article describes as being “an H.R. Giger looking creature on a throne carried by what appear to be dwarves.” They’re not wrong either. If you actually manage to beat this monstrosity (and you only get once chance – remember what I said about this game being hard?) you’re treated to another end-game sequence. Perhaps this time Chakan has been released from his curse, and Death was just playing a prank?

Um, no. All you get for your heroic effort is – according to Wikipedia, I never managed it myself because I’m not superhuman – the “real ending which consists of the hourglass background used in the plot exposition screens but without any text. After a wait of fifteen minutes, a single line of text appears saying “Not the end” and the screen fades out, returning to the title screen.”

I know, right? Imagine seeing that after the gallons of blood you gave trying to complete the damned game. You can probably still hear the screams of countless Chakan players echoing through eternity (well, the handful that actually managed to complete it). Yet you have to kinda admire the developers here – they’ve inflicted Chakan’s fate on the player. It’s cruel, but clever.

There’s a video of the end-game sequence, should you care to check it out (or, if you actually played and completed Chakan, you want to revisit a childhood trauma). The dude that posted the video actually had to use a cheat to beat the final baddie, which basically sums up this evil yet strangely fun game.

They certainly don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

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