Chakan: The Forever Man, Megadrive/ Genesis

Developed by Extended Play Productions and published by Sega in 1992, Chakan: The Forever Man is based on the comic of the same name by Robert A. Kraus and features a protagonist, called Chakan, who is so confident of his swordsmanship that he declares that even ‘Death’ cannot beat him. Death appears and challenges Chakan – if Chaken can defeat him, he will be granted eternal life. However, if Death wins then Chakan will becomes Death’s eternal servant.

The battle between Chakan and Death rages for several days, until Chaken emerges as victor. Death grants him his reward, but also condemns Chakan to wander existence for all-time, until all supernatural evil is destroyed. The game’s dark premise makes it fairly unique among similar games of the time, and the beautiful graphics and atmospheric soundtrack definitely give it an edge over other scrolling action games on the Megadrive.

The game’s basic aim is to visit various ‘planes’, via doors in a central hub, and to locate a special weapon in each, then defeat a series of bosses. As Chakan explores he must avoid getting damaged too much by lesser monsters, on his way to his main goal. His health is indicated by a number of skulls in the top right of the screen. Falling into a bottomless pit, or losing all his life skulls, will result in a loss of life. Dying will return Chakan to the central hub, where he can either try the same plane again from the beginning, or choose a different one. He effectively as unlimited lives, though, and the player can re-try as many times as they like.

Chakan‘s default weapons are his dual swords, but he can also use other weapons too. It’s important when using weapons to learn how to hold them out, so Chakan can jump with them pointing in a certain direction, or stand in an attack pose for several seconds, rather than just mashing buttons. That way he can kill monsters by allowing them to walk onto his swords (or other weapons). He can do a double somersault jump, a ground roll, and an extended jump, but I sometimes had problems making them work, which often meant instant death. Getting jump timings right is vital for getting around the platforms in most levels.

Each level is timed, shown by the hourglass in the bottom right of the screen, so you can’t spend too much time faffing around. That said: some routes lead to useful potions, so it’s worth doing a bit of exploration to get all the potions available.

Mixing potions is possible by pressing Start, which brings up a menu with twelve weird-looking icons. You can collect four different coloured potions (blue, green, red, and clear), and mixing them will produce useful effects. Any icons on the mixing menu that are lit up orange mean that you can mix those particular spells. Without reading the manual these are unfathomable, though. Some spells replenish your health, while others make you invisible; make you jump higher; slow down enemies, or even imbue your swords with one of four elemental powers (air, fire, ice, and earth). For a full explanation of potion-mixing, refer to a guide like this one.

Chakan: The Forever Man is a game known for its relatively high difficulty, but it does have a cult following among those who like a serious challenge. It can get very frustrating at times – especially when the double jump doesn’t seem to work properly (it must be done at the apex of a jump – if it’s not timed correctly it just won’t activate). I think the key thing to understand, when trying to make jumps, is that holding down the jump button (after jumping) seems to make Chakan go further. Getting across certain gaps on some levels can be absolutely tortuous, though. Playing the game using quicksaves can save a lot of frustration, but gamers playing Chakan on original hardware will have a tough time unless they can master the button-press timings. See the YouTube video below for a demonstration of how it’s done.

This game is very easy to write off, because it does take practise and understanding to master. I didn’t think much of it initially, but as I improved and realised what to do, and managed to make progress, I started to enjoy it much more. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Chakan is not a game for lightweights. It’s a game for smart, persistent people. There are also a number of built-in cheats (and Game Genie codes) available for those who’re less patient, but I didn’t use any.

Chakan was also released for the Sega Game Gear, but sadly the Megadrive and Game Gear were the only two platforms it appeared on. This does, however, make the game a rather interesting exclusive on the Sega consoles. It’s a great ‘hidden gem’ on the Megadrive/Genesis and is worth playing, studying, and mastering. There really aren’t many other games like it.

More: Chakan: The Forever Man on Wikipedia
More: Chakan: The Forever Man on YouTube
More: Official Chakan/Robert A. Kraus website

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