Godzilla – The Game (2015)
Godzilla: The Game is the worst thing to happen to Godzilla since Final Wars…no, wait…start again. Be less inflammatory. Ahem…Godzilla: The Game is the biggest rip-off to hit the PS4 since Destiny…no, no, no…Godzilla, the game released on July 14th, 2015, in North American for the PS4, came out in Japan last year, for the PS3, which millions of people still own, despite its successor being out for two years.
This is entirely appropriate, since Godzilla’s barely a PS3 game. If anything, it’s a gussied up version of the kind of game you play on your phone during the train-ride to work. Which would be fine, if it were on the front page of an app store and priced at ten…no, wait five…no, wait, ninety-nine cents. Hell, the entire Japanese video game industry seems to be moving toward that market, since that’s where all the money is these days. Not that the console and PC audience is taped out…it’s just that you can’t make all the money there. And if you can’t make all the money, why even try to make any?
This thing, for example, is a home-console port, priced at 60 US dollars, and as such, it’s a shameless rip-off, made of bullshit and lies. They start right on the back of the box, which says, “Become the King of the Monsters!”and boats of “movie-like action and gameplay” like it’s a refugee from 2003, when such boasts still meant something. Before a section of the gaming populace formed a hostile little enclave dedicated to shitting on any game that tries to be too “movie-like.” The people who robbed the word “pretentious” of any meaning through gratuitous over-use, turning it into a dog-whistle…
The last thing on the back of the box says, “Battle Legendary Monsters.” Then it says the same thing in Spanish and French. Obviously, they were banking on brand-recognition alone, because it’s Godzilla and we G-fans will supposedly buy anything, sight-unseen. Certainly worked on me – and fuck me, right? All I can do is warn the rest of you not to waste your money. And time. Oh, god, so much time…
Start again: Godzilla: The Game, for PS3 and 4, since the only real differences are graphical…oh, and the PissPoor has multiplayer, but let me tell you right now: NO. Just NO…is a third-person “action” game published by Bandai Namco and developed by Natsume Atari…no, not the Atari you’re thinking of – this is a completely different Atari. A subsidiary of Natsume Inc, of Osaka. Makers of Harvest Moon, Rune Factory and…Reel Fishing games.
You watch its CGI intro movie (which was also the trailer) and you think, “Hell yeah!” The monsters look the best they’ve ever looked – to the point where you could make a hell of a movie with these models, if you rezed them up high enough. I mean, look at Ameri-Goji over there. Guy looks like he stepped right out of his movie, right?
Then you get into the actual game and, if you’re anything like the G-fans I hang with, you make a sad, strained noise as you discover there’s no…well, I still call it “two-player” and everyone else calls it “local multiplayer” now. But regardless, you wanna have a monster fight with another human? That’ll be $50 extra bucks for PS4’s online subscription, please. This alone is enough for me to write the game right off. In terms of Godzilla game design, it’s an asinine step almost two decades backward, to the sixteen bit era…
In fact, God of Destruction Mode (which is only real meat on this skeleton) is little more than a big-brother version of what Super Godzilla, for the SNES tried and failed to be back in 1993. In High Def. With better sound. And particle effects – oh, those particle effects. Remember when the PS4 tried to sell itself on those alone?
The “story” (for lack of a better word) is the same damn story every Millennial Godzilla film tells – even the American one. Decades ago, Godzilla rose from the sea and fucked Tokyo up like percocet, as seen in the 1954 film you should all have forced your friends to watch by now, and the tutorial section of this game, which does a poor job recreating it. In the interim, Japan used knowledge gained from Godzilla’s raid to create G-Energy…which is apparently…good…?…for something…I guess. It’s an obvious stand-in for nuclear power, the casual mentioning of which is probably a social faux paux now, with the memory of Fukushima still fresh. Never mind Godzilla, and his stories, exist as the perfect vehicle to explore the anxieties swirling around nuclear energy…it should be obvious by now that his owners consider him little more than a vehicle to sell merchandise to kids and idiots.
In the present day, then, Godzilla’s back, and hunting up the G-Energy generators scattered around Japan. In the middle of built-up, urban areas, of course. But they aren’t too built-up: what’s available already taxes the PS4’s sub-par hardware, especially when you destroy a whole screen’s worth of buildings at once. Will the military force created specifically for this eventuality – and named, as it was in Godzilla’s ’90s films, G-Force – be able to halt the monster’s rampage? Are they ever?
Well, no, especially not now that you, the player, control Godzilla. At the start of Stage One, you’re fifty meters tall, just like in the original film, and smashing buildings makes you grow ever so slightly. Growing lets you smash buildings faster, which fills up your combo meter on the left, and makes a very stingy multiplier pop up. The higher your multiplier, the more height you gain from each smash, your goal being to become the 100-plus-meter radioactive dinosaur we all know and love. Without that height, you won’t stand a chance against the other 100 meter monsters that will inevitably pop up, especially if you take the “hard” path through the game’s twenty-five stages.
Of those twenty-five, you’ll only see nine at a time, since the game has pretensions (there’s that word again) of being “open” in the most liner way imaginable. Once you beat Stage One, you’ll get a branching path. The top one’s supposed to be Easy and the bottom one’s supposed to be Hard, but the only difference seems to be which Prime Minister is in charge, and how fast they order extra tanks, planes and jets to their doom, since smashing them gives you height as well. These Prime Ministers, and the G-Force Operator they all talk to, are the closest things to “characters” in this piece. I’m sure if I paid more attention to Japanese politics, I’d be able to tell which major party each leader’s meant to satirize, but even translated, I can tell, the satire didn’t go very deep. It didn’t have the time. Or the budget. They spent all that making every building in every stage do that double-blue-flash-and-then-explosion thing they do in the movies. Didn’t make the buildings any more variable, or interesting, but ya know…it reminds me of this movie I seen, one time, so I’m supposed to feel nostalgically placated.
The side of me that enjoys video games certainly don’t feel placated. Every time I chose the Hard path, a 100 meter monster inevitably pops up in Stage 2, and since I never make it out of Stage One with more than 56-meters to my name, they always wreck me, without fail. Facing ignominious defeat, I hit “Continue,” hoping for another go…and the 100-meter monster is always, inevitably, replaced with its 50-meter counterpart. Rarely have I see a so-called Hard mode nerf itself so readily. Why even set that challenge in front of us in the first place? Spite? What’d we ever do to you, Natsume Atari? Besides mistake you for That Other Atari? The one that went bankrupt in 2013 and now makes “social casino games,” where you pay real money for fake chips that cannot be cashed out? The one that published the three previous Godzilla games?
Those suckers were all tournament fighter games, and they were all awesome…except the last one, because trying to control a giant monster with a Nintendo Wii-remote was like trying to steer a battleship with a laser guidance system. All the monsters in Godzilla 2015 control like tanks. The analog stick will still move you in the direction you press (verrrrry….slowwwly….) but you use the shoulder buttons to turn, adding an extra level of unresponsiveness and confusion to a game that really didn’t need help with those. What is this – another Resident Evil remake? I didn’t sign up for survival horror. I just wanted to smash a city and, maybe, smash another monster in the face.
Actual kaiju fights always devolve into one-sided beatdowns, requiring no amount of strategy or skill. Hell, you’ll have a tougher time fighting the camera for an angle that’ll let you judge distances properly. The default over-Godzilla’s-shoulder view is too low to the ground, especially if you’re fighting anything shorter than your Big G. And since every blow comes with a son-of-a-bitch-level of knockback, the camera has a bad habit of swinging around to the default, forcing you to start the process all over again. Its tedious and dull: two words that should never describe a giant monster battle.
But if you want dull tedium, beat the game and realize, if you want to see the “true” ending, you have to beat the game again and be at least 100meters tall by the time you hit Stage Seven. To grow that tall that fast, you have to destroy 100% of all the stages in as many unbroken lines as possible. Like Tony Hawk Pro Skater…but slower. And without any local multiplayer.
This runs entirely counter to the true appeal of any Godzilla-based property in the process of trying to capture it. Players want to be Godzilla. Hell, humans want to be Godzilla, period. You think he’s survived for 60 years just because he’s the mascot of one of Japan’s biggest movie companies? Fuck no. He’s survived because he is the personified ID of an entire culture, trapped in urban hives from cradle to grave, packed on top of each other like canned fish, and secretly (or not-so-secretly, depending on how safe we feel in any given social context) longing to pull it all down in a rain of burning rubble. Its the same force that drives people to wish and prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Except some of us don’t want to deal with the walking dead since, as far as we’re concerned, we do that often enough already. We’d much rather reduce everyone to cute little piles of radioactive ash, thanks.
And we especially don’t want to see the main draw of our beloved kaiju franchise reduced down to a dull routine. Have you ever had a friend or lover who fell asleep while watching your favorite Godzilla film? Play through God of Destruction a few times and you will know how they feel and it will frighten you. Especially once you realize it was all for nothing…save gathering the necessary…Ishiro Honda help us…upgrade materials…for the leveling system… euphemistically titled Evolution Mode. Why does a Godzilla game need a leveling system? Well, the “story” campaign is only an hour long so, after you beat the game, the only thing to do is beat it again…with slightly more useful moves and quicker recharge time for your breath. Want to upgrade your monster all the way? Better get used to grinding through the game over and over again…
The “true” ending and “secret” stage are basically a re-creation of the end of 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah…so, spoiler alert for that twenty year old film, I guess. Only, instead of Destroyah, Amero-Goji Mark II shows up to show you why you could unlock him early if you pre-ordered the game through GameStop: because he’s a cheap, overpowered bastard, designed make you pay for not pre-ordering, like a good little consumer. Thankfully, he can’t do a damn thing against a good corner-trap. None of the monsters can. And really, how could they? There’s no Block button in this game. Roaring does give you a few frames of temporary invincibility, so get real good at spaming that, and Godzilla’s nuclear pulse attack. All the other moves are so situational, they might as well not exist.
“Movie-like action” indeed!– the 90s are back, baby, yeah! Godzilla films of that era garnered a bit of a reputation in their day for boring fight scenes that oft-devolved into combatants trading ray-blasts and nuclear pulses with each other from across a set…but someone (quite a few someones, obviously) seems to’ve preferred that style of kaiju fighting. So much so, they built a whole damn combat system out of it. You didn’t fall through a time portal and wind up back in 1991, you heard me right – this is a fighting game (according to some sources) and a “character action” game (according to others – obviously an insult to either genre) with a subscription-only multiplayer, no offline 2-player, no blocks, no counters, and the most annoying excuse for a dodge in the world. Released in 2015 at a starting retail price of $60.
Seems obvious to me Namco Bandai wanted to milk Godzilla’s international fanbase by making a game with as little effort as possible, outside the art and marketing departments. By now I hope you know where I stand on such a project. And don’t come at me with that, “But, Dave – obviously it’s just a stupid game for Ze Children!” Or “But, Dave – obviously it’s made by and for the hardcore fanz!” Stop throwing children and fans under the bus whenever it’s rhetorically convenient. I’ve been watching Godzilla movies since I was six and plan to keep watching them for years to come. I cut my internet teeth having long, detailed, vicious forum arguments about the most absurd minutia in this franchise. I am teh hardcorz, and I am telling you, this game should be titled Rip-off In a Box! “Just add uncritical consumers and their money!” We waited eight years for a new Godzilla game, and eleven years for a Godzilla game we could call “good” without pages of equivocations. And we’re still waiting.
But that’s the entertainment industry right now, isn’t it? If anything, we G-fans got off lucky: we didn’t have to endure 3 to 5 years of pre-release hype as the creators water-tortured us with steady drips of marketing buzz-speak disguised as “information.” We didn’t have to endure an annual parade of cringe-inducing stage presentations, featuring heavily doctored trailer footage running on a PC backstage, because that’ll make it look better. The better it looks, the more people will buy it before it comes out, and the more money the publisher makes before anyone knows whether or not it sucks. If they can make all the money by doing that, why should they even bother making anything else…? Like a good game, just as a “for instance”?
And another thing: Final Wars Gigan? Fuck Final Wars Gigan. Yeah, he’s thinner, but he’s also uglier. He was ugly enough to be a video game character back in 2004, when they created him, but now? He’s an embarrassing relic of the early 21st century, like 2 Fast 2 Furious or George W. Bush. I can play as 4 different flavors of Godzilla, 3 different Mechagodzillas, and the larval forms of both Mothra and Batra, for all the good that does…why skimp on classic, 1972, gold-and-green Gigan? For that matter, how come, out of the 4 Godzillas, none of them is Godzilla 2000? Or Godzilla 1998? Christ, even Arkham Origins was smart enough to come with a Adam West skin…but that’s a whole other can of worms…