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Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen (SNES) artwork

Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen (SNES) review

"Four out of five panicked pedestrians approve..."

As a youngster, I wished for a quality Godzilla video game to hit the US. During the mid-90s, it seemed like my prayers would finally be answered. That was when Toho announced the 2D fighting game, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters. The title boasted eight playable rubber-suited titans, including Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla. Best of all, it didn't appear to be experimental rubbish like the franchise's previous outings. Sadly, though, Toho would eventually cancel the US release of Destroy All Monsters, rendering the game a Japan-only title. I guess someone figured American fans would be pleased enough with the confusing Super Godzilla to sate their hunger for a 16-bit Godzilla experience...

By now, I'm sure most players who were interested in Destroy All Monsters have gotten over the cancellation and moved on with their lives. I'm still willing to bet, though, that there are a few gamers out there who (like I was) are curious to see how well the game holds up these days. Thankfully, I'm pleased to report that the 2D fighter hasn't aged poorly, and that the Japanese version (entitled Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen) is actually fairly enjoyable for fans of the source material, even now.

Unlike many of today's fighting games, Kaijuu Daikessen doesn't come with a boatload of content. A single-player campaign and a two-player mode are all you get. That's fine by me, since I don't require my fighting games to include a quest mode, obligatory mini-games, unlockable artwork I'll never look at, or a deep narrative. I genuinely tend to appreciate a fighting game's mechanics above all else, and Kaijuu Daikessen succeeds in that regard.

What I find most appreciable about the game mechanically is that it doesn't handle precisely like Street Fighter II. The game's monsters handle a bit stiffly, but that’s necessary. After all, you're not playing as spry martial arts masters, but massive mutations and tremendous aliens that wouldn't be capable of flipping through the air or pulling off other impressive feats of agility. Yeah, nevermind that one incident

It shouldn't take long to get used to Kaijuu Daikessen's control scheme and physics. Once you're properly acclimated, you might notice that basic move sets aren't as expansive as they should be. The game only provides you with two different attack buttons, a charge command, and a grapple move. What’s worse, though, is that grappling isn't particularly intuitive. You can't just grab an opponent and then press various buttons to execute even simple throws. Rather, you have to input a combination of d-pad and button presses, as though you're pulling off a special attack. Since the game doesn't provide you with a move list, discovering how to execute certain throws is a matter of either mashing buttons and getting lucky or looking up an online FAQ.

Thankfully, if you've played a fair number of 2D fighting games released since 1993, you shouldn't have much trouble figuring out most of the special moves available in Kaijuu Daikessen. For instance, many of the monsters' breath attacks require the same input as Ryu and Ken's fireballs. Unlike Street Fighter II, though, Kaijuu Daikessen allows you to hold down the attack button after entering a breath attack's d-pad combo, to increase the projectile's size and strength. For instance, if you hold down the attack button when firing Godzilla's iconic radioactive breath, he'll belch out a longer and more powerful ray.

I highly recommend taking the time to practice before jumping into the single-player campaign. Once you feel like you're ready, you can put your freshly honed skills to the test. And let me tell you: this game will definitely test you. I discovered that myself when many of my computer-controlled opponents gave me a run for my money on even the easiest difficulty setting. Some monsters outright dominated me. Unlike my experiences with some fighting games, I actually appreciated the elevated challenge in this one, though. For starters, the game doesn't rely on special move spamming or repeated usage of cheap maneuvers to drive its challenge. It actually utilizes a fair variety of each monster's attacks, creating the illusion that you're playing against a pro who doesn't use cheapness as a crutch. For that matter, cheapness also doesn't necessarily work in your favor. Don't expect to win too many fights by overusing breath attacks or cornering your foe, for instance. The former technique will leave you prone to deadly super-combos, which every monster can execute after they've taken a certain amount of damage per round. The latter will leave you susceptible to grapple attacks, which computer opponents gladly utilize with devastating effect. The worst offender is Biollante, who has a crushing throw that involves grasping your monster in her immense jaws, lifting him into the air, and waving him around like a rag doll.

Fans of the license will likely be looking for more than solid mechanics in this installment, naturally. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for fan service. Thankfully, Kaijuu Daikessen delivers on that end, as well. The most obvious example would be the monsters' roars. From Godzilla's legendary bleat to Gigan's metallic shriek to Biollante's whale-like cry, the roars sound almost exactly as if they were lifted from the movies. Visually speaking, the monsters also look remarkably close to their rubber-suited inspirations. Even some of the creatures' tactics and mannerisms from the films were incorporated into the game. Mechagodzilla, for example, can create a force field by spinning his head, much like he did in the 1973 movie “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.”

If there's anything else I need to point out, it's the game's stages. To non-fans, they'll appear as typical sets seen in just about any giant monster movie. Fans, however, will likely recognize the locales from various films. For instance, Mothra's stage takes place at Yokohama Cosmoworld, which was the setting for the final fight in “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth.” In Gigan's stage, which was taken from “Godzilla vs. Gigan”, you can actually see Godzilla Tower in the background and even destroy it. These are small details to some, but serve as knowing winks to fans.

Godzilla: Kaijuu Daikessen is a wonderful game for Godzilla fans who also happen to enjoy 2D fighting games. Unfortunately, I'm betting that's a pretty slim category. Maybe there are some non-fans who will enjoy the game, especially since the mechanics are solid and the difficulty is pretty fair. However, those people won’t be able to appreciate the game's countless references to the film franchise and that might limit the game's appeal. The good news is that those who the game is aimed at will likely love it all the more…


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Freelance review by Joseph Shaffer (May 24, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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