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Daikatana (Game Boy Color) artwork

Daikatana (Game Boy Color) review


"Due to fancy time/space manipulation, Hiro has his own Daikatana, but his version of the sword has no magic power. Fortunately, for a villain, Kage is remarkably helpful and repeatedly decides to assert his power over your group by teleporting them to various time periods — where Hiro can get his sword powered up by helping the right folk. Why doesn't Kage just use his power to kill Hiro and end his pitiful rebellion? Well, due to the laws of physics or some other hogwash, if two versions of the Daikatana collide, everything goes boom due to creating a paradox or whatever."



When it comes to monumental disasters in the world of gaming, few can stand before Daikatana. Hyped as the latest masterpiece by John Romero of Doom and Quake fame, a ton of delays plagued this PC release until the point where its Quake II engine was woefully outdated for a brand new game. Instead of being Romero's "next big thing", Daikatana wound up registering as little more than a mediocre and forgettable game. It was like if everyone had picked your favorite sports team to win its championship -- only for the squad to finish with a losing record and not make the playoffs. Unlike an early advertisement for the game claimed, John Romero definitely didn't make players his bitches.

Still, Nintendo ported this game to two of their systems. From what I've gleaned from various sources, the Nintendo 64 version was shoddy enough that the original might have looked deserving of its hype in comparison. However, the Game Boy Color port is actually an interesting little game. Not a great game or one I'd recommend all gamers to hunt down, but a reasonably fun way to pass a handful of hours.

Instead of going from a first-person perspective, the Kemco-released version of Ion Storm's game plays much like any of those retro Legend of Zelda clones like Willow or Crystalis. You view your character from an overhead perspective while bonking enemies with your sword or shooting them with any of a wide variety of projectile weapons. It's a simple formula that seems to work more often than not and Daikatana does a respectable job making sure it works fairly well for the most part.

You'll control a chap named Hiro as he travels through time with the aid of pals Mikiko and SUPERFLY JOHNSON (a truly inspired name for a sidekick) to prevent the villainous Kage Mishima from ruling the world via his use of the magical Daikatana sword. Due to fancy time/space manipulation, Hiro has his own Daikatana, but his version of the sword has no magic power. Fortunately, for a villain, Kage is remarkably helpful and repeatedly decides to assert his power over your group by teleporting them to various time periods -- where Hiro can get his sword powered up by helping the right folk. Why doesn't Kage just use his power to kill Hiro and end his pitiful rebellion? Well, due to the laws of physics or some other hogwash, if two versions of the Daikatana collide, everything goes boom due to creating a paradox or whatever.

To be honest, the game's story was meandering and bizarre, where you have to open your mind to all sorts of strange revelations. Especially at the end. I really have no idea what happened after the final fight with Kage. After playing for a little while and getting both Superfly and Mikiko on my team, I pretty much realized that all I needed to know was that I was going from one time period to the next until the game was over. The exposition about how one character's ancestor did this or some guy betrayed another one didn't do much more than distract me from what was important -- monster whacking!

Daikatana boasts a decent array of opponents over its four time periods. The medieval castle was loaded with knights and archers, while the plague-striken village nearby was flooded with rats and worms. Move to ancient Greece and encounter skeletal foes and then go to San Francisco in the near future and fight a handful of chaps with rocket launchers in a naval base. The different kinds of enemies allow for a good deal of experimentation with the plentiful secondary weapons. A lot of baddies that are dangerous to run up to can be taken out easily with a projectile attack.

There also is a decent amount of light puzzle solving to get through the various levels. While much of this admittedly does fall into the "fetch-quest" category, it helps give the game's larger dungeons a sense of structure. Take that castle for instance. To actually get to the king, you have to find the four pieces of a broken sword and gain access to two towers (defeating the wizards within). You have to find an item to get the key to one wizard's tower. He holds the key to the other's. Pieces of the sword are scattered all over the castle. This is a pretty good-sized dungeon and very little of it is wasted space. I'd call it a highlight of Daikatana.

Unfortunately, the game has its share of lowlights, too. Boss fights tend to fall into two categories: those where you have to figure out a simple pattern and repeat it over and over until you win or those where you just need to bum rush the foe, knock it into a corner and mindlessly bludgeon the crap out of it. This leads to some fights being so short you're not sure it was a boss and others being long and tedious, like the first half of your two-part battle with Kage. He warps to one side of his room and shoots a missile at you. You dodge the missile and quickly run up to him and smack the protective orbs in front of him. The orbs move away, giving you the chance to hit him. Kage warps away and pops back up on another side of the screen to repeat the exercise. Until you've hit him 30 or 40 times. Very boring. And just seconds beforehand, you were fighting a big chap in a room with the walls closing in. All you had to do was run up to him and hit him as quickly as possible, as he'd bounce off your initial shots and get stuck in the corner where he'd be near helpless. Very easy.

The game's length also is a bit disappointing. There are only four time periods, none of which take particularly long to get through. A fairly consistent lack of challenge makes Daikatana seem even shorter than it is. There are plenty of health capsules (especially as you near the end of the game) and few non-boss foes pack much of a punch. The only parts I found difficult to any degree were some boss fights before I figured out their attack pattern and certain areas when I had to control Superfly or Mikiko. I don't really know why those two were used as active characters in certain points, as they add nothing. All three characters use the same life meter and the only difference between them is that the sidekicks (especially Mikiko) can't use certain weapons, such as Hiro's Daikatana.

The GBC's version of Daikatana is a competent game that kept me entertained for the three or four hours I played it. Its lack of length or depth prevents it from being more than a one-time diversion, though. Unlike other overhead-view adventures, there is very little exploration, as you're essentially being whisked from one location to another on rails from the instant you start playing until the moment you're scratching your head and trying to figure out what exactly happened during the ending.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 24, 2008)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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zippdementia posted December 25, 2008:

A good review. I especially like when you detail how the boss fights work. Breaking it down like you did gives a really good impression of what the game's like, and what kind of programming went into it (not much).

The only paragraph that throws me is this one:

"Daikatana boasts a decent array of opponents over its four time periods... etc. etc. etc."

The problem with it is that you say a "decent array" and then mention one or two types of enemies per level. That's not decent in my mind, which led me to wonder if you were being loosely sarcastic.
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overdrive posted December 25, 2008:

Thanks for the input. I kinda agree with you on the issue you had with that paragraph. I really didn't phrase it like I should have and will have to edit that part a bit. What I was trying to get at was that, while you have two basic generic enemy types (projectile attackers who try to get in a line with you to shoot you and melee attackers who try to get close to you and whack you), there's enough variance between them so you don't feel you're completely doing the "same ol', same ol'" in every time period. Going from robots in the super-future world to skeletons in the ancient Greece world to knights and wizards in the medieval world to guys with guns and rockets in the modernistic world was a nice touch.

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