Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (GameCube) review
Modern gamers don't have to fret when they see the name "Atari" these days, or at least not as much as they did during the early 2000s. Yeah, Atari still don't possess the greatest track record now, but at least they've broken the curse they once carried. You see, the Atari around nowadays isn't quite the same one from the '70s and '80s who pretty much popularized home consoles before contributing to an industry crash. The company has seen its share of ownership swaps and restructurings over the years, having been passed around like a blunt in a backroom at E3.
For a while, they became more or less a property-holding company before Hasbro acquired them in 1998. Not long afterward, the infamous Infogrames--who brought us the memorable Alone in the Dark and not much else worth mentioning--devoured Hasbro. Around this time, the Infogrames name had become synonymous with licensed shovelware and halfhearted titles, such as Looney Tunes Racing and NSYNC: Get to the Show, neither of which were held in the highest of regard...
Infogrames would later rebrand entirely to Atari, almost as if they were aware of the stigma attached to their old moniker. The funny thing is their "bad" reputation didn't hinder their financial growth, as cranking out slop generated enough revenue for them to buy out other companies. Regardless, the stink of their former name carried over to Atari almost immediately, and some folks became wary of their early titles released under the brand. You'd see new licensed games announced, and some fans would take to the message boards of GameFAQs to rejoice. Inevitably, someone would point out that Atari was publishing, and the tone of the forum would turn sour.
This is where I found myself in the early 2000s when Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee was announced. As a long-time lover of Toho's radiation-breathing beast, I was at odds with the excitement that he would finally receive a 3D fighting game potentially worth a damn while hoping that Atari didn't waste another license. There was a silver lining to all of this: Pipeworks stepped up as developer, and at least a little of their staff was familiar with the films.
And really, it shows. For its time, Destroy All presented the best video game adaptation of Big G. It didn't come across as a cranked-out, quick-dollar game with wonky assets and out-of-character decisions. Godzilla and all of his co-stars looked and sounded their parts. You could see every scale, every spike and spine stand out like never before. Gigan's belly saw looked more fearsome than ever, and King Ghidorah movements proved sleeker and more graceful--and somehow more in line with the monster's capabilities than his movements in prior films. Even energy attacks, from Godzilla's own radioactive ray to the fire beam Rodan shot in "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," felt authentic.
Hell, the game even begins with a cutscene where aliens in silly garb plan to takeover Earth using some of its monsters, like a premise from a Showa-era Godzilla flick. That alone laid to rest any issues I had with this title remaining true to its inspiration.
However, fear lingered as I started the disc up and got my butt handed to me. Anyone who went into this title expecting a button-mash extravaganza received a rude awakening when even "easy" mode turned out to be crackin' difficult. Mostly, I chalk this up to my previous experience with 3D fighting games, as if I anticipated this outing to be Godzilla or Alive or Virtua Toho.
You see, Destroy All doesn't handle like its brethren. Each monster comes with its own strengths and shortcomings, not to mention divergent methods of playing. For instance, you can't get into an all-out fist fight using Rodan, unless you want to get wrecked hard. Rodie prefers to hang back and breathe some fire, maybe toss a building or two. When he gets in close, he's more comfortable hitting a throw maneuver and saving close-range wing slaps for desperate occasions. On the flip side, you have Destroyah: a mammoth, winged crustacean who battled Godzilla in the '90s. True to the film, Destroyah is a bulky, slow brute with punishing blows that can rip tinier kaiju new orifices. He is your basic tank character, who shines when you wait for openings and take full, relentless advantage of them.
In other words, Destroy All has a monstrous learning curve, which is made worse by finite continues. However, improvement doesn't remain out of reach for those who put in the effort. For instance, during my first playthrough, I could barely get through half of "easy mode." Before retiring, I got to the point where I could easily burn my way through the toughest difficulty setting, all through practice and understanding that each combatant comes with its own play style.
When you've learned the ropes, you can see the spectacle in its full glory: monsters slamming each other into buildings, whole city blocks reduced to rubble as breath attacks blast through skyscrapers, chunks of debris nailing competitors right in the face, and war cries sounding all over a slowly crumbling town while the JSDF struggles to be anything more than useless. Hedorah flies around occasionally, wisely staying out of the fight while spraying his acidic mist everywhere. For a short while, the experience becomes a Toho fan's wet dream.
However, as with any dream, you have to wake up at some point. You start to notice questionable hit detection when you play for prolonged periods because fighters have to be positioned just right to connect with some blows. You'll see Godzilla's claws or Gigan's hooks pass harmlessly through Mecha-King Ghidorah's torso or Megalon's head, all because you weren't positioned in just the right place, executing their swipes at just the right time. Granted, this issue doesn't constantly crop up, but it loves to occur at the worst of times.
Finally, Destroy All suffers from the same issue you see with older fighting titles. Unless you absolutely love the game's mechanics or you have friends to play with on a regular basis, you're eventually going to run out of new content to access. It doesn't take long to access all of the hidden kaiju, especially when you consider the roster only consists of eleven characters. Modern fighting games have found ways around this obstacle by including online multiplayer or downloadable content. Sadly, Gamecube underutilized its own internet capabilities, and games like this one suffered as a result.
Regardless of its shortcomings, Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee constitutes a win for the big guy. He beat the odds by becoming a licensed title bearing the Atari name that wasn't just another straight-to-the-bargain-bin launch. I can't begin to express to people how much it meant to a Godzilla nerd that the monster's first 3D fighting game released in the west wasn't just another ball for Infogrames/Atari to drop. We may not have gotten the greatest Godzilla piece of all time, but we at least received a fighter that did the smasher/savior of Tokyo imperfect justice.
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 06, 2023)
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.
More Reviews by Joseph Shaffer [+]
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