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Daikatana Member Review for the N64

LinksOcarina By:
M Contains Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence

What do these ratings mean?

The gaming press is always looking for a new whipping boy when it comes to juicy stories of vengeance and intrigue. We see great games like E.T, Survior: The Interactive and Limbo of the Lost constantly shafted because few people actually can recognize brilliance in a vacuum. Perhaps the biggest pariah of all is John Romero and his super awesome master work, Daikatana.

John Romero, as we all should know, is our lord and savior since he pretty much invented first person shooters all the way back to the golden year of 1991, when he first joined ID Software and turned that backwater developer in a goldmine that we venerate today. The ingenuity of deathmatch and first person shooters came from him, from Wolfenstein 3D to Quake. Hell, he is humble enough to give John Carmack some credit for Doom! I bet if we gave him water he would turn it into wine in front of our eyes and maybe generate tons of bread and fish for us if were really lucky.

So great was Romero he even created his own company after leaving ID Software in 1996 called Ion Storm. Here he loomed over his peers and allowed them to make pet projects like Warren Specter’s Deus Ex or Tom Hall’s Anarcronox, while he bided his time and energy on the creation of his master work that was bubbling in his brain, Daikatana. So ambitious was the title that he claimed it would not only come out in seven months and be released in December of 1997, but it would revolutionize the way games are played, effectively blowing the minds of gamers to the point where the advertisements for the game pretty much exclaimed that we must all suck it down and be his *****.

Ah yes, the “infamous” magazine add that had the audacity to call gamers a female canine. I remember seeing that ad in 1997, and like most of us I was pretty foolish to get angry at such a brazen display of power. But in the end, the ad was prophetic in a way, as we, as a gaming culture, would become the *****es that Romero so wanted us to be. Hell, I would hazard a guess to say he was doing us a favor by letting us know ahead of time of his plans, so we can be ready for the way he would revolutionize gaming with Daikatana. So if you ask me, some thanks are in order towards Romero and his brilliant message.

Sadly it takes time for genius to cultivate. Daikatana spent three years, from 1997 to early 2000, in development. While the press wants you to believe that internal problems were the cause for the games delay, and the fact that the Quake II engine was released in 1997 that prompted Romero to re-do everything on the new engine. But I doubt that is really the case. Look at Duke Nukem Forever, Chinese Democracy, or The Thief and the Cobbler as great and ambitious titles of their respected mediums. Sure some of them take ten, twenty or thirty years to see the light of day, but that is the fickle nature of genius; perfection has no timeframe that is uncompromising.

But I think I spent enough time on Romero’s history; Daikatana itself is the fruits of his labor, and it shows in the gameplay. The story has you play a karate master named Hiro, as he travels across time to Ancient Greece, Norway, San Francisco and futuristic Tokyo to stop the evil Kage Mishima, who already traveled back in time to create an incurable pandemic in the year 2455 A.D. What more can you ask for in a video game plot where you are a time-traveling karate fighter who uses peculiar guns and a sword to kill giant bats, robots and demons in an effort to stop a madman’s scheme to take over the world in the future. Not since Final Fantasy VIII has time-traveling been used so skillfully.

The controls follow basic key commands on the Nintendo 64, moving, strafing, shooting and switching weapons through the face buttons and the control stick, all in a silky smooth 30 frames per second, a great upgrade from the already adaptable 12 FPS that Romero originally had the game on. The game has few save points, which is designed to be a challenge for only the bravest of the brave, the hardcore masters of shooters, the demi-gods of joysticks/ There was a total of 35 weapons in game, from the arm-like sidewinder to giant talismans that bounce around the many walls and corridors like a handball, eventually exploding when it touches something fleshy and evil. Couple that with team based tactics by  two squad maters, Superfly Johnson and Mikiko Ebihara, and you have pretty much death in boots as you traverse through caves, sewers, and giant corridors. The two side characters are so good at their job they don’t even appear in game at all while you control Hiro, only in cut-scenes and through exposition.

There is also a multi-player that features the standard deathmatch/team fight modes you would see in any Quake engine game. The deathmatch is always bare for some reason, but the maps and corridors are well balanced and the 30 plus weapons in map are evenly distributed. I would hazard a guess to say that the PC version of the game’s multi-player was more robust, but since I have Nintendo 64 version I can’t say for certain.

There is also a multi-player that features the standard deathmatch/team fight modes you would see in any Quake engine game. The deathmatch is always bare for some reason, but the maps and corridors are well balanced and the 30 plus weapons in map are evenly distributed. I would hazard a guess to say that the PC version of the game’s multi-player was more robust, but since I have Nintendo 64 version I can’t say for certain.

The game is a graphical powerhouse by 2000 standards; the textures are deceptively low-resolution and the fog of war only adds to the games legendary difficulty. The HUD and inventory selection screen take up most of the space during the main game, mimicking what Romero did on Doom and Quake, but with a fancier style of graphics since it is a translucent green that no doubt the Pip-Boy 3000 would be jealous of.  The animations are impressive as well, We see Hiro do handstands as he defies the laws of gravity, characters trying to desperately phase into the corridor walls to avoid death, and Hiro being so skilled with his weapons that he does headshots when some foes have no heads to begin with! That takes some great skill, and it’s a good thing Hiro is here to give Master Chief a run for his money.

The games sound is just as immaculate as the graphics. The lack of voice over’s is compensated with clever walls of pink colored text during cut-scenes. The realistic sound, with scarce musical cues, is all in mono and booming on an endless loop during gameplay. And finally, sound effects that all sound the same to the naked ear, assuming you don’t hear the subtle differences between the “oomphs” when you get hit by a stray bullet.

So with time slowly ebbing away from the negative hype that distraught John Romero and his unparalleled brilliance, I would be remised to let such a travesty continue for another decade. Daikatana transcends what we would call a mere game, but it is in fact an experience worth braving through.

More information about Daikatana
A+ Revolution report card
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