A Quick Look At Godzilla Generations

Godzilla is something of a cultural phenomenon in Japan, and the franchise has spawned no less than 28 different movies (30 if you include the two Hollywood adaptations). The appeal of a bloke in a rubber suit smashing up cardboard cities while super-imposed crowds flee is pretty universal though, as can be demonstrated in the way multiple movies following the same template have been produced. Hollywood movies like Cloverfield and Pacific Rim owe a lot to the Kaiju genre, in which massive monsters attacking major cities is a running theme, and the popularity of these types of film in Japan is demonstrable by the sheer number of them. With this in mind, that the Dreamcast played host to a Godzilla game upon launch should be no surprise, and in 1998 that's exactly what happened with the release of Godzilla Generations.
I can actually recall the first time I saw shots of Generations in a copy of GamesMaster Magazine, and it did look very impressive. Granted, back in early 1998 every Dreamcast game looked spectacular but the way in which this game promised the ability to wander around fully realised cities smashing the hell out of everything looked like nothing else. Actually - I tell a lie. It did remind me a little of Iron Soldier on the Atari Jaguar, another game that allows you to walk around in a giant robot blowing cities up...but in a much more rudimentary and pedestrian pace than Godzilla Generations promised. It came as something of a shock then, when Godzilla (and the Dreamcast) finally landed and the reviews were almost universally critical of the game. While the graphics were praised, the game was branded as slow, boring and ultimately just not very good.

An early preview shot taken from IGN
Godzilla has never really been that popular here in the UK and most people regard it as a bit of a joke, citing the aforementioned low budget Japanese films, rubbery suits and crap visual effects of the 1960s and 70s. Yes, we had the lamentable 1998 movie starring Matthew Broderick and the fairly decent 2014 reboot with Brian Cranston, but for the most part Godzilla is a bit of a punchline in the west. Back in the early days of the Dreamcast it was even less popular and so it didn't really surprise me that Generations wasn't deemed worthy of a PAL release. Recently though, I picked up a copy of this much maligned monster 'em up and gave it a good play. I really wasn't expecting anything worth writing home (or blogging) about, but after spending a couple of hours playing the game I feel that the treatment it received was a little on the harsh side. That's because Godzilla Generations isn't really anywhere near as bad as I was lead to believe, and I would speculate that the game was given a hard time because the wave of hype surrounding the Dreamcast had created an artificial high watermark for the next generation of titles.

That said, upon starting Godzilla Generations you are treated to one of the worst CG intros ever pressed to a disc, in which an atrociously animated 'Zilla shambles up to the camera, roars a bit and then shoots blue fire into your face. It just looks pathetic and not the kind of thing you'd be expecting to see on a brand new system you'd just spent you hard-earned Yen on. Once you recover from the intro, you are presented with a pretty threadbare menu screen offering a main game mode, time attack, a VMU mini game in which you can battle Tamagotchi-style monsters stored on your VMU, and a theatre mode.
Some of the camera angles are quite cinematic to be fair
This last option is particularly interesting as it allows you to view clips and trailers from various Godzilla movies released over the years. These are unlocked, as you'd expect, by completing levels in the main game and you also unlock additional monsters to play as in the same manner. The main story mode (or 'Normal Game' as it's referred to here) is where you'll spend the majority of your time with Generations and basically tasks you with moving your chosen monster around 3D cityscapes, destroying everything that stands before either the time runs out or you get killed by the Japanese armed forces who are attempting to kick your Kaiju ass back into the sea from whence you came. And...that's pretty much all there is to the game. You wander around stomping on (or rather, walking through) buildings, trees, cranes, stadiums etc. and in the bottom right of the screen there's a percentage meter which indicates how much of the scenery you've flattened. Once it reaches 100% the level is complete. There are a number of different locations to cause chaos in (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka) and there are various iterations of Godzilla to play as (including the remodelled 1998 version with a massive chin).
His dentist bill must be ridiculous
Each of the monsters has a couple of special abilities, such as the ability to breath blue lightning (or fire missiles and bullets in the case of Mecha-Godzilla), but these abilities are actually quite hard to use as activating them roots your character to the spot and you can only direct the beam/fire/harsh language using the analogue slick. This is particularly difficult due to the way the camera angle constantly shifts as you lumber around and becoming disorientated is quite common. Speaking of lumbering, the monsters all move fairly slowly and this can become a bit of a chore when your destruction meter is at 99% and you're frantically searching for an errant tree to smash to a pulp before the timer runs out. The enemy tanks, helicopters etc are little more than a distraction as you have the ability to refill your own energy bar at the touch of a button, and this is a bit of a godsend in truth because trying to hit them with your projectile powers is an exercise in futility due to the constantly shifting camera and the imprecise controls.
Some of the battling 'virtual pets' from the manual
Even in light of all of these flaws though, I can't help but enjoy the basic charms of Godzilla Generations. The graphics are actually quite decent and the buildings topple and explode in quite spectacular fashion, leaving piles of smouldering rubble in your wake. It does get repetitive as each mission is pretty much the same thing - destroy the city within the time limit, don't wander out of the 'action zone,' and don't die at the hands of the military. Rinse and repeat. It's basic, mindless and it gets old after a few missions...but there's something oddly relaxing about razing a metropolis to the ground in the guise of a gigantic rubber dinosaur.
Godzilla Generations isn't a great game. It has quite a few problems including slow pace, repetitive gameplay and annoying camera angles. But if you can look past those shortcomings, Generations is a fun little title that quite accurately simulates what (I imagine) it would be like to be a monster flattening a city, and is well worth a play for the unlockable movie clips and quite bizarre extra playable characters. There is a semi-sequel called Maximum Impact which plays more like Panzer Dragoon than Blast Corps, so if you're desperate for a more action-packed Kaiju sim on your Dreamcast it may be worth investing in that rather than Generations...but for relaxing city smashing in short bursts (bit of an oxymoronic concept there), Generations is perfect.

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1 comment:

noiseredux said...

looks like there are worse ways to spend your time. Even on Dreamcast. I'd play this.