Retro Gaming Challenge Week Nine: Godzilla Generations (Dreamcast)

Yes, I spent the week playing the Godzilla Generations on the Dreamcast. What surprised me was that it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
I’m still sticking with this entirely silly and self-imposed challenge. For those coming in late, I’m going to play a different retro game, not always to completion, every week for 52 straight weeks. The Internet votes (from a selection) of titles each week to determine what I play the following week. If you just came to vote, you’ll find that bit down the bottom, below the review.
For those wanting to catch up on the challenge so far:
Retro Gaming Challenge Week One: Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Two: Donkey Konga (Gamecube)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Three: The Firemen (SNES)
Retro Games Challenge Week Four: Space Invaders (2600)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Five: Three Dirty Dwarves (Saturn)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Six: Trog (NES)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Seven: Robocop vs The Terminator (Megadrive)
Retro Gaming Challenge Week Eight: James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (Xbox)

Godzilla Generations: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Godzilla Generations isn’t a good game. Look, let’s be honest here, you probably already knew that, because Godzilla Generations is one of those legendarily poor launch titles that seem to mar every new console launch.
It happens all the time, whether you want to talk Obi-Wan for Xbox, Toshinden for PlayStation or… actually, the SNES had Super Mario World, F-Zero and Pilotwings, all classics. Hmm. Maybe it’s the exception that proves the rule. Yeah, I can live with that.
Anyway, I’ve known that Godzilla Generations wasn’t a good game for some time now, having owned a copy that went walking right when I needed it back for week 2. So, being the stubborn type that I am, I went out and procured a “new” copy, because the one very slight advantage of terrible games is that they’re rarely all that hard to get hold of in an age of eBay and similar services.

Upside: This theme features prominently. How can you NOT love this theme?
 

Godzilla Generations: Big Lizard, Simple Gameplay

I can sum up the basics of Godzilla Generations very quickly. You’re the eponymous Lizard chap, and you’ve taken a dislike to Japan, as gigantic seaborne lizards so frequently do, so you decide to go flatten it all. All of it, every last bit, whether it’s stomping on it, whacking it with your tail or breathing atomic fire at it. Like those annoying car ads, everything must go. So you go, and you flatten it all within a time limit while the pathetic military forces try (and generally fail) to stop you.

Godzilla never gets invited to rooftop parties, mostly because he tends to ruin them. The rooftops AND the parties.
Godzilla never gets invited to rooftop parties, mostly because he tends to ruin them.
The rooftops AND the parties.

That’s it. That’s the whole game, right there. Stomp, stomp, stomp, crush, crush, crush. There are trailers and a smattering of characters to unlock if you play for long enough.

Godzilla Generations: I understand why he roars

Godzilla Generations annoys me. Not because it’s a bad game, although it undeniably is.

I have to be careful what I say. Would you want to annoy Godzilla?
I have to be careful what I say. Would you want to annoy Godzilla?

No, Godzilla Generations annoys me because it’s all too apparent what Sega’s designers were shooting for. They got irritatingly close, while still failing. See, while the game annoys me, I’m a big fan of Godzilla-the-character, and it’s quite clear that Sega was too. The game presents all sorts of clues to this that show a love for the character, but not enough thought to the effects of that on gameplay.

Godzilla Generations: Look over here! No, OVER HERE!

Let me give you an example. The camera in Godzilla Generations is widely derided, largely because you don’t have any control over it. The big advantage here is that it’s a great cinematic camera that does a lot of solid work in establishing that Godzilla is huge. It makes him look good, whether it’s a long shot of him roaring, or a ground level shot that establishes that you are indeed gawping at a skyscraper-sized lizard.

Naturally, Minilla is a little smaller. But he's so cute. Cute can get you a very long way.
Naturally, Minilla is a little smaller. But he’s so cute. Cute can get you a very long way.

But you can’t escape the fact that you can’t control the camera, and this means that you can’t always see enemies or objectives properly, and that sucks.
Likewise, the core game posits the idea that Godzilla is this elemental force, and you get to be Godzilla, stomping your way through annoying buildings, tanks, and, increasingly, trees.
An aside, if I may. May I? Why, thankyou.
Until I played Godzilla Generations, I never knew quite how badly Godzilla hated trees. He must do, because in order to get 100 percent completion on any level, you’ve got to squash everything flat. That’s not too hard at all for the big buildings, even with the dodgy camera, because they’re marked with big white obvious dots on your map.
Godzilla is a one-lizard-deforestation-crew, and what's more, he enjoys his work.
Godzilla is a one-lizard-deforestation-crew, and what’s more, he enjoys his work.
Except when the trees explode. Which they always do.

Trees, though, are not, which means that completion involves a lot of fruitless stomping around to find every last one. It should be somewhat worrying that ordinary Japanese trees apparently explode in flames when they’re knocked over, but then again, this is a game about a gigantic radioactive lizard, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too picky.
Anyhow, Godzilla is an elemental, unstoppable force, and that’s entirely appropriate.
Except that you play as Godzilla, which means that there’s just not that much challenge to the game, beyond finding that last annoying tree, which is almost certainly on the other side of the map anyway.
In some ways, of course, this represents the essential dilemma of both Godzilla games and movies.
Show him too much in the movies, and it becomes dull, and Godzilla the game suffers from this, which is why the movies so often have a strong human character narrative. That doesn’t work well within the more obvious constraints of a game, which is why the vast majority of Godzilla games have tended to be simple fighting games… or weird soccer games. Yeah, I have that one too.

I sense this being an option in an upcoming game vote
Was playing Godzilla Generations all week a waste of my time? Not entirely, because I do love the character, and the game gets the music and tone pretty darned right given the technology of the time. It’s not a good game, or even a particularly adept demonstration of what the Dreamcast was capable of visually, but then I’m still waiting on a really good Godzilla game. When the best I can think of is a humans-escaping-Godzilla-endless-runner, that says something about the constraints game designers are under when making “fun” Godzilla games.
Want to experience the “fun” of Godzilla Generations yourself?
You can hunt for a copy on eBay (affiliate link) here.
Next week:

The voting for the PlayStation game I’ll play next week really went all over the place. With the exception of the criminally under-rated (and obviously unloved) Wargames, pretty much every title held the top spot at one point or another. But, just as there was only ever one Highlander movie*, there can be only one winner, and that winner was Devil Dice.
So that’s what I’ll play as my retro game for next week. In the meantime, though, there’s the issue of voting for the following week’s game. I’m going to stick with single-console choices for now, though I’m clearly starting to run low on console choices. From Sony, we shall shift back to Sega, and I’ll play Bubble Bobble
Dammit, that’s right. I’m not allowed to play Bubble Bobble until week fifty two. Sight. Forty three weeks to go. That’s a long time, and a lot of games to play.
So you’d better get to voting from the choices below. Also, if you’ve enjoyed this, or have any comments or thoughts on future challenges, forty three weeks being quite a few to fill, feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.
[socialpoll id=”2364657″]
 
 
*Don’t you dare try to tell me any different. Only one. No sequels.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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