So it turns out that today is Review a Bad Game Day. Hurrah! Now, what to pick? In some ways, the unending barrage of terrible games makes this harder than Review a Great Game Day. I’m supposed to pick something terrible, something that’s so flawed it can’t help but extract full-on NERD RAGE, but there are a lot of titles that fit that category too. Ooh eck.
After some deliberation, I’ve settled on Godzilla Generations, which was released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. On the surface, Godzilla Generations appears an intriguing proposition: While all previous and later Godzilla games have focused on Monster-vs-Monster combat, Generations focuses on the radioactive dino’s roots: The player assumes the role of Godzilla and is tasked with the rampaging through a number of fully-destructible cities, with only the Japanese Self-Defence Forces around to stop him.
Sounds like an intriguing concept, hmm? Don’t be fooled though: by almost any technical benchmark you care to mention, Godzilla Generations is a terrible, terrible game.
Where to begin? The cities manage to be both graphicly simplistic (by the standards of a Dreamcast launch title) and completely devoid of life. Any challenge is rendered moot by the inclusion of a ‘Roar’ button which regenerates infinite amounts of health. To complete each level properly you need to step on 100s of tiny trees which aren’t marked on your map. The AI is terrible, with the Japanese airforce unwittingly carrying out kamikaze missions on almost every single occasion they try to fly past the Big G.
No wait! there’s MORE: The camera is horrendous, with ‘cinematic’ angles in front and below of Godzilla often robbing you of any idea of where you are/where you are going. Godzilla’s slow and determined movement is both too slow and too determined: The developers wanted an UNSTOPPABLE force of nature, but ended up with a seemingly arthritic dinosaur with a gammy knee. Trees explode when Godzilla steps on them. As I said, if you can think of a criteria by which a game can be judged, Godzilla Generations fails at it.
In fact, even the things it does best, it still earns little credit: The music and sound have been imported straight from the films, which is great, but Ifukube’s iconic score seems to have been thrown in willy-nilly, with little consideration being paid to which of the tracks actually suit scenes of COMPLETE ANNIHILATION. The unlockable Godzilla trailers are a masterstroke, but any points gained here are lost by the eclectic mix of unlockable characters: For some reason, they included a giant Dr. Serizawa (he from the first Godzilla film,) but decided against the likes of King Ghidorah – a perfect choice for a game about civic destruction.
So then, Godzilla Generations is unarguably a terrible, terrible, terrible game. As much as I try, however, I can not hate it. Somehow, despite this almost endless list of weaknesses, developer General Entertainment managed to craft an enjoyable experience.
I suppose the place to start with Generations’ rehabilitation is to look at it as more of a Godzilla simulator. From that perspective, most of the major flaws suddenly don’t seem AS bad: True, Godzilla faces little challenge, but the character is a thinly-veiled metaphor for the Atom Bomb anyway. Conventional weapons aren’t supposed to have any real chance of stopping him. Likewise, The confusing camera angles have no real chance of killing the player, and do a pretty good job of recreating the look and feel of Toho’s classic films. Even Godzilla’s movement, which IS a tad too slow, is preferable to movement which risked being a tad too agile.
But perhaps what really makes Godzilla Generations work is the amount of effort that General Entertainment put into the destructible environments: The smallest objects may explode unconvincingly, but Godzilla is able to smash satisfying chunks out of larger buildings, and simply push over less stable structures like ferris wheels and radio towers. The game also makes no differentiation between deliberate attacks, and Godzilla turning round: If you blunder into it, it WILL fall – and in a satisfying fashion too. Everything else might be a bit rubbish, but this is one technical feature General Entertainment got right and got right in a big way. Is it enough to out way the huge list of faults? Actually, I think it is.
On paper, it is almost impossible to argue with someone who suggests that Godzilla Generations is almost entirely awful. But, in relatively small doses, I have to admit that it’s actually much more fun to play than a number of technically ‘better’ games. Bad game? Yes. Fun game? YES!
Perhaps there’s a cautionary tale here: Just as Godzilla Generations is saved from a number of terrible design choices by a really killer core gameplay mechanic, It’s worth remembering that games with fantastic graphics, stories and Artificial Intelligence simply will not work if the core gameplay mechanics are not up to scratch – something especially worth keeping in mind now we are on the verge of another generational leap.