Year of Release: 1989
Date Reviewed: 10-10-98
“In my younger and more vulnerable years,”* my rather weak will and yen to be captivated combined to direct me toward more than a few passing obsessions. I would, without much precedent, become enthralled with something, and love it unconditionally for a brief period of time. The Godzilla medium was one such obsession (along with everything from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Willow to bowling to gin rummy,) though my fascination didn’t coincide with the zenith of said medium’s popularity. I rented nearly every Godzilla film in existence, and, with more than a hint of enthusiasm, purchased this game.
The first moment I played Godzilla, I was in awe of it -- of the variety of enemy monsters and... now that I think of it, not much else. Whatever spare moments I had were spent in labor over this game, which I considered, at the time, to be a timeless masterpiece. However, as previously stated, most of my obsessions in those days were fleeting, and, after the aforementioned unconditional love wore off, so did the game’s novelty.
With that advent of objectivity in dealing with Godzilla, I came to realize that which this review will stress -- that the game has very little to go on -- that, objectively and truthfully speaking, it simply isn’t very good.
The plot, for example, is severely underdone, which is unfortunate when one considers that it has a bit of potential. As the story begins, the ubiquitous Planet X declares war on Earth, and dispatches all manner of bizarre weapons to occupy the Solar System, most notably their horde of “Space Monsters” -- giant, brutish creatures with a penchant for destruction. Do not be misled, though. Only three of these beasts are derived from the Godzilla films -- Gigan, Mecha-Godzilla, and the sovereign Ghidora (or Monster Zero, if you prefer.) Further, it is stated that this war will be staged sequentially on every planet in the Solar System, excluding Mercury and Venus, for no better reason than that they precede Earth in the queue. Now, needless to say (and the prologue doesn’t plainly say it), mere Earthling soldiers cannot hope to contend with these foreign behemoths. However, Earth’s “guardians” -- Godzilla and Mothra -- are willing to enter the fight to purge the hated Planet X-ians, and the game begins on that note.
Though the notion of full-scale interplanetary war is somewhat enticing, there are a few rather gaping holes in this story. First, no explanation of the motives of Planet X to declare war is offered. Its citizens seem to fall under that rather densely-populated sub-category of action game villains -- those who are mean just for the sake of being mean. Also, Godzilla and Mothra were portrayed in the films as fairly bitter enemies, not allies. This begs the question -- though it is a nice sentiment to see the two reconcile their differences -- of why they are suddenly united. The game never explains it, nor does it seem to acknowledge that they were ever less than foxhole chums. I concede that a cohesive plot is of minimal importance in the action genre, but it seems that this game’s designers wanted it to have one. However, when push came to shove, their priorities rested elsewhere -- perhaps with wantonly screwing up the rest of the game -- and the plot was never refined in the least.
Presentationally, though, the game’s failures are fewer. Its graphics, in fact, are exceptional in most every capacity. The animation is fluid, though Godzilla’s punches are a bit abrupt. Everything is greatly detailed, including the backgrounds which, for once, actually remain in the background without being slipshod (where there are backgrounds, that is.) Likewise, the size of the many monsters permits contouring, and thus many of them, aided also by their meticulous shading, are of 16-bit caliber (albeit there is no background at all when the player fights them.)
However, the music is less impressive. The themes of the first two planets are decent, and, since the game does not hold the player’s interest for very long, you likely won’t have any interest in proceeding much farther than that (there are passwords, but I find them too long to bother with.) Also, as something of a coup for its time, each “space monster” has its own theme (though one is used twice, for whatever reason.) Like the unification of Godzilla and Mothra, though, this is a nice sentiment that doesn’t really work out. None of these songs are very well done (save, possibly, for Mecha-Godzilla’s theme,) and listening to them repeat themselves ad nauseam during the often lengthy battles is about as desirable as hitting oneself over the head with a baseball bat.
On the subject of irritation, let’s discuss the game’s play control. For one thing, it follows the little-used Kung Fu rubric -- A punches, B kicks, and UP jumps (this applies only to Godzilla, since Mothra has only one standard attack, and is always airborne.) That, however, is natural enough, and takes little time to get used to. The salient problem is the function of the “Start” button. Who, off hand, can name three games in which Start has done anything other than pause the game? I, for one, cannot. Why is that, you ask? More common than even the tendency of A to jump and B to attack is that of Start to pause the game. Yet, knavishly enough, this game’s programmers gave Start the function of summoning one’s “special attack,” -- in Godzilla’s case, breathing radiation, and, in Mothra’s, dropping some kind of strange mothly sheet -- relegating “pause” to Select. Getting used to this, unlike the other controls, is most awkward. I long ago stopped counting the number of times I wanted to pause this game but instead unleashed a radioactive force on absolutely nothing.
And that’s just the trouble with the buttons. In addition, on each stretch of land, one will find umpteen obstacles (mountains, erupting volcanoes, giant plants, strange purple things, etc.) blocking the path of progression, each of which takes more time than I’d like to destroy, and can’t be circumvented. Compound that with the seeming infinity of paths per level, and you’ll come up with an awfully long time to complete this game. This stop-and-go sense of action gets old very quickly (there’s a reason everyday driving has never been made into a video game, with the possible exception of Sierra’s Police Quest.) Again, Mothra isn’t subjected to this drudgery, since he can fly above all the annoyances. However, since both characters have to be taken across all of each planet (a fairly irksome requirement in its own right,) there is no way to completely escape the travail.
Though the play control is a severe problem, its lack of impact upon the actual handling of the characters prevents any influence upon the challenge. Likewise, despite the fact that the frequent stopping to destroy obstacles is fairly annoying, it’s also quite routine and neither puts the character in any danger, nor makes the game particularly hard. The only real difficulty stems from battling the many bosses. Even in their case, though, only the final two -- Mecha-Godzilla and Ghidora -- are particularly irritating. Defeating Ghidora, however, is quite the ordeal, only because he corners the player much too often.
If it seems that this game is made enjoyable because it is not horrendously challenging, then I have not made my point. True, Godzilla isn’t, in general, a terribly difficult game. However, because of the rampant drudgery -- stopping to destroy obstacles, having to take both monsters across the same stretches of land, being frequently cornered by bosses, and the fact that most of the stretches of land are exactly alike -- the level of challenge, rather than triumph over said drudgery, becomes quite irrelevant to the experience of this game.
Perhaps I am unduly hard on this game because I once liked it quite a lot, and now am not so fond of it. Perhaps I feel somehow cheated or manipulated by Godzilla -- as though it is some kind of vile temptress disguised as a video game. However, I do not much feel cheated when I play this game. Honestly, I feel more bored than anything else, and suspect, in spite of my potential bias, that others will feel the same.
* The first clause in F. Scott FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby -- (c) 1925 by Charles ScribnerÂ’s Sons, New York, NY. The reference is intentional, though what I discuss in that paragraph doesn't have anything to do with the novel.
Play Control: 3
Intangibles (Drudgery): -1
Anaalytic Score: 5.4
Personal Score: 5.5
Had Ghidora been in Star Trek: Generations, it would have been ten minutes long.
I don't know... Somehow, this thing looks out of place on Earth.
Imagine what the Pilot Pen Company could do with this fella.
Return to the main page - The NES Enshrined
Return to the review index - Game Reviews