Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
I don’t get movie critics. They can’t seem to take a movie at face value or enjoy it for what it is. Therefore, there is no way any mainstream movie critic will ever be able to enjoy a good old car heist flick featuring my good friends, Gratuitous Use Of Big Manly GunsT and Big Fancy Computer-Generated Car ExplosionT. They wouldn’t dare approve of it for fear of being slammed upon by fellow avant-garde critics who pretend to frown on good old-fashioned mindless fun. When you try to apply logic to something like a Jerry Bruckheimer film or the old good-for-a-laugh B-movies of the fifties and sixties, you end up depriving yourself of enjoying something meant to be taken lightly by taking it seriously. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (Activision, 2002) tries to liken itself to the movies of that twenty-year run. If you never gave a hoot about the hokey special effects in those movies, don’t play this – your lack of caring will drive you away. This game is strictly for those who see, without any prior coaching, the inherent entertainment value in throwing a skyscraper at a three-headed armless dragon. Godzilla succeeds in capturing the spirit of fun that the movies that came before it conveyed. However, some confusing controls and a lack of organization make this a game that only fans of the classics will care to see develop in any direction whatsoever.
Starting with a meager gathering of only three playable characters – Godzilla 90’s, Anguirus, and Megalon – you’ll go on a tour of the world keeping various metropolises safe from reptilian evil via the ironic process of uprooting buildings from their street corners and chunking them at the opposition. Your monsters aren’t so dumb that this is all they are capable of, however. A few special physical techniques are at your disposal, like the ability to pick up the enemies themselves and throw them (albeit not very far), and in most cases some kind of oral emission (fire, lasers). Every monster has one implemented attack that works to their bodily advantage. Megalon is basically a beetle with a drill on his face; he can burrow through the ground and surprise his opponents with a grind and a toss. Each iteration of Godzilla can use the spikes on his back as defense, and Gigan’s speed is more than enough to make up for his weak arsenal of moves. Their beastly powers can be augmented further when you collect a Rage icon, a power-up that allows for the uninhibited release of one very powerful attack that is often enough to siphon the better half of an opponent’s energy bar. If you’re searching for a deeper significance to any of this, stop. You’re becoming like those movie critics, remember? The concept sounds good so far, as do they all on paper. Behind the initial intrigue though, the game’s technical facets remain to be considered.
The fighting is not overly difficult once you give the instructions a cursory glance and commit them to memory. In keeping with the brain structure of its cast, G:DAMM does not send you reeling into mental anguish and frustration by overcomplicating things, so you won’t see any Mortal Kombat-type combo maneuvers here. Basic moves are executed with one of the action buttons, while more complex attacks like throwing and Rage call for the simultaneous depression of two buttons. If you can chew gum and walk at the same time, you don’t have anything to be worried about, and once you have the control downpat, you’ve pretty much mastered the game on its lower difficulties. At the outset, it’s all about learning the ropes with the mere three characters given to you. As you complete the one-player mode with those already among your selection choices, more characters and cities to ransack will be uncovered, until eventually you’ve found everything there is to find. The one-player mode does not offer hardly any opportunities to save your progress, so when you start a run-through, be prepared to finish it. Facilitating your journey are other power-ups besides Rage. Health increases, something not often found in fighting games, will raise your life meter a little bit and could give you an edge in a battle you might be on the verge of losing. Lightning icons will speed up the filling of your super meter, a bar that when full allows you to go ballistic with a move not quite as strong as Rage but better than most anything else you’ve got. Using these aids in conjunction with a healthy trail mix of moves ought to make even total nincompoops fairly competent. It’s an easy game to get into with the help of the items, but the sticky control can make it tougher in a hurry.
While many parts of the game can be paralleled to that of the stumbling giants within, whether by coincidence or not, the control is the one area where you would not want this to happen. As it happens, everyone, even the moderately speedy water beast Gigan, kind of muddles their way about the screen as if attempting to break free of a pre-chewed 50-foot glob of Juicy Fruit. As you bumble around the screen gathering your bearings and forming a first impression, your enemy is already on to you, and manifests his many terrifying moves upon you in an equally dull-witted manner. Learn to hold down the L button so you can run. The faster you can get around, the more power-ups you can steal away and the more time you have to formulaically conquer the other monster. There is quite a hefty gap between the time you press the button to pull off an attack and the time that it actually occurs; you feel as though you’d be able to see the electrical synapses traveling across their brain circuitry if their heads were opened up for display. The delays are forced upon all the characters, so the scales are tipped toward no one fighter in particular. It essentially boils down to a matter of who can press the buttons first coupled with how many times they can press them first. Button mashing will only stupefy both you and the combatant you control, and so there is no real way to be cheap unless you run away and only minorly dent the enemy every few seconds until he is dead. The game wholeheartedly supports close-range grappling, and that was what most Godzilla movies were about (to an extent – ever see Godzilla Vs. the Smog Monster?). It will not, however, support you in your desire for ease of said grappling.
Every creature looks great on the Gamecube, and true to their appearances in their film debuts over half a century back. The many Godzillas look scaly and imposing, presenting threats to Tokyo and Osaka as realistically (?) as ever (and thank goodness that the Godzilla from the 1998 crapsterpiece starring Matthew Broderick isn’t in there!). Many previous enemies of Godzilla make appearances, although I don’t agree with some of the choices given priority over others. Obscure characters like Anguirus made it in, but Mothra is unfairly reduced to a prop who comes in occasionally to rain down gamma rays on whoever is unlucky enough to eat them. The cityscapes are fairly bland and generic, although the more well-known cities thankfully contain their trademark landmarks; you will see the Space Needle in Seattle and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Nearly every town featured is connected to water, I suppose to add variety by crashing into something other than buildings. Also, framerate becomes an issue when the melees become intense. The more stuff going on, the slower it gets. You know this isn’t good when the characters themselves already move more slugglishly than dripping glue. Mothra’s air assault + aircraft firing at you + the laser shooting out of the other guy’s eye + tons of shuffling power-ups + your own movement along with the Rage move you just busted out = a recipe for disaster, and not the kind these titans are causing, either.
There’s nothing much to mention about the sound and the music until you really get into the thick of battle. The music and the announcer who introduces every fight are quickly forgotten, and you shall quickly find yourself immersed in the high-pitched, artificially created noises that made the films so delightfully cheesy. There’s something inside us all that wants to love those wavy-toned buzzes and the screech of radioactive beams shooting off in all directions. The deafening collapse of a highrise is poetry in motion, and the snapping in two of an aircraft carrier that you just heaved your friend on top of is music to the ears. Each mighty warrior will belt out a high-pitched roar when they achieve victory. And when you finally unleash that pivotal Rage that turns the tables and forces a change of decision in the final seconds of battle, the sounds you end up making aren’t too shabby either: the hallelujahs and huzzahs of victory are welcome to hear once you finally get a grip on the basics you’ve been struggling to master the whole time. Alternately, you’ll hear your share of pouting and sulking when the game’s lethargy rips you off through no fault of your own. All in all, Activision achieves a nice combined effort of your own vocals and the game’s sounds.
Many more modes of play are included in G:DAMM, but only by obligation. Trudging through a yawn-inducing survival mode and a training mode that have no real attachment to anything else, you know by reflex that nobody wants to walk on ground that has been treaded hundreds of times before now. The multi-player mode serves its lone purpose well as a macho diversion at birthday parties, box socials, work functions, and other mass gatherings. It does not seem to be rooted in the sense of fun and the sort of organized insanity that other multi-player games – for instance, Super Smash Bros Melee – are. It is amusing that for a while, you are the pilot in Godzilla’s head, steering him from obstacle to obstacle and making him chunk small apartment complexes at everyone else. This novelty can wear off pretty fast, depending on how few characters you’ve accessed when you decide the take the four-player plunge and how much esteem you hold the old monster flicks in. Something is desperately wrong when the one-player adventure is the most entertaining and rewarding piece of a multi-player game.
Ultimately, G:DAMM is not a total failure in those things that it hopes to accomplish. However, the relegation of cool characters like Mothra and the Smog Monster to easily dismissed supporting roles is questionable, especially when you consider some who were included. The unlocking process is lengthy when combined with the overall slow pace the whole game embodies, and the player gets tossed into an exhaustive back-and-forth frenzy of liking the game for what it is and tries to be and hating it for being such a muddled mess of curious random elements. This is part of what makes scoring the game difficult for me. I want so badly to enjoy it, and I do love it because in the days that I rented it I really started working in my individual strategies and reaping some nice rewards with the Big G himself. On the other side of the coin though, nothing about the game is really inspiring. Characters and modes of play are added to the mixing bowl for the sole reason that it is a fighting game and those things are presumably supposed to be there. Godzilla is fun for those who are willing to settle into it, but there are too many things wrong with it to warrant a long-term time investment. Play it if it catches your eye and appreciate what it does right, but don’t let that cause you to forget where it falls short. Do that, and you will be able to form the perfect opinion of it for yourself.