Daikatana

a game by Ion Storm Inc.

Platforms: Nintendo 64Nintendo 64PC

Genre: Action

Overview

Kage Mishima has stolen the Daikatana, an ancient Japanese sword possessed of amazing mystical power. With it, he has returned to the past and changed the course of the future, setting himself up as the ruler of planet Earth. The only hope for the planet lies in the hands of Hiro Miyamoto, descendent of the weapons master that originally forged the Daikatana. He’ll battle through four time periods in search of the Daikatana so that he might kick some medieval butt, and fix the future.

A sword that travels through time. Sidekicks with breast implants. Names like ‘Superfly Johnson.’ Worst of all, a main character named Hero. (They can get away with it because he’s Japanese, and you can spell it Hiro.) ‘Tis a hard thing to reduce me to a gibbering madman, but the sheer amount of cliche in this game has done it.

Daikatana, one of the latest releases from Ion Storm, tells the story of one man and his four year journey to create a game that fell just short of purchasability. The brainchild of John Romero, of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom fame, Daikatana uses a modified version of the Quake II engine to bring us a cinematic and violent glimpse at a fictional dark future. Unfortunately, this game is neither fun to play, nor much to look at. Let me explain.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The first thing that will hit you is the simple and rather adolescent approach to gameplay. Using a control system that mimics the earliest First Person Shooter (FPS) games, all you really need to do to play this game is know how to jump, shoot, and run. There aren’t even any inventory items to really worry about, as you’re pretty much limited to pickup items and seven different weapons.

At the main screen, you’ll find an interface that, while designed adequately, is an eyesore. The color scheme used by the designers relies on a heavy amount of black and brown, with a healthy dash of poorly animated buttons. Combine that with a ‘Loading’ screen that counts from one to one hundred, with an audible click every time it advances a percentage, and you’ve got an interface that may just convince you to stop playing.

With three out of three strikes in the gameplay department, things aren’t looking too hot for Daikatana so far. Most of the action involves running, jumping, and shooting. Now, I’m not saying that these things aren’t staples of the FPS genre, but given the advances we’ve had in the last couple of years, Daikatana could be much more interactive than it is. A level that can be finished by simplistic puzzles like blowing up a power generator or flipping a switch are welcome in their simplicity, but they shouldn’t take up the majority of gameplay.

Graphics

Before you start thinking that there isn’t anything worth purchasing about Daikatana, you might want to take a look at the graphics.

Starting out, the game is built on the Quake II engine, which has a proven track record for providing a good graphics base. Daikatana hasn’t changed most of the features of the engine, rather they’ve focused making the features of the world very different. Gone are the smooth steel panels you’d expect to find in such a game. Instead, they’ve been replaced by a serious amount of focus on outdoor, open air areas, complete with flora and fauna.

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Another strong point for the graphics is the enemy design. Although there exists a wide variety in enemy quality, it is quite clear that Ion Storm has designed these creatures with strangeness in mind. Elaborate techno-organic creatures and a good sense of scale help to bring these nightmares to life, and a skeletal animation system allows them to move in a slightly realistic way.

Since nothing about this game has been handled truly well, I’ve got to knock the graphics as well. While they aren’t as dated as a game like, say, System Shock 2 (nowadays at least), they definitely don’t innovate the technology at all. That, combined with the mind numbing overuse of primary colors will quickly dissuade you from believing that these graphics have any good points to them at all. But before you give up and quit because the entire level you’re on is in shades of green, try pressing on, and get to the next area, to see all of the shades of red!

Audio

Nothing new or interesting, although Daikatana has a remarkably miscast number of voice actors. For instance, the main character, Hiro, may be Japanese, but he sounds like an irate leather clad biker. Other than that, the audio isn’t going one of Daikatana’s weakpoints... unless of course, you choose to play the cyber-mosquito sounds over and over again.

System Requirements

Minimum: Pentium 233MHz, 32MB RAM, 200MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, 4MB OpenGL Video Card, DirectX Compatible Sound Card, Windows 95/98/NT/2000, Keyboard and Mouse.

Reviewed On: AMD K6/2 400MHz, 64MB RAM, Diamond Viper V770 Ultra, Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE 64, 24x Creative Labs CD-ROM, and a Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro.

Bottom Line

The first term that comes to mind is steaming pile of cow dung. However, upon further review, Daikatana does have some redeeming features. It has some decent graphics and a few of the levels don’t overuse one particular color. In the end, Daikatana was a painful game to play. Although it wasn’t absolutely horrible (if you want to see horrible, check out Blaze & Blade: Eternal Quest), a buggy engine combined with poor gameplay only makes for one thing. Daikatana is just shy of purchasability.

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