Daikatana Review

Anyone looking for a Nintendo 64 shooter should do themselves a favor and look elsewhere.

When John Romero, the inventor of Quake, brazenly claimed that his upcoming RPG/shooter Daikatana would revolutionize the first-person shooter genre, people stood up and took notice. Almost half a decade later, Daikatana finally hit the PC, and now it's been ported to the Nintendo 64 and released at a budget cost of $19.99 - and with good reason. Daikatana is one game that doesn't live up to its hype.

Set in four different locations in time (25th-century Japan, ancient Greece, medieval Norway, and near-future Alcatraz), the game centers on the struggle between the forces of good and the evil dictator Kage Mishima over possession of a mythical sword, the Daikatana. In the hands of the right man, the Daikatana is capable of mass destruction and, oddly enough, time travel. Enter Hiro Miyamoto, a distant relative of the Daikatana's creator. Called upon by an old man whose daughter, Mikiko, is being held captive by Mishima, Hiro must rescue both Mikiko and prisoner Superfly Johnson, find the Daikatana, and put an end to the time-traveling escapades of Mishima.

What could have been a workable plot is made moot by inconsistencies at every turn. In one cinema, after witnessing events that would turn most people's hair white, Hiro instead seems overly concerned about a ghost. In another, an enemy appears with his own Daikatana, stating that he went back in time and took it. How, then, would Hiro also have one? When Hiro rescues Mikiko and Superfly in the PC version of the game, they then become sidekicks that Hiro has to defend for the remainder of the game. In the Nintendo 64 version, Mikiko and Superfly never appear onscreen during gameplay, yet they miraculously appear for the level-ending cinemas.

Describing the cinemas as crude would be putting it lightly. The character models are made of so few polygons that they are almost laughable. Watching the boxlike characters wiggle about, while text filled with grammatical errors scrolls along the bottom of the screen, is sure to extract a chuckle from even the stodgiest player. All attempts at achieving a serious tone only make Daikatana seem more and more like a B-movie.

Daikatana features 24 different weapons with just one function apiece. Each location features four sections, which makes for a total of 16 levels. The Daikatana is retrieved in level five, and it grows stronger as you progress through the game. Boss fights are a rarity, and enemies are speckled about the levels with no more than two attacking at once. The artificial intelligence of the enemies is embarrassing. Most simply charge until killed, and shooting up or down isn't something they're especially good at. Helping even things out a bit is a glitch that allows them to shoot through walls. There is a multiplayer mode, but with just a four-player deathmatch and a gem-collecting affair that is beyond boring, it seems as if Kemco included the multiplayer as a mere afterthought.

Visually, Daikatana is hardly of Nintendo 64 quality. Even after four years of developing for the console, Kemco still hasn't figured out how to work around its limited texture cache. The textures are blurry and repeated so often that each level is far more confusing than it should be. The well-publicized character-building RPG elements seem to have little to no effect upon Hiro's in-game performance. Most enemies go down with one shot from the beginning of the game to the end, and pumping up your statistics to return to previous areas that were unreachable isn't necessary. The game engine isn't so strong, either. The fog is so thick in open areas that shooting enemies at even a medium distance is impossible. If you have an Expansion Pak, a barely noticeable high-resolution mode is available. In either resolution, the game has a tendency to stutter.

The level design isn't overly ingenious, either. Finding a switch to open a door gets old fast, and it's required of you far too often. Any deviation results in frustration, as there are few clues to aid in solving the puzzles. Each level has a definite beginning and end, and venturing back into previous levels to find new items isn't even an option.

Staying on par with the majority of the game, the sound sets new standards for inferiority. The same loops of horrible, guitar-laden synth-pop play over and over, and basic sound elements like footsteps or enemy cries are completely absent. The weapon reports are more annoying than empowering, and the cinemas lack any sort of sound effects at all.

To be fair, Daikatana does feature fairly solid controls, and the graphics improve slightly as the game goes on. But on the whole, it's about as average as a game gets. The visuals are blurry, the character models look like they're constructed from cardboard boxes, and the music is reminiscent of a migraine. While the proposed RPG elements could have made Daikatana a refreshing experience, they alter the game so little that you wonder why Kemco even bothered. Most importantly, Daikatana just isn't any fun. Anyone looking for a Nintendo 64 shooter should do themselves a favor and look elsewhere.

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John Romero's Daikatana More Info

  • First Released May 24, 2000
    • Nintendo 64
    • PC
    Kemco transforms a reviled PC game into a highly playable Game Boy Color game.
    Average Rating518 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Kemco, Ion Storm
    Published by:
    Kemco, Eidos Interactive, Square Enix, Sold Out Software
    Shooter, 3D, Action, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.