Daikatana Review

Kemco transforms a reviled PC game into a highly playable Game Boy Color game.

Picture this. Hiro Miyamoto, the leader of the renowned Miyamoto clan, is practicing in his dojo one day. Suddenly, a stranger appears, filling Hiro's head with all sorts of flights of fancy. It seems Kage Mishima, enemy to the Usagi and Miyamoto families, has stolen the mystical Daikatana sword and aims to use it to rewrite history. As farfetched as it might sound, the sword allows the user to bend the very fabric of time, altering reality without anyone being the wiser. Before Hiro has time to absorb it all, the Mishima clan kidnaps his friend Mikiko and attacks the dojo. Hiro must rescue Mikiko, seek out Kage Mishima, and reclaim the Daikatana. This is where you come in. Across the eight locations and 32 levels of Kemco's Daikatana, you get to be the hero, um Hiro.

Unlike the laughable PC and N64 releases, the Game Boy Color Daikatana is not a 3D first-person shooter. Instead, it's a top-down-perspective dungeon crawler with action-RPG elements, and it's a fun one at that. Progressing through the game's intricate plot, you'll need to travel from timeline to timeline, acquiring weapons and stalking the evil Kage Mishima. Along the way you'll gain two allies, the agile Mikiko and the charismatic Superfly Johnson - both of whom you get to control at various points in the game.

Each level is set up so you have to acquire a special object, defeat a puzzle, and topple a boss character. As Hiro, Mikiko, and Superfly, you can walk, jump, and attack in any number of ways. Swords, lasers, hammers, discuses, and all sorts of weapons are at your disposal. You'll need to use them to defeat Daikatana's six bosses, each of whom must be defeated in a special way. The game's puzzles, which range from shape matching to pit jumping, are clever. If anything, it's only the game's lack of an overworld and its stiff control that dirty an otherwise solid title. For most, the former complaint isn't going to be an issue. However, the latter is something to consider, because you can only use the same eight-way jump and cookie-cutter weapons for so long. The game does have an instant save feature, though, which diminishes the fatigue factor quite a bit.

In keeping with its similarities to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda DX, Daikatana has a superdeformed graphical look that serves the game well. The game's three protagonists are drawn in a pudgy, detailed style that's reminiscent of old-school RPGs. Compared to the character sprites in the current crop of Game Boy Color titles, Daikatana's character sprites are lacking when it comes to color selection, but they make up for it with smooth animation and quirky behavior. The good guys have their fair share of bizarre facial expressions and body movements, while the bad guys have a cookie-cutter onslaught that's quite acceptable for a handheld. In a pleasing contrast, background environments are colorful, and each is composed of a unique set of tiles that gives every level its own specific look. Whether you're in modern-day Japan, in Mishima's high-tech stronghold, or wandering around ancient Greece, Daikatana's levels feature a plentitude of rock formations, computer terminals, statues, and other visual goodies. Since Daikatana is a top-down-perspective dungeon crawler, comparisons to Nintendo's Legend of Zelda DX are inevitable. However, Daikatana lacks a distinct overworld and just isn't as detailed as the archetype it's based upon.

After doing a respectable job with the game's plot, gameplay, and visuals, Kemco should have nailed down Daikatana's audio as well. Unless you enjoy ringing in your ears, you'll be sorely disappointed. Sound effects are few and far between, with a stock set of explosions and collisions reused throughout. On the music front, the game's tunes seem based on the PC title's soundtrack, but poor use of two-channel MIDI has wrenched them into something far worse. At best, the game's tunes are repetitious but acceptable. At worst, you'll be glad the Game Boy has a volume knob.

So there you have it: Kemco transforms a reviled PC game into a highly playable Game Boy Color game. Daikatana GBC may lack a few of the elements that give games such as the Legend of Zelda DX and Dragon Warrior their majesty, but the intricate plot and solid gameplay make it a game worth playing nonetheless. If you've never played a top-down dungeon crawler, Nintendo's Legend of Zelda DX is your number one choice. However, if you've been there and done that, Daikatana is a worthy number two.


The Good

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The Bad

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