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Godzilla rules cinema, but can’t wade through games

Published 5:34pm Saturday, May 3, 2014

Godzilla is a ferocious beast, the king of the monsters and an exciting action star that will return to the cinema in just a few short weeks. As the world waits in anticipation for the King of the Monsters’ return, I can’t help thinking of the Godzilla video games I’ve played throughout the years. A new Godzilla movie is exciting. A new Godzilla video game is lukewarm at best, cringeworthy at worst and almost always a guilty pleasure more than a well-rounded gaming experience.

Godzilla games, like Godzilla movies, have seen better years. Early Godzilla games were action-packed Nintendo, Game Boy, and Super Nintendo romps through Japan as he stomped his way to victory against the government and other monsters. More recent games have pitted Godzilla against multiple kaiju — a Japanese word for strange creatures — in 3-D fighting games, where you can toss, punch, hit and breathe fire on opponents while stomping through large cities.

“Godzilla: Unleashed” best represents Godzilla’s fighting game prowess, little though it may be. Godzilla’s 3-D fighters aren’t real strong games, as the battles become somewhat repetitious, although the invention of new monsters like “Krystalak” and “Obsidious” helped break gamer expectations.

Perhaps the best “Godzilla” game is the 1994 SNES gem “Super Godzilla,” which also happens to be among the hardest Godzilla games out there. “Super Godzilla” involved an alien invasion of Earth using large kaiju, The Japanese government must control Godzilla through six levels, taking care not to destroy too many buildings, while conquering a monster at the end through a bizarre 2-D fighting system.

The game plays on the equivalent of a Minesweeper board, and Godzilla must take care to avoid destroying too many buildings in certain levels lest he miss out on key powerups. It was complicated for its time and user-averse rather than user-friendly. But it bore some fun surprises for players who had the patience to play it through. “Super Godzilla” is also famous for including Bagan, a monster not previously seen in Godzilla movies, as well as “Super Godzilla,” which looks like a precursor to the dastardly Space Godzilla that would eventually become part of Godzilla’s rogues gallery.

It always seems to be hard to take movie concepts and create games out of them. There are very few successful video game tie-ins to established movie franchises, and that track record has become worse in recent years as developers shovel out games in time to coincide with a movie’s theatrical release, whether the game’s polished or otherwise.

Godzilla has been no different, even if his games haven’t always been tied to a movie release. I’m excited for the new Godzilla movie, which looks to bring gravitas and a lot more serious aspects to the revived franchise. I just hope someone will put as much effort on a Godzilla game one of these days.

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