Friday, September 10, 2010

East vs. West: Gojira - Bakuto Retsu Den / Godzilla

I hadn't realized that Gojira: Bakuto Retsu Den (translated by some sources as Godzilla: Fierce Legend of Blasting) ever got a U.S. release, but apparently it hit the US in 1993 as Godzilla for the Turbo Duo, before its release in Japan in 1994 for the PC Engine Super CD-ROM.  So this is going to be an East vs. West post, even though I only own the import version.

It's a fighting game, but Godzilla fans will appreciate the copious fan service afforded by the CD format.  The game opens with a shimmering Toho logo, videogame-style:

The animated intro features classic theme music by Akira Ifukube and appearances by a number of classic Toho giant monsters, like Gigan and King Ghidorah:

Godzilla gets to battle a large number of classic foes -- starting off with Anguirus and Rodan, with Biollante, MechaGodzilla, and at least ten more becoming available as the game progresses.  Not all of the characters are initially unlocked in two-player mode -- I assume some progress has to be made in the single-player mode to open them up:

I don't own the US version, but judging from the clips here the only differences are in the opening animated sequence.  Most of the text is in English, so the import version is generally playable with no Japanese knowledge.  In the initial stage select screen, we can choose to fight The Fierce Beast (Anguirus) or The Flying Battleship (Rodan).  Each monster is heralded by its trademark battle cry when the conflict is joined.

Unfortunately, the action itself is rather limited and its attempts to honor the Toho legacy are visibly limited by technology, budget and gameplay constraints.   The landscape's suffering is merely symbolic here -- there are a few buildings in Anguirus' stage that can be destroyed by the fighting kaiju, but just those few, and they crack and shimmer out of existence, rather than crumbling with a satisfying crunch of wood and bamboo.

And the battles royale seen in the movie aren't really available here.  While the monster sprites are well-detailed and nicely rendered, the animation is limited and too often fast and jerky, robbing the characters of any convincing sense of weight or power.  Rodan seems to leap into the air and hang there, for example, and never seems like he's flying -- he basically operates in two modes, ground level or hovering.

The action is challenging, but mostly for the wrong reasons, and ultimately wasn't enough fun to keep me going.  Recent Godzilla fighting games have been undistinguished, and the curse apparently goes back (hardware) generations.  I suspect the problem is fundamental -- the choreography and cheesy, model-wrecking beauty of the movie's large-scale rubber-suit wrestling matches is just plain hard to capture in a one-on-one fighting game.

At least the game over screen has that unmistakable Toho flair, as patrolling submarines keep watch over the slumbering behemoth, Gojira:

Godzilla fans with an interest in vintage Japanese videogame collectibles may be able to buy a copy here or here:

Godzilla PC-Engine SCD

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