Thirty minutes into playing Godzilla for the PS4, I started wondering what the lethal dosage of cyanide for a 73 kilo male was. Then, after the pangs of suicide left, I remembered: I had once played a Godzilla game that wasn’t complete crap. Or, at least, I think I did. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, made for the GameCube and Xbox, presents itself as a destructive brawler, where you fight numerous kaiju while simultaneously abusing real-world cities.
There’s really two main mechanical routes you can go with a Godzilla game. You can either make a mano-a-mano matchup of huge, lumbering beasts that trudges through the landscape slower than a Zamboni on a beach, or you can make a casual beat-em up with smaller models that emphasizes the punch-outs and unique fighting styles of each kaiju. The focus of the former would be to create a game that would look like a realistic Godzilla film: which is to say, looking like a Yorkshire terrier running through a child’s Lego castle. The focus of the latter would be more akin to a fighting game, with varying combos, attacks, and the addition of a block button.
Godzilla Melee chooses the latter, making a sort of Super Smash Bros Melee but with the pink fluffball replaced with a spiky ankylosaurus and destructible environments that you can throw at your enemies rather than Pokeballs and umbrellas. I’ve always thought that it’s a safe route for a franchise tie-in game to just copy another game’s system with enough additions for it to be more than just a reskin. But if you’re going to do that at least be subtle about it. Naming it Melee was about as subtle as an 18-wheeler to the face is to letting you know that it’s not safe to cross the street yet. Although it does do enough to distance itself in-game from Super Smash Bros. Melee. For instance, you can’t throw a 50-foot Pikachu through Big Ben.
Godzilla DAMM suffers mostly due to its roster being shorter than a list of summer game releases. It only has 11 kaiju to play as, and two of them are just two different versions of Godzilla. As well, you can’t play as every character right away. Most of them are locked to play as until you beat the campaign with a different kaiju. It does promote replay of the game’s campaign as well as trying out different kaiju, but it can be annoying if you’re just looking to play it with a few friends right out of the box. Too bad there isn’t some sort of cheat code system….oh wait there is. So that’s nice for just sitting down and playing the game. But now there’s no reason to play the well-written and enormous story that the game offers.
The story mode knows you’re only here for some kaiju slamming, and like a well-trained butler it politely steps out of the way. A reason is contrived for all the kaiju going crazy except for you; this time, aliens are controlling their minds. Once you beat the entire roster, you get sent to the mothership to take on Mecha Godzilla, then beat the game. Punch, rinse, and repeat a few more times, and you’ll have permanently unlocked all the game’s kaiju., along with different maps to play on in versus mode.
The kaiju are the main selling point. Very few feel copy-pasted, each with it’s own set of moves and differences. For example, Destroyah has a short-ranged breath attack along with an energy horn that’s reminiscent of Robot Unicorn Attack. Rodan is able to cruise through the sky, and with this increased mobility he’s able to gather the random health, energy, and rage power-ups that pop up on the field. Alright, it doesn’t feel like I’m watching an old-school Godzilla film. But it’s mindless fun, and that’s where it redeems itself. The four-player hectic combat is enjoyable and easy enough for most people to pick up and play without boring players like it’s filing taxes while watching CSPAN.
Godzilla DAMM actually captures the size of the monsters better than the most recent Godzilla game did. While the game lets you know how big your kaiju is, it gives you no indication as to it’s height relative to anything much smaller or larger than the kaiju. The smallest thing that you can knock around are parked cars, which just feel like tiny mounds of dirt that you smack about. In Godzilla DAMM, there’s traffic that flows between the buildings. It gives the game a sense that things are happening outside of kaiju fights. As well, the military isn’t completely useless in Godzilla DAMM. They can deploy freeze-ray tanks that can freeze you for a few seconds, giving your opponent a moment to charge a special attack, throw you around, or run around collecting power-ups.
For every piece of realism that Godzilla for the PS4 got, it failed to realize that the game also needs to be enjoyable to play. It’s why for all the faults that Godzilla DAMM has, it can be forgiven for keeping with its focus. It doesn’t want to be realistic. The game stares at the charge-pack filled, sweaty man in a costume Godzilla of the PS4 created and looks down upon it stewing in sweat and depression. It stays true to its form and, while definitely suffering from it’s own issues like graphics that look like they were the excrement of an N64 after making a trip to Taco Bell, the game’s fun. And that’s all you can really ask for in a game more properly titled Godzilla DAMM.