When George posted his article titled Five Great Game Developers Turned Insane And Irrelevant, I noticed one name missing from the list.
The name, of course, was John Romero.
Now, I’m not here to rip John to shreds for no reason or anything. Doom II, and all of its classic megawads, is easily one of the games that I have played the most over the course of my life. It may actually be the game that I’ve spent the most hours playing, and it is one of my favorite games of all time. It’s a classic game, it’s absolutely fantastic, and John is the infamous Icon of Sin at the end of it.
Countless articles and reviews have been written over the years tearing John down over the whole Daikatana debacle. Through it all, I realized one thing: I never really played Daikatana. Sure, I downloaded the demo, played it for an hour or so, and promptly set it aside after it crashed one too many times. I just couldn’t understand the robot frogs, really. “Maybe it gets better,” I thought. I think we all did.
Now, it’s 14 years later and I’ve had an epiphany. After all of these years: it’s time. Every other review of Daikatana I’ve seen either tears the game to pieces, or states that it’s “actually not that bad” without going into specifics. No one really seems to dive in to Daikatana. Hell, as of the time of this writing, there isn’t even a FAQ on GameFAQs for the standard PC version of the game. If that isn’t a clear statement as to the reception of this game by video game fans, I don’t know what is.
So what I’d like to do is something different with this review. I’m not just going to give you a rating of the game in the standard “Graphics”, “Sound”, “Story”, “Control”, and “Gameplay” categories. No, I’m going in, and I’m travelling all the way down.
This review is a review of all 24 missions of Daikatana. All of them. The entire game, top to bottom, was played. Over the course of a week, I played through the game with an open mind. I set aside all of the criticism, positive and negative, and tried to view the game on its own terms. After each mission, I collected my thoughts and wrote them down. I savored every moment of the experience. I became one with what is often regarded as one of the worst computer games of all time.
I did this because it needed to be done. Also, because I have problems.
Now, I’m going to set the stage a bit first. The 24 mission reviews, along with the review of the ending, comprise over 11,000 words. So I feel that a shorter preamble may be useful to those who do not wish to read this ginormous tl;dr. And no, I can’t believe I’m posting this, either.
Just remember, though, that you don’t need to read it all at once. I’ve set it up with bolded section headings organized by mission number. You can read it at your leisure, coming back where you left off, returning to previous passages again and again to discover new layers and meaning. It’s like the Torah, or one of those Garfield cartoon collection books. Somewhere out there, someone will find a use for it. Hopefully.
So let’s get to it, America. Let’s talk about Daikatana.
John Romero worked at id Software long ago. He was instrumental in the design of their hit games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II, and Quake I. I forget if he was around in the Commander Keen days, but my mind search tells me that he was. Anyway, during the creation of Quake I, he got into various arguments with the other members of id over the direction of the game. He wanted Quake to be a FPS with a time travel theme and more RPG elements. In the aftermath, he was fired from id, and promptly formed a new company named Ion Storm with his friend Tom Hall, best known for his work on Commander Keen and Rise of the Triad.
Ion Storm is famous for three games released in its short lifetime: Deus Ex, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, FPS/RPG hybrids ever made, Anachronox, a pretty cool RPG, and Daikatana, Romero’s dream project. So what is Daikatana?
“Daikatana” is Japanese for “I’ve never been to Japan, but I watched Akira once, so I’m an expert.” It’s a FPS with a time travel theme, just like John wanted Quake to be. The four episodes of the game take place in futuristic Cyberpunk Japan, Ancient Greece, the European Dark Ages, and near-future San Francisco. RPG elements are mixed in, with the player able to level up their character’s stats as experience points are gained. Most importantly, the game took the concept of computer-controlled sidekicks seen in contemporary games like Half-Life 1 and tried to up the ante by making them a more integral part of the gameplay.
All of this seems rather innocuous. I mean, it’s just a game, right? At least it was trying to do some interesting new things. So why is it so hated by both the video game press and video game fans? What happened?
First, there was the infamous “Bitch” advertisement. It stated, “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch”, and followed it up by telling us to “suck it down”. Now, when I first saw this ad in junior high (or whenever it was), I thought it was stupid, but I didn’t really care. Let’s face it: there were some retarded ads in video game magazines back in the 90s. I still remember an ad for the console port of either World Heroes or World Heroes 2, which featured a picture of Janne along with the text, “Life’s a bitch. Want to fight about it?” And let’s not forget the “Menage a Trois” ad featuring the Sega Genesis hooked up to a Sega CD and a 32X. Just terrible, terrible stuff.
Then there were the budget overruns, John Romero’s seemingly lavish lifestyle at the Ion Storm offices (complete with in-house rock band), the departure of over a half dozen team members at one point who formed their own company, the endless release date delays, and John apparently just being a douchebag. It’s a classic American story, and it’s been documented elsewhere at length. But if you don’t follow games, and/or don’t remember the Ion Storm years, you probably needed a summary of the whole Daikatana thing. That’s basically it.
Oh yeah, and the game crashed all the time, came out using a modified Quake II engine after Quake III had already come out, was rife with bugs (especially with the computer-controlled sidekicks), and had just become a running joke for a year or two before its final release. Also, as we’ll see, the first episode of the game is complete shit.
By the way, John’s girlfriend at the time was Stevie “Killcreek” Case, a blonde gamer girl with breast implants. She worked as a level designer on Daikatana. She also posed for Playboy, and while the pictures did not make it to the magazine, they did make it to the Internet. I’ll be posting pictures of her throughout this preamble because I’m still in love with her. True story.
Why I Did Write This Review? What Is The Matter With Me?
My descent into Daikatana was really a descent into my own past. When I started this quest, I had no idea that the game was so crazy, insane, and above all, long. I’d heard things over the years, but you really can’t understand Daikatana until you’ve gone through it in its entirety. Just playing the first couple of missions and laughing at the frogs isn’t enough. The game is just a never-ending font of weirdness and unintentional hilarity.
That said, I can’t really recommend the experience to anyone. While there are some cool levels buried in here, you have to be fairly well-versed in FPSs of the time period to actually make it through the game in one piece. I didn’t use a FAQ, I didn’t use any cheat codes, and I sure as fuck didn’t read the manual. The only thing I did was play the fully patched version available on Good Old Games, which allows you to turn on normal Quake-style unlimiting saving. That wasn’t a paid link or anything, by the way. Daikatana, like the video tape in The Ring, must be passed on in order to lift its curse. Please. Help me.
It’s also available on Steam. If you click on that, you can laugh at a couple user reviews that bitch about not being able to play the game in 1080p. Oh no! I can’t look at tacky colored lighting and murderous cyber-rats in HD! Fuck this gay Earth!
Anyway, to really understand Daikatana, you need to go back to the late-90s. I was in junior high and high school at the time, and I read way too many video game magazines. Daikatana was splashed across them from 1997 through 2000. Ion Storm was the next big thing when it first formed, and the game magazines were all aflutter with how awesome Daikatana was going to be.
For my part, I was (and am) a complete video game geek. I had a crush on Betty Hallock from Video Games & Computer Entertainment and Tips & Tricks. I read all the magazines over and over, had a subscription to Gamepro (stop laughing), and even had a subscription to the short-lived Sega Visions at one point. My interest in them waned slightly from the 10th grade forward, as the Internet overtook the magazines’ purpose, but I was certainly in there reading them during the Daikatana announcement. As an aside, I’d like to talk about this contemporary advertisement for Battle Arena Toshinden 2:
I masturbated to that picture of Sofia so many times in junior high.
Now, you may wonder about the utility of bringing up the masturbation habits of my 13 year old self in this review. My aim is only to place you in the mindset needed to fully appreciate Daikatana, for it is only from this gravity well of hopeless geekdom that a true understanding of Daikatana is possible.
I’m 30 years old now. For years, I’ve played Doom II/Final Doom/et al without saving, using IDCLEV to warp to a given level, and playing through the levels on Ultra-Violence without dying starting with a pistol. That’s just how I do it, and that is my bar for success in Doom II today. I use PrBoom-Plus because mouse-look and jumping in Doom is for idiots. My most recent video game excursion prior to playing through Daikatana was playing through the entirety of Hexen and Death Kings of the Dark Citadel on Ultra-Violence (or whatever the number 4 difficulty is), admittedly with saving. I’m not an expert at old-school FPSs, but I’ve played a few of them in my time.
Daikatana, and especially its first episode, is absolutely insane. Even without the bugs and the crashes, it is probably nigh-impossible to get through this without the unlimited save option. Well, I’m sure it’s possible, but getting through this monstrosity even once was more than enough for me.
I counted 61 levels across 24 missions and 4 episodes. It’s probably over twice the size of Quake II and other games of the period. While it has some cool levels, like the Acropolis, none of them are as awesome as the designs from something like Thief Gold or Thief II: The Metal Age. It’s just gigantic, and each episode has its own unique weapons and enemies. Though with the rock music in the last episode, the whole thing just made me want to play through Quake II again.
That may be the only sensible thing to do, honestly. Just go play Quake II again. I’ve started it up as I put the finishing touches on this review, and it’s still awesome.
But, if you’re like me, you’ve probably always wondered what Daikatana is really like. Hopefully, this review will lay it all out for you so you don’t have to trudge through this thing yourself. It’s a descent into complete lunacy that I’ll never forget, and it is probably one of the most memorable experiences with a game I’ve ever had. I wrote this review so that you don’t have to subject yourself to Daikatana.
Unless you want to.
Yeah, it’s kinda shit.
Episode 1, Cyberpunk Japan, is a complete disaster. Your character is underpowered due to the fact that you haven’t leveled up, leading to endless deaths and reloading of saved games. Beyond that, the episode contains the worst levels in the entire game, and in some instances, perhaps the worst levels ever included in a FPS. They are full of annoyingly small enemies that are hard to hit, guns that don’t work the way you would expect them to, cheap hits from lightning-fast human guards, ridiculous colored lighting to show off the Quake II engine they licensed, and just all sorts of bullshit.
It’s fucking atrocious, and it takes forever to get through it. I only persevered because I felt a Great Story coming on with this review. I don’t know how anyone else makes it through it.
Episode 2, Ancient Greece, is actually pretty cool, and contains the Acropolis, my favorite level in the game. The game becomes easier due to your character having his health bar extended and fewer cheap enemies. Episode 3, the Dark Ages, is really cool, but it is hampered by severe bugs in its 4th mission, Wyndrax Tower, as well as its 5th and 6th missions feeling truncated.
Episode 4, San Francisco, returns to some of the shittiness of Episode 1. It’s not as bad as that, but it’s pretty lame, and the game loses some of the originality and weirdness that made it so… I don’t want to say “enjoyable”, but whatever it was, the game loses it somewhat. Episode 4, more than any of the others, just reminds you of much, much better games.
I’ll say this for John Romero, though: at least he got the game out in a reasonable timeframe. John has since apologized for the “Bitch” ad, and has stated that with all the internal development troubles, it’s a wonder the game was released at all. I’m not sure he has that much to be ashamed about, though. I mean, he got the game out in 3 years. That’s still a long time for the period, but not that bad. Duke Nukem Forever took over a fucking decade. I still haven’t played that, by the way. I picked it up for 3 dollars at a GameStop, laughing along with the clerk as I purchased it, but I haven’t got around to installing it yet. Maybe one day…
Also, at least John released a game that included everything he talked about from the start. When I heard Duke Nukem Forever didn’t have Bombshell or Dr. Proton in it, I just had to laugh. How can you take all that time and still not have Dr. Proton in there? What the fuck, George? By contrast, Daikatana does have the 4 different time periods, the computer-controlled sidekicks, the unique weapons and enemies, and everything else. I respect John for at least getting something done mostly on time.
Daikatana is very much a FPS in the older style. Unlike most of the new games of the last decade or so, there’s no peeking around corners or hiding behind cover or anything like that. This is fine by me, because frankly, I haven’t really played that many of the newer FPSs released after 2004/2005 or so. I loved Halo 1 and the Metroid Prime games, but I never picked up a 360, a PS3, a Wii, or a fast enough PC to play most of the newer ones until recently. I’m more of a 3DS person nowadays. Also, Call of Duty and all the other “realistic” war shooters just bore the fuck out of me. They’re just too slow for me, honestly. I do keep checking out that Rise of the Triad remake, though. It looks awesome. I just need to see if it will work on Linux.
Anyway, it’s Daikatana. Shit blows up and then the game crashes every other level. Little hand says it’s time to rock and roll.
The Other Backstory
It’s the 25th Century and we’re in dystopian Cyberpunk Japan. We’re playing as Hiro Miyamoto, named after famous game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (that is not a joke). Hiro works at a dojo teaching children martial arts. One stormy night, he is visited by a man named Ebihara. Ebihara tells Hiro a wild tale about a legendary sword forged by Hiro’s ancestor: the Daikatana. The blade is said to give its wielder the power to travel through time. Ebihara claims that a man named Mishima, who rules Cyberpunk Japan, stole the blade from him and used it to change history. He went back in time and stole the Ebihara family’s cure for the deadly “MMP” disease, returning to the future as the savior of humanity and its new ruler.
Are you bored yet? Well, it keeps going.
Ebihara’s daughter, Mikiko, attempted to sneak into Mishima’s fortress and steal the Daikatana back, but she was captured. Mixed in with all of this is the history of the sword, and of how Hiro’s ancestor threw the blade into a volcano after lending it to the Ebiharas to destroy the Mishimas centuries ago. Ebihara recovered the blade from the volcano, but Mishima stole it from him before he could use it.
I know what you’re going to say: This doesn’t make any fucking sense. How would Ebihara know that history was changed? Why is this Hiro’s problem? Who gives a shit? What the fuck?
Then the two of them are attacked by ninjas. A meatwagon will come by to pick up Ebihara’s body, but with his dying breath, Ebihara begs Hiro to rescue his daughter. Hiro, having nothing better to do, decides to hide in a coffin and sneak in to Mishima’s fortress. What he does not know is that the blade is real, and that his journey will take him across time. DA DA DUM!
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s listen to late-90s-era Stevie Case break it down for us!
Notice how the camera man just pans down and up at the 40 second mark? I can’t believe people say there’s sexism in STEM fields and the games industry!
Anyway, I think we’ve put it off long enough. So now, without further delay: Daikatana.
E1M1: The Marsh of Mechanical Frogs and Broken Dreams
Look at that opening area. Really makes you want to dive right in to Daikatana, doesn’t it?
Let’s take a moment to summarize all of the terrible things about this mission:
1) Your available weapons are your fists and the “Ion Blaster”, a laser gun with explosive rounds. However, in similar fashion to the Lightning Gun from Quake I, the rounds explode immediately if the gun is fired underwater. It’s a good thing that there’s no water in a marsh. Later on, I did also find a “C4” gun in a secret area that took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get out of. Great, great level design in this mission.
2) The enemies are mechanical frogs, dragonflies, and alligators. Two of them are low to the ground, and two of them have a very small profile to target. Did I mention that your available gun is not an instantaneous hitscan weapon, so you have to lead the dragonflies in order to hit them? Oh yes, this game is awesome. I guess there’s also a hilarious giant dragonfly boss monster at the end of the second level; he reappears in a secret area in the third level. It’s just a fascinating enemy lineup.
3) Some of the enemy attacks are poisonous, and there are no antidote potions or anything to undo the poisoning. Couple that with the scarcity of health pickups, and you’re in for quite a bit of reloading of saved games throughout. (Note: After playing through the game, I read that the fruit-bearing plants in these levels actually count as health pickups if the “Use” key is pressed on them. Well, that was obvious!)
More hilarious bits: By default, the game limits your ability to save; you have to check “Unlimited Saves” in the “Options” menu to have it function normally. Fortunately, I saw this when I was increasing the resolution before I even started, but I can’t figure out for the life of me why they included this feature. It sucked in Resident Evil, it sucked in the console versions of Tomb Raider, and I only found 1 “Save Gem” in the entire first three levels. I think the autosaves at each level change don’t use a Save Gem, but Jesus Christ.
There’s also a few hidden sentry guns that have to be disabled by shooting a nearby electronic panel. They’re easy to take out the second time you encounter each one. The first time, you have to reload because it’s knocked your health down to 15 in 2 seconds. Finally, they have flying robots with searchlights. I’m not sure if getting seen by the searchlight does anything. I just blew them up to get them to be quiet.
These are the opening levels of a game that was initially hyped up and then finally came out past its shelf life. Rather than cutting these levels to create a better first impression (or at least designing better enemies for them), they are presented completely unchanged. They are the worst levels in the entire game, and you have to face them right off the bat. Great job, gentlemen (and lady)!
E1M2: The Sewer System, aka MORE HOT MECHANICAL FROG ACTION!
America, I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to see those words onscreen. Yes, after finally getting through 3 of the worst levels ever included in an FPS, which were ridden with countless frogs and dragonflies, the player learns that the next section is in a sewer. That means more frogs, more dragonflies, and more alligators. Why did I decide to embark on this quest again? FML.
The mission opens with a visit by the ghost of Hiro’s ancestor. You know, the guy who forged the Daikatana! He blows up an electronic panel to open the door for us, even though we could have shot it ourselves. So helpful!
These levels up the ante in terms of stupidity. Joining the fray are rocket-launching mechs that take 3-4 C4 rounds to destroy, but are easily trapped by getting them to walk into civilians or poorly designed terrain. These levels were also where I discovered that your gun’s ion rounds will bounce off the walls and hit you in the face. You know, because your starting weapon wasn’t retarded enough already.
The game also parts with the Quake tradition by having doors that do not automatically open when approached; they must be opened manually, as in Doom. However, for maximum stupidity, there are also doors that do open automatically in the style of Quake. You just have to guess with each door whether or not you’ll need to hit the right mouse button. It’s exciting! As if that wasn’t enough, some of the automatic doors will automatically close on you and crush you to death. Things just… happen in this game.
The defining moment of this mission has to be the “water puzzle” in its second level. We have to swim through a long underwater corridor that is populated with a couple mechanical frogs. Since the gun won’t work properly underwater, we have to use the “Ultimate Gas Hands”, which is apparently the replacement for the chainsaw from Doom. It’s terrible. We swim over spinning blades and find the switch to lower the water level just in time. Surveying the area afterward, we notice that the door forward is on the other side of the blades. Yes, folks, we need to raise the water level back up, and then lower it again, swimming across the blades before the water sinks down too low. I can’t even articulate how I feel about this.
On the bright side, this mission only contains 2 levels, as opposed to the 3 levels of the Marsh. On the down side, the end of the second one involves about 20 of the annoying mech robots. Man, this Mikiko girl better be worth it…
E1M3: Solitary Confinement and the Debut of Superfly Johnson
Well, at least we’re not fighting the frogs anymore. No, now we fight actual humans! The mechs are also back, but now they have only one firing arm, which shoots Quake II hyperblaster rounds sans rapid-fire. Protip: you’re doing it wrong.
To even the score, this mission introduces Weapon #4: The “Shot Cycler”, or as I like to call it, the “WTF Is This Shit?” It’s a shotgun that holds a half dozen shells at once and fires them off in a rapid-fire sequence with each press of the fire button. No, there doesn’t appear to be a way to just have it fire one shell, like every shotgun in every FPS that has ever featured a shotgun in its weapon lineup. I think all of the guns in this game were designed to test the patience of video game fans. Though, it doesn’t seem to cause you any damage when you try to use it, which is a first for the projectile weapons in this game!
This mission was also where I had my very first Daikatana crash! Yes, even with this fully patched version, it still has difficulties. In its defense, I am running it via Wine on Linux, but this is still an important moment. The crash occurred during a cutscene introducing the first of our sidekicks in this game. I had to kill the process manually, as it was not responding to close requests, and then restarted the computer to be safe. Oh, the suspense is killing me.
We’re back, reloaded, and we’ve double-checked that Wine is set to mimic Win XP. There we are, at the end of the second level of two in this mission, and we meet the our first sidekick. He is an African-American gentleman named Superfly Johnson. That is not a joke, and holy shit! You know, seeing the name again awakened a memory from when I was about 14 and first read that name in an issue of EGM or something. Even then, I just thought to myself, “Really?” You know you’ve got problems when a 14 year old white kid from the suburbs thinks it’s uncool. But it’s moments like this that make me glad that Daikatana exists. What other game allows you to shoot robots with a laser gun that bounces the lasers back at you every time you miss while a black guy talks in offensive stereotypes? Obama should have ignored that whole Trayvon/Zimmerman controversy and weighed in on this. It’s just amazing.
By the way, you can’t just blow up Superfly and get on with your life. No, in order to exit the level, you need to have Superfly with you at the exit. If he dies, you get a Game Over. There are a variety of keys to issue commands to him, but the most important of them is “Stay”. Yes, you tell him to sit in the corner while you blast a path to the exit, then go back and carefully lead him to the exit, hoping that he doesn’t trip and break a nail. A single hair out of place on his bald head at it’s Game Over.
Little did I know at the time that my Daikatana experience had only just begun.
E1M4: The Crematorium of Come & Stay
Now, I know you guys were worried, but never fear: Our good friends, the robot dragonflies, are back! In the screenshot, you may notice that my “Power” stat is supercharged; this is due to Daikatana‘s version of the Quake Quad Damage powerup. That means that rebounding ion rounds cause four times as much damage to me now! YES!
You know, over the years I’ve heard a variety of things about Daikatana. One of them is that it sucks. I’ll abstain from a final judgment on that until I’ve finished it. Another is that it gets better once you’re past the sewers. Well, I’m past the sewers, and while I guess it’s better than those opening two missions, it’s still not something I’d say is “good”. Finally, I’ve heard that the game gets much better once you’ve made it to the 2nd episode. We’ll see about that…
In the meantime, we start the mission by telling Superfly to “Stay” as we clear out the first level. Every time we die, we are met with a “Loading” screen that still takes 5-10 seconds to load the saved game for some reason. Each block of the “loading” bar makes a “tick” sound effect as it appears. This is Daikatana. You get killed by a combination of the robots’ attacks and your own shots bouncing off the door frames, and then you listen to the ticking bar on the “Loading” screen.
tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick
Oh no, we can’t forget Superfly! Yes, it’s time to go back to the start of the level and tell Superfly to “Come”, and then lead him to the exit. You know, there’s a certain dark hilarity to the fact that large portions of this game involve telling a black guy (and, later, a woman) to “Come” and “Stay” as if they were pet dogs. Was John Romero trying to tell us something, here? #MysteriesOfDaikatana
Right at the start of the second level, Superfly ignores my “Stay” command and charges into a room with four human guards, a robot, and a gun turret. We survived, but my God. I figure out that hitting the “Get” key tells him to pick up a gun, so that he won’t try to take down another robot with his fists. It’s only a matter of time before he shoots me with it. Shortly thereafter, I crash the game for a second time while spamming the “Stay” key in an effort to tell the computer-controlled fictional character to go fuck himself.
I’ll never know if he actually did it as the game crashed around him. It’s possible he did, and I just couldn’t see it because the graphics code hanged. We can only dream…
E1M5: The Processing of Duke Burgers & Soylent Green
Well, you didn’t miss much in the rest of E1M4. There was a hilarious bit where the background music from E1M1 of Doom was played on an organ, and we also picked up Weapon #5: The “Sidewinder”. It’s a rocket launcher that… shoots two rockets, each of which explodes normally. That’s right, folks: it’s a normal rocket launcher! Finally, we have a normal gun! I’ll admit that I had some hesitation before firing it the first time; I expected the rockets to explode into poisonous snakes that would come eat me or something. But no, it’s just a rocket launcher, albeit one that always fires two rockets at a time. Whatever. I felt like a Bedouin that just found an oasis.
Anyway, right off the bat in E1M5, we meet the first enemy in Daikatana that actually made me laugh out loud: the rocket-launching robotic sewer rat. You really can’t make this stuff up, folks. This is a real game, and Eidos sank at least 25 million late-90s U.S. dollars into it. Every time they fire their rockets across the floor at shin height, I just start giggling. Even if I get blown up and have to reload, I’m still laughing. Holy shit.
John Romero, you are a God.
We also meet the ultra-annoying flying attack droids. They fire four shots at once, dodge out of the way of Sidewinder rockets, and enjoy hovering on the other side of doors, ready to rain down death from above. At the start of the second level here, they hover beyond a chain link fence on the side of the corridor. Your ion rounds will bounce off the chain link and hit you in the face, but their shots pass through unimpeded. Great, great game design here.
So yeah, this mission is just a mess of flying droid laser fire, cyber-rats shooting rockets out of their bazingas, and you constantly firing Sidewinder rockets all over the place. The Shot Cycler isn’t very useful against the droids, as the recoil of each shot messes with your aim. The Ion Blaster is effective, but it still ends up hitting you in the face half the time. And the C4 gun has its usual problems: a blast radius larger than Fatbot and a tendency for the damned rounds to stick onto the doorframe you’re peeking out of, giving you a satisfying second and a half while the round beeps, the proximity fuse arms, and you get blown to Hell. Again.
In the middle of all of this bullshit, you find Weapon #6: The “Shockwave”. It’s an over-the-top BFG 10K knockoff that was apparently included so that John could show everyone how big his penis is. Oh, and we also have “story line progression” as we learn that the “McMishima” burgers are made from human corpses. Duke 3D already covered this in E4M2 of the Atomic Edition, and it was much funnier than this nonsense. I’ve had enough. Level over!
E1M6: The Icelab, The Space Between Words, and Mikiko’s Breasts
This mission isn’t nearly as infuriating as the last one. By that, I mean that it’s only on the level of George W. Bush’s paintings, and not his preemptive invasion of Iraq. The new enemies include guards that spray some type of toxic blue substance at you. It’s got limited range, and while it does a lot of damage, it looks like they’re attacking you with nuclear AquaNet. Not exactly fearsome. Also mixed in here was some kind of ground-roving tank robot that I didn’t get a good look at before eradicating it with Sidewinder rockets.
Overall, I have to say that the Icelab really isn’t that bad as a mission. It’s got lots of twisting catwalks that layer over themselves, the enemy placement isn’t terrible, and I had some fun blasting the flying droids and the walking mechs with rockets. It doesn’t feel nearly as confined as the previous mission, and there is much more room to fire at the flying droids.
Of course, right as the 3rd level of this mission loaded, the game crashed again. I had to go through the process of guiding Superfly to the exit a second time. You know, it just wouldn’t be Daikatana without a moment like that. So yes, if you play this game [Ed: Hahahahaha], make sure you save constantly. If the screen grab associated with the save isn’t of the “Save” screen itself, you’re doing it wrong.
Somewhere in here, I found an “Attack” powerup. It occurred to me that these powerups basically duplicate the powerups from the Lithium Mod for Quake II. John Romero doesn’t just want to remind you of better games. He wants to remind you of mods for other games that are still better than this one.
Anyway, at the end of this mission, we meet our second sidekick: Mikiko Ebihara, aka “The Girl”. Yes, she’s female, and yes, she has polygonal breasts. She also has a hilarious accent that lies somewhere between Japanese and Frances McDormand in Fargo. It’s very convincing, and I had no difficulty believing that she was a resident of futuristic Cyberpunk Japan. It’s that quality of immersion found in all great cinema, translated to the format of a video game. Mikiko is not just a computer-controlled character. No, Mikiko is alive!
Also, she has breasts. I have to say that they’re really not up to scratch, though. She’s not as hot as Halo 1-era Cortana or anything. With years of development time, they couldn’t do a better job here? Wasn’t Taki already bouncing all over Soul Calibur 1 at the time of this game’s release? Not to mention DOA. Really, this is the biggest failure of Daikatana. I can’t masturbate to that, John. This is why your game bombed.
Well, that, and all the other reasons.
E1M7: The Vault of FPS History
Oh joy. Two sidekicks to deal with. This just keeps getting better!
Anyway, here it is, America. The last mission of Episode 1. After this, we’re done with Cyberpunk Japan forever. Thank God. Unfortunately, Cyber-Nippon isn’t going down without a fight, and this mission features every terrible thing from bad FPSs of the late-90s / early-00s. That is not an exaggeration. I mean it. Everything.
Slime pools, jumping puzzles, crawling through air ducts, crushing elevators, cheap hits, unavoidable falling damage, the works. It’s all here, crammed into one mission. All of the annoying things from the previous six missions make an appearance at some point. Though our good friends, the robot frogs and dragonflies, don’t come back to say farewell. I kind of miss them, actually.
Never fear, though, because we do have what is quite possibly one of the worst jumping puzzles ever included in an FPS awaiting us. There’s a total of five elevator platforms, four of which crush you into the ceiling if you don’t step off of them in time. You need to transfer from platform to platform by either jumping or by using an opening in the wall near the ceiling. All of this nonsense takes place in a room with slime on the floor that we inadvertently enter when an air duct collapses underneath us. We’re dropped into this mess and are promptly greeted by a flying attack droid and two mechs. Once we finally get to the fifth platform, we have to shoot out another air duct and jump to it at the apex of the platform’s height to escape. It’s just fantastic stuff.
At one point, Superfly asks Mikiko, “Why does Hiro always ditch us?” I wonder, Superfly. It is a mystery. Mikiko responds with some lame sexual come-on while I discover that, unless I’m just stupid, there is no way to get onto another moving elevator bit without dropping from the ceiling and taking damage. There is no switch to get it to move up before boarding it. I just… I don’t know. This mission, man. This mission.
Finally, we get to the room with the Daikatana. We have to shoot out three spotlights along the top of its case; each destroyed spotlight opens a side panel that contains a brain in a vat. We have to climb over to each brain and punch it to death. With all three brains destroyed, a mega-brain appears on the fourth wall. Destroying its gun turret defenses and punching it as well, the central platform erupts in purple smoke while two frog-looking critters run about on it. As I blast them with rockets, I notice through the smoke that the screen is starting to warp and bend, as if I picked up a Shrooms Mode powerup in Rise of the Triad. This is real. All of this happens.
I don’t want to speculate about the substances used during the creation of this game. I mean, who knows? Maybe they were in an unaltered state of mind when they made this. But it’s just one of the weirdest boss fights I’ve ever seen.
Anyway, we get the Daikatana, and then Mishima appears. He sentences us to “the ultimate prison: Time!” Also, before that, he said that he “could feel [Hiro’s] taint” on the blade. I didn’t see Hiro place it on that part of his body myself, but I’ll take your word for it. There are two Daikatanas, by the way. As in Timecop, Mishima informs Hiro that if the two blades touch, the universe will explode. Ok, chief. If you say so.
So whatever. We made it. Let’s celebrate! How about something much better than the first episode of Daikatana? Like a Demi Lovato video!
E2M1: Lemnos Isle, aka WE’RE IN ANCIENT GREECE FOR NO GOD DAMNED REASON
We’ve been warped back in time, we didn’t get a health refill, and we’ve lost Superfly, Mikiko, and all of our weapons. In their place, we have the titular sword. The Daikatana is somewhat unwieldy, but it does gain experience with each kill. So I ended up just killing everything in this mission with the Daikatana. The only other option was the “Discus of Daedalus”, which besides reminding me of The Daedalus Encounter, wasn’t all that exciting. It’s a buzzsaw that returns to you like a boomerang after being thrown. Yawn.
Our enemies in this mission are the skeletons from Jason & The Argonauts and spiders, both large and small. Health packs have been replaced with “life vases”, and the recharge stations are now nightstands that double as regeneration fountains. The overall goal is to obtain the “Horn of Charon” to summon the ferryman, and then find drachma to pay him with. Yes, this is the same game. I was as confused as you are reading this right now.
Before we get too far into this, let me just answer the question on no one’s everyone’s mind: No, the Greece episode isn’t anywhere near as awesome as Septimus from Hexen II. However, it blows that last Cyberpunk Japan episode out of the water. This first mission is better than the previous seven missions combined, and I didn’t do anything in it other than swat skeletons and spiders with a katana blade. The textures look nicer, there’s no garish colored lighting, and the design of the level is actually coherent. Daikatana actually has at least one decent mission. Who knew?
Now, there’s still the usual Daikatana ridiculousness here. Enemies will carve you up in seconds if you don’t hit and run with the Daikatana, and the skeletons have a minor habit of charging into opening doors and being crushed behind them. Still, it’s a mission that represents an actual completed thought. It’s not just a bunch of unrelated rooms connected by air ducts. Could our nightmares actually be over?
E2M2: The Catacomb, aka Hey Guys Have You Heard of Ultima Underworld?
Well, I spoke too soon. This mission features a new enemy: ninjas that speak in retarded cartoon voices. Yes, we have ninjas in Ancient Greece. Oh dear.
We’ve also got Hippogriffs flying around. Get ready for some exciting episodes of jumping up and down like a retard while constantly swinging the Daikatana upward, waiting for them to swoop down and get slashed! Or I guess you could just throw the Discus at them like a normal person, but fuck that.
Oh, and we’ve got new weapons to use! The first is the “Venomous”, which is kind of like the Serpent Staff from Hexen, except that its shots are poisonous and will bounce off of the walls. Then there is the “Sunflare”, which is a Molotov cocktail weapon along the lines of the Firestorm from Hexen. I didn’t use either, and just kept hitting everything with the Daikatana. In the process, it got its 2nd level up! And my family acts like I’ve never accomplished anything in life.
At the start of the 3rd level, we meet Mikiko again. She immediately shit-talks Superfly, calling him a “has-been thug”, and speculates that he’s “probably outlived his usefulness to us anyway”. Sing it, sister! Hiro still wants to track him down, though. God dammit.
In a moment that truly encapsulated Daikatana, during Hiro’s rousing dialogue about Superfly’s qualities as a man and as a hero, the game crashed. I just started laughing for at least 20 seconds. Even the program itself called bullshit on that. Get the fuck out of here, Hiro.
There’s not too much to say about this mission, though. Slash ninjas with a katana blade in Ancient Greece, watch polygonal boulders roll around and smash things, listen to Mikiko tell me that my wish is not her command… you know. The usual. Just another Saturday night!
E2M3: Athens & The Hammer of WTF?
They’re pulling out all of the stops, here! New enemies include centurions (or whatever the Greek version of a centurion was called), harpy girls that fly around and throw things at us, and a couple giant female warrior statues that animate and attack. This mission forced me to use weapons other than the Daikatana, as the harpy girls are too smart to swoop down into it. I had to pelt them with multiple discuses (disci?) until they exploded into gibs like every other enemy in this game.
By the way, there’s a lot of gibbing in this game. It was more pronounced in the Japan episode, where every last human guard would explode into a bloody mess upon death. But Daikatana inverts the usual FPS experience by making the normal death animation the rarer occurrence. Is this supposed to be edgy? Who knows. But even Blood II wasn’t this over the top.
In the midst of this famous city, we find Weapon #4: “Hades’ Hammer”. As we pick it up, a voice booms down from on high, informing us that its power “comes from within.” Yeah, I think I remember hearing that on Power Rangers once. But seriously, who was that? I didn’t know that this game had a narrator, but there he is, giving us helpful advice about a weapon that reads “0” on its ammo count after you pick it up. Oh, no. Daikatana, what are you doing?
Then we meet the warrior statue girls. They appear to be impervious to the Daikatana, forcing me to explore other options. The first one eventually gets taken down by shots from the Serpent Staff Venomous. So, naturally, I take out the Venomous for the second one towards the end of the mission. It makes sense, and everything should be in order, right?
In the middle of their rapid-fire poison spitting, the snakes on the Venomous decide to stop firing. I click the left mouse button. I click and hold the left mouse button. The snakes do nothing but hiss angrily. Yes, Daikatana is a game where even your own weapons fight against you. What did I ever do to you, guys? You’re not getting mouse treats after this! (Note: It occurred to me afterward that the game was probably just having problems rendering their attack spells. Hey, it was late, and I was tired.)
But the statue is still charging at me and swinging its sword at my face, so I need to think fast. Since the Discus just seems to bounce off of her, and the Sunflare is only going to burn me to death, I take a deep breath and ready Hades’ Hammer. I close my eyes and… click.
Hiro takes the hammer up above his head and swings it back downward… at the ground. Not at the rampaging statue, but at Mother Earth.
Yes, folks, Hades’ Hammer apparently models Earthquake’s attack from Samurai Shodown, and damages ground-based enemies around Hiro. In other words, it’s the consummate Daikatana weapon. It’s weird, difficult to use, doesn’t make a lot of sense, and honestly makes you feel embarrassed to even be alive. The statue agrees, because after a few swings of the hammer, she just lays down and goes to sleep. She gets tired of looking at me flailing about like an idiot and decides she’s had enough with this mortal plane of existence. Time to just lay down and feel the sweet release of death.
I think this is why I’ve been using the Daikatana so much: it actually makes sense. It’s a sword, and when you swing it, things in front of you get hit. It’s simple. I get it. All of this results in the Daikatana being leveled up to “3.97 out of 5” at the mission’s end. As the Kool-Aid Man says, “Oh yeah!”
E2M4: The Acropolis, Death, Taxes, and Puzzles
Holy shit. This mission is completely insane.
It starts out innocuously enough. We are greeted by a new enemy, which appears to be either a minotaur or a satyr. We hack and slash our way through the first two levels, and at one point stumble upon Weapon #5: “Poseidon’s Trident”. It’s a laser gun that fires three shots at once. That’s… actually useful, guys. Who slipped this into Daikatana? What’s going on, here?
But then we get to the end of the 2nd level, and we find out that there are two exits. One of them goes to Level 3, and the other one goes to Level 5. Get ready, folks, because we’re about to descend into a crazy labyrinth of three interconnected levels, countless switches that drop boulders out of the way, and a search for the five keys that spell the word “Aegis” needed to open the exit gate on Level 5. No, Theseus’ Yarn is not available as an item, and as stated previously, even if we wanted to cheat, nobody wrote a FAQ for this game.
We’re on our own.
So yes, this mission is just nuts, and I think it took me over 2 hours to complete. At least I ended the mission with the Daikatana at “4.96 out of 5”. Almost there! I’m going places in life now!
Let me just say that, overall, I had a great time with this mission. It’s got an incredibly intricate set of environments for a game based off of the Quake II engine. There are lots of complex Grecian buildings, multiple exits between the three later levels, a great moment where you ascend along a path beside a cliff face, and the music fits the mood perfectly. If the game had started with things like this, it probably wouldn’t have been ripped to shreds to quite the same degree as it was.
But this is Daikatana, and thus there are going to be some Daikatana moments. The best of them involved Mikiko exclaiming, “I’m amped up, biatch!” as she started throwing discuses at a minotaur, hitting me multiple times in the process. I told her to “Stay” after that.
Then there are the tricky puzzle moments that caused me to spend 2 hours on this thing. One of them involved a switch hidden in a pitch-dark passageway. I had to rack my brain and realize that the Sunflare functions as a torch if it is readied. God, it must have taken me 20 minutes to find this switch. See if you can find it in the following screenshot:
The most hilarious moment of this mission was yet to come, though. I finally made it to the exit gate on Level 5 only to learn that I only had 4 of the 5 “Aegis” keys needed to open it. Yes, folks, I was missing the “A” key. Realizing that the key could be anywhere in the five levels, I shuddered to even think about my search for finding it. Oh God. What has my life come to?
However, it only took me about 10 minutes to find it. I used the fact that the “A” key should appear first to deduce that I should start back at the split path in Level 2 and follow the trail through again. But then I wondered: Could they have actually put the key in Level 2? Would they really be that ridiculous?
This is Daikatana. Of course they would!
So here it is, folks. Right before the door that leads to the split path in Level 2, you’ll find this spider pattern in water:
If you stand on the body of the spider, look towards the head, and hit the “crouch” key to swim down, guess what you’ll see?
Jesus Christ, John.
Oh yeah, after all of this, you face a Cerberus puppy in a cave in order to open another gate after the exit gate. This is the final gate that leads into the Parthenon. Now, I tried to slash the puppy with the Daikatana and only got eaten. I had to remember something that happened 2 hours prior when I picked up Poseidon’s Trident. A voice boomed down from above and said that it should be used against Cerberus.
So I reloaded, shot him to death, and got on with my life. Two hours, folks. Jesus. Christ!
E2M5: The Lair of Medusa, aka Medusa’s Lair
Time to finish off this episode by taking down Medusa. Why are we fighting her? I don’t know. The game hasn’t said. I think we’re just going to go commit murder for no reason in a video game. Heavens Be! Have you ever heard of such a thing?
To aid us in our quest, we obtain Weapon #6, the “Eye of Zeus”, right in the first room. The announcer echoes down from on high again, telling us to use the Eye against Medusa. Who is that? Is it supposed to be Zeus? Why is he speaking English?
Anyway, the Lair isn’t that difficult overall. We’ve got the usual assortment of minotaurs, skeletons, spiders, ninjas, and harpy girls, but nothing new or crazy to fight until the very end. It’s got 5 levels total, but the 5th is just the boss fight, and the others aren’t interconnected to the same extent the Acropolis was. In other words, if you passed the Acropolis, you’re fine here.
Now, let’s check out those Daikatana moments! First, there was a part that stumped me for a good 10 minutes: to get from the first two levels to the second two, you need to go to the base of a slime waterfall and swim down into the pool. To aid you in this, there are Antidote Potions scattered about, which ward off the poisonous slime for a short time. Boy, those sure would have been helpful back in the Marsh! We were just 3000 years late back then. And no, I don’t get what having an invisible poison gauge adds to the task of trying to escape the slime at the start of Level 3. We already have an invisible air gauge, here. What is the point of all of this again?
Once in the 3rd and 4th levels, you just kind of wander around aimlessly until you find Level 5. I actually felt like this was a very effective and entertaining presentation of Medusa’s Lair. You start to wonder if you’re going around in circles, and you slowly realize that you’re never getting back to the first two levels again. It really does feel like a place where Medusa would lead people helplessly to their doom.
But then we get to Medusa, and in true Daikatana fashion, nothing makes sense. Medusa has an instant death attack, as her gaze will turn you to stone. Your vision will brighten/grey out if she starts to see you, and then you’ll just jump to “Game Over” if she does. I think. I think that’s what’s happening. I really don’t know. You just kind of randomly die whenever Medusa feels like it. It’s just bullshit everywhere.
I can’t tell you how I beat Medusa. I honestly have no idea. I crawled along the wall to a hole that opened down to the ground floor she was on. I saw her down there attempting to come up the ramp. I dropped down and started swinging the Daikatana at her, but nothing happened. Then I pulled out the Eye, which I had tried previously, but it had not prevented me from being turned to stone. This time, though, I hit her with the Eye 2-3 times and the scene immediately cut to Mikiko and Hiro on the central pedestal. So I guess she died. I guess.
I won? Oh, ok.
Whatever. Superfly was being held captive by Medusa, by the way. Hiro and Mikiko were unaware of this. It was an accidental rescue. But he’s back on the team. Oh joy! I can’t wait to go on all these adventures with him!
E3M1: The Plague Village, Where The Plague Lives In Peace
This episode starts with a black man stating that the weather is too cold for him. Just figured I’d throw that out there.
Anyway, we’ve been warped forward in time. Medusa’s mystical energies recharged the Daikatana, but we ran out of gas in the European Dark Ages. During our journey, Mishima appeared in the middle of hyperspace and taunted us about our inability to travel through time properly. You know, I’m not going to play anymore if you’re just going to be mean to me.
Once again, we’ve lost all of our weapons except for the Daikatana. In short order, though, we find our first two for this time period. The first is the “Bolter”, which is a crossbow gun that functions normally. Then we have the “Silverclaw”, a glove with clawed hands, which is completely pointless since we already have the Daikatana. John, I’m sorry, but these weapons just aren’t weird enough. Why doesn’t the Bolter empty its entire ammo stock when the left mouse button is clicked? What happened?
Now, I hope you’re sitting down, because I’m about to inform you of something that the Powers That Be eradicated from the history books. The Bubonic Plague didn’t just cause people to die horribly. No, it turned them into zombies. The people of the Dark Ages even had a name for them: “Buboids”. This is 100% historically accurate. Would Daikatana lie to us? Also joining the party are plague-infested rats capable of running at Mach 1, vampire bats that fly about retardedly until you shoot them with a crossbow bolt, and poison-spitting worms. The rats don’t fire rockets at us, though. It’s just a disappointing start to the episode.
On Level 3, we meet a monk in an abandoned church who dumps the entire story on us. I mean it. The entire fucking thing. Apparently, the king of this land went insane when his wife and daughter came down with the plague. He is being manipulated by an evil necromancer named Nharre (pronounced “Who Gives A Shit”). The king was a Paladin, and in his angry insanity, he smashed the holy blade called the “Purifier” into seven pieces that we’re going to have to find. As if that isn’t enough, Friar Exposition also informs us that we need to find three keystones in the shapes of “a trigon, a hexagon, and a quadrangle”. Oh God. Do I… do I have to keep playing? Am I really only halfway through this game?
Anyway, after messing around in the church for 5 minutes, I found one piece of the Purifier along with the Trigon Keystone. I then spent 15 minutes trapped in the cellar of the church with no apparent way of getting the ladder leading out to rise out of the floor. Turns out there’s a switch on a nearby wooden support column. How does the mechanism for this switch work, again?
All told, two pieces of the Purifier and all three Keystones found as the mission is completed. Maybe this won’t be that crazy after all…
E3M2: The Shortest Passage In History
America, this may be the shortest mission in Daikatana. It has only 1 level in it. This game just keeps throwing curveballs at us!
Our new enemies for this mission are werewolves and archers. The archers are boring, and are really just non-flying versions of the harpies from Greece, but the werewolves are interesting. They just kept getting back up no matter how many times I cut them down with the Daikatana. Dumbfounded, I had to search deep within my mind and use all of my intellectual powers to arrive at the answer.
Remember when I said that the Silverclaw was pointless? Guess what’s the only weapon that will take these things down?
I’ll admit it. I actually thought that was fairly clever, guys. You know, somewhere back in the Greece episode, Daikatana suddenly turned into an actual game. It’s like it just decided to stop sucking and actually get… sort of good. I mean, there’s still the occasional crashing and weirdness, of course, but this episode looks fantastic so far and I’m actually enjoying playing through it.
I’m enjoying Daikatana. What happened?
Oh, and I found Weapon #4, the “Ballista”, hidden behind that waterfall in the screenshot. You’re welcome.
E3M3: The Dungeon Without Dragons
We apparently stepped through a slipgate somewhere between this mission and the last one, because we’ve now ended up in Quake I. It’s a dungeon straight out of the Dimension of the Doomed, except now the doors are operated by nearby switches that are often obscured by the darkness. These switches also appear to be beyond Superfly’s intellectual capabilities, so it takes some time to lead him across each level to the exit. Fun!
Mikiko’s fallen ill with the plague, by the way. It’s just Hiro and Superfly now, and Superfly is carrying Mikiko over his shoulder. Aww. Wait, are they… are they going to have sex at some point? God help me.
I’m just going to say it: You can’t see shit in this mission. In true Quake fashion, there’s no automap, so you need to be able to keep most of the level layout in your head to get through it in a reasonable timeframe. Still, it’s not that bad, as the twist for this episode seems to be giving you weapons that actually work. The Bolter actually shoots things without bouncing back and hitting you in the face, the Silverclaw is basically the Axe from Quake I charged up by the “Power” stat, and the Ballista is the Quake I rocket launcher, right down to being centered in the viewing frame.
The Daikatana became fully charged back in Medusa’s Lair, and I noticed that I hadn’t leveled up throughout Episode 2. This awakened something deep in my mind about the fact that you are supposed to choose between leveling up the sword or your character. Thus, I’ve started using the other weapons more to try to build up the stats again. Exciting stuff!
Joining us for this mission are axe-throwing dwarf Vikings. They’re not the problem, though. It’s all the endless rats and worms, both of which are small and are capable of poisoning you. Of course, at some point I ran out of crossbow bolts, leaving me to blast everything with the Ballista, even those tiny little leaping plague rats of doom. I just stopped giving a fuck at some point and would blow them to Hell at point-blank range. There’s more than enough health flasks on the first two levels, given that the game assumes that you’re going through them with Superfly. But Christ, they’re annoying.
At the start of Level 3, we fight a lava-ball shooting wizard, obtaining Weapon #3, “Stavros’ Stave”, as our reward for blasting him to death with Ballista fire. After that, the rest of the level is just one long slog through endless poisoning and not enough health flasks. This is Daikatana, all right. The game goes through whiplash tonal changes ranging from pretty cool to infuriating. This isn’t anywhere near as bad as E1M5, though.
Still, I just… I don’t want to talk about it.
E3M4: Wyndrax Tower and The Art Of Ejaculating Lava
I could start this section by talking about the new enemies, which include skull knights with flaming swords and a fire-breathing dragon that was unable to fly about due to Daikatana-itis, but I won’t. There’s a much more pressing matter on my mind.
Stavros’ Stave looks like a giant penis made out of lava.
Maybe I’ve just been playing this game too much. Maybe I’ve just got issues. But the first time I whipped it out, I tittered. It wasn’t a full out laugh, but I returned to the days of my youth, if only for a moment.
I’m wielding a giant lava penis that ejaculates a giant lava-ball. When the lava-ball hits something, it sets off a huge explosion and sends a bunch of slightly smaller lava-balls bouncing all over the place. It just wouldn’t be Daikatana without a superweapon that causes you more damage than the enemies. Anyway, I have a question: If the other lava balls hit me in the face, does that mean that I’m actually coming on my own face? Shouldn’t I get bonus points for this?
So we travel through the first level of this mission, sliding about on ice and swimming through freezing water. For some reason, we take damage even after leaving the water due to freeze-poisoning. Or something. All jokes aside, though, the level design here is fantastic, the whole place looks great, and it really pushes their custom-modified Quake II engine to the limit.
Oh yeah, and it crashes the game like a motherfucker.
Once you get Wyndrax’s Key and Spellbook and ascend to the room with the altar on the second floor of the second level, save and get ready. Wyndrax will shit-talk you while you start blasting him with lavajaculate. If you do enough damage fast enough, he’ll open a bookcase and run outside, making you chase after him to finish him off in some nearby woods. Otherwise, he’ll make a run for it through his Tower, where on at least two occasions he got stuck on the stairs. I think you have to reload here. The game won’t let you kill him in the tower, apparently.
I counted three full-out crashes on this second level. One of them occurred shortly after I had saved by the exit with Superfly in tow. Yes, the level crashed only 10 feet from the finish line. To add insult to injury, the save game apparently became corrupted, forcing me to reload from the last autosave at the start of Level 2. Luckily it only took me 5 minutes to blaze through the level again. But my God. This is the fully patched version? Really, guys?
For all of our trouble, we obtain Weapon #5, “Wyndrax’s Wisp”, after sending him off to the next world. I didn’t fire it yet, fearing that the game would open a portal to the Negaverse or something if it tried to render it.
In conclusion, Wyndrax Tower was a mission where I ejaculated lava and learned the true meaning of
E3M5: The Crypt of Nharre & The Slice of Home
I may have spoken too soon when I said the Passage was the shortest mission in Daikatana. We’ve got another 1 level mission here. Run in, kill Nharre, get out. Rather anticlimactic after all the buildup for each of his lieutenants, isn’t it?
The mission opens with Superfly referring to me as “homeslice”. I still haven’t bothered to get him a weapon yet. He’s just been carrying Mikiko around for the last two missions. I guess he’s my caddy. Useful!
Hey Superfly, what weapon should I try against Nharre? The new Wyndrax Wisp? Oh, why not.
After the crazy explosive insanity of Stavros’ Stave, the Wyndrax Wisp’s puny lightning ball just makes me embarrassed. It slowly bounces around the room, lighting a path for us in the darkness. Even the staffs wielded by the mages in this level seem more interesting. Am I using this thing wrong? What is this? Is this thing on?
On multiple occasions, Nharre instructs me to “feel [his] wrath”, and then summons a single plague rat to attack me. Aren’t you a necromancer, bro? Shouldn’t the floor be erupting with zombies? Is the game still bugged out or something? This is all rather disappointing, Nharre. I’d say it happens to every guy, but no. It doesn’t. Hell, even I could summon a wienerdog or something.
Anyway, we get Weapon #6, “Nharre’s Nightmare”, after we put Nharre out of his misery. It’s just a sad end to a sad story. Maybe I accidentally interrupted him while he was sitting on the john or something, and he just wasn’t at his best. I don’t know. I just feel bad about this whole thing.
Nharre, I’m sorry.
E3M6: Gharroth’s Throne & Getting On With It
This is the third 1 level mission in this episode. Did you run out of time here, guys? Not that I’m complaining. All told, the length of the Dark Ages episode actually feels decent, rather than the overlong nightmare that was Cyberpunk Japan.
Speaking of nightmares, the Nightmare Staff is bizarre and seemingly pointless. It draws a tacky pentagram on the screen and then summons a creature to go attack things. I ended up getting shot to death by arrows while trying to switch back to the Ballista. Superfly announced, “Hiro just got his ass capped!” as I was gibbed into a million pieces by the final arrow. What can I say? Another perfect Daikatana weapon!
There’s not much to discuss here, though. The opening bit includes jumping across disappearing platforms over lava, which Superfly is terrible at. Luckily, the game just seems to warp him past all of it once you’ve made it. Then we have to keep hitting switches to raise a rotating bridge all the way to the top, taking care not to get injured by the switches when they flip. Yeah, it’s a Daikatana mission, all right. We also face yet another fearsome dragon incapable of moving in yet another classic Daikatana moment.
King Gharroth only takes 4 Ballista rounds before crying uncle. Then it’s time for more storyline scenes! Mikiko is cured, the Daikatana is recharged, and Mishima appears in hyperspace yet again. He insinuates that Mikiko and Superfly are not to be trusted, that Hiro’s ancestor was betrayed before his death, and that things are not as they seem. Oh God. The suspense is killing me!
E4M1: Alcatraz, Fresh Meat, and Funerals
It’s the year 2030, and we’ve landed in San Francisco. Alcatraz has been turned into an “open prison” a la Manhattan in Escape From New York. This is it, America: the final episode! We’re almost there!
We’ve lost all of our weapons except for the Daikatana again. In short order, we find our first two for the time period: the “Glock” and the “Slugger”. The Glock is a pistol, and the Slugger is a shotgun that doubles as a grenade launcher. It’s taken until the 19th mission to give us a normal shotgun weapon in this game. Our new firepower is used against the territorial prisoners of Alcatraz and leaping plague rats sin plaga. What an opening for the future past!
This entire mission is retarded. Actually, that may have been out of line; I don’t want to insult retards. I’m sorry. But yeah, it’s like a retarded version of Soldier of Fortune or something. The prisoners repeatedly refer to me as “fresh meat”, and state that I’m “just in time for [my] funeral”. They are unarmed, and I shoot them in the face or slice them to pieces with the Daikatana anyway. In other words, I save the taxpayers money by just expediting the whole justice process. I should be elected King of the Year 2030 for this!
God, what are we doing here? Oh yeah, we need to find Charcoal, Saltpeter, and Sulphur to blow something up in Level 2. They’re just lying around the prison in various places. Ok. Whatever.
At one point, we have to jump onto a flaming barrel and take damage in order to jump to the ladder upward. Once at the top of this whole multi-ladder sequence, we go all the way back down through a bunch of rat-infested air ducts. It’s been quite some time, folks, but we’re back. This is Daikatana made flesh once again.
We blow up the wall back in Level 2 and make our way to the exit. Only 5 missions left in this thing! May God be with us…
E4M2: Beneath The Rock & Above The Law
Oh joy. Part 2 of Alcatraz! Shit’s getting real!
This mission introduces new enemies: guys with jetpacks. Some of them have rocket launchers; others have gatling guns. None of that is really important, though. What is important is their obsession with frags and joyrides. For some reason, they have two sound samples total for all of the jetpack guys in the mission. One of them is an admonishment to “Billy Bob”, stating that his bragging is not sufficiently supported by his kill count. The other is a response to “Scrandrich”, promising that more frags will be obtained on the next joyride. The conversation repeats over and over, burning itself into our minds, and in defiance of all logic, makes less sense each time it is heard.
Oh yeah, we also have sharks. They don’t have laser beams on their heads, though. What happened here, John? Disappointing.
For weaponry, we pick up the “Kineticore”. It’s a rapid-fire laser gun which bounces its shots off of the walls. The rounds have some type of freezing ability, and turn enemies blue if they are not gibbed by the stream of laser rounds. Are you telling me that you’ve given us a rapid-fire Ion Blaster that causes freeze poisoning when it inevitably hits us in the face? Our prayers have been answered! YES!
We also find Weapon #4, the “Ripgun”, in a secret area on the second level. It’s just the Quake II chaingun. I think they were running out of ideas at this point. The whole second level is the flooded ruins underneath Alcatraz, by the way. No, it’s nowhere near as awesome as the Flood Zone, aka E3M3 of Duke 3D. On the bright side, though, we are greeted by schools of harmless fish as we swim into it. I shot some of the innocent fish, gibbing them into a million pieces. I’m going to Hell.
Prior to all of that, we were accosted by some prisoners who threw bottle-grenades at us. Due to Daikatana-itis, the grenades never seemed to detonate. They just kind of flew past us as we sidestepped, and no explosion was ever heard. Fearsome opponents in this mission, guys.
I love the sharks. They’re just adorable.
You know, Daikatana kind of turned into an actual game back there, at least for a little while, but now, as we near its conclusion, it’s returning to its roots. It’s becoming itself again. It’s becoming shit.
E4M3: The Tower of Crime & Montoya’s Lament
We’ve been abandoned by Superfly. He took off in another boat to lead some bad guys away from Hiro and Mikiko. The game keeps insinuating that he has nefarious motives. What could they be? Do we even care?
So here we are in the Tower of Crime. It’s a tower made out of criminality and anti-social behavior. Within its walls, we hear the echoing cries of a lost generation. Guys with uzis, or gun hands, or something run straight at us and are promptly gibbed by two or three pistol rounds. Girls wielding twin swords announce that it’s “smackdown time”, even though swords “slice” instead of “smack”. (Do they also “homeslice”?) But through it all, one name is singled out above all others, hated far and wide across the criminal underworld.
Again and again, we hear a female voice inform the unseen Montoya that she is “not in the mood for [his/her] crap”. Montoya is never identified, and the transgression that caused such animosity is never divulged. We are simply left to use our own imaginations to fill in blanks that can never be filled in.
Montoya, what have you done?
The lack of unit cohesion undermines the ability of the criminal army to mount an effective response to our threat, and their unwillingness to forgive and forget leads to their downfall. If only they could have moved on and let Montoya be, they would still be alive. But instead, they lay gibbed across their Tower of Shame, forever unable to make amends.
But there is one other who lives to tell the tale: Montoya. Everyone in the tower cursed his name, but to my knowledge, I never killed him. He’s still in there, wandering the blood-spattered halls, looking at the remains of his dead comrades, knowing that on some level, all of it is his fault.
It’s ok, Montoya. It’s not your fault. Yours was an existence born of Daikatana, full of colored lighting and looped voice samples, signifying nothing but your own doomed fate.
It’s ok. I forgive you.
E4M4: The Mishima Labs & The Possession of Asses
Time for the research lab level! The serene looking lobby is really a false face for a twisted lab complex. This is the most original level design in the whole game. It’s never been seen in another FPS, before or since.
We’ve got all sorts of new and annoying enemies in this mission. There are guys with some type of weaponry on their wrists that constantly talk of “fragging [us] all to Hell”, guys with shotguns that take way too much damage, and some sort of genetically-engineered mutant primate. My personal favorites, though, are the girls with shotguns. They tell me to “give it up”, and categorically state that “[my] ass is [hers]”. I’m sorry, honey, but I’ve got a headache. Can we have sex after I’ve beaten this game?
Oh wait, I just gibbed you across the walls with the chaingun. Oh well. Another relationship comes to an abrupt end.
Don’t forget the rats! We’ve got rats and air ducts all over this mission. I thought we’d left it all behind us through Greece and the Dark Ages, but no. Daikatana has finally come in from the rain. Daikatana has come home.
We’ve got three levels here. The keycard to Level 2 is lying underwater in a fountain somewhere in the lobby. Perhaps somebody threw it in there while making a wish. Once we finish Level 2, we wander about aimlessly until we remember that the entrance to Level 3 is back on Level 1. While there, we find Weapon #5, the “Novabeam”. It fires a death ray that splatters enemies into bloody chunks. The shotgun guys, though, can actually take a blast from it sometimes without being gibbed. They still die, but they don’t explode into a million pieces. It’s a miracle.
All of this is just a preamble, though, for the defining aspect of this mission has to be the neon green lighting on the electro-lifts. We all thought we’d left the green behind us back in Cyberpunk Japan, but no. It’s back. Just in case we forgot about it, the game gives it to us one more time.
Just look at that green.
Some of the enemies seem mesmerized by its luminosity. They stand at computer terminals, oblivious to our presence, allowing us to blast them to pieces from behind. Let’s take a look at one of those shotgun girls that are so obsessed with my posterior:
We get the key to the penthouse from Mikiko’s ancestor and get ready. Time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and there’s no bubblegum in this game.
E4M5: Mishima’s Hideout & The Buttons of Doom
This is the 4th 1 level mission in the game! It does take a short while, however, as there are countless small buttons to find hidden in bizarre locations. Like on the wall down at floor height, or on top of a rock. It’s like a scavenger hunt. Fun!
The buttons end up dropping ladders that lead to the exit. Between us and the switches are a new enemy with shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. These may, in fact, be the infamous “Dark Troopers” that John Romero warns us about in one of the quit screen messages. Well, unless that was supposed to be a joke referencing Dark Forces. Whatever. They get gibbed by the Novabeam, chaingun fire, or shotgun fire just the same.
Somewhere in the penthouse, we find the final weapon of the game: the “Metamaser”. It’s a security device that activates when it comes to a rest after being thrown. The device shoots a deadly laser at whatever is nearby, including us. Yes, it’s a death laser that targets us and gibs us to pieces. Great, great finale to the Daikatana weapon lineup.
In the defining moment of this mission, I was stuck for 5 minutes behind a gate that had dropped down. The other side of the gate was filled with recently activated laser tripwires. Confused, I just started firing grenades through the bars of the gate, hoping to hit something important. A grenade rebounded off the gate and bounced down a corridor behind me. Upon exploding, the tripwires deactivated and the gate rose; apparently, the computer panel I needed to destroy just happened to be down that corridor. Perhaps God just wants me to finish this game already. Well, ok. Let’s just get on with it, then.
At the end of the mission, there’s a six-armed tiger statue that reminds me of Kintaro from Mortal Kombat II. Great Story.
E4M6: The S.E.A.L. Training Center & Proof That White People Can, Indeed, Jump
Here we are, America! The final mission of Daikatana! Now, I’d like to take a moment to invite you to remember the final levels of all your favorite games. Think of the twisting labyrinth of Level 9 in The Legend of Zelda, culminating in that epic fight against Gannon. Think of the final elevator ride in Streets of Rage 2, which ended with you facing down both Shiva & Mr. X. Think of Master Chief and Cortana racing to escape Halo before the entire ringworld detonates. Close your eyes and recall these amazing moments.
Now, what do you think Daikatana has in store for us as its finale?
That’s right, guys: jumping puzzles! YES!
I’m going to try and catalogue them for posterity. I think I got them all. Here we go:
Yeah, my health, armor, and ammo weren’t really conserved in this level. Shocking as it may be, I just couldn’t find it in me to care that much at this point.
So we get through all of this and finally face Mishima. He cheeses us by spamming the Cleric’s Wraithverge from Hexen. The wraiths can be cut down with the Daikatana, but still the question remains: How do we defeat Mishima? We shoot him with the Novabeam and he bleeds, but he never goes down before we get cheesed to death by the wraiths. They fly through us and continually damage us as long as they are in contact, sometimes flying along with us as we try to run away. At times, we take damage even with no apparent wraith inside of us. We just watch our life slowly deplete, and then we explode into gibs yet again.
We reload multiple times, dying over and over, trying different things to get him to go down. Then the game crashes in the middle of a wraithstorm. Oh, this is going to be fun, isn’t it, guys?
By the way, the Daikatana can be used on Mishima. The two swords can strike each other without the universe exploding. Lies! Anyway, I finally take down Mishima with a combination of grenades, Novabeam blasts, and pistol rounds. It’s a triumphant moment. We’re done! We finished Daikatana!
No. John Romero has to piss on my face one more time.
It’s time for an overlong story scene! Hiro’s Daikatana disappears due to time travel shenanigans. They take Mishima’s original Daikatana to a nuclear reactor to recharge it. There, Mikiko reveals her evil self, murdering Superfly with the Daikatana. As Katy Perry says, “Oh nooooooo“. Hey, I’ve been shooting him in the face throughout the whole game whenever I got bored. She doesn’t seem too bad to me.
Whatever. It’s time for the real final boss fight: Mikiko.
I had 5 health and 0 armor when I beat Mishima. I get killed by Mikiko in 1 second and am sent back to the Mishima fight on the save game. So I have to spend another 10 minutes trying to blast Mishima to pieces a second time. Christ!
I’ve noticed that the wraiths are buggy and get stuck in the walls as they fly around. Fascinating. Same as the first time, I unload all my grenades, all my Novabeams, and then just keep shooting him with the pistol, which is more accurate than the shotgun. Upon success, I hit Escape a few times to get to the Mikiko fight, but make the fatal mistake of attempting to get myself slightly situated before making a new save. I get gibbed in 2 seconds this time. You know, it’s my fault, John. I expected to have more than 2 seconds to get ready for the last boss fight without a health refill. What an asshole I am.
tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick
Here we go again. Is that the submarine from Duke 3D? Hey, remember that mission in Deus Ex where you were in that genetic research lab at the bottom of the ocean? God, that was awesome. Back in reality, the sun has long since fallen, and the crickets softly chirp outside. Why can’t I just stop playing this garbage? Why must I continue? Why have I been damned to this fate? Why?
What a horrible night to have a curse.
After the third successful attempt, I hit Escape like a madman and make a save immediately. After all of this, I’m in for an anticlimax. Once I can successfully avoid getting killed in 1 second due to horrible game design, Mikiko is actually quite easy. It only takes a few pistol rounds to take her down. And with that, our journey is complete. We’re done. We’ve made it.
We’ve beaten Daikatana.
Hiro uses the power of the Daikatana to change history. In the new timeline, the Ebiharas’ cure was never stolen by Mishima, and the Ebiharas are now a powerful family. Mikiko and Superfly live again, with Superfly now the Head Security Chief of the Ebihara corporation. Mikiko laments their inability to find the Daikatana, but Superfly and the elder Ebihara tell her that it is time to stop dwelling on the past and look towards the future.
In a secluded cabin, Hiro lives in solitude with only two things to keep him company: the Mona Lisa… and the Daikatana.
My questions: 1) Why didn’t Hiro change the timeline so that Mikiko has nicer breasts? 2) Why would you want to resurrect Superfly? 3) I know the Mona Lisa was in Mishima’s Hideout, but what the fuck? 4) What happened to Montoya?
Oh yeah, John Romero and Stevie Case pop up in the credits. Whatever. It’s over. Thank God!
So what have we learned from this experience? What have we learned from Daikatana?
For my part, I’ve learned that I can still masturbate to completion to Stevie Case. I did so multiple times over the last week as I played through this game and wrote this review. Stevie, if you’re still out there and available, call me.
I’ve also learned that playing through this game and writing this review has made me a better person. The world just seems so much nicer now. Though I was tired over the last week as I desperately trudged through Daikatana and stayed up too late some nights, in the aftermath, I feel alive. The sky is bluer, the grass is greener, and every moment feels like it is lived, as it should be.
I’ve been to Hell and back. I’m still standing. I made it.
And if you can make it through Daikatana, you can make it through anything.