How is it possible that we've gone three decades without a half-decent Godzilla game? I'll admit it; I'm a fan of the Japanese film franchise, even with their painfully cheesy special effects and man-in-suit technology. But while I'm ready to forgive the movies for being nothing more than a guilty pleasure, I can't extend the same kindness to the various video games. For whatever reason it seems like the best Godzilla games aren't Godzilla games at all, instead they are titles like the original arcade version of Rampage and Sony's criminally underappreciated action game, War of the Monsters. What about Godzilla? Is there just something about this massive lizard-creature that cannot be brought to an interactive experience?
Going into Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash, Atari's newest Nintendo DS game, I wasn't expecting a masterpiece, I knew that at best this would be nothing more than a brainless action game starring some oversized creatures. I knew that if I kept my expectations low there would be no way for me to be disappointed with the game. Boy was I wrong. Not only is Godzilla Unleashed one of the worst games of the year, it may just be the worst game currently available for the Nintendo DS.
So let's get the good stuff out of the way right at the top. The game has a story. It may be an incoherent story, but it definitely has a story. Apparently some weird crystal meteor has landed on Earth and is now causing all sorts of destruction. As you can imagine the humans are freaked out, they are worried that the monsters are going to kill them all and are ready to send the Army after anything bigger than 40 feet. Like I said, it's not a real good story, but it's no worse than some of the hackneyed plots used in the classic man-in-suit movies.
And that's not the only good thing Godzilla Unleashed has going for it. This Nintendo DS game actually features a whole roster of familiar names and faces, including the likes of Mothra, Fire Rodan, Gigan King Ghidorah, and several others. On top of having a nice roster of well-known characters, Godzilla Unleashed also offers "Co-Op Duel Screen Destruction" ... at least, that's what the back of the box says.
In truth none of this really matters, because Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash (get it? The initials are "DS," like Godzilla Unleashed DS) fails on just about every possible level. The game starts with you choosing two different characters, one that can fly (such as Mothra) and one that can walk (such as Godzilla). These two characters each take up one of the Nintendo DS' two screens (the flying creature is on the top screen and the walking creature is on the bottom, in case you couldn't figure it out). You play as one character at a time, so from time to time you will want to push the shoulder buttons and "tag" the other large creature.
The problems begin almost immediately. The problem with Godzilla is that he's just too damn large; the guy is the size of skyscraper. Have you ever tried to throw something at or shoot a skyscraper? They're not so hard to hit, mostly because they take up an entire city block and are a mile tall. You would have to be blind to not be able to at least come close to hitting a skyscraper, and even then you would still probably hit it. Well, the same can be said about our hero Godzilla. The character is so large that he seems to soak up any and all of the bullets shot from the tanks and airplanes.
And if the idea of getting shot non-stop wasn't enough, you also have to suffer through some of the worst controls I have ever seen. Basically the screen forces you to move at all times (unless you're fighting a boss, which is a painful experience we'll talk about in a minute), so you walk from left to right punching and kicking your way to victory. Unfortunately these attacks aren't very effective. The punches don't have much range to them and the kicks are only good for taking out ground vehicles. You can jump, but all that does is make it easier for the airplanes in the sky to hit you. Thankfully you do have another attack, which is a charge attack that has you shooting a large stream of energy across the screen. This is definitely the most useful attack in your repertoire, but that's only because you're limited to about five different moves.
For what it's worth the flying character doesn't fair much better. On the top screen you fly around the screen shooting enemies like a classic 2D shoot-em-up. But even this relatively simple task is littered with problems. For one thing the "bullets" (or whatever it is Mothra uses) are completely useless, they are slow and not very powerful. You don't have to shoot the oncoming airplanes; you can also use your wings to punch and your moth butt to kick. No, I'm not kidding, you really do use your butt to kick ... and it's just as ridiculous as it sounds.
So here's the problem with a tag team game like this one, where exactly does the other character go when you're not playing him? It's not like these are small monsters, we're talking about a creature that is the size of a skyscraper, he doesn't just disappear. Mothra (and the rest of the flying creatures) I understand, he can fly away from the scene and catch his breath. But I'm not buying the idea of Godzilla just walking off the screen and not being noticed by the military.
Beyond the control issues and complete lack of moves, Godzilla Unleashed is also a completely boring action game that offers no challenge whatsoever. Every level plays out exactly the same way. Each location has two classic monsters you will need to destroy, but before you can do that you'll need to walk from left to right taking abuse from the airplanes above and breaking large crystal shards. When you find one of these crystals the screen will stop moving and the enemies will completely ignore you while you perform about a dozen combos on the crystal. The object here is to push the combo they are asking for (Y - B - B, B - Y - B, etc.) until it breaks. That's it. This mechanic isn't interesting the first time you do it, and it certainly isn't any better the tenth time.
Once you've beaten up a crystal and dodged enemy fire, you're off to fight one of the large boss creatures. Unfortunately this is yet another reason why this game should never be played by another human being. Most of the bosses can by beaten by simply standing (or floating) in one location and charging up your special attack. Heck, you won't even need to use your left hand to move around for most of the battles. The bosses aren't challenging and they aren't entertaining, they are just there to keep you from getting to the next level.
And then there's the fact that you can beat Godzilla Unleashed in one sitting. At most Godzilla Unleashed is an hour long ... and even that may be a bit generous. I was able to beat the game straight through without even once seeing a "Game Over" screen. The game is not only short, but it's painfully easy as well. Atari does try to get you to play through the game multiple times by offering extra unlockable characters, a couple of new (pointless) modes and art. The game is bad enough to go through the first time; chances are you won't want to revisit this train wreck a second or third time.
On the positive side, at least Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash looks good. While this is definitely not the best looking game on the Nintendo DS, it does have a unique art style that is sometimes very attractive. I especially like the fire level, which has all sorts of ash and debris raining down on Godzilla (and the city). While the background graphics tend to look good, I did have some issues with the character models. Don't get me wrong, Godzilla and Mothra look pretty good, but none of the bosses look quite right. I would be willing to forgive this if the game was actually fun to play, but it's not.
Godzilla Unleashed on the Nintendo DS feels like it was half-baked. Even if the game was longer than an hour it would still be an incredibly disappointing side scrolling action game that makes a mockery of this giant lizard-creature. I went in wanting to enjoy Godzilla Unleashed, but it seems like the developers sabotaged the project every step of the way. Perhaps it's best to stick with Rampage and War of the Monsters, because Godzilla Unleashed proves to be one of the worst games on the Nintendo DS.
Godzilla Unleashed is a slow, boring and easy 2D action game that fails miserably on every level. With its terrible controls and short story mode, this Godzilla game is only good for testing your Nintendo DS to make sure it still works.