Duke Nukem Forever, Superman 64, and Daikatana. All of these titles are talked about in a similar sphere – some of the greatest flops of all time. Daikatana had a world-renowned lead designer, plenty of shocking advertisements and a huge budget. What could go wrong? Is it as terrible as we thought on release back in 2000, or is it a gem hidden in the rough? 

The world-renowned lead designer mentioned above is no other than John Romero, the guy behind Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake. Needless to say, he has extensive knowledge of some of the most popular shooters of all time. After being let go from Id in 1996, Daikatana was hailed as his big return to form. Ion Storm, the developer behind it, was a newly formed team of industry veterans and, whilst they hadn’t made anything yet, they certainly showed promise. 

Daikatana 1

Daikatana was officially unveiled at E3 1997 with an obnoxiously ‘90s trailer. It featured electronica music and the character walking around environments to be concluded with “Daikatana” shown proudly on the screen in a flash of blood-red. It did its job in giving the name but not much more. No gameplay or character models were shown, just a simple look at the environments. It is these environments which are one of Daikatana’s strongest traits. Daikatana is split into 24 levels on PC and 18 levels on the Nintendo 64, culminating in 4 central episodes. Each episode is set in a unique time period, taking the character to Japan in 2455 AD, Greece in 1200 BC, Norway in 560 AD, and San Francisco in 2030 AD, a time that is frighteningly close to us right now. 

This idea was great as it gives you, the player, a chance to explore different times and weapons. This brings TimeSplitters to mind – a great time travelling FPS from the same year. This doesn’t work well in its favour. Whilst its concept is one that could work very well, there are a multitude of mistakes Daikatana makes. One of its central gimmicks is based around your two AI sidekicks (Mikiko Ebihara and Superfly Johnson) helping you complete puzzles. If either die, you fail the level. This is made downright unbearable as the AI is so poor that puzzles are frustrating and combat is even worse. 

Daikatana 2

Speaking of combat, a lot of these issues could be lessened if the gameplay was solid, but it is not. It has some RPG-esque devices such as upgrading Power, Attack, Speed, Acro, and Vitality. The aforementioned Daikatana also gets more powerful as you progress through the game, but the skills do not level up with Daikatana kills. The overall combat is clunky and your character tends to feel rather floaty. Further to that, the enemy AI is awful, often having enemies run towards you, widely swinging or firing, whilst the sidekick AI slows you down to a complete halt. And then sidekicks constantly get stuck in vents, stairways and other locations whilst repeating the same four or five voice lines. Unfortunately, you can’t finish a level without the sidekick near you so, in the best case scenario, you finish whilst slowly waiting for a sidekick to catch up. At its worst, you can get all the way to the end of a level just to have to kill them to restart as they’ve got stuck in a particularly unruly piece of carpet. 

There are lots of good ideas in Daikatana. Just some of those are the number of weapons available to you. The Discus of Daedalus is like a discus that works as a boomerang of sorts that rewards you with successful hits, whilst the Disruptor glove is a brutal melee weapon that creates a hole upon impact. It also features superweapons that are ultra-rare and offer some unique attacks. One such weapon is Nharre’s Nightmare – a staff that summons a demon that can hurt you if you’re not careful. These are all ideas that could work well in a much, much better game. 

Daikatana 3

From my time with Daikatana, it’s fair to say that there are some great ideas. The time-travelling plot is something that is intriguing, but then it was done much better just a few months later in TimeSplitters. It has some great designs and its advertising was just provocative enough to draw natural purchases through word of mouth. Despite all of the good faith it had just a year prior to release, it flopped hard and didn’t deserve much better given the end product. Daikatana needed to sell 2.5 million copies to be considered profitable – it sold just over 40,000. This was a rocky start for Ion Storm and, although they made the impeccable Deus Ex that same year, they closed down just a few years later. 

But tell us, did you play Daikatana? What did you think of it? Let us know your thoughts by posting in the comments. 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments