Super Godzilla was one of those games that I really wanted to like.
Oddly enough, that seems to be the case for me with pretty much every Godzilla videogame I’ve ever played.
“Sure the gameplay is sloppy and monotonous, but c’mon; it’s motherfuckin’ Godzilla!”
As a kid, (minus the profanity) these were the kinds of thoughts that would run through my head every time I’d stick a Godzilla game in my NES.
Despite the Big G’s spotty track record up to that point, Super Godzilla, in my young mind; was supposed to be the game that made up for it all.
The screenshots looked sharp, the gameplay sounded fresh and unique, and the roster of monsters, while quaint by some standards; was packed with fan favorites and a host of Heisei era kaiju that had yet to gain exposure in the U.S.
Not only that, the game promised a thrilling and campy Godzilla story involving aliens taking control of Earth’s monsters, with the Earthlings responding in kind by taking control o Godzilla and piloting him via remote from the cockpit of the Super X2!
It looked and sounded like a Godzilla fans dream.
I rented Super Godzilla as soon as it became available at my local videostore, and I can honestly say; I was disappointed.
The first thing that hit me right off the bat, was the game’s general lack of quality in both audio and visual terms.
I mentioned that Super Godzilla looked good in stills, and I wasn’t lying.
The game makes extensive use of extremely large and detailed character portraits for Godzilla and all of his Toho frat brothers, however therein lies the problem:
The character graphics consist almost exclusively of barely animated, or worse yet; “Ken Burns-ed” animation cycles.
You see, the core gameplay of Super Godzilla consisted of 2 basic functions:
Finding and then fighting the enemy monster of each level.
While one would think this would be an action-packed process, Toho made the decision to structure the “finding” aspect of the game as sort of a grid-based strategy game, and worse yet; made the “fighting” section a barely interactive mashup of repetitive cutscenes.
You remember the lengthy and unskippable summon cutscenes from Final Fantasy VII?
Well, imagine a fighting system where all you do watch 4-5 shitty looking summons over and over and over again, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s like to play Super Godzilla.
Rest assured, one can take time to make many a sandwich while playing Super Godzilla…
Okay fine, the “fighting” in Super Godzilla has at least some level of interactivity to it, but believe when I say it; it’s not much.
Basically, when one enters into combat with an enemy monster, the screen morphs from the overhead map to a 2D sprite-based fighting game layout.
From this screen, the player can make use of 3 buttons and maneuvers:
Punching, blocking, and using items.
While blocking is self-explanatory, landing a punch is required in order to initiate the aforementioned cutscene attacks, which are empowered by the player’s “fighting spirit” meter at the bottom of the player’s HUD.
As one would expect, given it’s massive place on the HUD, the “fighting spirit” meter is the crux of the Super Godzilla “fighting” system.
When one advances towards one’s opponent in Super Godzilla, the player’s “fighting spirit” increases, gradually falling when the player retreats.
Upon landing a punch on the enemy, the player’s “fighting spirit” will freeze in place, inviting the player to retreat and open up the attack command window at the center of the HUD.
Depending of the volume of the player’s “fighting spirit,” as well as the distance that they retreat, the player will be given more powerful attack commands to select from.
In all Godzilla has access to 4 attack commands: tail whip, body slam, fire breath, and hyper fire breath from weakest to strongest respectively.
Items gathered from the “finding” phase of each level consist of instant use health power-ups, defense boosters, and a “fighting” spirit
Perhaps the worst part of the gameplay system, was the addition of enemy UFOs as random encounter enemies in most of the stages.
Taking only 1 hit to destroy, these UFOs absolutely shit ALL OVER what little enjoyment was to be derived from the “finding” portion of each level.
I don’t mind random encounters in RPGs, but when said encounters involve only 1 enemy type, and a pathetically weak one at that; I just don’t get it.
I suppose it doesn’t help that many of the levels in Super Godzilla have time limits, making these random encounters have zero possibility of doing damage to you, but still serving to potentially end your game through wasting your motherfucking time…
Make no mistake, finding and killing the Mothership hidden in each stage is deeply advised, as it is the only thing that will stop you from having to fight baby UFOs every 5 seconds.
Despite the bland and painfully slow-paced gameplay, Super Godzilla did have a few little things going for it.
For instance, during the “finding” portion of each level, the player was often free to choose their own path in maneuvering the map, making item gathering and avoidance of stationary enemy emplacements entirely up to the player.
In addition to this, there’s a great deal of variety in the tasks heaped on the player on their plodding march to finding the enemy monster.
For instance, in the 3rd stage, you are required to raid (read: step on) several enemy bases in order to free a captive scientist.
In the 4th stage, the player must do battle with a pair of Battra’s, however if one is quick enough in reaching the second while it is still in it’s chrysalis, it is in fact possible to destroy it before it hatches.
These variations in gameplay also extend to the “fighting” segments of the game in the form of each enemy monster having certain attacks in Godzilla’s repertoire that are ineffective against them.
Thankfully, most of these variations are fairly logical, with Biollante’s superior mass making her invulnerable to Godzilla’s body slam attack, and Battra’s speed making them unable to be hit by anything but Godzilla’s most powerful fire breath attack.
Toho can suck a dick though for making Mechagodzilla able to counter Godzilla’s basic fire breath.
I know he did in the movies, but for fuck’s sake; didja’ really have to make the fire breath one of the most common attacks to pop up in the attack window?
Anyway, the 1 huge plus Super Godzilla has going for it, (besides being a Godzilla product) is the inclusion of, well; Super Godzilla.
During the last few stages of the game, the player can go out of their way to obtain a series of power ups to transform plain ‘ole Godzilla into Super Godzilla.
Bearing a truly awesome design, that was largely transplanted into the design for Space Godzilla the year after the game’s release, Super Godzilla granted the player access to a brand new set of attack commands, a Mega Buster like chargeable punch, and the ability to walk through buildings and obstacles on the map screen without taking damage.
Most of Super Godzilla was tough to slog through, but for what it’s worth, the final battle against the Super Godzilla exclusive, and exceedingly well-designed giant monster, Bagan; is a far better one than the game probably deserved.
That being said, while Super Godzilla does in fact have a truly horrible soundtrack, with many tracks serving to utterly butcher some truly classic Godzilla themes; the boss music played during the Bagan fight is actually… good.
That’s right, I said something was “good” in Super Godzilla.
Seriously, give it a listen:
While it’s honestly not a great piece of Super NES music by any standards, it’s easily the best track in the game; and has a pretty serious sound to it that’s rarely heard in 16-bit game music.
I love the opening notes, and how bizarre and frankly, “alien” it feels, making it quite appropriate for the climax piece of a giant monster alien invasion story.
Perhaps the track’s biggest accomplishment though, is that it actually sounds like Godzilla music.
Godzilla movies have played host to some of Japan’s finest composers, and as such, have always bore a distinctive and powerful sound.
Many of the tracks in Super Godzilla feel generic and flat, but the final boss theme has a “big-ness” in it’s instrumentation that make it sound like a cross between the trumpet heavy orchestrations of Akira Ifukube and the synth-heavy work of Takayuki Hattori.
Anyway, Super Godzilla is one of those games that I want to like.
I know it sucks, but the Godzilla fan in me still tries to find ways to redeem it.
While most pro-Super Godzilla arguments are likely to be filled to the brim with bullshit, let it be known that any argument citing the final boss theme as a redeeming factor have at least that going for them.