Last time I discussed how Godzilla was designed with the intent to reinterpret all the elements of the films as a video game. This not only included the kaiju brawling that the franchise is so well known for, but also elements of human drama and the gargantuan expanses of collateral damage that result from Godzilla’s desire to feed off of nuclear power sources.
However, this goal does not immediately vindicate all of the game’s design choices. For example, the game relies on the player using the L1 and R1 triggers to turn the monster left and right. This is counter-intuitive to most modern conventions. Most third-person games tie the camera to where the player is looking, or simply allow the player to use the left stick to turn left and right. Godzilla instead chooses to implement what are referred to as “tank controls”, a method of manipulating a character that has grown more and more unpopular since it was first introduced to the mainstream in Resident Evil.
Just as with Resident Evil, the tank controls allow Godzilla to capitalize on manipulating the camera to be located anywhere. Recall that I mentioned photograph “collectibles” scattered throughout each map, gradually allowing the player to unlock a robotic kaiju. During such moments, the camera shifts to a more cinematic angle. In such scenarios, it is much more user-friendly for “forward” to remain consistent. This remains true as the player is capable of adjusting the placement of the camera at any time.
Does this justify the use of the shoulder buttons, however? Many players will grumble that tank controls “suck”, though I disagree. They take adjustment, but this is true of all methods of game control. Be it using the left and right sticks together or just one, the only difference is how much practice you’ve had. Enough practice with tank controls and they will become just as instinctive as anything else. While you can certainly become practiced in bad controls, the tank controls allow a consistency for the camera.
What the shoulder buttons do is take the concept of turning and separate them into their own ideas. Rather than “movement” being a single thought process, each kind of movement becomes its own. This actually makes it possible to adapt to Godzilla’s particular brand of tank controls faster than you might Resident Evil’s.
Note I do not say it is guaranteed to be quicker, if the player adapts at all.
The reason I would say the controls work in Godzilla is due to the slow, lumbering pace of the creatures. Even if a player has to think about them for a moment, the entire game is moving at a slow enough pace that the player’s response time can be as slow as the monster’s. For players that adjust to the controls and get good at the game, the system allows them to respond and strategize, focusing on intentional button presses rather than falling into the trap of button mashing.
I suppose I still haven’t answered the question of whether the controls are “good” or not. Part of it is the fact that, yes, I adjusted to it rather quickly. I began to explore the different camera angles I could employ while tearing the cityscape apart or smashing Mothra beneath my clawed foot. These sorts of camera angles are not only beneficial for the cinematic feel of the game, but are also a necessity as the monsters keep growing larger in scale. A massive King Ghidorah is going to completely dwarf a larval Battra, and certain skyscrapers are tall enough to interfere with the player’s view. An experienced player can easily rotate the camera while moving forward, using one of the triggers to rotate left or right if need be. Given the level design and slow pace of combat, this sort of multi-tasking won’t often be necessary.
So if I had to provide a verdict, I’d say the controls are “good”. They are, at least, suitable for the nature of the game. If it was faster paced, then I’d certainly say not. For the lumbering pace of the kaiju here, however, it is suitable. A new player can learn it with greater ease than the multi-tasking required by two sensitive analogue sticks at once, and experienced players are already used to learning new control methods. All it takes is a break of conventions.
This does not mean the design choice was “good” itself. I’d argue that plenty of players, new and old, would have an easier time if they could turn left or right with the same stick they’re moving forward with. I cannot imagine why using L1 and R1 was chosen, and while it’s easy enough to adapt to, it’s an unnecessary adaptation. The only saving grace is that the pace of the game, as well as the design of the cities in rows and columns, allows this to typically be of minimal issue. Instead of being a “problem”, it becomes an “odd creative choice”. It is not a creative choice I’d like to see repeated.
As far as I can tell, the simple act of turning is the most difficult aspect of the game’s control to adjust to. Otherwise, the controls are rather simple. There’s a “light attack” button that allows a certain number of strikes to be chained together in a “combo”. This “combo” typically just means three consecutive strikes, though the third is typically the strongest blow. There is a “strong attack” as well, a sort of powerful lunge or charge, followed by the energy or breath weapon. All of Godzilla’s, and the other monster’s, moves will somehow be derived from these strikes.
At first, this makes combat seem awfully simple. Try and attack your opponent before they attack you, knock them onto their back, and deliver whatever additional blow you can manage. The struggle is that each monster has lengthy periods of recovery after executing a combo, a strong attack, or their breath weapon. Each of these attacks can also be interrupted. The system seems absurdly simple at first, and even a matter of luck.
Well, the combat is rather simple, as it isn’t the primary focus. That doesn’t, however, mean that there is a lack of strategy. An important ability, one whose timing is key, is the ability to roar. During the roar the player kaiju does not flinch and cannot be knocked down. It’s not a temporary invincibility, though.
What players must learn are how long it takes to recover from their own strikes and when best to time a roar. Just because you knocked an opponent on their back doesn’t mean you’ve got them dead to rights. The recovery time from any one attack will take long enough that the opponent will be able to stand and launch an attack before your next swing can connect. This is typically the best moment to roar, as their next assault will ultimately leave them vulnerable.
An additional key to victory in combat is size. As mentioned in the last piece, the purpose of absorbing radiation from reactor cores is to feed and grow larger. The monsters the player faces will continually grow, so it is imperative that the player grows as well. If the player is larger, then they will flinch less and break through the opponent’s attacks more easily. If the opposite is true, then the player will need to be really good at implementing that roar ability.
The entire concept of “growth” is where Godzilla is most engaging. In order to have the greatest odds against opposing monsters, the player will want to grow more. In order to grow the most exponentially, the player will need to increase their Fury. In this game, Fury is essentially a sort of combo meter.
As the player destroys buildings, tanks, aircraft, and other such man made equipment and obstructions, their Fury will grow. The higher the Fury, the greater the multiplier to energy absorbed, which means the greater Godzilla or other Kaiju will grow. If too much time passes between blows or objects destroyed then the Fury will return back to 0. This means the player will want to approach each map with a greater intention than just aimlessly steamrolling over buildings. It means they’ll want to plan a route of attack and maximize that Fury before tackling a Reactor. It should be noted that each Reactor has built-in defenses that take enough time to evade that a high Fury rating can easily be wiped clean before properly destroying it.
The real twist is that, the more destruction you cause, the higher the alert level goes and the more powerful the G-Force defenses become. In addition, more difficult levels will implement time limits to destroy all the reactors, while others will begin throwing multiple monsters at the player.
This is where the real hook of the game is. It creates an arcadey cycle focused on how well the player can establish a plan of attack, ranking their Fury high so that they grow larger the more havoc they wreak, preparing in early levels to tackle more and more difficult monsters and machines towards the concluding levels. It’s a game designed to be played like earlier Nintendo or Super Nintendo games, where the repetition helps the player learn the environments and tackle them more intelligently.
In this light, I would say Bandai Namco did an excellent job capturing the elements of the films and repurposing them as a video game. All the monsters have a motivation that becomes a core mechanic to the game, both in achieving high scores and in preparing the player for more difficult challenges. The ability to get a high Fury and grow large is a necessity for the more difficult stages, even, despite also being a self-fulfilling prophecy of more destruction leading to more opposition. Destruction is encouraged, and it all plays a factor in battling other foes.
Perhaps the best game mode, creatively speaking, is the Defenders game mode. In this mode, the player must choose a monster like Mothra or Mecha King Ghidorah and avoid destroying as much of the environment as possible, all while tackling the enemy Kaiju. It completely reverses the approach while still fitting the narrative of the source material.
If I had any complaint about this cycle, I would say that the game’s paths honestly take a little too long. Being a more arcadey game in its design, it is at its best in shorter, perhaps hour-long gameplay sessions. Keep the game from over-staying its welcome.
Overall, I would argue that, no, Godzilla is not a bad game. It certainly does have an audience that will be limited largely to “true” Godzilla fans, yes. However, I’m sure there’s also an audience for a game that is simply about finding the best way to destroy a city and how to best work around the opposition that manifests.
No, not all of the controls are the best, and each play through has the chance to last a little too long. However, there’s plenty of replay value not only in progressing through the different difficulty levels, but also in playing as the different Kaiju. Ghidorah controls drastically differently than Godzilla, who controls very differently from Anguirus.
What keeps Godzilla from being better is a general lack of polish, a greater variety in the level design, and perhaps some added nuance or instruction to combat. Yet that doesn’t mean what is there is bad, and it most certainly is not.
Not unless you’re specifically looking for a game that purely consists of fighting other monsters. In that case, I recommend Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee.