A Monster Failure
Let's take a gigantic lizard with radioactive breath and a large moth that can shoot eyebeams. We'll partner them up and send them across a variety of planets, smashing all sorts of small objects into particles and engaging other similarly oversized beasties in one on one battles to the death. This is quite clearly one of the better ideas to have been conceived, but after playing for a while it quickly becomes apparent that something got lost in translation between idea and product.
The game starts you off on Earth and presents you with a grid made up of numerous hexagons. The player is handed Godzilla and Mothra while there are a couple of enemy monsters in play too. Each monster is represented by an icon on this grid. At the grid the player must pick one of their monsters and move them across the grid. Each monster is limited to the number of spaces they can move (2 for Godzilla and 4 for Mothra). When they finish moving the action turns to the side-scrolling levels that are based on the hexagon spaces you just passed over. Once both player monsters have moved the enemy monsters move across the grid, then the cycle repeats.
During the actual levels you start on the left side of the screen and make your way to the right. Along the way are various obstacles and enemies to get in your way. Unfortunately, all of this is actually rather boring. For a start, game progress is excruciatingly slow. Godzilla and Mothra simply do not move at any reasonable pace and the levels themselves can take a while to reach the end. They don't even maneuver around the screen well at all. Granted this might fight in with their whole 'being oversized monsters', but it does interfere with the gameplay.
This lack of fast progression also spills over into the hexagonal maps. In order to clear a planet and move onto the next you have to reach the final stage (generally found on the far side of the map), but you have to do this with both monsters unless one dies. This can really make the game drag on.
The second problem is that there is just little variety. Oh sure, sometimes you'll come across something a little different to the rest, like the heat seekers that are incredibly difficult to avoid as the lizard or a strange pink blob stage that involves beating the crap out of some weird looking blob structure (no, don't ask), but these are fairly rare. Usually levels consist of simply hammering the attack buttons to destroy everything in your way. Fun at first, granted, but it's all the same and so by the end of the second planet you're already bored and are probably wondering when the next new stuff is coming. Sorry, but that's it. Later planets change up the frequency of terrain types and adds a boss monster but the general gameplay doesn't change.
The two monsters handle quite differently from one another. Godzilla is naturally the clumsy oaf but has a few powerful attack options like punches, kicks, a cool looking tail swipe and a special breath beam attack that can seriously damage foes, at the cost of draining a special power bar. However, Godzilla is rather easy to hit, and in fact will no doubt fall victim to getting hit by virtually everything. It's not impossible, as there are plenty of health items to pick up, but it isn't exactly balanced. Mothra lacks the same power as Godzilla, as it only has a weak mid range eye beam and some kind of damaging... stuff that comes from its wings. On the other hand, Mothra can avoid damage much more easily.
The game also contains a rather basic level up system. Defeating boss monsters or clearing those strange pink blob stages earns experience. When a monster levels up it increases its life and power gauges. Nice enough addition but pretty basic.
Whenever one of your monsters comes into contact with an enemy monster on the hexagonal field a fight will break out between them. The game switches to a side-on black screen and both monsters enter the screen. This plays out like a poor man's fighting game as the two monsters basically simply launch attacks at each other until either one dies or the invisible timer runs out and ends the fight.
There are a few problems with this setup though. One is that there is little strategy involved here. There are no block commands or special techniques to try out. All the player can do is position their monster and hammer the attack buttons. However, the bigger problem is just how cheap the enemy is. For some reason all the enemy monsters can damage your monster and stun them simply be touching them. Sometimes they will even walk right up to the far left side of the screen and actually trap your monster. It's completely unfair as the player has no way to fight back then. The enemy will move away, but it shouldn't happen in the first place.
Then we must consider that the fights just aren't interesting. The game tries to mix it up by the use of weak points on the enemy, but this weak spots are generally large and hard to miss. Then most fights seem to be the same thing of mashing the attack buttons while the enemy comes at you. Like the levels, you'll quickly become bored with it. It's not even possible to avoid these encounters, as the monsters tend to be between your starting point and the exit level.
The game isn't really challenging as such, or at least not in the proper sense. About the only thing during the normal levels that could easily kill off Godzilla would be the heat seekers, which can empty a life gauge quickly if it connects and our Godzilla is not very good at avoiding them. The boss monster fights can be a problem but that's because of their cheap tactic of basically walking into you to hurt you.
The game does last quite a while, partly because there are a lot of planets and level tiles in each planet and in part due to the slow pace. However, that's not automatically a good thing, as much of the game is too samey to appreciate it. Levels and battles at Planet X really aren't much different from those on Earth or Mars. Thankfully for those who are interested in ploughing through the game there is a password system that allows you to resume gameplay later on. Granted the passwords are somewhat unwieldly but it's better than no save system at all.
The game does at least look nice for the most part. There are some things that look pretty poor, like Godzilla's breath attack and Mothra's wing stuff power, but the rest works. The levels are pretty detailed with various objects like mountains and mechanical structures making up the different stages. There's also a variety in the level types. For some odd reason though, the sky of each level shows an image of the planet you're currently on, which makes no sense whatsoever.
The character sprites look great. Although limited by the NES' power, the monster sprites resemble the characters they are meant to be and are animated very well with the varying actions they can perform. There also tends to be a lot happening on screen at times, which is impressive to look at.
Soundwise is a lot more disappointing. The sound track in the game just isn't particularly memorable and the different sound effects are fairly mediocre. No doubt you would not lose anything valuable from the experience simply by muting the game and listening to your favourite tunes.
The plot is quite weak too. Monsters are invading Earth and hail from Planet X. For reasons unknown Godzilla and Mothra decide to help and then travel from planet to planet (it's never explained how they hop between planets but not a lot makes sense here anyway). The whole setup seems like a bunch of nonsense really, even for those days.
Godzilla is a rather poor showing. It's shallow, slow, repetitive and ultimately boring. There's appeal in the idea of causing mass destruction with towering monsters, but the execution of this is just too flawed to draw any real enjoyment from that prospect. This game is best avoided.
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