The legendary Daikatana was the pet project of developer John Romero who also had a hand in making Doom, a game which took PC gaming to new heights of popularity, violence and gameplay. Daikatana for PC is also a first person shooter, but we’re here to talk about the Game Boy color version. Released in the year 2000, this version is a top down adventure game similar to the old school Zelda franchise. Each room consists of a single screen. When you touch the edge of the screen, it pans the direction you are going to the next screen.
You begin as Hiro, a swordsman in the future. You soon meet your two allies, Superfly Johnson and Mikiko. Then you’ll travel back through time into ancient Greece (or Rome), before visiting a medieval village stricken by the plague. In the end, you return to the future. Once you’ve rescued your allies, you get to play as them in designated sections. They have no special abilities, in fact they only limit the weapons you can use. Unlike the PC version of the game, you keep your arsenal from era to era, gathering new weapons as you go along.
There is an emphasis on combat and traversal. You start with a sword and get plenty of other weapons broken into two categories. Melee and ranged. Sadly, you can only have one weapon equipped at a time, because the other is designated for the jump button that lets you jump over short gaps and get onto slightly higher platforms. You can move and jump diagonally, but the game never forces you to do that. Having only one weapon felt tedious having to visit the menu by pressing select, then choosing the weapon and getting back to the action. Then having to get back to the menu in order to equip the previous weapon again. The jump button could have been designated to be a selectable item like the Zelda franchise.
Daikatana on Game Boy Color has maps broken into chapters or sections. When you’re completed a chapter, you won’t ever return and its on to the next. There are still things to find, but these things all feel mandatory. You’ll need a key card to open a door. You’ll need to hit a switch to open the door in another room. It all feels contained and bite sized. There are plenty of times that you’ll need to find three of an item to proceed. The maps get bigger and you’ll be able to get lost in a few of them, but the game is good about keeping these chapters short and sweet.
There are speedy traditional swords that feel effective to quickly kill foes. Other melee weapons have practical uses, such as slow hammer to bash rocks. Each of the ranged weapons need ammo that you’ll find laying around here and there. To name a few ranged weapons, you have a standard laser, a bigger laser that goes through objects, a trident with bouncing lighting volts, a crossbow with explosive arrows, a very quick pistol, and a disc that returns to you. There is also a short range grenade to throw. For the most part these weapons feel similar and I stick to my sword, even if I run the risk of bumping into an enemy.
Its not just all combat, there are some puzzles here and there. Hitting switches in a certain order. Moving things around to find your way through or on top of something. The puzzles are still mandatory and you’ll never find something out of the way when you do them. One of the later puzzles has you rotating four dragons around and knowing how they should each be placed to open four different doors in the level. That turns into a long affair of doing the same multiple map puzzle across an entire section four times assuming you get it right. There is nothing too difficult with the puzzles and they do break up the combat. The difficult part is finding the items needed to proceed through an area, while competing against respawning enemies and limited ammunition. Enemies do not drop health or ammunition.
In terms of enemies there is a wide variety of common enemies, bigger uncommon enemies and bosses that the trick is just spam them for the win. There are no patterns you’ll have to remember or special weapons you’ll need. Just kill them quick before you run out of health! Speaking of health, it comes in pill form. Yellow, green, red and blue, they all heal different amounts and you’ll find them scattered throughout the game. As you progress through the game, your maximum health will be upgraded. Daikatana lets you save whenever you want, so if you have low health and low ammo, then save you may have just painted yourself into a corner. Use the three save slots to keep more than one save going.
The enemies get put into tricky positions. Like you’re limited to a small walkway that you can fall off and get hurt. So you’re restricted. Other times, you and or the enemies are on conveyer belts forced to fight. It adds some nice diversity to what you’ll need to do. The weapon diversity helps to keep it fresh, but enemies each have plenty of health so you might run out of ammunition. Melee weapons have knock back so you can pin an enemy against a wall and mash the attack button.
Between the action, you’ll see some of the longest cut scenes that the Game Boy has to offer. Some of these are staggering in length with plenty of dialog. They just feel unnecessary and far too long, but I feel like they do a far better job of explaining Daikatana’s story than the PC ever did. Maybe that’s because the Game Boy version is between two and four hours long while the PC version is much longer.
While I feel this is a good game, it could be better. There are flaws that stand out on my third play through that hamper the fun. Its the perfect length that didn’t need to be any longer than it is. It is more palatable to a mainstream audience than the PC version and it is worth a play through once you get tired of old school Zelda.