The year is 2455 AD. Humanity has been devastated by sci-fi-mega-cancer. The survivors grovel at the feet of the almighty Mishima Corporation, the only organisation with the knowledge and resources needed to treat the disease. Everything and everyone belongs to them.
Everything here looks sort of looks like Deus Ex, so it can't be all bad right? The mouths on the characters don't move though. (An Ion Storm game set in a cyberpunk dystopia looks like Deus Ex. Say it ain't so.)
Once upon a time, Toshiro was a wealthy man who dedicated his riches to locating a sword known as... 'za daikatanaahhh'. He went to great lengths to locate the sword and excavate it safely. And then a man named Mishima stole it before he could have a go with it, and that's bad.
Now, here's a question: how would Toshiro know that? There's no way this dude could possibly be aware of the alternate timeline where Mishima didn't steal the sword. By his own admission, Toshiro never even laid eyes on the Daikatana before Mishima stole it. Toshiro is completely outside the Daikatana's influence, so frankly I think he's making shit up.
Hiro is not quite as sceptical of all this as I am, but he is a bit confused about what exactly a swordplay instructor is supposed to do against a time travelling criminal mastermind. No! Hiro! It is your destiny!, Toshiro says. Who didn't see that coming? Daikatana drinking game: take a shot every time somebody mentions the word 'destiny'.
If you think my explanation is long-winded, you shoulder try sitting through the real thing.
There's yet more: Toshiro trained his only daughter in the use of the Daikatana and sent her off alone into Mishima's lair to try and recover it. She didn't return. I'm his second choice because I'm the descendant of the original creator, and that makes this all my fault and it's my destiny to fix it. (*chug*)
Hiro suggests the safer (if equally batty) plan of trying to create a duplicate Daikatana, but Toshiro shoots it down. There's 'no need', he says.
Your daughter is missing - presumed dead - and there is 'no need' to create a magic, time-travelling sword, even though the one guy on Earth who might be able to do it is standing right in front of you. Get lost.
What a relief!
Oh, no, no, hold the celebration and cancel the cake. Hiro survived. And so did Toshiro, actually.
A team of three or more ninjas couldn't take on a pair of unarmed old dudes, from behind, with the element of surprise, in the rain, at night. Some ninjas. I hope they're ashamed of themselves.
Anyway, Toshiro's dying words are a request to Hiro to reclaim the Daikatana, save his daughter and put the world right once again. He pleads with Hiro to use his assassination to his advantage: stash away into Toshiro's coffin when the corpse cleaners scoop him up and use this to sneak into Mishima's heavily guarded lair. Mishima obviously gets every tramp corpse delivered straight to his office (for reasons I don't even want to think about) and once there Hiro can swipe the sword, snag the girl and save the universe.
Can't deny that he's one hell of an optimist, and he definitely knows how to turn lemons and getting killed into delicious 'hide-inside-my-coffin' lemonade.
But let's not forget that changing the past won't save your life. You can't have it both ways, mate. We've established that you're immune to changes in time (because you've... never seen or used the Daikatana... or something), so you're dead and that's final.
This is all getting a bit much for Hiro. He's just looking at the ground and shaking his head from side to side. He does that a lot.
Well, the plan to sneak into the Mishima complex was a complete failure. Hiro's miles away! He's going to climb back up to the road above, wait for the next corpsemobile and... no, we're just going to run forwards and see where this suspiciously open route takes us. At least Hiro's prepared for a fight. Got his armour on and everything. And being a master swordsman, he's sure to have brought his favoured weapon... um, where's your sword, Hiro? You're a swordsman, you fight with a sword, that's what you do. Where is it?
He's got some kind of mechanical glove which emits sparks! A stun glove? I bet it does all kinds of cool hydraulic stuff and only slightly breaks the wielder's wrist whenever it's used.
Well, let's carry on. There's no problem travelling through the neat, real-time conical light beams of the drones. I thought they were security devices, but I guess they can't see me here. Sneaky-sneaky.
Oh hey, a gun! Hiro's all about the guns, right? This gun is called the Ion Blaster and it fires bolts of green cracklepower that can ricochet off solid surfaces. Just the thing to use in a craggy outdoor environment filled with irregular rocky walls!
This level is actually kind of pretty, if you're able to stand the green glare. Very dark though. I'm going to have to go into the options and change the intensity settings to see where I'm going.
Ow, the water hurts! Stay out of the glowing water, Hiro! Wait a second, it's not the water, something is attacking me! It sounds sort of mechanical and I think it's jumping at me, spitting bright green (SHOCKO) bits of acid at me! Let's try and get a closer look at one of these devils.
Christ, they're hard to hit. Stay still you punks and take your ions like a man! My shots keep bouncing off the walls and hitting me in the face. They'd laugh at me if they weren't frogs.
Poisoned! Geez! Alright Hiro, I hope you had the foresight to pack some Antidotes with you, or could be Game Over right here. Oh, it just wears off. Huh.
Before long, I'm running seriously low on both health and ammo. I haven't found any copies of the Ion Blaster around here and I can't harvest organs from the cyber frogs to charge up my gun. I would have been mega stuffed if I didn't pick up that one very easily missable gun in the starting area.
Splat. I'm dead. I keep getting killed by things hiding in the dark! I suppose I should be relying more on my other senses, I can hear the cybernetic frogs from far away thanks to their super loud whining motors, and the mosquitoes have the one NNNURRR sound effect that they all share and play at the same pitch all at once. It makes it hard to tell the direction the flying buggers are coming from. They're massive, but that isn't making them any easier to hit.
Back to the start of the level, I guess. Daikatana has a limited save system: you can save anywhere you want, but it takes up a Save Gem item and you only find these in secret areas. This was made optional in a later patch, but I'm playing classic style Daikatana because I'm unstoppable. (It took me a while to find a version of Daikatana that had saves that worked at all and didn't crash when transitioning between zones. I don't want to mess with it!)
Hey, I reappeared at the last loading barrier. That's fair enough, right?
My first health pack, finally! Wait - who's been leaving this stuff lying around? There's Ion Blaster cells, medkits and suits of armor just lying around behind waterfalls, down holes and at the end of caves. Why would these things just be lying around? Ohhhh... must be time travel. Clever. Thanks, Future Hiro. Though if Future Hiro has the ability to travel through time and has powerups to spare, maybe he could gimme a radio and shoot me down a couple of things when I need them.
Blerk, dead again. I would have a lot less trouble if I could see what was freakin' attacking me! I'm resorting to using the Ion Blaster's bolts as a light source to find my way. The water is opaque and there's a thousand frogs hiding in every puddle.
The ambient electronic music is alright, even if it does sound like it was made in half an hour by dragging a few synth loops together. It's nice to have something to listen to at all, and it makes the levels seem more complete as it continues playing through the loading screens. And boy are there ever a lot of those.
The next area seems full of tons of other scary, dangerous things that I can't see. I could try to take them out carefully, but there's no way to know if I've got them all. They might even be respawning from a nearby robo-frog factory. I'm gonna run for it! They're all just dumb animals, they're no match for the mighty agility of Hiro Miyamoto, master swordsguy!
The drones are as oblivious to me as they were in the first area. I could shoot them, but that'd only draw their attention. What do they do? Are they even armed?
Seems like there's a forcefield blocking the way inside. From this side of the bridge, I can't see anything to shoot that will lower it. Maybe my useless stun glove will be able to overload it if I can make it over there... let's give it a shot!
Argh! The bridge is collapsing underneath me! SPLAT! There goes 40HP. SPLAT! Hiro was eaten by an invisible alligator and gibbed. The end.
You know what I wrote above about the saving at loading barriers being fair enough? Guess what I just did. I managed to run through a loading barrier (unmarked as they all are) with 3 HP. While poisoned. Hooray. And sure enough, when I reappeared, Hiro died of poison... and it gibbed him. He just exploded, and his head began flying around the level on the game over screen, bouncing off all the walls and leaving bloody trails everywhere.
So, equipped with the knowledge that I have to run directly across the bridge or suffer a massive chunk of impact damage, and that to survive the poison I need to run to the health crates that are just ahead, I think I can make it to the other side! ...There!
Uh oh! I set off something... the air is filling with mosquitoes! They're more interested in flying in formation than they are in attacking me, which is weird. I can shoot them out of the sky, but there's something else here... Uh oh again! Mega mosquito dragon thing! Time for your first BOSS BATTLE, Miyamoto!
This ain't half bad as a boss. I don't know if I'm actually doing any damage to the main monster or not, but I'm taking out his smaller, regular enemy chums just fine. Having to aim nearly directly up most of the time is a change from bosses that are fought at a long horizontal distance like in Doom or Duke. Though, come to think of it it's possible that I'm supposed to be on the other side of the broken bridge at this point and I've made stuff happen a little out of order by making it across the bridge as it collapsed.
SPLAT, I'M DEAD. "Hiro Miyamoto failed at life." says the game. And that he did, exploding spontaneously. What the heck happened?
Oh, darn it. I forgot about the forcefield door and backed right into it while fighting the boss. Super smart. Back to the checkpoint I go! Don't forget you've got zilch health and about three seconds left to live!
Next attempt, I completely ran out of ammo. There's none to be found anywhere and triggering the boss locks the door leading back into the level. Argh, fly your scaly ass down here so I can give it a taste of my Power Glove!
Dead. Try again. I'm rather glad that there's a save point immediately before this. Not so chuffed about the poison thing.
Phew, that was close. I've defeated the mosquito dragon and my reward is a Zelda-like series of chimes: I've revealed a secret! And the dragon has exploded and turned into a shield powerup! Which landed on one of the bloody pillars so I can't reach it. Thanks.
Now to open the forcefield door. Uh... how do I do that? There's no switch or box or anything that I can see. Does it only open when I've picked up my reward? Umm...
I've been walking past little tiny trees this whole time. I looked them up on the internet to see if I could use them for something. Turns out you can eat the fruit from them. Each tree has 50 units of health on it! I had no idea!
You've got to execute some nifty platforming to reach the gizmo you have to blow up to open this door. Hope you've still got enough ion cells left, because I can tell you that attacking it head-on using the Glove is a terrible plan.
"Whoa, what was that all about?"
And it's time for a Quake-style end of level tally! It wasn't very clear that it was the end of the level, so if I wanted to go back and kill more frogs to make sure I had all the experience points, that's just tough luck.
Did I mention that? You have character stats in Daikatana, and get experience points for killing enemies! It must be some feeble amount though, because I think I deserve a level up for finally killing that damned flying boss.
Even fewer ammo pickups in here than the swamp level, but just as many freakin' mosquitoes and frogs. Where are all these things coming from?
I'd like to use my super-glove more to conserve ammo, but it has really awkward attack timing and I'm not convinced it does much damage. (Except to myself, of course.)
Hey, there's some technicians in the next room. Maybe somebody can finally tell me what's going on around here...
Oh, there was a single cyber frog in here, no wonder they were scared! I can understand that there might be cyber frogs outside if you really wanted to disguise your security system as native wildlife, but we're indoors now. Why would you want frogs here? Why not robots or men or something? Does the frog outrank the men? Is it their boss?
So... what do I do now? I have to press the use key on the computer? What happened to blowing stuff up? Up until now, we were in a generally mischievous kind of mood where we blew up every power box we could find in order to advance, but now we're using unmarked consoles to open doors? Alright, but make it more obvious in future, will you?
These levels are unusually long. Each level is made up of four or five sections separated by loading screens, and each section is about the size of the first level of Quake.
It stomps up to me and I boogie on backwards through a door. The robot tries to follow me and gets hopelessly stuck. It jiggles on the spot and starts to spin rapidly. It's anti-climatic and, if I'm honest, a little pathetic.
Ding! Blowing up the robot earned me a stat increase! I can choose from POWER (attack strength), ATTACK (firing speed), SPEED (running speed), ACRO (jump height) and VITALITY (max health).
I'll take a SPEED please, Bob!
The swimming aside, these are the best kind of video game sewers: plenty of large rooms with crazy stairs running up the walls, and ledges leading to ledges leading to plenty of Save Gems. A more refined version of what I found in The Terminator: Future Shock. A little less ammo than I'd like given the number of enemies there are and the amount of shots it takes to kill them, but it is just a sewer.
I found another seemingly easily missable gun on my way here: a proximity grenade launcher. A strange thing to find in a sewer, but Hiro seems to know his way around it. Like the Ion Blaster, it's both difficult to use and incredibly easy to hurt yourself with it.
I actually liked this area. There always seemed to be a tiny bag of ammo placed half way through a conga-line of enemies, so if I could defeat the first few I'd be refreshed enough to take on the remaining enemies, and so on. I might have just been lucky in using a Save Gem just before I entered the tunnel. The game seems to automatically seal doors behind you as you go, which hurts when you see two identical routes in front of you and don't know which one leads to the killer robots and which one leads to the Save Gem and pile of Ion Blaster charges.
Hiro has the horrible realisation that the place where Toshiro's daughter is being held... is like a prison! He's sharp.
"Somebody call for backup!"
Huh? Who said that? Could it have been... HUMAN ENEMIES?!
Even though regular blokes can't fly, cant poison you and don't bite your legs off, you can't get complacent here. These guys have got real guns and they know how to use them. And they don't drop them. Or ammo. Nnnngh.
This is how it's supposed to work.
Turns out I had to shoot a ridiculously tiny spinny object that was hidden inside a hidden passage within another hidden passage. Yikes.
Now I'm completely bloody lost!
They really don't seem too happy about this.
It's nice that the guards have voices and occasionally talk to each other, but they really should have recorded more than the one line and not given it to every single guard. I've had groups of guards run up to me waving their guns about, all announcing in unison that they're sick of guarding the sector.
On the wall just to the right of here is a damaged power unit you have to shoot to cause a malfunctioning door to get stuck open. First time I tried it: blew myself up. Second time I tried it: killed myself with a reflected Ion bolt. Third time I tried it: I was decapitated by a piece of debris coming from the box because I was standing in the wrong place.
For flip's sake.
This stupid robot is flummoxed by this pane of unbreakable glass between us. There's a wide open passage to my left, but the robot just can't see it. A couple of Ion Blasts through the doorway and reflected off the far walls, and the robot is a smoking wreck.
I'm also finding uses for the proximity grenade launcher. Every time I open a door, I know there's going to be crowd of enemies immediately behind it. That's just how Daikatana is. Lucky for me, the levels are usually comprised of a number of small areas connected together by vertical and horizontal lifts, which makes setting up traps with the proximity launcher easy and fun!
I can't imagine that John Romero would have intentionally designed the game around finding novel uses for obtuse guns, but that's how it's turned out. I think I would have preferred it if they'd gone even further with them; given me a harpoon gun that lets me rope things, a gun that makes loud ricochet sound effects on impact, stuff like that.
There's massive cylindrical vats, prison cells in odd corridors, ladders and ledges that simply aren't traversable, and men performing surgical experiments on conscious subjects in the middle of storerooms.
I've found my third gun. It's a six-round automatic shotgun that empties the entire magazine when you pull the trigger. Nice, if there wasn't such a delay between rounds, or if the shots had any kind of effect on the enemies. This one's going to be a little more difficult to find a use for.
It feels like I've been running around this prison for hours! I'm bored! Where's the girl already? Where's the sword? Why would the sword be anywhere near a prison?
Oh, it's just a guy in a torture device attached to the ceiling. He seems pretty calm given the situation. He doesn't sound any worse for wear for having been held inside a torture device upside-down for what must have been days.
He gives me direct and clear instructions to find a spare keycard hidden behind a Mishima Corp. logo, and I get lost and spend half an hour blasting every single Mishima logo in the level looking for it. I even find a completely unrelated secret area hidden behind a different logo before I find out that the correct one was jut down the hall from the guy. Whups.
I get the card, hit the switch and he's lowered to the ground. He's Superfly Johnson and he's got a score to settle with Mishima. I'm Hiro Miyamoto and I haven't the
With the rules established and my new buddy by my side, we go on to Adventure!
Except not, because the fucking door to the next level didn't fucking open. Nor did it open the next time I tried. And then I re-loaded and backtracked, looking for the correct way forward, knowing that this would overwrite my previous autosave. Nothing happened. I can't continue.
I drum my fingers on the desk obnoxiously for a minute or so, staring at the screen and listening to the rain outside. And then I uninstall the game.
I've been trying desperately to think of something nice to say about the Daikatana, or even anything at all. It's just... unpleasant.
Daikatana made me sad. It upset me while I was playing it, and it continued to make me sad after I stopped playing it. It's a bizarre and crooked game. It barely functions as a piece of software. It resists all attempts to enjoy it; it simply does not want to be played.
Daikatana isn't a very pleasant experience for the first time player: every weapon, level and enemy is engineered to spring up into the player's face and immediately challenge them in every way. There's no learning curve: you either get it right or you're dead. Repeat players can learn all the enemies' tricks and be familiar with how the weapon and level gimmicks work and how they're supposed to be used. I don't think the game was intended to be a trial and error experience. When you finally figure out enough of the game to beat a room in a way you're happy with, the game follows it up with some inane, unpredictable crap that feels completely unfair and forces you to reload to an earlier save that you no doubt made hours ago.
It's not a fast paced shooter and it's not a crafty puzzle game. It doesn't really feel coherently designed at all, which isn't bad in itself as I don't tend to like obviously scripted games, but there's just a whole load of jumbled 'stuff' here and it doesn't make sense. It also doesn't seem finished, like not being able to interact with the technicians, and the awkward inventory item and RPG stat interface.
I appreciated the game more and more each time I replayed it. Since I knew that recklessness would simply get me overwhelmed and killed in seconds, I was forced to put some thought into my actions and knowing what was in each new room let me plan ahead. Having to repeat the same level multiple times just to leave with enough health and ammo to survive the next lop-sided encounter was frustrating and made me wish there was a level select option.
Maybe there's an incredible experience waiting for me in the later episodes once I've claimed the titular Daikatana, but there's no way the game would let me see it without a hell of a fight. Would it be worth it? I seriously doubt it.
If you're (un)fortunate enough to own Daikatana, why not share your experiences with other readers in the form of a finely crafted comment?
I'm taking a short break from Super Adventures for a while. Ray Hardgrit and my fellow Guest Posters will continue to entertain and amaze you with more incredible pictures of cool looking games, while you endure less rambling nonsense about ugly 3D first person shooters. If you need my assistance, you can raise the cat signal by leaving a comment below!
Thank you for reading!