For pretty much the entire history of gaming, there’s been an appetite for games based on films, books, TV shows and comics. For example – and these are by no […]
For pretty much the entire history of gaming, there’s been an appetite for games based on films, books, TV shows and comics. For example – and these are by no means the earliest licensed games – the Atari 2600 played host to games based on ET, Indiana Jones. Spider-Man and more.
Though – due to the technological capabilities of the console – these were often basic games which struggled to replicate the characters and situations seen in their movie, comic book or TV counterparts, they did at least try to represent the property in a way that made sense.
As technology improved, so too did the appearance and complexity of games in general, which assisted greatly with being able to recognise scenes and characters in-game. Though there were often embellishments to ensure the gameyness (shhh, that’s definitely a real word) of the finished product, developers did strive to keep the spirit of the original property alive.
Jumping forward to the 16-bit era for a further example, Super Star Wars is a game positively dripping with Star Wars ambience – from the opening text crawl to the faithfully recreated sound effects and environments – but it does feature a number of scenes that weren’t just absent from the movie – they wouldn’t have happened at all. Right from the beginning, too – we have Luke traversing the seemingly lethal Tatooine landscape on foot, being attacked by all manner of creatures including the mentioned-in-film-but-never-seen Womprat and the first visualisation of a Sarlacc emerging from the sand; the Sarlacc, of course, being mostly just a pit with teeth and tentacles in its only on-screen appearance (in 1983’s Return of the Jedi). Nonetheless, whether its due to the sound effects, music or character design and animation in general, Super Star Wars always feels like it belongs in the universe. It’s undoubtedly a Star Wars game.
Which brings us to the subject of this article: Godzilla. Having appeared in games a number of times, the eponymous giant monster should be a no-brainer when it comes to video games, but for whatever reason, has never truly had a game that’s done the big, angry kaiju justice. There have been a number of near misses and laudable attempts; just nothing that’s quite reached the heights of a truly great game.
The Game Boy version of Godzilla certainly looks the part, at least on the front of the box. Even the description of the game – concerned, as it is, with Godzilla’s son having been captured by various monsters, seems initially to be reasonably close in subject matter to what you’d expect from a Godzilla game (it’s almost there, at least). It’s when you start to get to the details of that plot and the execution of the game itself, which is a very peculiar, cutesy puzzle platformer.
Yes, you read that right:
Not the first, second or third genre you’d associate Godzilla with. Admittedly, probably not the last – I’m sure Super Godzilla Kart would be an even more bizarre implementation of the license, but thankfully that doesn’t exist.
So Godzilla sets out to rescue his son by…making his way through a maze and punching boulders against walls. You think it sounds weird just to read that? Try playing it. There’s absolutely zero sense that this started life as a Godzilla game; my thought on this is that the game was already in development and had the Godzilla name slapped onto it to secure sales. I really struggle to find any other explanation for how or why this exists.
Back when I first got my hands on the game, it was many, many years after it had been published – it was first released in 1990, and I happened to come into possession of a copy in early ’98. I bought mine from Electronics Boutique – a retailer that no longer exists. They had an astonishingly generous returns policy – any game purchased from them could be returned within 7 days for a full refund, no questions asked. The only time I ever took advantage of that overly generous policy was with Game Boy Godzilla.
Perhaps it’s not, strictly, a bad game. It’s competent enough for its genre and the game itself is a good fit for the Game Boy. It’s just not, in any way, shape or form, a game that feels like Godzilla.
Godzilla’s entire schtick is being absolutely massive and smashing stuff to bits. Preferably other monsters, within the surroundings of a city – in order to cause maximum destruction and carnage for the purposes of spectacle on an enormous scale. Here, he’s reduced to a tiny sprite making his way through a maze, in a style that wouldn’t seem out of place if it was, for example, a Bubble Bobble sequel or something along those lines.
Though Godzilla games before – and since – have been unsatisfying and not quite right in a variety of ways, none have come close to the sheer oddness of the Game Boy’s Godzilla. There are examples of licensed games that are worse, of course (has any licensed game ever been as bad as Superman 64, for example?).
I struggle to think of a licensed property that’s been handled in such a cack-handedly off-brand manner, however; the weirdest thing in this instance being that Toho, the production company who have made the Japanese Godzilla movies from the very beginning of the franchise in the mid-50s, were actually involved in publishing this game. At least Superman 64, for all its faults (and they are many), featured a flying character who looked like Superman.
If you can think of any examples of games that have completely botched their potential in terms of the property they’re based on, I’m all ears. All I ask is that you spare a thought for the poor kids who would have asked for this – ahem – monstrosity for Christmas back in the early 90s, expecting to be involved in skyscraper-sized destruction on their Game Boy, only to be presented with this cute, basic puzzle platformer – a bizarre excuse for a Godzilla game.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this – or any of my other content – it’d be much appreciated if you’re able to share this article via social media. I’d also be forever grateful if you’re able to support me via: Ko-Fi.com/geekmid – which would assist me in writing even more content just like this. Above all else though, thanks for reading – I truly appreciate it!