John Romero's Daikatana

Moby ID: 1678
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Description official descriptions

Hiro Miyamoto is a martial arts instructor and a member of an ancient clan of fighters. One day he learns that Kage Mishima, a sworn enemy of his clan, has gained possession of the Daikatana, a magical sword that allows its bearer to travel through time. As a result of Mishima's quest for power, a devastating disease is threatening humanity. Hiro and his friends must venture into different time periods, retrieve the sword, and defeat Mishima.

Daikatana is a first-person shooter using the Quake II engine. The game is divided into four episodes of several levels each, each episode taking place in a different time period: far-future Japan, ancient Greece, Dark Ages Norway, and near-future USA. The game uses cutscenes and text to tell the story. Two AI-controlled characters accompany Hiro throughout the quest, helping him in battles and also requiring protection. In addition to several different firearms, the Daikatana itself, which the player acquires in Episode 2, can gain experience and grow stronger as it is used. The game includes a multi-player deathmatch mode.

Spellings

  • 大刀 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

165 People (140 developers, 25 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 57% (based on 49 ratings)

Players

Average score: 2.6 out of 5 (based on 83 ratings with 12 reviews)

A deeply troubled effort that hints at greatness

The Good
I like most other people who followed PC gaming at the time was waiting for Daikatana with bated breath. It was to be John Romero's crowning achievement; indeed the misfired media blitz that Eidos launched in which Romero indirectly proclaimed us to all be his 'bitches' smacked of rockstar-esque confidence and bravado. By its release, the media and consumers alike were chomping at the bit to find every single flaw they could find and try and tear Romero's baby (and ego) to pieces; and indeed, they found many flaws. But not all of it is justified, and with the benefit of hindsight perhaps it's time to sit down and take this piece for what it is.

There is a lot to like about Daikatana. The idea of having a squad of sidekicks to accompany you most of the way through the game was new and original among FPSes of the day, and for all the flak they get, I applaud Ion Storm's steadfast insistence on their inclusion. It's one of the many things that sets Daikatana apart from any FPS before and to a degree, since.

People have criticised this game in the past for its use of the Quake 2 engine, which even in the year 2000 was already showing seams, but I really have no complaints about it here. Ion Storm did not just use it stock; volumetric fog, alpha transparency, weather effects, enhanced particles, decals and animated skyboxes have all been integrated seamlessly and make the title much more visually interesting than its Quake 2 engine moniker would have you believe from the outset. Texture detail is low (lower than that of Unreal, which preceded it by two years), but the artwork itself is varied and well enough defined that I have no problem overlooking that.

Daikatana features plenty of variety; the weapons are hugely varied and plentiful, as well as enemies. The stark contrast between the different time periods is fantastic, and the two middle chapters are pulled off beautifully.

Ancient Greece feels fresh, colourful and enchanting. Chopping down spiders and arachnids with your sword is a fun experience the first time around, and some of the decoration is good enough that even in the current day of games, you can still stop and admire the creativity and detail that went into the place. Medieval Norway is a work of frostbitten beauty, and complemented by Will Loconto's soundtrack which sets the scene perfectly. The slow falling of snow, the rolling clouds, frozen rivers and quaint medieval huts all lend to an immersive, almost romantic mood. These are without doubt the best parts of the game, rivaling its competitor of the time, Unreal, for the most beautiful vistas ever experienced in an FPS game.

The weapons, even when you know they're filling bog-standard FPS roles, are all highly creative (albeit grievously unbalanced -- I'll get to that below) and it's obvious that Ion Storm have worked hard to differentiate Daikatana from the average space-marine-killing-aliens-with-a-shotgun mould. The discus of Daedalus in the Greek episode, the shotcycler in the Japan episode and Norway's ballista were all one-of-a-kind implementations of weaponry, and a joy to use.

And finally, it's subtle, but when you're getting around, Daikatana just feels good. From the weapon and view bobbing, footsteps and the sounds as Hiro is running and jumping all over the shop lends a sense of urgency and complement the game's fast pace nicely. The audio is superb; weapons sound meaty and the ambience is of a high standard. (on that note, those who've played Daikatana's far superior sister title Deus Ex, will notice that the two projects actually appear to have borrowed sound assets from each other fairly liberally.)

The Bad
Unfortunately, for all of its great ideas, and despite its insane development cycle, Daikatana still manages to come off as a severely undercooked product. Most obvious, is that the weapons are highly unbalanced. Upon retrieving the game's eponymous sword you'll actually find very little use for any of the other weapons. The developers appear to have tried to compensate for this by making most of the other weapons totally, ridiculously powerful; most of the time that meant for me, I actually had no idea what most of the weapons were like until I decided to pull them out for boss fights, and upon doing so the boss in question was vapourised almost instantaneously. Compounding the problem of the Daikatana itself, is that the sword, as it gains power through the game, starts taking on so many flashy pyrotechnic effects that you literally cannot see where the hell you are going while you are toting it.

The whole presence of your buddies in the game, if a noble concept, is annoying in practice; not just their AI, which has been sufficiently lambasted in numerous other reviews, but also just their general demeanour. Both Mikiko and Superfly come off as thoroughly unlikeable douchebags, and indeed my only motivation to keep them alive at all was the fact that you cannot complete a level without them alive and standing next to you at the exit.

The cutscene dialogue between all characters is hilariously bad and no one has any real backstory asides a totally perfunctory and contrived motivation for wanting to save take over the world. Indeed, the game's evil overlord Mishima seems to have absolutely no reason to enslave the earth except for 'because I can' and Hiro literally takes on the quest to stop him for no reason other than the fact that a random old guy came to his door and asked him to. I'm not expecting Academy Award-winning performances and storyline from an action game, but the cutscenes are generally quite long and I'm left wondering why they even bothered at all if they're not going to explain a bloody thing.

Your AI sidekicks frequently get stuck on corners, ladders, each other and basically anything that is not a straight, empty corridor. To add insult to injury, they've been given just enough character to express annoyance at your babysitting, but not enough brains to take care of themselves.

When Mikiko gets stuck in an infinite loop of her climbing animation at the bottom of a ladder, I have no choice but to displace her myself by shoving her out off of the ladder. "Stop pushing me around!", she says. There is nary a 'thankyou' or 'sorry' to be heard anywhere in the game when you actually try to stick up for your buddies. In fact, there is never any point in which any single character shows any sign of humility, vulnerability or indeed any kind of emotion at all other than tough-guy bravado -- further lending to your dislike of them when you have to leave them for a few minutes while you crawl up a vent to open a door, and the game ends halfway through because they stood stock still while a trio of mosquitoes and frogs nibble at their toes 'till they die. These are by no means isolated incidents and will be the first thing that drives you away from the game.

Another thing is the first and last chapters, which are not only too similar to each other, but also extremely drab and boring to play through, and full of elementary design mistakes. Hunting from level to level for hours on end looking for a keycard or cog to put into a machine is not fun. Walking down the hallway only to have the ground explode under you without warning and throw you into a pit of deadly spikes is not fun. In one of the Norway levels I spent something like three hours searching for a freaking key for a door and it was only after getting bored out of my mind and hitting things randomly with the sword that I found the ice on the surface of a fountain was breakable and the key was hidden in the water that I could continue. Why did the game provide absolutely no clue to this? Why couldn't one of the characters say "Hey Hiro, maybe you can break the ice there?" Why didn't they make the ice transparent or put a crack in it, indicating it could be shattered? These kinds of oversights are glaring, infuriating, and frequent.

The Bottom Line
Overall, this game is a moderately satisfying product, spearheaded by a passionate and visionary face of the gaming industry, that is dogged by a great many problems; to some, those problems will be too severe and too frequent to enjoy the effort that has gone into it. Those of us who are more patient may be able to extract some quality entertainment that is buried beneath its failings. For sure, this game did not live up to the hype surrounding it.

Ultimately I'm convinced that the biggest problem with this game was simply its timing. Released earlier, before 2000, in a world of lower standards, it may have fared better as people could more readily embrace its creative and original and gameplay mechanics. Released later, perhaps folks could glossed over its use of the aging Quake 2 tech that constitutes its base, and enjoyed a highly solid FPS with a unique aesthetic and personality.

As it stands, it's caught in somewhat of a no-man's land, nowhere close to where it needs to be either way, and suffers greatly for it -- ironic, given the game's running theme of time travel. Approach it with an open heart and an open mind, however, and you will find enough meat on this title to keep you satisfied.

Windows · by Ian McLean (10) · 2009

It's not that bad!

The Good
1. Bang for your buck. For $30, we're looking at 16 GIGANTIC levels in four worlds with different styles for each group.

  1. The Discus of Dadelous. It is the coolest weapon since the BFG.

3.Level design. The design is quite good. The way the levels are laid out is excellent.

  1. Multiplayer. The multiplayer levels are some of the best I've ever seen. There unbelievably tight.

  2. Sidekicks. I liked them.

This is an addendum to address something I found a personal attack that made me sick. <<The bovine, mothlike fanboys forcing themselves to love Daikatana are entertaining...in a sad, pathetic sort of way.>> First thing, I am not forcing myself to like Daikatana. I am never affected by hype. My personal opinions are created solely from the game. Secondly, if you find me entertaining, good for you! Just don't share it with everyone, or you come off like a jerk. And also, I have an opinion. Last time I checked, an opinion can't turn you into a moth or a cow. Now, I have a sense of humor, and believe me, this isn't humor.

The Bad
1. The Swamp. So bad it is scary. The epitome of bad level design. They probably hired a second grader for this level.

2.Ultimate Gas Hands-'Nuff Said



The Bottom Line
OK, so it's not the second coming, but it's not as bad as some make it out to be.

Windows · by emerging_lurker (160) · 2000

Hey...it's not THAT bad...

The Good
I'd like to say something to all those people who bash Daikatana because of their personal opinions on the delay of the game..."Get a friggin' life!!!"...I have to admit I was a Daikatana-basher for a short while, but now that I have really gotten into the game I must say that it is pretty fun...

First of all...the game is very diverse...its like you're buying four games instead of one...different eras, weapons, settings and enemies...keeps the game interesting by changing the setting and challenges players to switch strategies as new weapons become avaliable...

Some areas have extremely well crafted levels...thye just make you want to stop and admire the scenery...

The RPG part of the game adds a fresh and interesting perspective to the game...not only can your character level up, so can your sword...this is a refreshing break from the old formula of FPS shooters...

The Bad
The obvious blaring mistake is the AI of your teammates...your two buddies have the combined brainpower of precisely 3.8 braincells...they rush madly into in coming fire, as if they had no understanding of the word subtlety...granted, they extremely accurate, but that doesn't do any good if they just run right into enemies with guns blazing, and turn into swiss cheese with out their accuracy even coming into play...The worst part is that when they die, your game ends...this makes you end up leaving both your people behind while you have to take out everyone...which kinda defeats the purpose of having teammates in the first place...

the second bad part is the sheer amount of killer robots and bats that the game decides to throw at you...wave after wave after wave of frog robots come after you, and after the first few minutes, it kinda gets a little annoying.

The loading time also ruins the gameplay...With a P500, and a Voodoo 3, with 128 ram, I actually made a BLT before the game finished loading...with your teammates dying every so often, playing this game can take a while...sometimes I get so frustrated I want to throw my computer out the window...

While some levels look awesome, some look like some one decided to cut and paste some photographs and put the scene into the game...the scenery takes a lot away from the gameplay and after waiting a huge amount of time for the game to load the crappy scenery that you see make really want to throw your computer out the window...

Some of the weapons eat up ammo at ridiculous rates...the shotcycler basically shoots every round of ammunition you have in all of 3 seconds...super weapons are more of a pest than of help as they basically kill everything, and your teammates seem too stupid to realize that the demon that you have just summoned would like their heads for a snack...but other weapons like the nova beam weapon, the wood frag grenade, discus, and crossbow are good touches...

The Bottom Line
To guys who need to get a life: Give John Romero a break guys...don't criticize the game or him until you try it...if you do, I think you'll find that this game has some real good parts...

To John Romero: Good idea, but I guess it just didn't work as well on the Quake II engine especially the AI...If it had came out when it was supposed to then it would probably have been the best game ever though...

To everyone: if you are an FPS fan, then this game should be somewhere on your list...maybe not the top (thats for Team fortress II, and Tribes II), but it should be there, somewhere between middle and the top...don't listen the losers that decide to criticize John Romero just becuase of the delay (even if it was longer than my goldfish's lifespan...hehe ;-))...try the game and I think you will be pleasantly surprised...

Windows · by MadCat (53) · 2000

[ View all 12 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Should I try it? Unicorn Lynx (181794) Dec 30, 2011
incite PC gaming's Daikatana preview / interview video Foxhack (32104) Aug 19, 2007

Trivia

Advertisement

Long before Daikatana was released, an ad for it was run in several magazines stating "John Romero's Gonna Make You His Bitch." Needless to say this upset quite a few folks.

Daikatana Deathmatch

In April 2007, a fan team released Daikatana Deathmatch (DKDM), a multiplayer-only modification stripping the game from all the single player parts to reduce the file size for players who only want the multiplayer part. It still requires a full copy of the game to play. The link can be found in the related links section.

Development

Daikatana was in development for 3 years, exactly. The reason for the long development cycle was the switch to the Quake II engine. Romero decided to switch because of its colored lighting, among other graphical goodies, but when he finally received the source code, it was nothing like he pictured. Overall the story of the game's development and Ion Storm in general is as epic and profound as anything in the game. Check the related links for The Story of Daikatana.

Dialogue

The characters' sound files used in this game are not encrypted in any way. They're ordinary mp3 files which can be found in the data/sounds/voices folder of the Daikatana directory. There's quite a bit of unused dialogue in there which never made it into the full game. It seems the enemies and the player's two sidekicks were supposed to have more ambient dialogue (e.g. combat taunts, waiting sounds) than what was eventually used.

Dopefish

There are four Dopefish hidden in the game, one per time period.

German Windows version

In the German version enemy blood was colored grey, gore effects were removed and various human enemy modes changed, e.g. into robots or with an added mask to hide their face. A detailed list of changes can be found on schnittberichte.com (German).

Nintendo 64 version

The Nintendo 64 version misses violence in comparison to the original Windows version, e.g. purple instead of red blood. The PAL version was even cut further: the blood was replaced with sparks and civilians are immortal.

References

In the lobby of the Mishima Funeral Home/Crematorium, there's some solemn funeral-type music playing. This is really a slowed down version of the famous e1m1 music from DOOM.

Remix

As the sounds and dialog are not encrypted, one creative mixer was able to rearrange the dialog, add a little fake stuff here and there, add some bump-and-grind music, and came up with a long MP3 that sounds as if the two guys in the game were "engaging" the female sidekick. Computer Gaming World called it "the ONLY redeeming feature of Daikatana".

Sales

Daikatana sold 200,000 copies and had budget of over $10 million.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • April 2001 (Issue #201) – Coaster of the Year
  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 03/2005 - #8 Biggest Disappointment
    • Issue 02/2006 - #7 Hype Disappointment

Information also contributed by Alan Chan, bkaradzic, Kalirion, Kasey Chang, Sciere, WildKard and Zack Green.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Matthew Bailey.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Andrew Hartnett, John Romero, Sciere, Ms. Tea, DreinIX, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, Frank Sapone, aKro.

Game added June 18, 2000. Last modified January 22, 2024.