Kaiju Video Games: Big Creatures in a Small City – The Best Examples of a Niche Genre
Big monsters kicking seven shades of weird out of equally sized adversaries. It has been the ideology for many films and more recently video games. The Japanese word Kaiju means ‘Strange Creature’, though these days the word has been slightly bastardised and re-appropriated to mean ‘Giant Monster’. Though this word will mean little to nothing to the majority, it’s actually quite a common thing in both the Asian cinema market and also Hollywood. Godzilla, Cloverfield, King Kong all examples of Kaiju films in Hollywood, in Japan series like Ultraman and Power Rangers as well as the obvious 60-year-old Godzilla series are all original and classic examples. Recently Pacific Rim taught a whole new crowd of the concept of Kaiju and the joy of big things falling over or getting ripped apart. The gaming world has been borrowing the ideology of Kaiju for the past 30 years to varying degrees of success. The following are the best of the best examples of Kaiju video games; monsters, punching and cities being levelled, there’s nothing not to love about these games:
King of Monsters 1 & 2
This is what Kaiju was all about to me for a number of years, no logic, no rhyme and no reason, monsters just didn’t like the look of each other so they just started throwing down in cities. This is reminiscent of the wrestling troupe Kaiju Big Battel. Yourself and a friend/enemy can go toe to claw with various big creatures in a no holds barred wrestling match in the city of your choosing. The fights are over the top and the monsters are familiar but just off copyright infringement. The second game in the series jumped slightly to be a side scrolling brawler but still maintained its fun, it also gave boss fights in a similar wrestling style to the first. The arcade original is the best version so if you have that wonderful moral grey area when it comes to emulation, then that is a must, avoid the Megadrive/Genesis version though.
A giant lizard, a giant wolf and a giant ape all walk into a city and….and….I just remember the punchline is ‘I don’t think the pope wears orange’. Rampage was an arcade and home console hit in the early 90’s features a baffling story. Basically 3 people were, due to various outside influences, turned into giant angry creatures that rather than rocking the Kaiju ‘Good guys Vs Bad guys’ approach just tasks the players, which you were allowed up to three at once, with beating up buildings.
The aim is simple, in this pixel 2D city you must climb a building whilst at the same time putting your fist in the walls like a kid rage quitting Call of Duty. Once a building has taken enough hard knocks to be on par with Annie it will collapse to a satisfying pile of rubble. Unfortunately, like in real life, the army isn’t happy with giant creatures destroying buildings and come a’knocking. With your 10ft fists you can destroy tanks and soldiers with ease, but get too swarmed and your Kaiju avatar shrinks back down to a naked human that awkwardly shuffles away. The game was interesting for not only it’s awesome co-op experience, but also it tread that great line between puzzle game and action game. There was no fighting other monsters, it was just for the joy of breaking someone’s home down to just a pile of bricks.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters
King of Monsters gave the kaiju gamers from outside of Japan what they wanted, the fun parts of the Toho Studio films without the crappy acting, but it is old now, and a little bit ropey to put it politely. Then the Gamecube came along and showed us that a mini-CD is a viable option in gaming, for a bit. Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters was a beat-em-up with style and history. The game featured Kaiju from all ages of the Godzilla and Toho Studios back-catalogue, the sequel Godzilla: Save The Earth featured even more but wasn’t all that. Gozilla: Destroy All Monsters had the player get all up in the grill of such enemies as King Ghidora, Megalon and Orga, as well as a few variations of Godzilla. Out on Xbox and Gamecube the game sold relatively well and got high scores from critics but a planned PS2 version was cancelled. An update on the Godzilla fighter would be perfect right now, with better designed cities to throw Rodan through and cleaner graphics and gameplay the game could do wonders for a brand left so damaged outside Japan by Matthew Broderick, who as I like to remind people, killed someone in Ireland.
Black and White 1 & 2
I appreciate this is slightly left field this offering, but when stomping over that left field is a giant lion, giant ape and a giant cow you kind of have to sit up and listen. Black and White was a game that came out to the usual fanfare and over-hyping under-delivering you would expect from one of the greatest game designers in the world, Peter “plant an acorn” Molyneux. Black and White saw you play as God (capital G), and on earth, to scare and deal with your followers you needed an avatar of sorts, so you picked out a mammal from a line up and went to work. Work mainly involved slapping your monkey, not an euphemism, until it became bad-ass and then sent it to terrorize villages and villagers who didn’t agree with your religious beliefs.
Earth Defence Force
The Earth Defence Force series is a wonderfully underrated and at the same time overrated series. When you first put in a disc for EDF you’ll be greeted by bland graphics, slightly off controls, a UI that is dated even by 16-bit standards but also some of the most fun gameplay you can have on a home console. The game sees you as a soldier, in a class of your own choose, think Star Wars Battlefront, taking on the scourge of outer-space in the inner-city. You, a lone soldier must take your M4 or Rocketlauncher and take down wave after wave of insects, monsters and giant robots. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you then you are dead to me and must give back that P!nk CD I bought you for Christmas.
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