Friday, July 19, 2013

Forgotten Gems: Godzilla, Monster of Monsters

If you've been following my blog, you might have figured out by now, via my site logo, and various graphics employed on the Twitter and Tumblr pages, etc., that I'm a pretty big Godzilla fan. In fact I pretty much decided from the moment that I began Retro Revelations, that Godzilla was going to be the unofficial mascot. When I created the logo banner graphic, I did so with several thoughts in mind. The foremost among them, was that having a depiction from a video game would help convey my love for video games, Godzilla, and film in general, as well as helping to convey what this blog site is all about: All things Retro and Classic. Plus I felt that utilizing that particular pic, which is actually from the ending of the game I'm about to talk about, was especially poignant, because the blog slogan is "Revisiting the Past, One Blog at a Time", and I felt the image of Godzilla and Mothra looking at the Earth from the Moon, was especially evocative and kind of helped drive that home. So there ya go, a free peak into the creation of this site!

I grew up loving Godzilla, and while I have yet to get around to writing about the classic movies I love so much, trust me, it's going to happen.  I do not clearly remember which Godzilla film I saw first, as I grew up in a (better) era of television, when local stations would often show old monster movies late at night. But the first G-film I do clearly remember, is the first one I ever got on VHS tape. It may well have been the first VHS tape of my childhood that was actually "mine", and not just the family's. That movie was "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" (1966), which is still my second favorite Godzilla movie to this day. My first, of course, being likely the second movie I ever got on VHS, "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero" (1965). Regardless, from at least the age of 8 or so, I was a Godzilla fanatic as a child. In fact it sucks that there were several Godzilla/Toho films I didn't get to see as a kid, because they were never on TV or I never saw them on tape, that I wish I could have just because I would have enjoyed them so much more as a child, when everything generally felt more awesome. You know, before we all grow up and die a little inside. But sufficed to say, being a kid obsessed with both Godzilla, and Nintendo, discovering there was a Godzilla NES game was bound to lead to love at first sight.

Straight out of my childhood.

The game in question is "Godzilla: Monster of Monsters" for the NES. It was actually published by Toho, the studio who created Godzilla and produced his films. It was developed by a little known (now defunct) studio known as Compile, mainly known for their classic shoot 'em up games such as Aleste, Gun-Nac, Blazing Lasers, and The Guardian Legend. But with this game, they took a crack at the side-scrolling action game, and it certainly is a unique take on the genre. As an adult, I have heard many negative things said about this game, and to be fair, it's not the greatest game I've ever played. But to also be fair, for what it is it's also pretty solid, and doesn't deserve some of the shit that the internet retro gaming community has heaped upon it. As you can see in the pic above, in the game you travel to different planets, trying to stop the forces of Planet X, and each world map is depicted as a kind of chess board, with hexagonal spaces. In a way, the game plays out, at least on the surface, similar to a turn-based strategy game, as both monsters you control (Godzilla and Mothra) get a turn to move on the board, and then the enemy monsters also get a turn. Though that's about as far as that goes, as there is literally no other real strategy to the board, you simply have to move across it, defeat the enemy monsters, and take out the enemy base on each planet (the space with the satellite dish thingy). 

Yup. That's a slack-jawed space dragon.

Each space on the board that you move to, represents a short side-scrolling level that you must play through as either Godzilla, who can move two spaces per turn, or Mothra, who can move four. Godzilla is stronger, with punches, kicks, a tail whip, and of course his "destroys everything" thermo-nuclear breath. But Mothra is faster, can fly, and attacks with eye beams and "poison wing dust". Basically, it's a lot easier getting through shit as Godzilla because he's a living wrecking machine, but Mothra is able to fly over many of the ground enemies, so it is technically possible to get through some stages faster with her. Once you reach a space on the map next to an enemy monster, or they move next to you, it initiates a more fighting game style one-on-one battle. For each monster you defeat, your power and life bars upgrade a bit. After you defeat the monsters, and take out the enemy base, which consists of just getting to the end of that stage, you have beaten that world, and move on to the next. One of the knocks on this game is that it's too repetitive, and I'll grant that it really is. There is a bit of variety to the stages, with moon levels, weird alien jungle levels, firey volcano levels, strange subspace levels, and of course the robotic enemy base stages. But that's about it, and they all pretty much play out the same, move left to right, destroy enemies, get to end of stage, move on to the next. So in that sense, for that part of the gameplay I can see how some could get turned off by it. But as a kid, I didn't give a single shit. This was GODZILLA, on NINTENDO, and I actually received it as a gift for my (if I remember correctly) 9th birthday, along with several other games such as Loopz and Spy vs. Spy. But Godzilla was the one I cared about, naturally.

Godzilla vs. his greatest foe, King Ghidora.

After apparently traveling throughout the solar system or at least some of their moons, the final destination is Planet X. In the film "Invasion of the Astro Monster" (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero), the only Godzilla film to actually feature him going into space (and in my mind the best Godzilla film ever made), Planet X is depicted as a small, barren, rocky planet. But in the game, it's depicted kind of like the Death Star from Star Wars, as every stage on the board is now an "enemy base" stage, complete with non-stop guns and missiles and ships firing at you from above that you must trudge through. It's worth noting, for fellow Godzilla fans out there who would know what the hell I'm talking about, that while the game does feature several generic enemies, such as that goofy space dragon and fiery phoenix bird in that screenshot further up, many enemies from the game are also taken from other Godzilla/Toho films. Some of these include the Moonlight SY-3 ship from "Destroy All Monsters" (1968), the Gotengo ship from "Atragon" (1963), the Super X ship from "Return of Godzilla" (1984), and Planet X flying saucers from "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero". There were also generic missile launchers and electric "Masers", etc., featured in various classic Godzilla films.

On Planet X, as with the previous worlds, you have to face all the monsters you previously faced, plus of course the game's final boss, King Ghidorah, who also naturally happens to be the hardest monster in the game. If you can manage to take his three-headed ass out, and destroy the final enemy base, you have saved the Earth, send the Planet Xians packing out into space exile, and get to enjoy the end credits. One thing that has to be said about this game, is that while the gameplay is "so-so", and the graphics are decent, the one area that really shines, is the music. "Godzilla: Monster of Monsters" features one of the best NES soundtracks I've ever heard in my life, I mean the tunes in this game genuinely rock. Every planet has it's own tune, as does every monster (with the exception of Moguera and Baragon sharing a tune). The ending/end credits theme, is honestly up there with the Super Mario Bros. 2 end credits theme as one of the coolest and most satisfying "I just beat the game" songs I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. And similarly, it's very soft and somber, kind of a nice closer to the game.

If you've never played "Godzilla: Monster of Monsters", while it's not the BEST game in the universe, if you're a Godzilla fan, merely curious, or just want to enjoy some great "chip tunes", I highly suggest checking this game out. It brought me a lot of great memories (and a few frustrating game deaths) from my childhood, and I still to this day consider it a "classic" in it's own right. Cheers!

Look familiar?

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