Godzilla: Save the Earth


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 6

Overall: 6

Two years after Pipeworks found success with "Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee," they have decided to forego the system that launched the series, Nintendo's Gamecube, to distribute the sequel on the Playstation 2 instead. "Save the Earth" suffers from a wealth of rookie mistakes, many of which would have been acceptable for an initial title in a series. The problem is that it's not, and with a rather long development cycle, most of it is inexcusable.

Once again, the Vortaaks have declared war on Earth. This time they at least have a purpose. In search of Godzilla's precious DNA, the aliens begin to cause havoc across the planet using the best weapon available: Japanese giant monsters. If you're going to invade a planet, might as well do it in style.

For the second round, the extraterrestrials have requested the services of a few new creatures. Getting in the game for the first time is Space Godzilla, Baragon, Megaguirus, Moguera 2, Jet Jaguar, and the previously unplayable Mothra (in both larvae and adult form). Non-playable new additions include Ebirah and Battra.

Gameplay modes remain mostly the same. Solo players can tackle the action mode, renamed from the previous games adventure. Versus is exactly what is says it is, letting two players tear up various locales. Melee is just as fun as it was previously, letting up to four players rip each other apart. Survival is a new addition, challenging players to take on as many adversaries as possible with one life bar. Players can also take on challenges, which are various mini-games unlocked through playing in the other modes. Almost everything can be played online as well, probably the most welcome edition out of this long list.

Everything you do while playing the game yourself earns points. These can be used to not only unlock more monsters (a meager six out of 18 are available from the start), but to view some artwork in the galleries. One of them is filled entirely with stills and concept art from "Godzilla Final Wars." New cities, which can be used in the various multi-player games, can be slowly unlocked as the game moves on. Anyone familiar with the gameplay will have all the kaiju unlocked in a matter of hours. Everything together will require around ten hours.

All of this is pretty much useless unless the gameplay holds up. While it's certainly the same engine powering the game, the small number of tweaks and adjustments actually hurt the overall package. The pace has been slowed down a notch, giving the game a more deliberate feel. While it is more accurate to the source material, it's not for the better when it comes to gameplay. A melee fighter should never be slowed down.

Buildings can again be picked up in the same manner as the original, but now things like smokestacks serve a dual purpose. These items can now be wielded like swords, only to be dropped when an opponent lands a blow. If fencing isn't your style, you still have the ability to throw these in a long distance situation. There is still a problem related to picking up objects, one that should have been fixed. Even when the object/building is blinking to indicate the player can grab it, initiating a throw won't always work. For whatever reason, the monster just grabs at air.

Beam weapons are a larger threat this time due to a meter that recharges quicker and is more forgiving. There will rarely be a situation where you will find yourself without their use. Depending on which side of the battle you're on, this will obviously be a gift or a nightmare. Either way, it's a weak attempt to open up the gameplay and it allows for way too many cheap, quick hits, each of which will do damage (even when blocking). Beams can now also lock up, just like they did in many of the films, creating what should be a tense moment. Instead, you can just button mash your way through it.

Though the areas are far more open this time, a cheap player can easily pound away on someone trapped in a corner. The green barrier that surrounds each stage causes plenty of damage this time around and it's easily exploitable. The camera isn't as kind for this sequel, something that was not an issue in "DAMM." Sure, the buildings are sky-high this time around, but when they affect the gameplay in a negative manner, the idea should be dropped.

Those who played "DAMM" will notice only minor changes to the monsters returning from the original. The same combos, animations, and special moves have come back for the sequel. The only major variation is Anguirus. He has been completely reworked, now armed with an insane rolling ball attack that can juggle an opponent in the air almost indefinitely…. or until their health has dwindled to a bare minimum.

Balancing was a small issue in the first game; here, it's a considerable one. Both variations on Mechagodzilla (Heisei and Kiryu) are brutal opponents, while new addition Spacegodzilla is a total waste of space. Not only is he the slowest kaiju on the roster, almost every move he makes requires beam energy. Once you're out, you even lose the ability to throw. Mogerua is brutal in the right hands, deftly maneuvering around the stage faster than anyone else in the game. In a flimsy attempt to even things out, each beast has a resistance to certain types of attacks, but you'll never be thinking about this in the heat of a battle anyway.

To add some variety to the action mode, players now have to endure mini games to make it all the way through. These range from fun (destroying a city) to aggravating (defending a city). There's a woefully inaccurate and hard to control targeting system here, one that not only never seems to lock-on to the appropriate target, but subsequently loses its victim on a regular basis. Almost all of these require extensive use of the right analog stick, a controller function that has a sensitivity level set far too high. Thankfully, these do not have to be beaten in order to advance.

Two of these are specific to certain monsters. Godzilla 2000 gets the best of the bunch, an underwater stage which resembles the import "Godzilla: Maximum Impact" on the Sega Dreamcast. Here is where Ebirah makes his appearance, but he's small and hardly an imposing threat. Moguera also gets his own game, one that has him flying through an asteroid field. Sadly, these are the highlights out of a variety of side quests, including a ludicrous basketball game and bowling.

On the PS2 for the first time, the series looks flat out awful on the aging hardware. Structures are a mess of blurry textures, though they do crumble nicely when their time comes. The roster is hit or miss, but in every aspect, it's a step down. With a significant lack of processing power compared to the competition, the jagged, blocky models do nothing to enhance the experience. Most of the monsters now look oddly smooth, a change caused by the lack of bump mapping. Frame rate issues only cause more problems. Only the two monster-specific mini-games show off anything remarkable.

Yet again, none of the actual music from the films has been included, save for "Godzilla's Theme" during the end credits. This time, actually hearing the included music is a challenge. Even after turning it all the way up in the options menu, you still won't be able to make it out in the heat of a battle. Once you do hear it, you'll turn it right back down. All the trademarked monster roars remain intact, though they can get annoying. Blocking a fully charged beam weapon causes the monster to let out an excruciating, tinny roar repeatedly. How the developers can miss something so obvious is baffling.

Show both games to someone not familiar with the series and they'll say "Save the Earth" is the original. Instead of seeming two years ahead, it seems two years behind. If you enjoyed the original, you won't hate this title, but you'll certainly feel that more could have been done with it. The series should certainly continue, but maybe the next generation of hardware would be better suited for the third iteration.


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Last updated: Sunday, April 22, 2007 08:48 PM