I've never been more excited for a console release than the Sega Dreamcast. I was a huge Saturn fan and was bummed when it went under, but the future looked so bright with the Dreamcast on the horizon. Leading up to its launches in 1998 and 1999, there were a number of games that would always seem to pop up in magazine previews. Everyone knows / remembers Sonic Adventure and Soulcalibur, but I remember Godzilla Generations making frequent appearances as well. Having enjoyed my fair share of Godzilla flicks as a kid, I kept hoping it would show up for the North American launch. Alas, after the game was universally panned upon release, it faded into obscurity and would never see a release outside of Japan.
Walk. Smash. Roar.
On the other side of the world, Godzilla Generations sure looked awesome. The screenshots plastered in various magazines looked great and the game was all about destroying cities with Godzilla. Surely nothing can go wrong with that sort of premise...
One of the main issues with the game is how slow Godzilla moves around the city. It features tank controls and turning Godzilla around in a circle is a painfully slow endeavor. He does have a quick / 180 degree turn that also doubles as an effective way to take out buildings and enemies with his tail, but it can be interrupted when taking damage and still doesn't help you if you just want to adjust your position slightly. The controls work a lot better if you're actually moving forward as you can turn left and right a little faster in those instances and with more precision. What you can't do is run or otherwise perform any sort of nimble movement.
But you won't really need any sort of fast reaction time in this one since another issue with the game is the general lack of challenge. It's mostly just Godzilla (you) against defenseless buildings. There are a handful of ground enemies on each level and they can deal out damage, but all you need to do is walk over them. As you progress in a level, there will end up being some airborne enemies as well, but I never even had to worry about them. They would occasionally hit me for some minor damage, but eventually I'd walk into them and that was it. You don't have to deal with other monsters or anything resembling a threat to your huge existence. Oh, and when you do take damage, you can press a button to let out an enormous roar and somehow magically heal damage.
And that's pretty much the entire game. There are 11 levels that you walk, smash, and roar in. To clear a level, you have to destroy a certain percentage of the buildings / scenery. I'm not sure what percentage you need to attain because I almost always reached 99% or more. To destroy a building, you simply need to walk into it. Seriously, that's it. You have some other attacks with your breath, but they're even slower than walking.
Remember how I said the screenshots looked great back in the day? Well, they did. But looks can be deceiving. Sure, it's a 20+ year old game and that's not really the problem. The main graphical issue I saw was that the cities are just so barren. Godzilla looks decent, but everything is so...bland.
The cities are not nearly as lively as they could've been and by the time you level everything, it's all just so empty, aside from a little bit of rubble here and there. The weird thing is, even though the levels are so empty as you destroy them, I found it basically impossible to reach 100% a number of times.
When you destroy the buildings, sometimes they're completely removed, but other times they leave rubble on the ground that stays there forever and I could never find the last 1% or so that I needed. Somewhere out there I had missed a tiny corner of a building no larger than Godzilla's toenail and it forced me to wander around for the remaining 5+ minutes until the timer ran out. I ended up finding an alternative, which was to go outside the boundary of the city and let the "out of bounds" timer force an immediate end to the level. Even though it seemed like I had failed since I was out of bounds, I had enough destruction to move on. It was all very odd, but necessary, to avoid wandering aimlessly with absolutely nothing to do until I happened to stumble upon whatever I had missed.
Godzilla Simulator '99
I could see how proud new Dreamcast owners would have been disappointed in this game back in November 1998. I completed the game in one sitting in barely over two hours and never even came close to dying or otherwise failing a level (unless you count intentionally "failing" to force the end of a level).
The game does have a Time Attack mode, as well as a VMU mini game where you can fight monsters or something, but since I don't know how to read Japanese, that mode was kinda lost on me. The game also has unlockable movie clips from classic Godzilla flicks, but I got all of them with my single playthrough, so again, not much replay value there.
Buuuuuut despite all of this, I strangely still enjoyed my time with the game. Sure, the controls are sluggish, but you're controlling Godzilla, so I don't mind lumbering around like a gigantic prehistoric monster. I wish the cities were more interesting, but ultimately I'm just smashing everything up, so does it really matter?
Another cool thing about the game is the camera angles. This was a common complaint reviewers had when the game first released, but I thought it was a neat cinematic touch. And that's really my key takeaway with this game. Given the lack of content and non-existent difficulty, it would've been more appropriate for it to have been a "Godzilla Cinematic City Destruction Simulator Tech Demo" instead of a full-price retail product.
Given its poor initial reception and all of the licensing constraints that come with a Godzilla game, the chances of ever seeing this game resurface are basically nil. If you want to play this one, you're gonna need to get a hold of the Japanese release. The good news is the game is super cheap. A quick look through completed eBay listings shows it having sold for as little as $0.01.
This won't likely be a game you'll want to replay, but if you're a Godzilla fan AND you want to smash up buildings 'n stuff for a couple of hours AND you're a Dreamcast nut like me, it's at least worth checking out.