The 1998 American-made Godzilla film is rather poorly regarded among the fans of the world’s most famous kaiju, but the animated T.V. series that is based on the film is often viewed far more favorably. I can’t really speak for the quality of either one and I’m not even sure my tastes towards kaiju films line up with those of long time Godzilla fans, but I can give a pretty good evaluation of the Game Boy Color game based on the show. Unfortunately, despite the popularity of the franchise, Godzilla games have a bad reputation, and even though this title is based on a T.V. series instead of the original movies, it only adds to that negative stigma.
Godzilla: The Series opens with a rather impressive video of the show’s opening lightly adapted into Game Boy Color graphics. This is the only time you’ll ever see a scene like this or visuals that good, but it’s still much more impressive than what the game does want you to be impressed by. Most every review of this game mentions it, so I have to acknowledge that the sprite of Godzilla you control in this game is pretty large and potentially the largest playable character on the Game Boy Color, but its not actually that impressive since it comes with a few cut corners to execute that feat. Godzilla himself is never on the screen fully at any time, his back half cut off by the screen’s edge, and your actual control over Godzilla is very limited so that the sprite never has to do too much at any time. In every level of the game, Godzilla plods forward at his own pace, his walking set to an obnoxiously slow rhythm that serves as pretty much the only sound you get to listen to as the music disappears the moment gameplay begins. Enemies will lazily drift in from the right side of the screen, mostly taking the form of planes, tanks, soldiers, and boats. The game does eventually add weird things like dolphins with echolocation guns and enormous bees, but they fight about the same as the vehicles you’ll be facing in every stage and hardly any enemies require more than a single hit to kill.
When a foe does appear on the screen, it’s time to tap into Godzilla’s incredibly limited movepool. The bread and butter of your attacks is your fireball. By craning Godzilla’s neck around you can point and shoot at any foe that comes along and it is quite possible to finish the game just using this attack if you feel like it. The only other default move you are given is a tail swipe, Godzilla coming to a halt and slowly bringing his tail around to smack a very specific portion of the air. The slow execution and limited range make the tail swipe one of the worst moves in Godzilla’s arsenal, probably only useful for taking out the large boats that would otherwise take two fireballs to take down. At first, all you’ll be doing is slowly strolling through the city picking off foes with fireballs, but as you get points for killing foes, Godzilla starts unlocking new skills. Godzilla’s stomp is the only substantive addition to his repertoire, the lizard king able to send out shockwaves to easily dispatch ground units. Since the ground is the only place the game ever bothers to fill with a good cluster of enemies, the fireball can’t always cover them all before they get a chance to fire. The stomp can wipe those enemies out pretty well, although rarely it will miss a troop or tank for no reason. Godzilla also eventually gets a claw swipe, and while its range appears low, it can actually hit most any enemy on the same level of the attack. The claw swipe has better range than the tail whip, meaning it is far less situational, but usually your fireballs are still the best bet for any enemy in the claw swipe range. The last attack might as well not exist, a bite that targets an area no enemy really ever goes near and if they did, the fireball would kill them faster anyway. All these skills gradually level up as you get more points, but their capabilities never seem to evolve much and all of them besides the fireball and bite have a slow wind-up that makes them often not worth the trouble.
Although most these skills aren’t very great, having the stomp and swipe does mean you can mix things up a little. However, any challenge in trying to take down enemies before they fire is completely destroyed by the way the game handles your life bar. For some reason, Godzilla has regenerating health, which when put hand in hand with the game’s slow pace means you often get too much time to recover from any potential failures. Your health bar only grows as you level up as well, making it even less likely you’ll ever be in a tight spot as your health just keeps coming back before the idea of failure sets in. If that wasn’t enough, Godzilla’s final ability is a block, the kaiju turning completely invincible as long as he has it up. There is a guard meter that dictates how long he can maintain it and it has to be full to even execute a block, but it refills quickly enough so that you can usually block any enemy that might actually hurt you. Because of this, Normal mode is a complete write-off. As soon as you learn the controls, Godzilla should never die, the end of the game just requiring your patience to see. Hard Mode peels back a few of these issues however. Godzilla recovers much more slowly and guarding only lessens the damage Godzilla takes from an attack rather than outright negating it. Still, as soon as you have a hang of fireball aiming, Hard mode might as well be Normal mode, and once your health bar is big enough, there’s nothing that can really take you down.
Levels are horrendously long due to Godzilla’s moseying pace, enemies taking quite a while to come on screen and dying too quickly. Hard mode at least has enemies appear more quickly, but it still feels dreadfully slow. Sometimes though, you’ll face a boss, similarly sized kaiju enemies or enormous man-made foes that take many hits to take down. The only problem is… the fight just involves both foes politely standing on their side of the screen and taking pot shots at each other. Your tail whip, claw swipe, stomp, bite… they have no purpose here during what should be the most thrilling battles of the game. Normal mode it’s only a matter of guarding during their attacks and firing during the breaks, but Hard mode… it’s the same thing but you’ll actually take damage. In fact, you don’t really have to block in either mode if you fire quickly enough, as most every boss has the nasty habit of running away after losing half their health. Not only is this annoying because it means you have to go through another long and boring walk through the same set of enemies you faced before the boss, but the boss often can’t land enough hits to be a threat since they flee so quickly. One boss even flees a second time making it all the more easier! When you finally have the true showdown with a boss you’ve had time to recover all your health, meaning it’s time to rinse and repeat for the boring battle tactics.
If you’re wondering about the story for this game, it’s a bit hard to follow. Clearly meant for people who have seen the show, the story follows human characters we aren’t introduced too well and who often pop up pretty suddenly to chat about what loosely connected event will be happening next. Outside of opening and closing scenes, most scenes involve a blue screen with portraits of whoever is talking appearing and that’s about it. Sometimes you see the Godzilla sprite do a little action that looks at first like regular gameplay until you realize you can’t control it, but the scenes are mostly poorly done ways of roping in the cast of the T.V. show. As far as I can tell, the game loosely adapts a pretty random clutch of episodes, the game not trying to tie them together save adding a weak explanation for why tanks and planes will attack you even as you go to remote islands or out across the sea. Not much changes about the gameplay no matter where the plot takes you or the scenery you are stomping through, with only the occasional unique enemy cropping up amidst the repetitive onslaught of the same stuff you saw in level 1.
THE VERDICT: Perhaps in some ways, Godzilla: The Series is almost too accurate an adaptation of what it feels like to be the King of the Monsters. Tromping around as vehicles that have no chance of taking you down fire upon you could very well be boring and repetitive for Godzilla, but the kaiju fights that usually spice things up are in this game just as bland as fighting tanks and planes, if not more so. It seems like way too much focus was put on making Godzilla’s sprite large and impressive rather than making Godzilla feel powerful or giving him some foes who can put up a good fight.
And so, I give Godzilla: The Series for the Game Boy Color…
An ATROCIOUS rating. With almost no meaningful resistance standing in Godzilla’s way, Godzilla: The Series ends up being a game mostly about watching the giant lizard slowly stroll through empty locales. Every foe is too easy to beat, and if they do manage to land a hit on you, Godzilla can either negate the damage too easily or recover from it too quickly. If the game had moved at a much better pace and put in enemies that could actually make Godzilla flinch, that would be a good start for clawing this game out of the muck, but it would need much more involved kaiju battles and some more usefulness for anything besides the fireball before anyone would dare to call it close to good.
No matter how you feel about the 1998 Godzilla movie or the T.V. show based on it, the true disrespect to the series’s legacy comes in the form of this Game Boy Color title. This travesty turns playing a 500 ton monster into a monotonous chore, adding yet another enormous stain to Godzilla’s track record when it comes to video game adaptations.