While we’re on the topic of unappreciated first-person shooters, let’s pull out the least appreciated of them all. Daikatana is the Edsel of games, and very likely the king of the hype-to-reception ratio — the only other serious contenders are Duke Nukem Forever and E. T.. I’ve heard claims that it it isn’t as bad as its reputation, and that makes sense to me: its famous “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch” ad campaign was unreasonably antagonistic toward the players, so it’s reasonable to suppose that the players might react in kind. Nonetheless, its reputation is exactly why I purchased it. I had to see it for myself.

Back when I first bought it, though, I never got past the first level. I think I might have been playing on too high a difficulty setting — I’m playing on normal difficulty now, and it doesn’t seem nearly as hard as I remember. My understanding is that by bowing out so early, I missed the game at its worst, which comes when you have NPCs getting stuck on corners and the like. Level 1 is actually fairly pleasant, as shooters go. The environments are essentially Quake-ish, constructed out of large polygons and sharp corners, but it gets some very good visual design out of that. Playing at 1080p probably helps. I had to install two patches to make that happen — the first being necessary to get it to run under Windows 10 at all.

Before you even get to level 1, though, you have to sit through the intro cutscene, which is overlong and dumps a whole lot of exposition on you, most of which I’ve already forgotten. The intro is also notable for showing an obsession with Japan that’s paradoxically both all-encompassing and utterly shallow. Where Doom came on like a 13-year-old who doodles heavy metal logos in his notebook during class, Daikatana is the same kid after he decides samurai swords are the coolest thing ever. It strikes me that this outsider’s view of Japan is a strange thing to hang a game on, considering the large market presence of games made by actual Japanese people. But it’s hardly the worst depiction of Japanese stuff I’ve seen in a FPS. It would have to sink pretty low to match Shadow Warrior.

And the thing is, once you’re out of the intro and into the gameplay, none of that matters much. There’s nothing very japanophile about wandering through a series of gullies and caves, shooting robot frogs and monster dragonflies with a plasma gun.


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