Daikatana: The Final Chapter

I wound up taking the entirety of the final episode in a single bound. The setting for this part is San Francisco in the year 2030, so it’s the future again, but it’s not as the future as Episode 1’s 25th century. This is the point where Kage Mishima started messing with history, so this is where you can undo it.

There’s a good variety of environments here, starting with an earthquake-damaged Alcatraz, which apparently got converted back into a prison at some point, albeit one run along the lines of Arkham City or Escape from New York. There’s a mission that’s all about running up stairs in a dilapidated and gang-infested tower block, which echoes the ascent of a castle tower in the previous episode. There’s a gleaming marble-and-glass corporate HQ, an opulent antique-Japanese-styled mansion with rock gardens and the like that sends you hunting for hidden buttons, and finally a series of deadly, abstractified obstacle courses with a half-hearted attempt at justifying them as a Navy SEAL training course. By this point, the player knows better than to ask for sensible justifications. It’s not that kind of game. If the first episode had had this kind of variety of style, maybe it wouldn’t have made quite so bad a first impression.

But at the same time, variety is dialed down drastically in other respects. After one episode of robots and mutated animals and two episodes of fantastic and legendary creatures, we’re down to mainly just humans as enemies. (Plus the occasional rat, and sharks in the underwater bits.) Some of the humans have jetpacks, but that’s basically it for fantastical elements, at least until the boss fight with Mishima, who dresses like a feudal warlord and shoots ghosts at you.

The final boss fight is a surprise double: after you kill Mishima, there’s an overlong cutscene, followed by Mikiko suddenly turning heel, taking the Daikatana, and using it to kill Mr. Johnson and then attack Hiro. She’s pretty good with it, too, if you let her get in range — honestly, that sword is a lot more effective in anyone’s hands but mine. When fully powered up, it can destroy just about anything with a single blow, but landing that blow can take a lot more time than just using a gun. If I had to play the game again, I’d use it a lot less. Mikiko’s betrayal doesn’t completely come out of nowhere, but the fight is another one like the king in Episode 3: over quickly, one way or the other. Mishima is a much more satisfying fight, both plotwise and mechanically, and would have been a better ending. Especially since the death of both companions is literally inconsequential: after it’s over, Hiro rewrites history in such a way that it never happens.

Now that I’ve been through the whole game, what are my impressions? I still maintain that it’s better than its reputation, at least with unofficial patch 1.3 installed. I did have occasional problems with the sidekicks getting stuck, mostly concentrated in E1M6 and E4M4, but my biggest complaint with the gameplay isn’t with the NPC behavior at all, but that the switches and levers that open doors and stuff are frequently insufficiently visible and hard to find. The level design is nicely varied and inventive, and changing the weapon roster from episode to episode does a lot to keep the action interesting. The plot is goofy and you just have to be willing to accept that. The expository cutscenes are terrible, and would have to be completely rewritten by someone with an ear for dialogue to be tolerable. But for the most part, it’s a pretty enjoyable old-school FPS, maybe not as cool as it thinks it is, but definitely not worth the hyperbolic scorn it received from disappointed gamers who had their hearts set on becoming John Romero’s bitch.


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