John Romero's Daikatana (often shortened to simply Daikatana) is a first-person shooter video game developed by the Dallas branch of Ion Storm (whose Austin branch is known for making Deus Ex and Thief) for the Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows, and Game Boy Color.
John Romero left Id Software following the release of Quake due to creative differences with the rest of the team (briefly: he had wanted to make a medieval game, the entire rest of the team wanted to make a sci-fi game, and Quake is the result). Romero intended Daikatana to be his magnum opus, he envisioned the game as an RPG First Person Shooter that would revolutionize the genre again and have massive amounts of content. He also promised the game would be out by late 1997.
Romero had worked under the John Carmack at id, and without him proved to be a very poor organizer. Daikatana's original design document described a game with 24 levels, 12 weapons and 64 different types of monsters: Romero scheduled just seven months to complete this work, basing this off the six-month dev time of Quake.
Initially the game was being developed using the id Tech 1 engine, but when Romero saw a prototype of Quake II showing off advances like colored lighting and enemies dodging attacks, he feared that Daikatana would be outdated unless he used the id Tech 2 engine. However, Romero heavily underestimated how much work it would take to move Daikatana from id Tech 1 to id Tech 2: instead of three months as Romero estimated, it took an entire year, which caused major delays and internal conflicts. Many of the departments had no idea what the assets they were making were actually being used for, most famously leading to a gigantic hi-res texture being made for an arrowhead.
This lead to multiple members of Ion Storm leaving the company, inexperienced people being hired to work on Daikatana, and eventually the publisher Eidos forcing Romero to release the game despite it clearly being unfinished.
Very ironically, by the time Daikatana was released 3 years after its initial launch date, it WAS outdated because of other, newer engines such as id Tech 3. The game was a major factor in the demise of Ion Storm's Dallas studio, which was forced to sell off 51% of its stock to Eidos as part of the deal to release the game: seven months after the game's release and following the failure of another Ion Storm game, Anachronox, Ion Storm Dallas was closed, leaving the studio in Austin that made Deus Ex as Ion Storm's only office.
Years later the game was also put on Steam for its infamous reputation.
Daikatana is composed of 18 levels (24 in the Microsoft Windows version) divided into 4 episodes, with a varying number of levels per episode. Each episode represents a different location and time period: 25th century Japan in the year 2455 AD., ancient Greece in the year 1200 BC, the Dark Ages in Norway in the year 560 AD., and near-future San Francisco in the year 2030 AD.
One element that Daikatana stressed was the important role of Hiro Miyamoto's two sidekicks, Mikiko Ebihara and Superfly Johnson. The death of either sidekick resulted in failing the level, and their assistance was required to complete certain puzzles.
In feudal Japan, two rival clans, the Ebihara and the Mishima, are at war. The Mishima go to the swordmaster Usagi Miyamoto to craft a weapon to end the conflict: the Daikatana. However, Usagi realizes the Mishimas' dark desires, gives the Daikatana to the Ebihara, and Inshiro Ebihara throws the sword into a volcano at the end of the war.
In the year 2455 AD, swordmaster Hiro Miyamoto is visited by a man named Dr. Toshiro Ebihara, a descendant of Inshiro who is suffering from a plague and about to die. Toshiro tells Hiro that Kage Mishima, the ruler of the planet, took over the world by stealing the Daikatana and using it to alter history. He stole the cure to a viral plague in the year 2020 and uses the cure to control the world's population. Mikiko Ebihara, Toshiro's daughter, has been captured when trying to steal back the Daikatana, and Hiro must rescue her and fix history.
Hiro storms the Mishima's headquarters where he rescues Mikiko as well as Superfly Johnson, the Mishima's head of security who rebelled when he grew sick of the Mishima's brutal totalitarian practices. Mikiko and Superfly join Hiro in his quest and steal the Daikatana. The Mishima encounters the trio as the trio steal the sword, wielding a second Daikatana. The Mishima sends the trio back in time to Ancient Greece. Hiro and Mikiko defeat Medusa, recharging the Daikatana as it absorbs Medusa's power. The three time jump once more, only to encounter the Mishima again and be sent through time to the Dark Ages, stranded as the Daikatana has run out of energy.
The group finds a sorcerer named Musilde who offers to recharge the Daikatana if Hiro, Superfly, and Mikiko can save his village from the black plague. To do this, the group must defeat the necromancer Nharre, reassemble the Purifier, a magical sword, and use it to restore King Gharroth's sanity so that he may use the sword to put an end to the plague. When King Gharroth recharges the Daikatana, Hiro and his allies time jump again, finally ending up in the year 2020, where San Francisco has fallen to gangs and martial law has been declared by the military and the Mishima.
The trio fights their way through a naval base where the Mishima is working on weapons. The ghost of Usagi enters Hiro's body and gives him full control over the Daikatana. With Usagi's knowledge and skills with the sword, Hiro slays the Mishima. One of the Daikatana disappears, as its timeline no longer exists.
Mikiko steals the remaining Daikatana and kills Superfly, revealing that the feudal Ebihara clan was just as evil as the Mishimas. She announces her intentions to use the Daikatana to restore the honor of her ancient clan and take over the world. Hiro defeats and kills Mikiko, then uses the Daikatana to fix history once and for all. The Daikatana is never found in 2455, the viral plague is cured in 2020, the Mishima never takes over the world, and Hiro exiles himself to a forgotten corner of the space-time continuum, safeguarding the Daikatana to ensure that it never falls into the hands of evil.
Why It Sucks
NOTE: PC and N64 versions only
- Daikatana was more than anything a vanity project for John Romero. The game was repeatedly delayed due to Romero's ego making him do bad design choices that caused those delays as explained above.
- Awfully boring and long cutscenes.
- The intro alone is about 11 minutes long.
- Terrible voice acting and ridiculous characters. It cannot be emphasized enough that the game contains a character called "Superfly Johnson" and this is not treated as any kind of joke.
- Poor graphics and textures.
- A lot of enemies are not only small and hard to shoot at but can easily bumrush and kill you in a just a few seconds due to the lack of an invincibility period after taking damage.
- While some of the level design does reflect Romero's skills in the field, a lot of it does not.
- No checkpoints in any of the levels; if you die you have to start the level all over again.
- Horrible method of saving progress in both versions; on the PC you can only save a very limited number of times with gems that you collect (was later patched to include quick-saves) and on the N64 you can only save after completing a level.
- In the N64 version you only get ammo for weapons found in the current chapter/timezone. This makes every single weapon from the previous chapter\timezone completely useless because you'll never get ammo for them again. Not only that, but these useless weapons actually become a hindrance when you have to switch weapons because they stay in your inventory make it take longer to switch weapons, a problem as you can't pause the game to switch weapons so every second you have to take to switch is an additional second you're unarmed and unable to defend yourself. In the PC version, this does not apply as weapons that are not in the current chapter are removed from the player's inventory.
- Allies with poor AI, whose death results in an instant game over. Trying to play the game with less than three human players is like herding suicidal cats.
- The player cannot exit a level if AI teammates are not fairly close by if they try, Hiro will loudly proclaim that he can't leave without them, forcing the player to go back and figure out what piece of scenery they have managed to get stuck on.. "I can't leave without my buddy Superfly" was something of a meme when the game was released.
- Frequent lags.
- Almost all of the weapons have some way of dealing damage to you instead of the enemy. This includes the very first weapon you acquire in the game due to the fact that its bullets ricochet off of walls.
- Many weapons are needlessly gimmicky, sometimes ending up so situational that it is hard to think of any time it would be a good idea to use them.
- In the Ancient Greece level, the word "aegis" is shown in lowercase, but at the time there was no lowercase alphabet in Greek: this did not exist until the Middle Ages. It also uses the wrong form of the letter sigma (σ instead of ς).
- Lots of bugs and glitches, some of them game-breaking.
- Levels are poorly designed, with some sections of the game having the level design conflicting with the gameplay and control mechanics. At one point in the game, you must ride a slow elevator. If you use the rocket launcher (which has massive recoil) while riding said elevator, the resulting recoil will make you fall off of the elevator, causing you to take severe damage or die outright.
- The N64 version suffers from stiff controls and slow movement.
- The N64 version has even worse graphics than the PC version and doesn't even let you use the titular Daikatana as a weapon. This version of the game has arguably the ugliest graphics in a 3D rendered game, at least on the Nintendo 64, with textures so blurry that you can't even tell what some objects are supposed to be.
- The N64 version doesn't tell you how to do specific moves in-game. For example pressing R + A to crouch, which could easily have just been mapped to the L button instead since the L button is never used for anything in the game.
- The soundtrack is decent.
- Some of the weapon designs are creative. Unfortunately, they also often demonstrate what the problem is with creativity that isn't balanced with practicality.
- The N64 version is improved by the fact that the console could not handle the buddy AI and so does not have them at all, apart from in cutscenes.
- There's fan-made patches for the PC version which improves the game, making it more playable and improving the AI as well.
- The Game Boy Color version is a fun RPG version of this abomination, which is technically superior to the PC and N64 versions.
GameRankings gave the Nintendo 64 version a 42.34% and the PC version a 54.08%. GameTrailers ranked this game the #2 biggest gaming disappointment of the decade, citing the game's terrible A.I., pushed-back release dates, controversial magazine ad, and gossip-worthy internal drama. It was included among the worst games of all time by GamesRadar in 2014. The Game Boy Color version, on the other hand, received better reviews.
A PlayStation version was planned to be released but was canceled during development. The game is known as one of the major commercial failures of the video game industry.
The game is perhaps most known for its infamous extremely arrogant teaser poster about how "John Romero‘s About to Make You His Bitch. Suck It Down!", which alienated and angered many gamers. Years later Romero stated that while he approved an arrogant teaser poster, he wasn't the one who wrote that quote and he hated it too.
Famous online reviewer JonTron reviewed this game in his first episode (where he is notably more straightforward and serious than his later, crazier persona).
The title itself is a mistranslation; the kanji characters used in the game (大刀) actually read as "daitou" or "daidao." While "刀" might be transliterated as "katana," it does not actually say katana: the literal translation would be "bigsword."