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: Deadly Shadows) and published by Eidos Interactive for Microsoft Windows. The Nintendo 64 version was made by Kemco and the Game Boy Color version by Will Co., Ltd., only in contrast to Windows and Nintendo 64 versions, it is an action-adventure game with RPG elements.
The PlayStation version had been planned but was cancelled during development.
Years later, the game was released on Steam for its infamous reputation.
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of Quake II showing off advances like colored lighting and enemies dodging attacks, he feared that Daikatana would be outdated unless he used the id Tech 2 engine.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Very ironically, by the time Daikatana was released 3 years after its initial launch date, it WAS outdated because of other, newer engines such as id Tech 3.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.
Daikatana is composed of 24 levels (18 on the Nintendo 64 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.
Why It Sucks
NOTE: Windows and Nintendo 64 versions only
- Daikatana was anything more than 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.
- Absurd marketing campaign. The infamous "John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch" ad followed by the words "Suck It Down". Read more about it here.
- 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.
- There is part of the level design that does reflect Romero's skills in the field, but it's not enough.
- 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 Nintendo 64 version you only get ammo for weapons found in the current chapter/timezone, which makes every single weapon from the previous chapter\timezone completely useless because you'll never get ammo for them again. These now useless weapons also become an actual hindrance when you have to switch weapons, because they stay in your inventory make it take longer to switch weapons, and the fact that you can't pause the game to switch weapons makes every second you have to take to switch an additional second you're unarmed and unable to defend yourself. Thankfully, in the PC version, 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, including the very first weapon you acquire in the game, due to the fact that their bullets ricochet off of walls. This makes the Daikatana the only reliable and the most preferable weapon.
- Speaking of Daikatana blade itself, it's easy to cheese nearly the whole game with it, since it's already powerful enough and the more it levels up, the more its power increases; not to mention it's also the only weapon that you keep in your inventory for all the game. Unfortunately, you can't use the Daikatana blade in the N64 port.
- 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, in Greece, there was no lowercase alphabet, which 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 being game-breaking. One of the most infamous bugs, aside from the terrible AI, is the bug that causes the game to crash after beating Medusa, whom you're supposed to beat using only the Eye of Zeus, but developers forgot to make her take damage only from that weapon. The other infamous bug is one of the wizards in the Norway level suddenly turning invincible, or sometimes causing a crash when beaten.
- 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, if not die outright.
- Some puzzles are really confusing.
- The story is a mess. There is also one major inconsistency: Mishima warns Hiro that they cannot duel using Daikatanas, since if these swords will touch each other, the time and the world along with it will be erased from existence; both Hiro and Mishima, though proceed to duel with their Daikatanas on a few occasions anyway.
- The PC version has a very annoying loading screen due to the loud ticking sound the loading bar makes when it's filling up.
- 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."
Nintendo 64 version
- This version suffers from stiff controls and slow movement.
- This version has even worse graphics than the PC version. This version of the game has arguably the ugliest graphics in a 3D rendered game, with textures so low resolution that you can't even tell what some objects are supposed to be.
- It 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.
- This release has a lot of content cuts, thanks to the hardware limitations. There is no voice acting, no AI partners during gameplay (though this one is a blessing in disguise), some of the bosses are missing, despite them still being mentioned (with The Cerberus it's the most absurd case: the game shows it in the cutscene, but then just proceeds to the next level right after), and the levels are significantly shorter.
- This version suffers from an awful framerate that also makes cutscenes even longer.
- The soundtrack is decent, on the PC version at least.
- Even with the poor visuals, there are lots of variety to the levels, with standouts like the medieval levels.
- 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 sheer ambition of its design is quite impressive for its time. For instance, each time period has a completely different set of weapons.
- Unintentionally, the N64 version fixes a few problems, making levels less tedious, saving you a lot of headache and lost nerves from the AI partners and getting rid of the annoying loading screen. Some of the cutscenes are also executed in a much better way than in the PC version, though they are ruined by the lack of voice acting and the awful looping music.
- There are fan-made patches for the PC version which improve the game, making it more playable and improving the AI as well.
- While Daikatana for home console and personal computers are qualitatively hopeless, the Game Boy Color version is really good, being a fun action-adventure game with RPG elements.
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 mainly positive 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).
Online reviewer GmanLives reviewed Daikatana twice. In 2003 he was mildly negative, calling it a crappy game, but far from the worst of the genre. He pointed that it had interesting concepts, marred by technical problems. In 2019 he reviewed it again with the 1.3 fan patch. This time he was far more positive, as its fixes made the game actually "pretty damn fun" and "the way Romero probably originally intended".