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John Romero's Daikatana is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ion Storm for Microsoft Windows and Nintendo 64, and released in 2000. A PlayStation version had been planned but was cancelled during development. The game received negative reviews from critics and is known as one of the major commercial failures of the video game industry.
|John Romero's Daikatana|
European box cover
|Programmer(s)||Shawn C. Green|
|Engine||id Tech 2|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color|
The Game Boy Color game of the same name is entirely different, being a top-down action adventure game from Japanese studio Will Co, Ltd. Plans to release the Game Boy Color game outside of Europe were cancelled.
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Daikatana is composed of 24 levels (18 in the console versions) divided into four episodes, with a varying number of levels per episode. Each episode represents a different location and time period: 25th century Japan in 2455 AD, ancient Greece in 1200 BC, the Dark Ages in Norway in 560 AD, and near-future San Francisco in 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. Due to poor AI implementation, the sidekicks, who were one of the game's selling points, became a focus of criticism.
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 and gives the Daikatana to the Ebihara; Inshiro Ebihara throws the sword into a volcano at the end of the war.
In 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 2030 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 2030, 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 2030, the Mishima never take 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.
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John Romero's initial design for the game, completed in March 1997, called for a huge amount of content: 24 levels split into 4 distinct time periods, 26 weapons, and 64 monsters, with the weapons and monsters divided amongst the time periods so that each period would have its own unique set. Despite this, Romero believed that development of the game, which began in April 1997, could be completed in seven months, just in time to be released for Christmas 1997. The game was to license the existing Quake game engine. At id Software, the content portion of Quake had taken a nine-person team six months. Romero had eight artists, and calculated that he could finish in seven. The schedule was called "patently ludicrous" by John Carmack. Romero did not have an established, experienced team to rely on, as Ion Storm was still forming as a company, constantly adding new employees. Many were talented amateurs, hired on the basis of level designs they had created.
Ion Storm showed Daikatana at E3 in June 1997. The game engine was still running in a software mode, looking outdated and unimpressive. At the same time, id Software was debuting their Quake II game engine, featuring hardware acceleration and innovative visuals. Romero realized that they were falling behind technologically. The Christmas 1997 deadline was quietly dropped, and the new plan was to keep creating the content for the game, and switch to the Quake II engine as soon as it was ready. The game was rescheduled for a March 1998 release.
Daikatana's title is written in Japanese kanji and literally means "big sword"; however, the characters' usual reading is in fact "daitō". (See etymology of katana.) The name comes from an item in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign played by the original members of id Software, which Romero co-founded. The character Hiro Miyamoto was named in honor of Romero's idol, Shigeru Miyamoto.
From very early on in the game's development, Daikatana was advertised as the brainchild of John Romero, a man famous for his work at id Software in the development of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Time magazine gave Romero and Daikatana glowing coverage, saying "Everything that game designer John Romero touches turns to gore and gold." An early advertisement for Daikatana, created by marketer Mike Wilson and reluctantly approved by Romero, was a red poster with large black lettering proclaiming "John Romero's about to make you his bitch.", a reference to Romero's infamous trash talk during gaming and his promise for the game to be a success. Nothing else was featured on this poster but a small tag-line, suggestively reading "Suck It Down", an Ion Storm logo and an Eidos logo.
Following the ad's appearance in several gaming magazines, more negative news came out of Ion Storm, fueling distaste for the game whose release was pushed back. The lavish rock star-like treatment given to Romero in his attempt to build a designer-centered game studio (including a multimillion-dollar office on the top floor of a Dallas skyscraper), Romero's well-publicized expensive tastes and hobbies (such as racing Ferraris), Romero's girlfriend, professional gamer Stevie "Killcreek" Case, being hired on as a level designer, and the game's development (which included most of the original development team quitting en masse to form a competing company called Gathering of Developers), incited criticism from the online gaming fan community.
The Daikatana team received the source to the Quake II engine in November 1997, and immediately realized that the switch would not be simple. The code was completely different from that of the original Quake engine, and would require throwing away eleven months of work for a complete rewrite.
In January 1999, the switch to the Quake II engine was finished. What had been scheduled to be completed in a few weeks had taken over a year. Ion Storm announced "Come hell or high water, the game will be done on February 15, 1999." This deadline was missed, but a demo was released in March 1999. However, this demo failed to impress players as it featured no monsters and no single-player game, only multiplayer deathmatch.
The Daikatana team was then trying to create a new, more impressive demo for E3 that year. Last minute changes to the level design led to a demo that could only run at about 12 frames per second, far less than the 30 frames per second that was considered a minimum for first-person shooters. The E3 disaster led to a crisis for Ion Storm. Eidos, the parent company who had thus far financed Ion Storm to the tune of $44 million, had had enough. In June 1999, Eidos and Ion Storm reached an agreement. Eidos got majority ownership of Ion Storm and two of the founders, Todd Porter and Jerry O'Flaherty, left the company.
On April 21, 2000, Daikatana was completed and reached gold status. A tie-in comic book was drawn by Marc Silvestri and released by Top Cow for Prima Games' Daikatana: Prima's Official Strategy Guide.
Daikatana's final patch, version 1.2, was released on September 29, 2000. Lacking any further official support after the closure of Ion Storm's Dallas office in 2001, John Romero gave the game's source code to community members, allowing them to develop additional platform ports and bug fixes.
Game Boy Color versionEdit
The Game Boy Color version of Daikatana was only released in Europe; Kemco decided against the North American and Japanese release due to the poor reputation of the Daikatana brand. This version's gameplay differs greatly from the N64 and PC versions: at Romero's request, the title was adapted to the platform as a top-down dungeon crawler, in the style of early Zelda games such as the NES original and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. In 2004, Romero released the ROM images for the Game Boy Color game on his website, for use with emulators.
Before Daikatana's release, reports indicated that ION Storm forecast sales of 2.5 million units, a number that GameDaily called necessary for the game "to become profitable". It proceeded to flop commercially. The computer version of Daikatana sold 8,190 copies in the United States by July 21, which drew revenues of $271,982. Mark Asher of CNET Gamecenter called this performance "a disaster". According to PC Data, the game's domestic sales reached 40,351 units through September 2000.
The Game Boy Color version received "favorable" reviews, the PC version received "mixed" reviews, and the Nintendo 64 version received "unfavorable" reviews, according to the review aggregation website GameRankings.
Daikatana was delayed multiple times from its conception in early 1997 to its eventual release in 2000. By this time, numerous games based on more advanced graphics technology, such as Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament, had been released, causing Daikatana to lag technologically in the market with its dated game engine. The gameplay had many aspects that were widely disliked by players, such as an artificially limited number of saves per level and the presence of computer-controlled "sidekicks" who were more of an impediment to the player. As a result, Daikatana garnered mixed reception from reviewers and players. The earliest review of the Nintendo 64 version came from Nintendo Power, which gave it a score of 5.6 out of 10, even though the game itself was not released until five months later.
Romero would later apologize for the infamous "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" advertisement. Romero stated in an interview that "up until that ad, I felt I had a great relationship with the gamer and the game development community and that ad changed everything. That stupid ad. I regret it and I apologize for it."
The critical and commercial failure of the game was a major contributing factor in the closure of Ion Storm's Dallas office. ScrewAttack named this game the #7 bust on their 2009 "Top 10 Biggest Busts", which listed the biggest failures in gaming, due to its controversial advertising and the hype that Romero built on this game, which in the end turned out to be a failure. GameTrailers ranked this game the #2 biggest gaming disappointment of the decade (the 2000s), citing the game's terrible AI for friend and foe alike, pushed-back release dates, controversial magazine ad, and gossip-worthy internal drama (among other things) as "the embodiment of game's industry hubris." The game critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, on a retrospective episode of Zero Punctuation, also citing the development delays and the magazine ad, named Daikatana "one of the most notorious disappointments in the entire history of first-person shooters", comparing the game to Duke Nukem Forever. It was included among the worst games of all time by GamesRadar in 2014.
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Worse, the game's biggest "innovation" – sidekicks whom you needed to protect – turned out to be its biggest liability, as their computer-controlled brains would diligently do whatever it took to get them killed.
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