John Romero and Ion Storm’s FPS Daikatana was released 20 years ago and it’s regarded as one of the biggest failures in video game history. Nowadays, we remember its infamous advertisement warning us that “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch,” its delays and its poor reviews. Maybe we also remember the controversies surrounding Ion Storm itself.
We remember its myth, but we don’t remember Daikatana. While Ion Storm expected to sell more than 2 million copies, Daikatana is a game few people actually played. For its 20th anniversary, it’s time to see what Daikatana has to offer now, beyond legends and prejudices.
In Daikatana three characters travel through time thanks to (and because of) the powers of a magic sword, and they fight to stop an evil corporation. The game features 24 levels split into four episodes set in different ages: a cyberpunk Tokyo, a mythical Ancient Greece inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s movies, a zombie-plagued Medieval Europe and San Francisco in 2030. Each era surprises players with its own environments, soundtrack, enemies and weapons, and almost every weapon (there are 25 in total) tries to do something different with an ingenuity more common at the time but usually lost nowadays. Not everything is equally brilliant, but from ricocheting energy orbs to a demon-summoning staff, from melee silver claws designed to kill Medieval werewolves to sci-fi freezing guns, there’s a lot of variety and distinctiveness that’s carried over to its multiplayer. It’s a massive experience that sometimes feels like four different games collected together.