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Video Game / Daikatana

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Produced by Ion Storm and running on a modified version of the Quake II engine, Daikatana is John Romero's infamous First-Person Shooter, released for the Nintendo 64 and PC in 2000. It is notable for being released several years later than planned; looking very outdated when it was released; several people publicly quitting the development team (some of which formed together and made games of their own); the ill-advised advertisement; and laughably poor AI on your required companions.

In 2030 AD, a scientist named Tatsuo Ebihara discovered the cure to a global pandemic, saving countless lives and making the Ebihara family line rich enough to wallpaper multiple mansions with $50 bills. Four hundred years later, a descendant of Tatsuo, along with his aide Kage Mishima, discovered the Daikatana and, through careful study, eventually realized that it possessed the power to transport its wielder through time. Mishima promptly took the Daikatana and traveled back in time to claim the cure for the pandemic himself. In the now-changed 2455 AD, Mishima's corporation controls much of the world, using the cure as a proverbial carrot on a stick, and it is up to Hiro Miyamoto, with the aid of Mikiko Ebihara and Superfly Johnson, to follow him, take the Daikatana and Set Right What Once Went Wrong.

A Game Boy Color version of the game was also released in Europe in 2000 and Japan in 2001, though for obvious reasons it is more of a Reformulated Game than a port or remake (featuring The Legend of Zelda-like isomeric gameplay and having heavier emphasis on roleplaying elements as a result). Said version doesn't share its bigger brother's rather infamous reputation, and is actually considered a classic on the system. The Japanese release was one of a number of games exclusive to the Nintendo Power flash cartridge service (no relation to the magazine of the same name).

There's also a famous Let's Play from 2007 for this game; you can see it here. The game was released on Steam and, if you have $6.99 ($5.99 at

Daikatana contains examples of:

  • Abusive Advertising: The infamous ad campaign, which simply promised: "John Romero is about to make you his bitch." His intended audience found this rather less awesome than he'd expected; in fact, 90% of them promptly started thinking "I bet/hope/wonder if this game will suck" upon sight. Ironically, Romero was somewhat reluctant to sign off on the ad until Mike Wilson told him, quote: "don't be a pussy, John".
  • The Alcatraz: The beginning of 2030 AD drops you inside of Alcatraz.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: A particularly stupid example: at one point in the medieval hub, Superfly will chide Hiro about being reluctant to enter a cemetery and call him "superstitious". Apparently he has some sort of memory loss and just forgot that in the previous hub (ancient Greece) you fought a whole army of animated skeletons, and thus it's perfectly reasonable to think other undead might exist in the game's universe (especially in a cemetery).
  • Artificial Brilliance: While your allies have many Artificial Stupidity issues with combat AI, their pathfinding is usually fairly good about navigating around obstacles, jumping gaps, and using ladders. Main problem is they may or may not refuse to continue when the only way down is a painful drop.
  • Artificial Stupidity: It's a good thing you can order your allies to sit around and let you clear out the level on your own, because you otherwise spend most of the game protecting them. And despite the above trope, the enemies tend to be a lot worse when faced with obstacles, and even bosses can get stuck - including the Big Bad himself.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Apparently the bubonic plague turns people into homicidal plague zombies. Somewhat justified in that magic is involved, but on the other hand the plague itself is never mentioned as being magical, just that magic was used to help spread it.
  • Artistic License – History: In real history the Medieval bubonic plague pandemic didn't reach the Nordic countries until the 14th century; there was a plague epidemic in Europe in the 6th century but it didn't spread beyond the Mediterranean. Also, Christianity wasn't so spread out in the Nordic countries until about half a millennium later. But since the date of the time period is only stated on the back cover and not in the game itself, this might also be an example of Covers Always Lie.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Most of your arsenal in the first episode, though "awesome" might be stretching it a tad. Just in the first section alone, you have a basic gun that ricochets off walls, usually straight back at you, a shotgun-revolver that fires all six of its shots when you pull the trigger once, and a C-4 launcher with a blast radius only slightly less than its maximum effective range. Right there you have two weapons that you can easily kill yourself with, and one that forces you to either waste ammunition or just stand out in the open while it gradually empties itself. Who would make guns like these?
    • The titular sword always leaves your opponent on 1 HP. In theory, this would allow you to deliver the finishing blow; in practice, the opponent would often slice you to pieces before you could deliver a second strike. It also blocks a third of the screen, minimum; when fully leveled up, it starts sparkling, which blocks the screen more.
  • BFS: The titular Daikatana takes up a third of the screen when you wield it and doesn't kill what you hit; a lethal blow reduces your target to 1 hit point, so you get to finish it off with an extra blow. Its name even literally translates to "big sword", sort of. In the N64 port, the sheath alone is almost as long as Hiro is tall.
  • Block Puzzle: The GBC version requires moving crates need to form a jumping staircase. The conventional pushing blocks to form a path appears in the medieval period to reach the priest. Leaving the screen resets these puzzles.
  • Bodybag Trick: The intended method of entering the fortress in the prologue, but the coffin falls out because of a large bump in the road.
  • Boring, but Practical: Every episode has at least one starting weapon you can vaguely rely on. If you can get a hang of the Ion Blaster's ricochet, it can actually come in handy for shooting around the tight corridors you'll find throughout Episode 1, despite being the most basic weapon in your arsenal. The Discus of Daedalus in Episode 2 also has limited homing properties and theoretically infinite ammo, making a good choice over the flashier weapons to can obtain. The Bolter in Episode 3 is a rapid-fire crossbow that does far more damage than you'd expect. Episode 4's Glock can keep enemies stunned and can take out most in three shots, though at least in this episode, you get several more surprisingly practical weapons, too.
  • Bookends: The GBC version ends with Hiro being asked to fight against a dictatorship. It's character and name swapped.
  • Character Select Forcing: In the Game Boy Color version, the story sometimes requires the player to play as Superfly and Mikiko for no good reason (for example, there is a door that only Mikiko can open, but why play as her when she's in the party at all times?). The problem is that they can't use many of the available weapons.
  • Death Course: The SEAL training center in 2030 AD. Considering how easy it is to die while going through it, it's a wonder that any SEALs exist.
  • Early Game Hell: You start the game with only an unreliable melee attack and "upgrades" to several guns that you can accidentally kill yourself with, and the first episode is crawling with security guards who are hard to hit and do absurd amounts of damage with their hitscan weapons. Later episodes become much easier as your stats grow and you obtain weapons that are actually practical to fight more reasonably-designed enemies.
  • Easter Egg: Each time zone has a secret underwater area containing a(n admittedly very low-res) 3D rendition of the Dopefish. It's actually pretty deadly, but the secret areas also usually have a Mana Skull to make you invincible for a while, and killing the Dopefish nets a lot of experience to boost your RPG stats.
  • Engrish: The GBC version was made by Tecmo rather than Ion Storm, and it shows.
  • Escort Mission: The game ends if either of your Too Dumb to Live AI partners dies, and you can't finish a level if they are trapped elsewhere in it - probably because of the cutscenes they are in later. You will be shouting "Stop Helping Me!" far more often than you'd like. Made more bearable by the AI commands, allowing you to simply order them to hang back while you clear the place out.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You:
    • Your untimely death can be brought about by (among other things) cyborg frogs, crocodiles and dragonflies, Hoplites, sharks, dwarves, rats and your own weapons. Not even by accident, either; much of your arsenal seems tailored to be just as dangerous to you as it is to everything else.
    • Several weapons, especially the instant death ones, will target you if there are no enemies nearby.
  • Experience Points:
    • You can't see the actual numbers (just a vague bar that fills up; another annoyance) but if you kill enough enemies you can upgrade your stats.
    • The Daikatana gains experience as well, growing more powerful (and brighter) as you kill enemies with it, eventually becoming the melee weapon equivalent of a discotheque. Unfortunately, when you're using it, none of that experience goes to you.
  • Fake Difficulty: The game was claimed to be an "expert FPS", more difficult than what shooter players were familiar with up to that point, but the simple fact is that a lot of the difficulty comes from unfair sources: the game is riddled with bugs and minor errors, the AI sidekicks are a chore even at the best of times, there are several points where you need to make use of speedrunning techniques to avoid damage from unfairly-placed enemies (and that's ignoring other points where you're simply forced to drop from high places and take damage to proceed), and even those who can get past any of that have to deal with the game front-loading terrible guns with obnoxious mechanics that waste time and ammo (the automatic shotgun with a sticky trigger, the melee upgrade that takes several seconds to switch between while it's active) or damage you at least as much as your target (the ion blaster with shots that always seem to home in on you after two bounces, two different explosive weapons with huge blast radii and terrible hit detection to make them detonate in your face).
  • Falling Damage: Fall damage is practically inevitable, given the low threshold of how far a player must fall before the game deems it unsafe. Many routes of the game have you dropping to lower levels multiple times, so being on your last few points of health in a room with enemies is usually safer than during transit.
  • Foreign Language Title: Mind you, not correct foreign language. The developers are not alone in using the word, of course. The characters on the box are okay, and can be pronounced "dai" and "katana" individually, but when characters are combined together, they can have different pronunciations. In this case, the overall word would be pronounced "daitō". Besides, katana has no distinct large version; the term actually used to describe large swords in Japan is "Odachi" or "Nodachi" - as in, "great tachi", referring to the sword that was predecessor of the katana.
  • Foreshadowing: Mikiko rather callously suggests to Hiro a few times in the story to just leave Superfly behind when he goes missing on the notion that he's slowing them down. Of course, that's only because it would make it easier for her to betray Hiro at the very end.
  • Gainax Ending: After killing Mishima the various timelines created by his time meddling start collapsing and Hiro and co rush to recharge the Daikatana so they can make it back to their own time. Then suddenly Mikiko steals the sword, kills Superfly and reveals that the Ebiharas wanted to use the power of the sword for their own selfish ends just like the Mishimas did. After killing Mikiko, Hiro somehow uses the Daikatana to rewrite history so that Mikiko and Superfly (with no memory of Hiro) are alive again and for some reason living in 2030 AD working with Tatsuo (with no comment as to Mikiko being Tatsuo's great-great-etc descendant) as he searches for the Daikatana in vain, and Hiro becomes a hermit in the same time period keeping the Daikatana in hiding, as well as what looks like The Mona Lisa.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • This game has a host of these, including a glitch in the Lair of Medusa level where, when played in co-op, the player can get stuck to the floor when spawning, and get stuck in an infinite loop of respawns and telefrags by the other players. The only way to get out of it is to noclip past that spot.
    • The second level of the first episode has a large door that is opened by a ghost in the cutscene that starts the level. Cutscenes are removed from co-op mode, resulting in the first episode being unbeatable in co-op without cheating.
    • The AI allies frequently glitch up and begin running into walls and you'll be unable to snap them out of it. Considering your allies need to be by your side to finish a level (with one exception), this was game-breaking indeed. This isn't even getting into how your allies frequently kill themselves on every stage hazard they can find, resulting in an instant failed mission.
    • The Nintendo 64 port of the game has a bizarre glitch. If you quit a level and go back to the main menu then try to continue your game, you will spawn with no weapons except the Disruptor Glove (the absolutely useless melee weapon you're given at the start of the game). You have to select "load game" again before continuing the game to circumvent the glitch.
    • Your allies also occasionally disappear outright, without the game figuring it out. Cue being unable to progress without enabling the console and spawning the NPC anew.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Oh so painfully absent. Notable because a glitched cheat allows the player to enable it, which actually circumvents a lot of what makes the game hard to enjoy.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The story claims that if two Daikatanas touch, it could destroy all of existence. During the boss fight with Mishima, you can smack your sword against his with an audible clank, and nothing happens. Averted in the GBC version, which prevents the player from using the Daikatana during the final battle (although there's still a mid-game cutscene where the manifesting dragons collide).
  • Head Bob: As part of the Limited Animation, the lips of the characters don't move in the cut-scenes. Instead, they just bod heads when talking.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: One of the healing items in the first time period are fruits growing from small bushes a la the Nali healing fruit from Unreal; each has five fruits which heal 10 hitpoints each.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Ronin, Samurai and Shogun.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: You, the player, will be on both ends of this if you try to play multiplayer, thanks to the game's broad arsenal of barely-controllable weaponry.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Guess what's in the back room of the Mishima Burgers factory. Go on, guess.
  • I Meant to Do That: John Romero claimed after the fact that the game was an "expert FPS" that was intentionally designed to super difficult, and while there is some evidence that bears this out,Example:  for the most part his explanation sounds more like this trope.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Part of the infamy of the "bitch" ad was that it didn't so much as advertise a game as it did John Romero's own name and reputation.
  • Ladder Physics: Trying to climb down a ladder without dropping off a ledge entirely is almost as difficult as trying not to kill yourself by self-inflicted friendly fire. Predictably, the worst of it is in the Early Game Hell.
  • Ludicrous Gibs:
    • Gratuitous grand-scale dismemberment all around, even when it shouldn't happen, like getting sandwiched by a free-swinging door. Almost every method of dying results in gibs, including drowning, freezing to death and succumbing to poisoning.
    • Required with the Buboids, who just keep getting back up unless they're gibbed (fortunately, the time period they're in provides a melee weapon built especially for gibbing them).
  • Made of Indestructium: In the prologue, the daikatana is thrown into a volcano, and it survives.
  • Medusa: Humanoid with a snake head, who petrifies the player if looked at. To defeat her, you need to look away and use one of the superweapons. The GBC version doesn't have a superweapon, but the trident provides a ricochet shot.
  • Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: See Obvious Beta below. The designers didn't think of ensuring that scripting still works properly in co-op.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: The story claims that if two Daikatanas touch, it could destroy all of existence. Unfortunately, actual gameplay disagrees if you're not playing the GBC version.
  • Nintendo Hard: You see, the game isn't badly-designed; it's just an "expert FPS."
    John Romero: It was not meant to be a beginner's FPS but rather an expert FPS that required more than just the player hopping around and thinking only of themselves like most other FPS's - Daikatana required you to also help your sidekicks survive the ordeal alongside you. This new play mechanic threw many people off the game because it was too difficult.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Medusa has the usual petrified statues. Once she is killed, the statues become free.
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: The only difference between difficulty levels is the number of enemies per stage. This means that one can earn considerably more experience points playing on hard than on normal, making the game considerably easier in the long run.
  • Obvious Beta:
    • The game is riddled with bugs, especially the co-op mode - early highlights in the Let's Play by Proteus4994 and Suspicious involve their needing to abandon the original plan of playing the game completely unpatched because they would invariably crash at the first map transition in the opening level, and then having to noclip through a door in the second level that was supposed to open in the starting cutscene, but didn't because cutscenes are disabled in co-op. Again, these are the first two levels in the game.
    • The game's official demo was even worse — not least because the installer's self-extractor was broken, requiring you to use WinRAR or a similar program to manually extract the installation files. Moreover, the first level transition quite often caused a bug that would corrupt your save file and prevent the game from starting until you deleted the file.
  • Party in My Pocket: In the Game Boy Color version, resolving the Escort Mission problem, yet adding Character Select Forcing at times. The companions have a limited weapon selection, including some of the ranged weapons.
  • Plot Hole: When Hiro finally meats Kage Mishima face to face he finds Mishima has his own Daikatana. When he asks how this is possible, Mishima claims he used time travel to steal it, which raises the obvious question: If he stole it, how would Hiro still have it? Or, for that matter, how did he time-travel using the Daikatana before he had the Daikatana?
  • Power Up Letdown: An "upgrade" to the initial melee weapon increases the weapon's damage (to the point of killing robotic enemies in a single punch), by strapping some vaguely chainsaw-like device onto it. The problem is that this makes switching to and from this weapon far slower, as each time you slap the device on, pull the starter cord, then take it off when switching back. Thankfully the device runs out of fuel after about a minute of use and gets discarded.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Discus of Daedalus always returns to you after it's thrown; the trouble is that a glitch sometimes causes it to hurt you when it comes back.
  • Real Is Brown: The Kyoto and Ancient Greece episodes both avert this, though in noticeably different ways - while Greece actually has a noticeable amount of color everywhere, Kyoto settles for something more like "Real is Eye-Searing Green". The Dark Ages and Present play this painfully straight, unfortunately, though the former is set during the winter so there's snow everywhere to add at least one other color.
  • Robbing the Dead: One of the things Superfly says after you die implies that he's going to loot your corpse for the cooler stuff you happen to have on you.
  • Rocket Jump:
    • Doable with the Shotcycler-6, the Awesome, but Impractical shotgun mentioned above. Of note is that because each shot adds its impulse to the jump... somehow... if you pull it off correctly (itself a minor miracle) it allows you to get much farther than usual for a Rocket Jump.
    • Each era has a weapon that is designed for rocket-jumping, and it (at least in theory) propels you enough that you don't get hurt by splash damage: the Sidewinder in Kyoto, Poseidon's Trident in Greece, the Ballista in Norway, and the Kineticore in San Francisco. As above, though, some other weapons also work for this purpose, like the aforementioned Shotcycler in Kyoto or the Slugger's secondary fire in San Francisco.
  • RPG Elements: You gain extra party members across the game and can level up various stats to do more damage, jump higher, move faster, etc.
  • Save Token: You need a Save Gem in order to save your progress; but you can only carry up to three at a time... and every time you use one, it vanishes! In later levels, Save Gems become rarer. A post-release patch allows you to switch off this arbitrary limit and save whenever you want.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: You have to stop Kage Mishima from killing Mikiko's ancestor and claiming the cure to a deadly virus for himself.
  • Sequential Boss: Kage Mishima in the Game Boy Color version.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Hiro Miyamoto's last name was used as a shout-out to famous Nintendo idea man and Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto.
    • In the Crematorium, an organ rendition of At Doom's Gate from Doom can be heard playing.
    • The Dopefish appears a few times in the game.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Not only within the individual weapon sets, but even with the sets themselves: you start out with a weak melee attack by way of punching things and "upgrade" to ion blasters, auto-shotguns, and various explosive devices that are just as dangerous to you as they are to your enemies. After you get the Daikatana, you're sent to other time periods for the next three episodes, where you start getting weapons that are skewed much closer towards killing the target and not the user.
  • Super Drowning Skills: The GBC version, where jumping into water causes sinking, but similar to The Legend Of Zelda only causes minor damage. In Greece, there's shallow water that safe to pass while deep water causes drowning. In the final stage, any water causes drowning even when some enemies are able to run right across it.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Averted. Almost every single weapon is a gimmick weapon; particularly in the first episode, almost every single time, the gimmick is "it can hurt you", which often conspires with terrible collision detection to make it seem closer to "it's designed to hurt you" in practice. In fact, it's only in the last time zone that you get your very first pistol, at which point you start to truly appreciate this trope.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The titular Daikatana.
  • Tele-Frag: If one of the players spawns in an occupied space, this will happen, resulting in the inevitable for the former occupant. Since in more than one map, everyone respawns in the same exact location, this can lead to consecutive telefragging if nobody bothers to move (or can't move at all).
  • Temporal Paradox: Both Mishima and Mikiko warn Hiro that this will happen if his Daikatana comes in contact with Mishima's. During the final battle, Mishima will repeat this warning, stating that if he's to die he doesn't care if the entire rest of the universe has to go down with him - and then they clash swords with no ill effects (Hiro will usually be gibbed instantly if you try it in gameplay, but that's more an effect of Mishima being the most powerful enemy of the game than anything else). In the Game Boy Color version, however, Hiro can't use the Daikatana during the battle. If he had it equipped during the pre-boss cutscene, the game opens the menu so he can choose something else.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The finished game looks nothing like this trailer.
  • Training from Hell: The Navy SEAL training facility in 2030 contains an obstacle course consisting of several sections where you have to jump across moving platforms over an insta-kill electrified floor, dodge crushers and swim through a shark tank.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: A rather annoying example: in the first hub (26th century Japan) level transitions are absolute. The second hub (ancient Greece) has a puzzle where you have to find the letters to spell out the word "aegis", and unless you have been very thorough in exploring the previous level, you probably don't have all the letters, meaning you will have to go back to find them. Considering there is literally no foreshadowing about this, it comes across as downright unfair.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • A level-design bug in one of the last levels prevented a door from opening to allow your sidekicks to regroup with you... in single player mode, no less. Fixed in a patch, but a pretty bad error to leave unnoticed.
    • It's impossible to actually progress through the second level of the game in co-op without cheating, due to cutscenes not triggering in co-op. It's also possible to desync the traps in the first part of the SEAL Training Center's obstacle course by getting crushed in it in co-op, making it impossible to progress past it without noclip.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: And with your arsenal, you will wish that it were usable. Averted in the latter half of Episode 4, however, with machinegunners and shotgunners dropping their respective ammo.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: "I can't leave without my buddy Superfly!"