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Did you know that Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee is the first game in a trilogy? I didn’t know that until about four or five years ago and I’ve met a few people who also had no idea sequels existed. Maybe it was because of a lack of advertising, maybe nobody cared, or maybe it was because of the different home console releases for each game. Melee was released for the GameCube and Xbox, Save the Earth was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and Unleashed released for PlayStation 2 and Wii. Developed by Pipeworks Software and published by Atari, Godzilla: Save the Earth was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in November, 2004. For this review, I played the Xbox version. For the longest time, I was under the impression that Melee was the best Godzilla game on the market. But I often wonder if that’s because people just didn’t know the sequels existed or if it’s because people thought they sucked. I don’t know. Either way, Melee is a great game despite some of its issues.
Set after the events of Melee, the alien race known as the Vortaak learn of the humans acquiring Godzilla’s DNA, known in the game as G-Cells. They once again set monsters loose around the Earth. The monsters wreak havoc and fight each other because that’s what makes these creatures so awesome. And that’s really all there is in terms of plot.
There are numerous modes to play through and the Action mode is where you’ll spend a good majority of your time. You select a monster and fight against a series of opponents. You earn points or credits by winning fights, collecting the G-Cells scattered around the arenas, and by destroying targets like helicopters, tanks, and UFO’s. There’s three difficulty modes and the gameplay is challenging but the Action mode feels more forgiving than the Adventure mode in Melee. On Hard, the AI can easily destroy you but on Medium, the game will pose a decent challenge. The fights get more challenging the further you progress through the mode and some of the later opponents can feel somewhat cheap. They seem to block all of your attacks and whenever you try to block they just grab and throw you. Each monster will fight specific opponents in a specific order and there are Challenges to complete after certain fights. The challenges are just scenarios that give you the opportunity to earn extra credits but you don’t have to win to progress. Many of them are more or less minigames and some can go on for quite some time. Many of the Challenges are not quite as polished as the standard fights and, unfortunately, you can’t skip them so they just feel like unnecessary padding to extend the length of the mode. When you play a Challenge for the first time, it is unlocked in the Challenge mode where you can replay them at any time.
All of the monsters from the previous game are present along with a bunch of new ones including Jet Jaguar, the creepiest looking motherfucker in the Toho universe. At least in my opinion. Each monster has their own moves and attacks but most of them share the same basic functions like being able to walk, run, jump, block, taunt, and unleash a breath or beam attack that drains energy when used. Certain monsters can fly and many have unique abilities. For example, Jet Jaguar can change his size and Mothra comes in two forms and she can evolve mid-fight. You can pick up and throw buildings, tanks, and opponents, and some structures can be used as melee weapons. You can catch thrown objects can hurl them back at opponents which I think is really cool. Save the Earth implements a dueling breath/beam minigame. When two monsters fire their breath or beam attack at the same time, the attacks lock and the monsters can send energy pulses in an attempt to achieve dominance and win the duel. The pulses are different colors resulting in a “rock, paper, scissors” type of minigame. Basically, the idea is to send the color that overpowers theirs. UFO’s will drop pick-ups throughout the arenas that can aid monsters during battles. The health and energy pick-ups restore health and energy respectively. The airstrike pick-up results in your opponent being targeted by either Battra or Super-X3. And the Rage pick-up lets you inflict more damage for a limited time and it also allows all monsters but Mothra to unleash a devastating attack that inflicts massive damage. The controls in Save the Earth feel a bit more responsive that than that of its predecessor and the gameplay feels slightly faster-paced. You should learn the each monster’s moves otherwise your opponents will kick your ass. There is a slight learning curve.
Each monster has different stats in attack, defense, speed, and weapons and inflict certain types of damage. They can each resist and are weak to certain types of damage as well. Outside of the Action mode, on the Medium difficulty, the AI is tough and to win you should not only know each monster’s move set but also their strengths and weaknesses. The AI will constantly attack you and can smack you around mercilessly like they did in Melee. They’ll spam attacks, frequently grab and throw you, and you may often feel like you’re helpless to defend yourself. Winning a fight will rely on your knowledge of each monster’s move set and sometimes exploiting certain attacks. My biggest problem with the AI is that they tend to spam their breath/beam attack and it just becomes annoying.
There is a Survival mode where you choose a monster and arena and the goal is to see how many fights you can win before you’re defeated. And your health is not restored after each fight. You do earn points in this mode but it’s only for bragging rights and not credits. You can only earn credits in the Action mode. Credits act as currency that can be spent to unlock new monsters, arenas, artwork, and images from the film Godzilla: Final Wars which released shortly after the game. You have to buy monsters and arenas in packs to unlock individual monsters and arenas for purchase. It seems very unnecessary but compared to the previous game, it is much easier to unlock everything this time around. You can struggle in the Action mode and still earn enough credits to unlock something.
As expected, there is a Versus mode which is all about one-on-one fights and there’s also a Melee mode that supports up to four players. You can, of course, play with AI opponents. Maybe it’s just me but the standard camera seems slightly improved compared to the camera in Melee and the view does shift to an isometric or top-down perspective when there’s more than two monsters fighting. Melee comes with multiple game types. Free For All, Team Battle, Destruction, and Team Destruction. Free For All is basically every monster for themselves. Destruction is all about destroying buildings for points and whichever monster has the most points at the end of the match, wins. The team modes let you set up teams. You can set up rules for the matches like the difficulty, round length, and required wins for victory, among other options. It should be known that Save the Earth does support multiplayer and system link or LAN multiplayer.
The Challenge mode is one of the more unique modes in the game. There are a couple of challenges available at the start and the rest are unlocked by playing through the Action mode. There’s a specific objective in each one and you’re timed in most of them. One has you throwing boulders at monsters and to win, they all need to be knocked down at the same time. Another has you destroying a certain percentage of a city within a time limit. Monster Roundup requires you to throw three monsters into pens and I found it to be one of the more difficult challenges. Clone Attack has you fighting large and small Jet Jaguars. There’s another where you have to destroy UFO’s before they destroy a building and I think Undersea Attack is the standout challenge. The objective is to destroy the Vortaak’s hammer sub. You’ll have to swim through obstacles, avoid mines, destroy small subs, and you’ll get to battle Ebirah about half-way through. There are other challenges and most of them are enjoyable for what they are. They are fun enough to play every now and then but are certainly not the highlight of the game. They can really make the Action mode drag and you’re going to have to replay many of them with each monster. I really wish these were just isolated to the Challenge mode. My biggest gripe with this mode is the reticle. You can control it and can lock onto opponents but it makes battles more frustrating than they need to be.
Most of the arenas are set in cities around the Earth and there are some others set in more unique locations. Several cities from the previous game are present here. Each arena is basically a giant box with barriers to keep the monsters contained. Several arenas take place in the same locations, albeit different sized portions, and there are plenty of buildings and structures littered about that can be destroyed. Helicopters and tanks will fire at the monsters and UFO’s will spawn pick-ups. When selecting an arena, you can decide on the time of day and in the end, the arenas more or less feel like destructible playgrounds.
Godzilla: Save the Earth does look pretty good. The monsters are well detailed, the environments are diverse, and the visual effects do enhance the action. Particles go flying from explosions. Parts of buildings come flying off as you destroy them and buildings will crumble, resulting in clouds of smoke, and you can see vehicles and people running around on the streets below. The soundtrack consists of dramatic-sounding tunes but most of the songs don’t really stand out in my opinion. I thought the music in the previous game was much better. The sound effects are great, complete with loud roars, rumbling of buildings as they crumble, and satisfying hits, smacks, and explosions. When there’s a lot of action on-screen which happens frequently, the frame rate will take a hit but I can’t say I noticed any bugs.
Despite the cheap AI at times, I had a blast with Save the Earth. I enjoyed it more than Melee simply because it feels a bit more balanced. Plus, you can have a tough time and still unlock things thanks to the credit system. It’s basically got everything Melee had and just adds more. The new monsters and arenas are certainly welcome additions and the Challenges are neat, although I do feel they should be removed from the Action mode. Each game mode is enjoyable and the replay value here is very high. Save the Earth can be a very challenging game at times but even when I lost, I still wanted to keep playing because there’s just something fun and awesome about these creatures pulverizing each other.
Save the Earth improves almost everything established in Melee and just adds more content. I would absolutely recommend it to those looking for a good Godzilla game or just fun in general. If you like the idea of giant monsters fighting each other while simultaneously destroying things, than Save the Earth is what you’re looking for. Definitely check it out.