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Kemco (console versions)
Kemco (console versions)
|Release date(s)||April 14, 2000
October 1, 2013 (Steam) 
|Distribution||1 CD-ROM, 1 N64 cartridge, 1 GBC cartridge, digital distribution|
John Romero's Daikatana, or simply Daikatana, is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive. Released on May 23, 2000 for Windows, it was led by John Romero. The game is known as one of the major commercial failures of the video game industry. Daikatana was later ported to the Nintendo 64. A different version of the game was developed for the Game Boy Color, with a version for the PlayStation cancelled during development.
Daikatana's title is written in Japanese kanji and literally means "big katana"; 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.
Daikatana is composed of twenty-four levels divided into four episodes. The number of maps per level varies, but is generally about three. Each episode represents a different location and time period: futuristic Japan, ancient Greece, the Dark Ages in Norway and near-future San Francisco. Gameplay tends towards fast-paced combat, although an attempt at introducing problem-solving elements was also included.
One element that Daikatana stressed was the important role of the protagonist's two "sidekicks". The death of these sidekicks resulted in the failure of the mission, and their assistance was sometimes required for the completion of 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 Ebiharas and the Mishimas—are at war. The Mishimas 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 Ebiharas instead, throwing the sword into a volcano at the war's end.
In the year 2455 AD, swordmaster Hiro Miyamoto is visited by a man named Ebihara, who is suffering from a plague and about to die. Ebihara 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 the year 2020 and uses the cure to control the world's population. Ebihara's daughter- Mikiko- has been captured trying to steal back the Daikatana, and Hiro must rescue her and fix history- being descended from Usagi.
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 and totalitarian practices. Mikiko and Superfly join Hiro in his quest and they 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 the 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 power.
The group finds a sorceror 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 a magical sword- the Purifier- and use the Purifier to restore the sanity of King Gharroth so that he may use the sword to end the plague. When King Gharroth recharges the Daikatana Hiro and friends time jump again, finally ending up in the year 2020, 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 Daikatanas disappears, as its timeline no longer exists. Mikiko steals the remaining Daikatana and kills Superfly. Mikiko reveals that the feudal Ebihara clan was just as evil as the Mishimas, and that- when Usagi discovered how evil the Ebiharas were, he threw the Daikatana into a volcano. Mikiko announces that she intends to use the Daikatana to restore the honor of her ancient clan, then 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 2020, the Mishima never takes over the world, and Hiro exiles himself to a forgotten corner of the space-time continuum, save guarding the Daikatana so that it never again falls into evil hands.
Romero's initial game design, completed in March 1997, called for a huge amount of content—24 levels split into 4 distinct time periods, 25 weapons, and 64 monsters. Despite this, Romero believed that development of the game could be completed in seven months, just in time 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 only six months. Romero had eight artists, and calculated that he could finish in seven. This schedule was called "patently ludicrous" by John D. Carmack. Put simply, 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 engine was still running in a software mode, and looked 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.
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 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 complete. What had been scheduled for a few weeks had taken an entire year to complete. Ion Storm announced that "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 founders Todd Porter and Jerry O'Flaherty left the company.
On April 21, 2000, Daikatana finally reached gold status. It sold 200,000 copies, which Romero claimed made up its production costs.
Nintendo 64 version
The Nintendo 64 version of Daikatana has received harsh criticism. Since it was rushed through development (it was released about 3 months after the PC version), significant concessions were made, and many of the flaws of the PC version were retained. For one, the quality of the graphics was significantly lowered. In order to keep the frame-rate up, large amounts of fog were added to certain levels, particularly in Greece. The graphics were also blurred tremendously. The characters Superfly Johnson and Mikiko Ebihara were completely removed from gameplay, yet they were retained in all of the cut scenes.
Reception and controversy
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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. Nothing else was featured on this poster but a small tag-line reading "Suck It Down," an Ion Storm logo and an Eidos logo. Romero would later apologize for the advertisement, stating 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."
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 multi-million dollar office on the top floor of a Dallas skyscraper), Romero's well-publicized expensive tastes and hobbies (such as racing Ferraris), the dubious saga of 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.
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 id Software's Quake III and Epic MegaGames' Unreal Tournament) had already been released, causing Daikatana to lag technologically in the market with its dated Quake II game engine. Additionally, its 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 generally negative reception from reviewers and players.
The game was a major contributing factor in the closure of Ion Storm's Dallas office. In 2009, ScrewAttack named this game the #7 bust on their "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. In 2010, GameTrailers ranked this game the #2 biggest gaming disappointment of the decade, 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."
- "Knee Deep in a Dream: The Story of Daikatana at Gamespot". Gamespot. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
- "John Romero's Daikatana pops up on Steam at Eurogamer". Eurogamer. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
- Kushner, David (2003). Masters of Doom. New York: Random House Inc. ISBN 0-375-50524-5.
- "We chronicle the embarrassments that the industry would rather you forgot". Games Radar. Retrieved March 22, 2007. "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."
- Michael Krantz (June 24, 2001). "Beyond Doom and Quake". Time. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
- "The 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming". Gamespy. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
- 10 Years Later, Romero Apologizes for Daikatana Tom's Hardware, May 18, 2010 (Article by Kevin Parrish)
- Gamecock Head Tears Into John Romero, It's Getting Ugly (letter from developer Mike Wilson to John Romero), Kotaku, January 18, 2008
- ScrewAttack Video Game, Top 10 Biggest Busts
- GameTrailers, Top 10 Disappointments Of The Decade
- Daikatana at MobyGames
- "From 'Doom' to Gloom: The Story of a Video Game Flop", NPR Morning Edition story on Romero, part of a series of other famous debacles
- Knee Deep in a Dream: The Story of Daikatana, a GameSpot series of behind-the-scenes articles on Romero and his work on Daikatana