Ever since Godzilla’s disappointing 2014 PS4 appearance, I’ve known exactly what I wanted in a new game featuring the King of Monsters. I looked around for the exact type of game I was thinking of, going back to my childhood with the Destroy All Monsters series and even venturing into mobile territory with Godzilla Destruction. All I was asking for and dreaming of was a game that entailed controlling a kaiju, stomping through a city, and fighting other kaiju beat ’em up-style. Is that so much to ask?
My hunger came back tenfold recently thanks to what feels like a resurgence of the kaiju genre in the cinematic world. Now, WayForward and 13AM Games’ Dawn of the Monsters finally delivers on my video game fantasies, giving Godzilla, Ultraman, kaiju, tokusatsu, and even mecha fans a game made just for them.
Dawn of the Monsters is easy to explain: Select a giant, venture through different cities, and defeat kaiju while progressing through a story. But it isn’t nearly as basic as it sounds at first glance. It’s evident that 13AM Games put a ton of love into the title. It just screams “by kaiju fans for kaiju fans,” which instantly made me fall head over heels.
From color palette references to the fact that you can make kaiju roar and strike fear in enemies, there are so many little Easter eggs all over the game that give me an indescribable feeling as a fan. It takes me back to a time as a kid when my dad was constantly showing me Japanese films and anime that blew my mind. They featured giant battles over the fate of humanity fought by unstoppable forces of nature or a lone hero piloting a government tax-paid mech. The idea that a new IP could give me that sort of nostalgia is a dream come true, and I get the sense that many kaiju fans will feel the same.
It isn’t just for die-hard kaiju fans, though. Dawn of the Monsters features a fun combat system with tons of customization and four unique characters to brawl with (kaiju based on Godzilla and Gamera, a growing man inspired by Ultraman, and a girl piloting a mech that seems like it’s pullsed from Getter Robo, Kamen Rider, and Gundam).
Like Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls, there’s a heavy focus on combos. You can chain together weak attacks, cancel them into heavy attacks, cancel heavy attacks into dashes for more combo options, cancel all that into special attacks at the cost of super bar, and cancel all of those into a cataclysmic ultra attack that has a different effect depending on who you use. Personally, I’m a fan of the Kamen Rider-esque Tempest Galahad, who has a giant gun and a weapon similar to Iron Man’s proton canon in Marvel vs. Capcom.
Players can customize each character with various buffs and risk/reward edits that come in the form of cards. Cards are earned after every mission and can either be equipped to change the way you play or be sold to earn money for other unlockables, like palette swaps or more health.
I found myself doing a lot of experimenting to find exactly what I wanted in my game and had consistent fun doing so. For example, Tempest Galahad’s combos have several functions, including a vacuum bomb that lifts opponents, allowing them to continue their combos. I equipped an item that gives me an extra special move bar for every parry and a speed-up item so I could always get in range to continue my combo for even more damage.
And yes, the game has a training room, so you can bet I’ve spent hours there trying to find the coolest-looking combos possible.
The combat is a clear standout, but the story caught me by surprise too. As a fan of tokusatsu, I was more than impressed to find that I was actually enjoying the narrative 13AM Games weaved with this game. I love all the characters and their stories, and even got sucked into the mystery that starts coming forward at the end of this first chapter. I felt like I was watching the 2000s Godzilla cartoon mixed with some of his comic runs, a tokusatsu superhero show, and your favorite mecha-versus-space invaders anime.
Dawn of the Monsters is one of the bigger surprises for me in gaming this year. After several rumors about Godzilla’s video games, I had all but given up. Little did I know I would be getting exactly what I wanted for years sooner than I’d expected. Fans of kaiju, mecha, super robots, Super Sentai, Ultraman, and beat ’em ups in general will find that Dawn of the Monsters isn’t just stomping around for show.