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Developer(s) Ion Storm
Kemco (Console versions)
Publisher(s) Eidos Interactive
Kemco (Console versions)
Designer(s) John Romero
Engine Quake II
Version 1.2 (September, 2000) GBC, N64
Platform(s) Windows, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 64
Release date(s) May 23, 2000[1]
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: M (17+)
Media 1 CD-ROM

John Romero's Daikatana (or Daikatana) is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive. Released on May 23rd, 2000 for Windows,[1] it was led by John Romero. The game is known as one of the major commercial failures of the computer 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 canceled during development.

The game takes place during the year 2455 AD, in a world suffering from a major pandemic caused by a man named Kage Mishima. Through the use of a magical sword called the daikatana, Mishima traveled back in time and prevented the disease from being cured, allowing him to take control of the world. The protagonist takes the form of a martial arts instructor named Hiro Miyamoto. Hiro, along with minor characters "Superfly Johnson" and Mikiko Ebihara, attempts to recover the daikatana, traveling to a number of different times and places in the process.

Daikatana's title is written in Japanese kanji which means "large sword", but their correct reading is actually "daitō" in Japanese (see etymology of katana). The name comes from an item in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign played by the original members of id Software,[2] 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.[3]

Enemies in the game typically marched straight towards the player regardless of the player's location, often resulting in enemies getting stuck behind simple barriers, with no attempt to avoid structures or move around objects.

To fit the game within the memory limits of the time, a loading screen was used to transition between sections of a game level. These sections of each level may be freely traversed, but the loading screen takes a significant amount of time to count down, slowing the game action. The loading time did not decrease on faster machines.


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 8 artists, and calculated that he could finish in seven. This schedule was called "patently ludicrous" by John 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.

Even this would not have prevented the release of Daikatana in 1998, but internal company politics began to erode morale. Ion Storm had grown extremely quickly, and was spending money freely. The Dominion project, put on a fast path by Ion Storm in a desperate attempt to generate some revenue, was resented by the Daikatana team for stealing resources from their project. In November 1998, morale got so bad that twelve members of the Daikatana team quit, leaving Romero with no team, and no way to make the Christmas 1998 deadline.

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 proudly 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 frantically trying to create a new, far 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 financed Ion Storm to the tune of $25 million so far, 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.

Despite this turmoil, and the departure of the fourth lead programmer on the project since its inception, Daikatana was nearing release. Ion Storm was confident enough in its progress to schedule a huge release party for December 17, 1999. This date came and went like all the previous ones, as the bug testing, ambitiously scheduled for a few weeks, dragged out into several months.

On April 21, 2000, Daikatana finally reached gold status. It sold 200,000 copies, which Romero claimed made up its production costs. The production cost of Daikatana was well over 40 million dollars, meaning each copy would have had to have sold for $200 each, before taxes, to cover the production costs.

Nintendo 64 version

The Nintendo 64 version of Daikatana has received particularly 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 framerate up, large amounts of fog were added to certain levels, particularly in Greece. The graphics were also blurred tremendously, possibly to hide low resolution textures. The level of blurriness increases yet further in the multiplayer mode as well, making it nearly unplayable.

The characters Superfly Johnson and Mikiko Ebihara were completely removed from gameplay, yet they were retained in all of the cut scenes.

Also the Daikatana sword of the title cannot actually be used.[citation needed]


The infamous Daikatana advertisement

From very early on in the game's development, Daikatana was aggressively advertised as the brainchild of John Romero, a man famous for his work at id Software in the development of Doom and Quake. Time magazine gave Romero and Daikatana glowing coverage, saying "Everything that game designer John Romero touches turns to gore and gold."[4] An early advertisement for Daikatana, created by marketer Mike Wilson and 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.[5] The advertisements tarnished the company's image.[6]

Following the ad's appearance in several gaming magazines, more negative news came out of Ion Storm, fuelling 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-centred 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 (and later, Playboy model candidate) 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), incited fierce disdain and criticism among certain elements of the then-emergent online gaming fan community. The press regularly published leaked gossip from disgruntled former and current employees, providing ample and regular doses of new drama to keep interest in the story high. Several online industry gossip websites came into existence primarily to track the unfolding debacle.

Due to these and other problems, 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 graphical 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 an active impediment to the player. As a result, Daikatana garnered a mediocre-at-best reception from reviewers and users alike.

Many believe the fallout from Daikatana sidelined Romero's career in the high-end PC gaming industry for a number of years, though Romero himself has stated that he chose to make his next company, Monkeystone, drastically smaller for his own reasons. 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 on gaming, due its controversial advertising and the hype that Romero built on this game, but in the end turned out to be a failure.[7] 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."[8]


  1. ^ a b "Knee Deep in a Dream: The Story of Daikatana at Gamespot". Gamespot. Retrieved December 18 2009. 
  2. ^ Kushner, David (2003). Masters of Doom. New York: Random House Inc.. ISBN 0-375-50524-5. 
  3. ^ "We chronicle the embarrassments that the industry would rather you forgot". Games Radar. Retrieved 2007-03-22. "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." 
  4. ^ Michael Krantz. "Beyond Doom and Quake". Time.,10987,1101970623-137916,00.html. Retrieved July 7 2008. 
  5. ^ ""The 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming"". Gamespy. Retrieved July 7 2008. 
  6. ^ Divine, Christian. "A hardcore elegy for Ion Storm." January 2, 2002. Retrieved on February 22, 2009.
  7. ^ ScrewAttack Video Game, Top 10 Biggest Busts
  8. ^ GameTrailers, Top 10 Disappointments Of The Decade

External links


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Wikia Gaming, your source for walkthroughs, games, guides, and more!


Developer(s) Ion Storm
Publisher(s) Eidos Interactive
Designer(s) John Romero
Engine Quake II
Release date April 2000
Genre First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player
Age rating(s) ESRB: M-17+
Platform(s) Windows
Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough

Daikatana (full name being John Romero's Daikatana) is a game released for Microsoft Windows. It was the most hyped game that was designed by John Romero, who worked on Doom and Quake; his "teaser ad" stating JOHN ROMERO'S ABOUT TO MAKE YOU HIS B---- being the most memorable promotional piece. Unfortunately, the finished product didn't fully live up to its hype. It was adapted to the Nintendo 64 and to the Gameboy Color.


In the year 2455 AD, the world is suffering from a major pandemic caused by a man named Kage Mishima. Through use of a magical sword called the daikatana, Mishima traveled back in time and prevented the disease from being cured, allowing him to take control of the world. You play the role of a martial arts instructor named Hiro Miyamoto who, along with your companions "Superfly Johnson" and Mikiko Ebihara, must attempt to recover the daikatana, traveling to a number of different times and places in the process.


It is a first-person shooter that combines fast-paced combat with some problem-solving elements as the player guides two companions through twenty-four levels, divided into four zones, and covering four time periods: futuristic Japan, ancient Greece, the Dark Ages in Norway and near-future San Francisco. The game emphasizes protecting your companions at all times; fail to do so and you must start your mission over.

External links

  • Daikatana's page on John Romero's site
  • Parody version of the teaser ad

This article uses material from the "Daikatana" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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