As I lay bleeding out in the rubble, Ultraman’s colossal taint filling my fading vision, one thought occupies my mind: “This. This is everything a Godzilla game should be.”
Admittedly, trying to dash between two warring giants is a bad idea, but developer Granzella’s City Shrouded in Shadow excels at making you feel so insignificant that you’ll go to ridiculous, ill-advised lengths to reach safety. Once Godzilla rears his scaly head you’re plunged into mortal terror, making it all the more shameful this Japanese survival adventure has never received a Western release.
Dubbed Kyoei Toshi in its country of origin, City Shrouded in Shadow casts you as a largely unremarkable office worker whose world goes to hell when Godzilla and “friends” invade his city. There’s a scrap of a mystery, but by and large your objective is simply to survive amidst the escalating chaos.
“But hang on,” you might be thinking, “shouldn’t a Godzilla game actually let you play as Godzilla?”
No, because nearly every game that casts you as him misses out on what makes the giant lizard so formidable — his towering menace.
Banpresto’s 1993 Godzilla arcade game briefly touched on this, but as soon as you’re fighting another monster it becomes a run-of-the-mill one-on-one fighter. 2004’s Godzilla: Save the Earth on Xbox and PlayStation 2 is a decent fighting game but likewise lacks any sense of scale. And 2014’s PlayStation 3 / PlayStation 4 Godzilla had a primarily negative reception, despite the generational upgrade.
Yes, a lot of early Japanese Godzilla movies feature men in rubber suits, shoving each other around sets. But no games have had the courage to embrace that aesthetic, even though we now have the capture technology to do so. And with Eastern and Western Godzilla movies having moved on, it’s fair to expect something with more impact.
That’s where City Shrouded in Shadow succeeds, in spectacular fashion. By pouring you into a civilian’s fragile, fleshy form, you’re acutely aware how terrifying Godzilla and his fellow titans are. “King of the Monsters – Savior of Our City?” You can bet those idiots clapping and whooping at the end of 2014’s movie weren’t trapped in an office block, watching as their “hero” choke-slammed a Muto into the building next door.
You, on the other hand, are as up close and personal as it gets. Don’t be fooled by the name; City Shrouded in Shadow rarely hides anything. You’re not watching from the far harbor when Godzilla emerges from the ocean — you’re cowering on a container ship as his atomic breath blasts overhead. A couple of chapters later you’re staring in horror as his massive red eye looks in on you, before you have to flee the rubble his fight with King Ghidorah is generating.
More often than not, you end up scrabbling for a scrap of sanctuary, an oasis in all the mayhem. Logically, you know a convenience store won’t shield you from the same laser beams that have been tearing skyscrapers apart, but you duck behind a shelf anyway. The muzak emanating from the store’s loudspeakers would normally drive you crazy, but now you find comfort in its mundanity.
Even the breathing room the game gives you is harrowing, as you witness the fallout from previous battles, including the casualties. You’re also given the opportunity to determine just how selfish you want to be in the name of survival; it doesn’t have a massive impact on the story’s outcome, but seeing “narcissist” below your picture in the end-of-level newspaper might be the payback you deserve.
No, you haven’t got a hope in hell of stopping Godzilla and pals, but survival is all the motivation you need. That said, some fights are such a spectacle that there’s always the temptation to stick around and watch, to be that one kaiju fanboy who gawps too long and gets launched into the stratosphere by Mothra’s wings or flattened beneath falling masonry. But you’ve got no one else to blame but yourself.
With the license going wanting, Granzella deserves a crack at a Godzilla vs. Kong game, and City Shrouded in Shadow is the perfect foundation for such a title. It’s taken three Godzilla movies for Legendary to realize people want titanic monsters punching each other in the face. Granzella, which went on to make Disaster Report 4, has shown it can not only make this a terrifying reality, but give you a front row seat to the action.
Imagine fleeing a brawl between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, palms sweaty as you pray you’ve got enough energy left to reach an abandoned motorbike. Then, just when you think you’re clear and racing across the bridge to “safety,” you hear a distinctive roar and see a huge hairy hand grabbing a girder in front of you. With the alternative being another kaiju-on-kaiju beat ‘em up where Godzilla has all the presence of a novelty pool toy, what more could you ask for?
Unfortunately, there’s next to no chance of the original City Shrouded in Shadow receiving a translated release at this late stage, though it’s still a joy to play (through import) even if you don’t speak a word of Japanese. After all, giant murder-lizards transcend all language barriers; if there’s a single Godzilla-fearing bone in your body, you won’t regret it.