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Taking a Look Back at the Pipeworks Godzilla Trilogy

Godzilla Trilogy
Courtesy of Pipeworks Studios

Since his debut in 1954, Godzilla has reigned as the “King of the Monsters” in over 40 of his own films. He is the foundation of the kaiju genre and arguably the most recognizable character in the history of Japanese media. The influence of Godzilla is as immense as the monster himself and continues to maintain relevance in Hollywood with Godzilla vs. Kong, the fourth film in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse.

With Godzilla being the towering cultural icon that he is, it makes sense that people would want to stomp on buildings and energy blast other mythical behemoths in video game form. Godzilla has made digital appearances in games from the 80s to today, but none of these games gave the player the experience of being a brawling kaiju much like the Pipeworks Godzilla trilogy from the 2000s. 

These kaiju fighting games brought in a fair amount of Godzilla’s greatest foes in their rosters, who all defeat each other through punches, kicks, energy blasts, and tail smacks. Some attacks can get over-the-top reactions such as the enemy fighter hopping up and down in pain after getting their foot stomped on. You can also grab your enemy and throw them up from over your head. If you don’t get a chance to grab and throw your enemy, you’ll have plenty of chances to grab and throw a whole building at them.

In fighting game fashion, the games include special moves that can be executed after filling up an energy meter. After collecting various icons in the fighting arena, your monster can then go into “rage mode” and deal a ton of damage to your opponent. 

The Pipeworks Godzilla trilogy checked the boxes for what makes a good fighting game. Or, I should say, some of the games did better than others.

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (2002)

In 2002, Pipeworks Studios made the decision to add the word “melee” to the end of a perfectly fine title in order to ride the wave created by Super Smash Bros. the year prior and ensure that their first game was a success. Yes, this is not only the first game in the Godzilla fighting game trilogy, but it is also the first game that Pipeworks Studios has ever made. And for a studio’s first game, it’s not half bad. 

Godzilla: DAMM starts off with a transmission from a B-movie alien species called the Vortaak, who explain to Earth in a Daily Show segment that they have taken control of their strongest monsters. They’ve decided to have the monsters under their mind control attack every city on the planet because they are evil and that’s something an evil person would do. However, one monster breaks free from the Vortaak mind control and fights against the monster onslaught in order to send the evil aliens back to wherever they came from. And that monster is: whichever one you choose to play as.

The roster includes 12 playable kaiju including Godzilla, Godzilla 2000, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, Rodan, Gigan, Anguirus, Destroyah, and Gigan. Let’s imagine that you played the game as Godzilla. After defeating all of the monsters on Earth, the Vortaak then decide to beam you up to their mothership in order to have you fight against their ultimate weapon: Mechagodzilla. Once you give your robot counterpart a kaiju knuckle sandwich, the Vortaak hightail back to their star system and Godzilla walks back into the water like it was just another day.

Godzilla: DAMM was released for GameCube and Xbox and received mixed or average reviews. The game had room for improvement, and Mothra fans were disappointed after the hulking larva was given the Waluigi side character treatment. But all of that was about to change for Pipeworks Studios’ second game ever.

Godzilla: Save the Earth (2004)

Godzilla: STE included significant improvements when compared to its predecessor. The game added six new playable characters to the roster including Mothra, Jet Jaguar, Baragon, Megaguirus, Moguera, and SpaceGodzilla. The gameplay is more or less the same as the first game but with more devastating “rage modes” and energy beam battles between fighters. There are mini games that you can do such as swimming races and playing basketball. There were plenty of new cutscenes that were cutting edge at the time and a storyline that wasn’t as comical as the one in Godzilla: DAMM

The story begins with mankind acquiring Godzilla’s DNA, which they refer to as “G-Cells” (wait, this is actually even more comical). The Vortaak then catch word of this from the other side of the galaxy and return to Earth to basically do the exact same thing they did in the first game. After taking down the army of monsters destroying the city, the Vortaak once again have you fight against their ultimate weapon, this time being SpaceGodzilla. 

During the final battle, you blast off the giant crystals located on SpaceGodzilla’s shoulders, which then creates a black hole that he gets sucked inside of. The Vortaak, having not learned their lesson the first time, “peace out, girl scout” to their home planet as Earth is saved once again by everyone’s favorite hero: the character you decide to play as.

Godzilla: STE was considered a worthy sequel to Godzilla: DAMM with its added features and more cohesive storyline. Fans of the trilogy generally consider this to be the best of the bunch. The odd thing was that this game only came out for Xbox and Playstation 2 while the first game came out for Xbox and Gamecube. It’s peculiar why Pipeworks decided to go about it this way, but things only get more questionable from here.

Godzilla: Unleashed (2007)

After developing Godzilla: STE, Pipeworks Studios kept busy by making a number of non-Godzilla centric games including Prince of Persia: Revelations, Rampage: Total Destruction, Prince of Persia: Rival Swords, and NHRA Drag Racing: Countdown to the Championship. But then in 2007, Pipeworks Studios decided that it was time to go back to their roots and cap off their kaiju fighting trilogy with Godzilla: Unleashed. And… well… there were some issues.

Remember how confusing it was that Godzilla: DAMM came out for the Gamecube and Xbox and then Godzilla: STE came out for the Xbox and Playstation 2? Well Godzilla: Unleashed came out for Playstation 2 and Nintendo Wii.

The game heavily utilized motion control to the point where fighting monsters had you looking like you were air drumming with the remote and nunchuck. All of the monsters from the first two games return as well as Godzilla 1954, Varan, King Caesar, Biollante, Titanosaurus, and Pipeworks Studios originals Obsidius and Krystalik. A positive thing that was added to the game was that each match was entirely customizable, something the fans wanted from the previous titles. Fans would’ve been happy about this if the Wii game wasn’t considered an unplayable mess. 

Even the story is a mess, and I’m not talking about a fun mess like the first two games. Twenty years after the events of Godzilla: STE, the Earth begins to experience drastic climate shifts and seismic activity as large crystals form the ground. The monsters start to attack Earth’s major cities as if they are drawn to the giant crystals.

The Vortaak decide that now is the perfect time to invade Earth and use the crystals to take control of the planet until their mothership gets knocked into the San Francisco Bay (wah-wah). The ending reveals that the source of the giant crystals was SpaceGodzilla attempting to escape from the interdimensional imprisonment that the black hole from Godzilla: STE sent him into. On top of all of that, there’s something about the world splitting into four monster factions that determines which of the four endings you get.

Godzilla: Unleashed was by far the least successful in the Pipeworks trilogy. Nobody knows how this happened. I don’t even think Pipeworks knows how this happened. 

Conclusion

Although the series ended on a low note, the Pipeworks Godzilla trilogy is looked back on fondly by fans of the IP and of fighting games in general. The first two games continue to have a low key competitive scene and Pipeworks Studios managed to continue being a successful development company until they were bought out by Sumo Group in September 2020.

With all of the hype surrounding the latest Godzilla movies, it seems appropriate to give these games the remastered treatment as a salute to the one and only “King of the Monsters.”

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