I have been a fan of kaiju and Japanese giant monster films since a childhood friend lent me his VHS of Godzilla 1985 for a weekend. Eight years old at the time, I didn’t realize the movie was actually a pretty crappy Americanization of a far superior Japanese film. I just liked watching this big green lizard tear shit up. I watched the tape three times over that first weekend, forever changed by what I saw. To my eight-year-old mind, this wascinema.
By the time school rolled around on Monday, I was already making plans to scour my local video rental shops for whatever Shōwa and Heisei era Toho films they were hiding on their shelves. Once I was finished with all of those, I moved on to the video games, where my fanaticism was quickly tested. The world was still several years away from Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, leaving me with the crappy Godzilla games of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. If it wasn’t for titles like King of the Monsters, my devotion to the kaiju genre might have started to wane.
Yes, King of the Monsters and its sequel are actually pretty terrible video games, but for a kid not even in middle school yet, they were exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to fight other monsters and destroy cities just like my big green hero. That’s what those games let me do, and when we got the trio of Godzilla games from Pipeworks Software in the early aughts, I got to do it again — but with better graphics and somewhat decent gameplay.
Today, I’m still fighting monsters and wrecking city blocks, only now I’m doing it with even better graphics and gameplay in GigaBash, the new arcade brawler from Malaysian developer Passion Republic Games.
GigaBash (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed]) Developer: Passion Republic Games Publisher: Passion Republic Games Released: August 4, 2022 MSRP: $34.99
Set in a world where giant monsters are worshipped and feared, GigaBash is 2022’s second video game love letter to the kaiju genre after this spring’s Dawn of the Monsters. Passion Republic Games is clearly as infatuated with this niche corner of sci-fi as much as I am, creating a world rich with lore, lush locales, and exceptionally crafted giant monsters. Everything about this game speaks to me. Well, almost everything, but let’s not dwell on the negatives just yet.
There really is a lot I love about GigaBash. Right at the top of that list are its graphics. This is undoubtedly the prettiest monster melee game I’ve ever played, with bright, intricate battle maps chock-full of buildings, plants, cars, ships, and people just waiting for me to trample all over them. From congested cities to the frozen arctic and places less terrestrial, the variety, depth, and construction of these locales are worthy of immense awe. Equally attractive are the monsters themselves; 10 Titans that pull influence from a variety of tokusatsu sources in their design. There’s the King Kong-esque Gorogong, the Godzilla-adjacent Rawa, the requisite sword-wielding giant robot piloted by a dewy-eyed child, and Gigaman, who’s basically just Ultraman with a hot dad bod.
Not only is it gorgeous, but this is a simple game to pick up. GigaBash has a control scheme that’s easy to gel with in a matter of minutes, no matter which Titan you choose. Each character has a melee attack, a special attack, and the ability to jump, dash, and grab. If you hold down either the melee or special attack button, you can unleash a secondary attack that’s either more powerful or has better range than what you get by just pressing those buttons. Furthermore, the characters have distinct block attacks for melee and special as well as a dash melee attack.
All of these moves are unique, and no two Titans feel the same in battle. For instance, Gorogong is a close-up brawler who is powerful but has limited range, while Rohanna, a giant plant deity, can devastate opponents from great distances. When you get a good mix of close-range, distance, and zoners in a match, it can be an absolutely chaotic experience with Titans flying all over the stage and attacks coming at you from every which way. Dominating your foes is going to require you to get a clear understanding of how each of these Titans works.
Or you can just play as Rohanna and annoy the shit out of all your friends.
It's A Balancing Act
For as distinct as each of the Titans are, they aren’t balanced all that well. Characters like Rohanna and the giant mecha Thundatross definitely feel like they have a leg up over the rest of the cast. Close-up fighters like Gorogong or Woolley, a dimwitted yeti destined to be the most-loved member of this cast, are often at a disadvantage as their movement speed and dash capabilities aren’t necessarily quick enough to escape the swiftness of their opponent’s attack. You can block, which is very effective, but like with most brawlers and fighters, blocking opens you up to grabs, which can then open you up to having your Titan juggled across the screen until its health is fully depleted.
I haven’t mastered juggling opponents outside of the training mode just yet, but there are a few other higher-skill maneuvers I’ve managed to pull off over the past few days, including using my teammates as projectiles. I’ve also learned that in battle, attacking and racking up combos is the most important thing you can do as it quickly builds up your S-Class energy gauge. When this gauge fills and you press both shoulder buttons, your Titan will grow to a massive size that towers over the other fighters. Not only does this greatly increase their attack range, but this is when they actually start to have the dominating presence of the characters they're so clearly inspired by.
Maybe it's the way the camera is positioned, but these Titans don't feel all that titanic through the normal course of a match. Sure, they're tearing down buildings and using telecom towers as baseball bats, but when that camera pulls out to give you a look at the full stage you're fighting on, they can look pretty puny. There is good reason though to position the camera the way it is here, however. Not only do you need to keep track of the other fighters trying to bring you down, but you need to be aware of how the stage is trying to kill you as well.
Depending on which level you choose to fight on, your battleground may greatly transform throughout the match. There are obvious ways it’ll change, like when you trample buildings or break them apart to use as projectiles, but each stage also has a gimmick associated with it meant to cause chaos on the playing field. For instance, the Hawaiian-inspired Luana Island will slowly be inundated with hot lava that slowly damages the Titans. Not all gimmicks require such a transformation, though, and you are given the option of turning them off altogether. Other match options include increasing the stock count for each fighter, adjusting the strength of the buildings so they don't crumble so easily, choosing whether you want to include the Final Smash-like Ultimate Attacks, and toggling on and off the post-death attacks, which allow defeated fighters to do some damage from the afterlife.
Beyond the free-for-all and team battle modes, GigaBash's Couch Play also includes a set of minigames that have been designed around the game's different mechanics. These are a bit of a mixed bag, but I had a lot of fun with the "Rampage" game. However, unlike with the other Couch Play modes, you can't substitute in A.I. bots for these minigames, and the fewer people there are playing them, the less enjoyable they are.
If you don't have anybody around and online isn't doing it for you – I was unable to connect with anyone online during the review period for this game – there is a single-player campaign available that you’ll need to go through at least once if you want to unlock all the playable characters. The story mode follows four of the Titans as they venture through their loosely connected narratives on a worldwide tour of destruction. Each Titan’s journey is broken up into five chapters with most asking that you simply defeat your opponents to move on. A couple of chapters across the campaign try to shake the formula up by having you rescue friends or destroy a city, but those missions are often over far too quickly and lack the excitement of a kaiju battle to be of any fun.
The other issue with the single-player campaign is the A.I. you square off against. GigaBash has some of the most wildly inconsistent A.I. I’ve seen in some time. Even on the normal difficulty setting, opponents can easily destroy you without breaking much of a sweat. Other times, they’ll basically lie down and let you walk all over them. There is zero consistency to the difficulty here, resulting in a campaign with a final battle that is far easier than anything else you’ll encounter over its 20 chapters.
At least the campaign is well-written. It’s easy to see how much of the titular passion Passion Republic Games has for the kaiju genre, as the narrative touches on several different inspirations in telling its tale. As you unlock more lore by leveling up each Titan and your player profile, the depths of these waters will really start to reveal themselves. There is a lot to learn about this world, and I enjoyed reading every little bit of the story I unlocked because all of it is a joy to read.
While I understand that GigaBash was clearly designed as a multiplayer party experience, I do wish Passion Republic Games found a way to include more single-player options. The story mode can be completed in a single sitting and there is little reason to go back to it. Sure, you can revisit it on harder difficulties, but I found that to be more frustrating than challenging with extremely aggressive A.I. that could act and react faster than my normal human hands could. Plus, you're limited to just four Titans. Something like an arcade mode would go a long way toward making GigaBash a more well-rounded experience.
As I said at the top of this review, there is a lot about GigaBash that speaks to me as a lifelong kaiju fan. The visuals, the Titan designs, the pick-up-and-play ease of the controls, the level variety, the lore, it's all top-notch and easy to gush about. If you can consistently get three other people to join you locally in the action, you're going to get a lot out of this game. If that's not realistic for you, know that it can still be a pretty fun time even if you're not getting the optimal experience.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]