A belt-scroller starring kaiju and Tokosatsu-style giant mecha isn't exactly an original idea. SNK's not-that-great King of the Monsters series did it first, but here's the scoop — Dawn of the Monsters does it better, with a game that'll make you feel five hundred feet tall. And scaly. And basically a big lizard. Not in a weird David Icke conspiracy way, just... in the game.
WayForward published this one — you know, the Shantae lot — and we have to say it does recall their rather under-appreciated Godzilla Domination, a GBA title that saw a clutch of licensed Toho kaiju getting into big-time scraps in a diminutive but dominant (hence the title) fashion. In a sense, Dawn of the Monsters is a spiritual sequel, then, but developed by 13AM Games of Runbow fame; there's no need to panic, however, as these developers clearly know their kaiju. Excuse me, Nephilim.
Yes, the monsters here are known as Nephilim, a term more commonly used in gaming to mean "fallen angels", though it can also mean "giants" which makes more sense here for the monstrous (and playable) likes of Megadon and Ganira, as well as giant mecha Aegis Prime and Tempest Galahad — names that call to mind Pacific Rim's "Gypsy Danger", we think. And there are some Pacific Rim vibes to the whole thing, what with an art style stated to be inspired by Mike Mignola, who created Hellboy, which was adapted to film by Guillermo Del Toro... who also directed Pacific Rim. It's all connected, baby!
The game! Right. As mentioned, it's a side-scrolling beat-'em-up in the Streets of Rage 4 vein, but it offers a different tone and feel. With two-player co-op available, each monster and/or mecha has different strengths and weaknesses that can compliment one another. The game can be played solo, of course — and it's still fun to play that way — but the best experience sees you teaming up with a pal and helping each other out, working to fill the gaps that some players may find in their arsenal or vital stats.
The meat-and-potatoes brawling is effective and satisfying, though we feel it lacks a little "crunch" at times — a je ne sais quoi that belt-scrollers can offer. The regular moves and combos are effective and can be chained together nicely, but the rigged-looking animation can feel a touch cheap which takes some of the shine off things. Thankfully there's a more enjoyably visceral feel to the executions, activated by hitting 'B' when an enemy gets weak enough and seeing, for example, Megadon literally yank off an enemy's head, which he can then use as a bludgeon or projectile. More broadly, you're also able to uproot buildings and smack enemies around with them. This is amazing, obviously.
On top of this environmental action, you've got a rage metre that fills as you attack enemies, allowing you to unleash various devastating abilities by expending your Rage points. You can also parry enemy attacks, allowing you to counter with a powerful blow. As a last resort, you've also got a screen-clearing Cataclysm attack that you unleash with 'L' and 'R' after accumulating enough Rage.
Like most brawlers, it can get a touch repetitive at times, but with Dawn of the Monsters we found it a little more of an issue than in some of its contemporaries; many of the stages are near-identical, but they don't outstay their welcome and the extensive between-stage customisation system means you can mess around with each character's build, giving them a brace of special skills — "Augments" — to enhance their power. You get a choice of a couple after each mission, and a better performance from you means better Augments. This system makes the proceedings enjoyably varied and rewarding, and it helps to think of the game as a series of arenas you're thrown into to showcase your work in the Lab.
There's a lot of story and character here and many gamers will get a kick out of the extensive lore that's gone into Dawn of the Monsters' world. We didn't personally find it especially fascinating but we do appreciate the amount of effort that's clearly gone into it. With tons to dig into, this is the rare brawler that remembers to cater for single-player action as well as multiplayer.
Dawn of the Monsters stumbles into some of the more common pitfalls of belt-scrolling fighters, but it has enough flair, polish and excitement to be a more than worthy offering, particularly played in couch co-op with a friend. We wish there were a few more playable creatures, but the ones on offer here are all very distinct and enormous fun to get to grips with. It's a richly rewarding game, with higher ranks unlocking new skins and upgrades from the in-game shop (don't worry, no microtransactions here) which offer an incentive to keep playing — though the real reason you'll stick with Dawn of the Monsters is that it is, quite simply, very good indeed. While it has a few problems, they're nothing that will stop you having a blast with this Brobdingnagian beat-'em-up.
I'm happy to see this turned out well. I'm a fan of beat em ups and giant monsters and loved Rampage as a kid, so this should be right up my street.
I'm not sure I'd call King of the Monsters a 'belt scroller' though. It was more like a wrestling game set in a fixed arena.
EXCELLENT use of the word 'Brobdingnagian'!
Anyone else having issues with the eshop right now wont let me buy anything and wont let me see my wish list or log in on my phone
@OorWullie I recently played the newest version of Rampage at one of those huge bowling/lazer tag/game arcade/skee ball strip mall monstrosities - and I have to say - pretty darned fun game.
Rampage on the Atari Lynx was legit one of the best made portables of all times. man I wish my brother had kept his Lynx...
It looks fun, but not $30 worth of fun.
Everything about it comes off as exciting for a handful of co-op sessions, but it also looks a little more basic than other modern beat-em-ups. Probably worth watching for a sale.
@OorWullie King of Monsters 2 is definitely a belt-scroller, albeit one with wrestling boss battles.
Played the first couple stages, it's fun. You actually have a decent variety of moves at your disposal. Agreed that it could use at least a couple more playable monsters though.
"Kaiju feel my heart beat fast, I want this to last"
This is top tier
Sounds like fun and right up my street. Thanks for the review. Will DL it off the wishlist.
Yep we were right! WayForward + 13 am = a good game! 😁
30fps really hurt this game for me. It's 60 on everything else. Not acceptable for a fast-paced 2D game like this imo.
King of the Monsters is a pretty fun game, albeit shallow. The sequel, which is more like a standard brawler, is even better. Both of them will leave you with brutal thumb blisters and possibly destroyed controllers, however.
I've only played an hour or so of this, but so far my feelings line up pretty close to the review. It feels like a "great little game". No frills but very well done. The art style is great, and it feels equally at home on handheld and on a big TV that makes a lot of Switch games with higher production values look ugly and jagged.
There's a lot of love that you can feel in the design. These people love kaiju.
I'm certainly not the pickiest player when it comes to frame rates and input lag, but the controls feel fine to me.
I do hope they will consider DLCing another character or two. There are so many kaiju that would be fun to play as. I'd love to play with Hedorah or Mothra analogues. I was hoping more monsters would be unlockable in the game, but none of the reviews I've seen mention anything like that.
Nice review. What are we looking at for a main story run through, 5-6 hours would be nice for a game like this but if it's only 2-3 I'll wait, my wife and I still need to play Knack 2.
Am I the only one who thinks those screen shots they've used look terrible?
I'm sure the game is good but man, those pictures sure don't do a lot for me.
Still, added to my wishlist to check out out for myself.
It sounds like it’s a solid monster-y game, but maybe not awesome enough to get me to double dip. I may just wait the 9 months or whatever for my copy to deliver from LRG.
I guess I was hoping for more variety in playable characters or some imaginative modes. You’d think you could have a lot of fun with the kaiju genre, like some kind of King of Monster Island mode, or you vs humans horde mode.
Still, I’m looking forward to playing.
Aegis Prime isn’t really a mecha though, is he? I thought he was a giant hero like Ultraman, but maybe he’s more Jet Jaguar. 😄
I went in for the LRG physical copy, because I just prefer physical games, and I kinda wish I hadn't. Not because the game looks bad. Quite the opposite. I want to play it NOW and don't want to wait for my copy to arrive
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