Developed by 13AM and published by WayForward, Dawn of the Monsters is what it sounds like – a game that centers around kaiju monsters. Out now for all major systems, we played it on a PlayStation 4 for this review.
The kaiju genre has had a bit of resurgence in the past few years, with new Godzilla films and even crossover projects like Godzilla vs Kong and Rampage. Dawn of the Monsters taps into that, but takes it inspiration from the manga origins of many of these characters rather than the recent Hollywood films. In the game’s plot, giant alien creatures called the Nephilim have invaded, and it’s up to earth to fight the invasion with their own team of monsters. Playing out as a side-scrolling beat ’em up, Dawn of the Monsters gives you the choice between four different mega-monsters: Megadon, Aegis Prime, Tempest Galahad, and Ganira.
If you’re familiar with the NeoGeo generation, then this may sound familiar to you, as King of the Monsters had a similar approach and felt like a mashup of Rampage and Final Fight with its visual style. Dawn of the Monsters looks and feels different than that, drawing inspiration from mangas more so than from other beat ’em up videogames.
The impact of this anime art style becomes clear even before you properly head into the game, both in menus and narrative sequences. Heading into the game itself, that animated cartoon-like style carries over, complete with cheesy dialogue and voiceover work. Combine that with some excellent character designs and animations (for what we think are all completely original creations) and you’ve got a highly entertaining brawler with cell-shaded graphics that manage to retain their retro cartoon-infused look and feel.
Dawn of the Monsters is especially fun when played in local co-op with a friend, where you can bounce enemies back and forth between the two of you. While each kaiju is distinct, they all have access to light and heavy attacks and a dash mode, which you can easily string together for combos. If you have an arcade-style controller, you can button mash your way through much of the campaign as well – though a more finessed way of playing will involve dodging and parry moves. When playing together cooperation becomes especially important during boss fights, though it’s worth pointing out that that game doesn’t support online co-op – this is a couch co-op experience.
Because this is a kaiju brawler, you also have access to special Rage Attacks and finishing moves that grant you additional HP (a much more sensible way of recovering health than picking up burgers and coke cans from the floor). You can still grab things in the environment though, but picture a kaiju bashing a monster’s head in with part of a building and you’re much closer than when you were thinking of wooden planks of lead pipes. Cataclysm Attacks are some of the most powerful moves in the game, and delivered through some cool visual effects as well.
Surprisingly enough, Dawn of the Monsters isn’t the slugfest you might expect. It features RPG-like mechanics that let you manipulate the DNA of your kaiju warrior, thus improving their stats and destructive capabilities. You’ll unlock different perks based on your performance in each level, so it can be worth it to go back to an earlier level for a better rating in order to gain access to better upgrades. Cosmetic upgrades can also be unlocked, so if you want a slightly different look for your fighters then that’s an option as well.
And while Dawn of the Monsters is clearly arcade-inspired in its gameplay, it also features an excellent story-driven campaign – another good sign that this is a game that managed to surpass our expectations. If you enjoy monster movies or classic arcade brawlers, you’ll enjoy this one. If you enjoy both, you’ll love it.