Developer / Publisher: Monolith Productions
Released: September 1998
Genre keywords: Shooter
, First Person
, Giant Robots
As is usual with my game write-ups, this got a tad wordy. Here's a summary: Shogo was a 1998 game with exceptional voice acting and a groovy concept (especially for the time) but a so-so
execution. Still, you can't pass up giant robots. The end.
Now you can skip the rest ....
In a time of Quake, Unreal and Sin - or in other words, in the time of early full 3D shooters - there were few games that stood out. Before (barely) the creepy, grim survivalist mood and unprecedented AI of Half Life, near-apocalyptic mood and unprecedented freedom of Deus Ex and of course the futuristic horror and powerful story-telling of System Shock 2, there was a game that attempted to do things a little differently than the straight-forward, kill'em all shooters of days prior.
It only succeeded partially.
Shogo:MAD was originally meant as an ambitious story-based game, spanning the major events of a futuristic war for resources, as seen through the eyes of a young soldier on the side of the "good guys". There were to be recurring appearances from key characters, many choices to be made throughout his career, extravagant cutscenes with full voice acting .... all of that got cut due to time and budget constraints, as well as the relative inexperience of the dev team at Monolith. What was left was a core of a game, with fragmented cutscenes and plot, ONE choice to make, and gameplay leftovers from the grand story that made little sense when used in what was left.
But this remained:
And that was pretty good.
Shogo plays from two perspectives - the robot mode and the on-foot mode, in environments appropriate for each. It is a completely linear game with a set objective at the start of every mission, although they sometimes change (in a pre-scripted manner however) during the mission. As such, the only replayability stems from the fact that blowing up giant robots with the equivalent of a handheld M65 Atomic Cannon, jumping over buildings and stomping cars is just plain fun. Likewise, all the human-scale interiors do a good job of simulating what they're supposed to be (considering the technology of the time) and the action's entertaining.
In addition to the dual-mode gameplay already present, every time you got into the robot mode you got to choose from 4 types of bots - 2 balanced types, a fast type and a slow, well-armoured type - which improved variety a little bit, and let you (if you saved judiciously) try various approaches to various scenarios. At certain times, scripted events allowed you command of friendly troops (ok, so they mainly followed you around and died too easily, but they definitely added to the ambiance) and at others, NPCs took independent actions and it was up to you to save them from their recklesness (escort missions, in short).
Here's where things start to get muddled. Let's turn our rumor/hyperbole/FUD feed on... (in other words, none or some of this may be true...)
You see, the full game was supposed to start with the introduction of two opposing sides - the corporate-backed, Earth-central military organization UCA, and the Cronus Mining Corporation, the splinter group that wanted more clout, since they were reponsible for producing the kato energy (found only on Cronus) that drove Earth's economies. Disgruntlement led to revolution, revolution led to covert and overt strikes by the UCA, which in turn eventually led to negotiations and nearly a treaty. Alas, a splinter eco-terrorist group within the CMC calling themselves the Fallen is sowing discord and distrust amongst both sides of the dispute ... and the UCA gets tired of the interference; they send in a specialist to take out the Fallen's leader. That specialist is you.
Now during all this time, Sanjuro (your character in the game) is being trained alongside his brother and 2 daughters of Cmdr. Akkaraju, the commanding officer in charge of UCA forces at Cronus (somewhere around the disgruntlement phase). Lots of stuff happens, including the death of his brother and lover (Kura Akkaraju). There's even more stuff in the background for both the Akkaraju sisters and their father - but none of this was ever told in the game.
These days we're used to both concepts of straightforward (see Doom 3, Quake IV, Far Cry) and complex shooters (Deus Ex: Invisible War, and perhaps Boiling Point but the pickings have been piss-poor this last year) - but back then just about everything was new. Anytime someone tried to do something different, you couldn't help but wonder if theirs is going to be the game to definitively change an entire genre.
So it didn't help that a ton of this content was cut for the final game (lack of time, lack of funds, lack of experience, humongous feature creep). You just get a ton of acronyms and a lightning-fast synopsis that not even a fan of battle-anime would accept as plot. In the end, there was some interesting dialogue coupled with enemy AI that was visible from 2 miles away (but completely idle until hit), a cool concept of dual (mech + human level) gameplay that was totally plot-driven (not like you had a choice of which to pick for a given level), and a single "choice" that meant you could get to play through the normal ending and the nearly impossible ending. Still, the big city design (with stompable cars!) was pretty neat, and walking around as a huge mech (in action shooter FPS mode, as opposed to the sim mode of Mechwarriors) hasn't really been done as well since.