The idea behind 3DO's latest action game, GoDai: Elemental Force, is definitely noble. It bears shades of classic ninja action games (think Legend of Kage) and more than a healthy dose of Hong Kong martial-arts/fantasy aesthetics. But its execution, sadly, is terribly flawed, and as a result, the game is barely playable. The benefits of GoDai's smart control scheme and the inherent coolness of the protagonist's formidable powers are mercilessly buried by shoddy collision detection, maddeningly poor frame rates, and a primitive animation system.
GoDai: Elemental Force tells the story of Hiro, a young ninja warrior with a suitably tragic past. His parents were the king and queen of the land, and guardians of the elemental spirit, but shortly after his birth, they were killed by the evil Akunin, the power-hungry leader of a dark ninja sect. Determined to wipe out the royal family to ascend to the position of guardian, Akunin found himself foiled; a certain Master Sho managed to spirit away the young Hiro before the evil ninja lord could get to him. Hiro was then raised in the Sukoto Clan, where he learned all kinds of martial arts and attained mastery over the elements. Akunin is on to him, however, which serves as the catalyst for GoDai's action.
GoDai is a fairly linear 3D action game, with a heavy emphasis on melee combat. Much like Devil May Cry and Silent Bomber before it, the game displays its environments through fixed camera angles, which serves the purpose of keeping the action sequences fairly contained and various jumps manageable. The graphics engine's spotty performance, though, makes the effect much less substantial than in previous games. When the camera is pulled far back, for instance--a technique that is useful not only for displaying large areas but also for facilitating the traversal of complicated platform sequences--the game often comes to a crawl. Granted, the slowdown and reduced frame rate might make it a bit easier to perform the tricky jumps, but in a game that's centered on frenetic action, this is hardly acceptable. And as the camera is usually fixed quite close to Hiro's back, more often than not GoDai simply feels like an over-the-shoulder game with a really bad camera.
If you play it for any extended period of time, you're going to engage in combat. This is where Hiro's collection of powerful moves comes in. You can collect all sorts of ancient Asian weapons in the game, including various types of swords and knives, polearms, and axes, all of which Hiro can use to execute some vicious attack combos. Each weapon uses a pretty similar routine, though a few will grant you a couple of new frames of animation near the end of their combos. The larger weapons are the ones that feel most distinct, and this is simply because their longer reach lets you engage more distant enemies. In any case, you'll be able to take two weapons that you already have into each mission with you, though many more pop up throughout the missions themselves, which basically guarantees you'll have a small arsenal at your disposal for each mission. You'll have access to a few ranged weapons as well, including shuriken, smoke bombs, and several types of ranged magical attacks, like fireballs. Since you hurl these by means of the shoulder buttons, you can often use them in tandem with your melee attacks for some pretty devastating effects.