Neon Genesis Evangelion came out at an interesting time, which is one of the reasons it has such a bizarre collection of videogame adaptations under its belt. Technically, around the time of the show’s debut in 1995, some regions of the world still tolerated vaguely FMV- (full-motion video) fueled fare, as if we were still living under the oppressive Sega CD regime. Early Eva games begged a serious question: why, in a series with so much wild mecha action, were RPG elements and animated battle sequences an acceptable norm?
Much like Tootsie Pop pontification of the past, the world may never know. Yet, Japan was graced with such an effort in 1996, when Neon Genesis Evangelion: 1st Impression landed on Sega Saturn. The only truly noteworthy aspect of this title and its sequel is the fact that some original animation and performances by the show’s voice actors made its way onto the disc. Talk about a completionist’s conundrum, especially for those not fluent in Japanese. Do I bite the bullet in favor of a mediocre game I can’t understand, or move on and pretend it doesn’t exist? The power, as they say, is yours.
I’m not really here to talk exhaustively about every single Evangelion game there is, though. That would a) take too long, and b) be really boring. There are simply too many dull entries to imagine going through them all, especially when I haven’t played many myself. What I have played, however, is hands down my favorite attempt at bringing the divisive series to home consoles. I know, after the game-bashing that preceded, it probably sounds like I’m about to discuss my favorite method of smashing my fingers with a hammer, but I assure you, Neon Genesis Evangelion on Nintendo 64 is at least worth a once-through for fans of the show.
At one point, I went somewhat import crazy, as most obsessive fans of videogames are wont to do at least once in their life. Of course, that precludes good decision making without exception. Maybe that’s why one of my most imported-on consoles was the Nintendo 64, a process involving the purchase of a hub cart atop which the imports were then placed, ensuring a perfect fit for the differently-shaped plastic hunks. The next step is spending hefty amounts of cash on import games, usually triggering the Justification Switch in the brain. This impulse guarantees that excuses will be made to make it seem like you’re enjoying whatever mediocre 80 dollar game was just purchased.
That may have been the case with Doraemon—a fairly abysmal Super Mario 64 knock-off starring a crude 3D rendition of everyone’s favorite cat with a transdimensional pouch—but I swear my enjoyment of Evangelion was genuine. Released in 1999, the game would no doubt be lost on a non-fan, but the faithful recreation of key battles and other moments from the series do their darndest to delight pretty much everyone else. This isn’t just limited to straightforward Angel battles, though they’re certainly a highlight. These fights take place on a 2D plane, allowing full control, for the most part, of a slightly more lumbering version of the various EVA units. Everything from the Progressive Knife to the ever-mysterious A.T. Fields come into play during fights; the way they come to a head and ultimately conclude stays completely true to the way it all went down on TV.
As the game runs through the major points of the series, even combat situations that fell outside of the norm are conveyed in their own unique way. The synchronized climax to episode 9, “Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!”, for instance, is its own stage that brings rhythm game style mechanics to the table. Right after that, “Magma Diver” is reenacted as the player takes control of Asuka in Unit 02, coolant suit and all. Not every take on the episodes works completely—there’s nothing particularly interesting about meticulously aiming the Lance of Longinus at a distant foe, or rapidly tapping buttons to beat the clock Track & Field style—but there are more hits than misses.
One of the most satisfying bits is making it to the stages that depict key moments from End of Evangelion, and it’s all there in one way or another. Maybe I was digging this at the time simply out of a wave of premature Evangelion nostalgia after all, it’s hard to tell; I can’t say I’m really longing to revisit the game, that’s for sure. However, when my fervor for the series was at its peak, I burned through the game on every difficulty multiple times, being sure to uncover every secret held within the gray cart’s overpriced confines.
With the Eva Rebuild Project well underway, especially in Japan, could it finally be time for The Ultimate Evangelion Game? I’m not talking the best Pachinko game, or even the most amazing cellphone game ever crafted. We need something fresh that will let us wrap our robotic mitts around the throats of invading Angels one more time, screaming shrilly into our headsets as if possessed by Shinji Ikari himself. Maybe some day, but for now, go dust off that Nintendo 64 and get to work on saving us all in the most angsty way imaginable.