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Ground Kontrol: To Funland

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I have recently returned from a much needed retreat. We trekked halfway across the continent of North America to visit the fabled land of Portland, Oregon. Its good to be home, but at the same time I wish I did not have to leave so quickly. I got the chance to visit two arcades on my trip, some nice places to game that are severely lacking where I live! Close to where I stayed is a fairly big tourist town near the beach, and there’s a pizza place that has a big arcade attached to it. Sounds just like the pizza place on the corner we all grew up with doesn’t it? The difference is that this one had a lot of cabinets, with a lot of newer games! The second one is the already well known location in downtown Portland, Ground Kontrol.

Funland

http://www.funlandseaside.com/

The first arcade is called Funland, and its attached to a Fultano’s Pizza. They claim to have been around since the 1929, which would likely make them one of the oldest, continuously operating arcades in the entire United States, probably high in the running for North America as a whole. This makes this arcade a bit of a relic, but there is a distinct lack of video games actually from the 80s or earlier here. The earliest game I saw was a Galaga/Ms. Pac Man combo cocktail. Other than that the oldest game was Street Fighter II. This place is the definition of the modern arcade, gone are the money changing machines where you pop a bill in and get a bunch of quarters in return. Instead you load your money onto a card, and then swipe the card through a reader at every machine.

There are a lot of machines to enjoy in Funland, with multiple rooms to peruse and explore. The back room is where all the fun lies. Pinheads might feel a bit left out as there are only four tables at this place, and they’re all newer Stern games. I did enjoy the Tron table though. There are plenty of light gun and racing games here at this location, and there are a lot of cabinets hailing from the mid-late 90s to enjoy and get nostalgic over.

The problem during my visit is that many machines were out of order, even some that were turned on said “Out of Order” on the card scanner. They have 3 full Daytona USA units on the floor, but every one of them was out of order! There was a Sega Super GT next to it, and even that one only had one half of the machine turned on and in working order. The big attraction here was getting to play these brand spanking new arcade games, Time Crisis 5 and the 2 Star Wars Battle Pods they had here are so new that they haven’t had time to get all arcade sticky!

Ground Kontrol

http://groundkontrol.com/

Those looking for a nostalgic arcade trip will highly enjoy Ground Kontrol. You’ll pop quarters into machines all night here, both arcade machines and pinball tables! There are some newer Stern tables here as well, but the selection is dominated by classics from Williams, Bally, along with a handful of other companies like Sega. The arcade games include many classics that you’ll just have to pop a few quarters in, even a fully stocked Playchoice-10 is available. I visited this location with our very own member, Nupoile! He even brought his wife along for the ride.

Keep in mind that there are adults consuming alcohol at this location, and there is some stickiness as a result. That’s about the only downside to the experience I had there. I was going to play Nightcrawler in X-men and having a big puddle of sticky goop right next to my joystick was not the best. Smash TV’s movement stick was almost dead as well, but that was the only technical issue I experienced there. Everything else worked well and there was plenty of choice on both the lower floor, and upstairs.

Downstairs is all arcade, all day. There’s a bar down there as well. We’re all here for arcade first so we’re going to leave our glass in the convenient cupholders attached to nearly every machine in the entire building, right? There is plenty from the old school here, but not much from the new. More old school arcade cabinets are found upstairs, but they’re not quite the star of the show there. Expect to hear some people trying to form full 6 player X-men groups, along with teams of Simpsons and Turtles in Time players! Four player Blitz is a must have, and both arcades delivered that fix. Nothing beats elbow dropping your opponent after throwing him to the ground.

Upstairs is as close as you can get to the Heavenly Gates if you’re a pinhead. Classic pinball tables line the walls on the second floor, with a couple of newer Stern’s poking their head in as well. There were plenty of excellent games on the floor. A few favorites here include Scared Stiff (two multiballs on my first blind play!), The Addams Family, Theater of Magic, South Park and Tales of the Arabian Nights. Of course like any good arcade their selection of games on the floor changes from time to time as well.

Ground Kontrol is a must visit location if you find yourself in the Portland, Oregon area. If you’re a fan of arcade video and pinball games you find a nice corner to relax in here, and plenty of beer to quench your thirst. Unlike most bars and restaurants I visited in the area this one had few beers on tap in comparison, but more in line with what I’m used to. Everywhere seemed to have at least two dozen beers on tap, while Ground Kontrol was getting by with six, the red ale I tried was quite delicious.

Psychotic Reviews: Gungriffon

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In the middle years of the 1990s every company that had not already done so built a 3D engine to enter the new world of gaming. With 3D arcade games wowing audiences worldwide it was natural that everybody would be excited to see this new dimension come home on the next generation of home consoles. Gungriffon started off as one such project at Game Arts, starting its development with the vague working title 3D Polygon. The game released exclusively on Sega’s Saturn worldwide in 1996. The game’s events take place in 2015 (what???); so when you play it, make sure the right side wins this mech war!

Gungriffon is a game that would feel right at home as an upright cabinet in an arcade. It really has that feel to it. It is a mech combat game, with a fairly limited set of controls built around the Saturn’s controller. This actually helps the game keep a simple design while still giving the player tools to easily navigate the levels. There are only six levels in the game, and each one is essentially a box you can openly move around in. Most of them will last less than ten or fifteen minutes.

[b]Why did Star Wars Battle Pod have closed levels instead of a big box to fly around in?[/b]

This game is a popular import. It requires little Japanese, and the only text you have to worry about is a mission briefing before each level. The first batches of levels just involve you killing every enemy in the level, but the objectives of later levels varies from destroying a specific target, to protecting your allies. This could confuse those who opt into a cheaper Japanese copy and wonder why they keep failing some of the levels.

By virtue of being a mech combat game the controls do take some getting used to, but once you do its quite easy to maneuver and make your way from one end of a stage to the other in a much smaller amount of time than you’ll think. The music in the game is excellent, and I found myself just relaxing at the mission select screen for a few minutes between every stage. Gungriffon goes for a more realistic atmosphere when you’re on the ground stomping around and blowing up enemy tanks, transports, air support, and mechs! You hear a lot of radio chatter and the sounds of your mech whirring as it walks like the giant robot it is.

This game does have some of the best 3D on the Saturn, with all enemy designs being clear and detailed for its time. It even looks better and runs smoother on the Saturn than the Mechwarrior ports to the Playstation! Game Arts always manages to pull the most out of the systems they work for, and its quite surprising to see this run so smoothly on a Saturn. A common thread I’ve noticed in games for the system is that there are small areas in games that just weren’t fully optimized, and slowdown occurs as a result. I never encountered any slowdown in Gungriffon, and its more detailed than some 2D Saturn games I’ve played that have this slowdown problem!

If you’re looking for a great game to add to your Saturn collection then consider Gungriffon, its a joy to play and is not too pricy. North American copies are around $25 right now, with import copies from Japan running around half of that after shipping. Gungriffon is easy to pick up and play in short or long bursts, and it may help to satisfy an itch to fire up the Saturn if you’re not in a fighting game mood.

Psychotic Reviews: Virtua Cop

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Help Wanted: Those who prefer to shoot first and ask questions later. Virtua City is looking to hire special detectives for missions that require fast trigger fingers. Recruits will be highly trained and put in great peril as they tackle the most dangerous missions to clean this city’s dirty streets. Are you man enough to be a hero? Play as special detectives Michael Hardy and James Cools and take on a huge job that will clean the streets of futuristic, man-made Virtua City.

Again we travel to the lonely lands of Sega’s oft forgotten home console, the Saturn. Virtua Cop started its life in the arcade and upon release became the latest in a long string of hits by Sega Amusement Machine Research and Development Department 2, or AM 2, in 1994. Virtua Cop is a genre defining game, as it broke new ground for on-rail light gun shooters by allowing far more interactivity with the enemies, based on where they are struck by a bullet. Different animations and scores come out for hitting different parts of the bodies of Virtua City’s criminal scum. The graphics are also full, 3-D polygons, which is obviously what Yu Suzuki and crew used after the massive success of Virtua Fighter a year earlier.

Virtua Cop became the primary influence for light gun shooters after its release. Sega would use the game as the backbone for The House of the Dead, Namco came out with its long running Time Crisis series, and even Goldeneye’s aiming on N64 is basically Virtua Cop, admittedly so by the developers. This success is likely a result of the jump to 3-D, which made Virtua Cop feel much more modern than even the best 2-D, arcade light gun shooters that came out just a few years earlier. The extra interactivity adds a layer that makes the game feel fresh even though its based on patterns and memorization to get through the levels. The levels are the basic style of Sega’s arcade level design of the time, with a Beginner, Medium, and Expert stage.

Many shortcomings for the Saturn are well known, but one thing that AM 2 nailed were the console ports of their own arcade games. When other teams were struggling to make use of the unique and confusing arrangement of the Saturn’s hardware, AM 2’s arcade ports were all games that are now staples of the modern Saturn collector’s library. Surprisingly, all these arcade ports are some of the most common and affordable games for the Saturn in all regions where it was released! Despite the less than stellar success of the Saturn outside of Japan, the arcade scene itself was experiencing a revival in North America at the time Virtua Cop released. Street Fighter II’s success got a new generation, myself included, to visit the arcades that had defined cutting edge game design and technology for almost 20 years. The remaining Western arcade developers took advantage of this revival to limp their way into the 21st century, while the Japanese developers flourished as a result of a stronger showing in what is only one of many markets for them.

Playing the game and hearing the soundtrack again caused memories of sights and sounds of the mid 90’s to come flooding back. During this time, I started visiting my local arcades weekly until both of them closed their doors in the early 2000’s. Part of my revived sensation comes from the fact that Virtua Cop, enjoyed with the Saturn’s Stunner light gun, feels so authentic to the original arcade experience. The soundtrack is a giant dose of 90’s nostalgia, and fits the pacing of each stage perfectly. The action is wonderfully framed, and all the different enemy spawns and shooting timers make use of different reaction speeds and player instincts. The Saturn release has many different difficulties to select from, so you can play around and find the one that gives you the perfect challenge. Like all arcade games, practice makes perfect!

Standing up, shooting bad guys, and having to fire off screen, all with the non-stop action of enemies popping up in front of you, makes Virtua Cop stand out as one of the arcade classics of the mid 90’s. If you don’t want to haul around an arcade cabinet, then owning the Saturn port is a fine consolation. Another port was released on the PC a year after the Saturn release, but this version only has mouse support. Another version was also released by Tiger for its R-Zone.

Psychotic Reviews: Panzer Dragoon

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Sega’s surprise launch of the Saturn in North America caught retailers and developers off guard. As a result the pickings were slim. The Saturn’s Japan launch happened only six months before the North American launch so most Japanese third parties did not have anything ready for international release either. The originally announced launch date was in September of 1995 for North America, but then they decided to launch it in May, right in the middle of E3! For a gamer that was anxiously anticipating the Saturn that might sound like a good deal at first, but that also meant that many games would be a full four months behind the launch. As a result, only Sega’s own first party games were available at first, but there was a decent spread of genres available. Panzer Dragoon was Sega’s cinematic action game for the North American launch.

After playing through Panzer Dragoon a few times I can say that it feels heavily inspired by Sega’s own arcade history. This game feels like a modernized (for the mid 90’s), cinematic version of Space Harrier. There’s even a code to put in at the title screen that will derender the dragon and let you fly around by yourself, and its called Space Harrier Mode because of this! Team Andromeda was founded specifically to develop this game, and they delivered one of the all time classic launch games.

Panzer Dragoon is so well polished that it shouldn’t feel like a launch game, and to be fair it was not available at the Japanese launch. The Japanese Saturn launch was dominated by Virtua Fighter. In Panzer Dragoon you fly on a dragon, unless you decide to go in Space Harrier Mode, and your mission is to stop the Black Dragon. There are six levels, called episodes to fly through, with five of them having bosses to fight at the end. The sixth boss is in the seventh episode, and that episode only carries the final fight against the end boss.

The game is set far into the future, long beyond the modern pinnacle of technology and into an apocalyptic view of a world post industry and with only a tyrannical government adding any new technology to the world. Of course these new pieces of tech are only available to the military to keep the government in power. Since old tech is much more advanced they are ravenous in their search for it in ruins that are scattered across the landscape. The unnamed character, or Keil Fluge in other versions, is approached by the dying rider of a blue dragon after he is shot by a black dragon. Keil then carries out the rest of the rider’s mission, stopping the black dragon! Enter the player, and you’re off to the first episode.

Remembering that this game is an early 3D game is kind of hard at times. It runs smoothly and the graphics in the world and characters are quite detailed for an early Saturn game, especially with its lacking 3D capabilities compared to its competition. The controls will pan the camera slightly from side to side as you move the dragon. The aiming reticle that pans moves quite smoothly during this panning, and while I only played with a D-Pad it would likely feel better to play it with a Saturn arcade stick. This game does feel like it would be right at home in an upright cabinet with a stick, fire button, zoom button, and camera switch button. Those are the only three controls in the game, movement, shooting, and moving the camera to see your flanks, behind you, and zoom in and out.

The weapon’s mechanic does have a lock on feature. By holding down any fire button you can lock onto any enemies you swing your reticle over, and then launch your lasers when you release the button. The firing button does not autofire, but you can alternate presses of A, B, and C to get a series of rapid fire shots. Depending on the area it may be more useful to lock on, or it may be better to use rapid fire. The shoulder buttons are used to switch the camera’s focus from side to side. L swings it left, L again swings it behind the dragon, L again goes to the right flank, and one more press of it brings you back to the front quickly. After one press you can slowly aim your way around your flanks and back as well, but the shoulder buttons are useful for quick switches. Finally, X, Y, and Z set to different camera zooms.

This is a game about memorization. Its not overly difficult, but each level does increase the difficulty over the previous level. You should not have much trouble getting through the first level the first time you play the game, but getting through level 5 or 6 the first time you see them is a more daunting task. Panzer Dragoon does offer different level difficulties, but playing on Easy only lets you get through level 4, you have to play on Normal to actually get the chance to beat the game. Easy can be used to master those first four levels so when you do move up to normal you will know the enemy patterns. Taking out a high percentage of enemies will give you an extra life, or continue in this game, at the end of each level. Getting close to a perfect will give you two continues. If you want to see the real ending of the game you have the beat this game on Hard! The best way to beat the game on hard is to memorize everything in all six main flying levels so nothing can threaten you.

Thankfully the game is short. Each level only takes a few minutes, and the bosses don’t take long to defeat once you figure out their pattern, where their weak spot is, and what attack method works the best on them. A playthrough of the game takes around an hour from start to finish. The challenge comes from having to memorize the game and then increase the difficulty to get the true ending. Since the game is so fun and easy to pick up and play with a short time constraint I can forgive it for all this memorization.

5 Best and Worst Examples of Video Game Box Art

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One of my favorite parts about video games, collecting them, and playing them is looking at the art included with the whole package. Your first impression of a game is likely going to be the first part of the package you see, the box art. With thousands of games comes as many examples of box art, and it ranges from artistic genius to as bad as a five year old’s first photoshop. While everybody else is doing their Top Games of 2014 I wanted to do something different. Those that have read me since my earlier blogging days know that most of my lists are usually different from the rest. I want this holiday special to be no different. In no particular order here are five examples of the best, and worst examples of video game box art!

Worst

We’ll start with the worst first, since these are usually hilarious and you’ll get all your gut wrenching laughter out of your system before we get super serious with the great examples of good box art.

Black Belt

I think Sega was trying to convey minimalism with this game, but with such a poorly drawn foot it ends up looking like a toddler’s doodle of daddy’s crusty toes. A positive I have about this example is that you do in fact kick people with your foot in the game, so it gets a few points for being relatively accurate. Sega’s Master System is littered with pieces of awful box art, but there are plenty of great pieces in the libraries as well. Don’t let this one example sour your opinion of a great system.

Bomberman

This one is a double whammy. The Turbo-16 art is pretty awful, but so is the NES art as well! I love how the NES box claims that ‘Nearly 1 million sold in Japan.’ I know the gaming market was smaller back then, but nearly could make one think that its not good enough to be more than a million! Also, the actual word “Bomb!” is used as a sound effect. The Turbo art looks like it could be a buddy comedy about two older and out of shape terrorists trying to get back into the game of blowing stuff up. So they dress up in space outfits and start chucking old tyme bombs all over the city to let the young’uns know who’s still in charge!

Rival Turf

Nothing makes me more frightened than seeing a couple of suburban 90’s kids looking so tough. This is their turf, so you best back off!

Tongue of the Fatman

How many of you reading this could tell, just by looking at the cover of this game, that Tongue of the Fatman is a fighting game? Not only is it a fighting game, but it is a fighting game for various PC systems. Prepare for awful keyboard controls and disgusting character design. There’s no reason at all to play this.

Metro Cross

Remember when I mentioned a five year old’s first photoshop? I wasn’t joking, not entirely at least. Metro Cross is the punchline. For trying to be rad and extreme there is entirely too much safety equipment on this piece of art. Remove your knee and elbow pads chump, we can discuss the blue and orange turtleneck one piece suit afterwards.

Best

Now that you’ve gotten your laughter from these awful, but in some cases hilarious out of your system, check out these pieces and get ready for an awe inspiring tale of talent, vision, and good planning.

Time Soldiers

Consider this the Master System’s redemption. I love the art on this cover, and the game inside is quite fun if you dig Commando or Ikari Warriors. My favorite detail about this art is not just the tank and the dinosaur trying to get through the time portal at the same time, nor is it the guy firing his bazooka at the visible time portal. No, the best detail is the guy firing his bazooka towards the viewer, alluding to the fact that there is something just off to the side that is just as intimidating as a T-Rex and a tank that we can’t see. You have to play the game to find out!

Ys Book I & II

And here is the Turbo’s redemption. These Ys remakes are considered to be the killer apps of the Turbo CD here in North America. They were highly regarded critically upon release, and had some of the best CD quality audio in video games for its time. The soundtrack has held up well, so go give it a listen. This cover makes me think this is a long lost Dio era Rainbow album. I am not disappointed that its not.

Wasteland

There is no other box like Wasteland’s, well except for Wasteland 2’s. Wasteland is considered to be one of the all time classics of PC role playing games, and introduced the gamers for the platform to a post apocalyptic view of the American Southwest. The idea and the setting would be used as the groundwork for a spiritual successor almost a decade later in the more popular series Fallout. No other game at the time took the perspective of the game, in this case top down, and made such a wonderful piece of art for their product.

System Shock 2

Looking Glass Studios is one of my favorite developers of all time. It was loaded with talent that produces some of the most well loved games today, and when it came to quality they were almost unrivaled on their native PC platform. These green eyes and the circuit wiring on the face, with the wires protruding to each side, let alone the space ship on the bottom, just let the viewer know that they are in for a wild science fiction ride.

Awesome

Just look at everything Psygnosis. That’s my advice. I don’t know what to say other than the word that’s already the title of the game.

Psychotic Reviews: Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed

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Every so often there comes a game with such an absurd premise that you just can’t help but try it out. Akiba’s Trip is one such game. It was developed by Acquire and published by XSEED in North America, releasing in August 2014 for PS3 and Vita, and November 25 for PS4. This game’s setting is the otaku and gaming Mecca of Akihabara. It also involves sun fearing vampires with combat that revolves around stripping said basement dwelling otaku vampires down to their skivvies. Otaku in general burn to a crisp from slight sun exposure after all! The main character is actually turned into one of these vampires in the introduction, and is saved by a pretty young girl with a kiss.

As the main character you are a hardcore otaku, and are apparently the leading authority on figurines in your circle of friends. The game has plenty of items to collect, and keeps any you’ve ever found in a database. There are also titles, character profiles, and fliers for the businesses of Akiba to collect. Later in the game you can start fusing items to make them stronger, and since you can restart the game with cleared data over and over again these items can get extremely powerful. Getting stripped clothes off of your enemies levels up your stripping abilities, which keeps the clothes from getting ripped so you can collect them and put them on your main character (or the lasses).


Read the fine print.

The combat system is in real time. Clothing is armor for all the characters in the game. As you beat up on each other the clothes take damage, once they’ve taken enough damage they can be ripped off or you can go through a button mashing event to weaken them enough to rip them off. Most of the time people will just be wearing a shirt and pants, maybe a skirt on the girls. An item like a hat or headdress can be equipped on the head to give some added durability. There’s nothing like establishing dominance by ripping another man’s jeans off and leaving him in his underwear, with nothing but an anime poster or CRT monitor to retaliate with.

That’s right, the weapons range from completely ridiculous to actual weapons. You can equip glowsticks that are wielded in the same way that Wolverine uses his adamantium claws, you can swing around laptops, keyboards, monitors, posters, bus stop signs, handbags, batons, night sticks, microwave ovens, almost any random object you can imagine can be used as a weapon. The weapon you have equipped changes your normal attack animations. You’ll be fighting many large groups of enemies, but they seem to have a hard time maneuvering quickly around obstacles. Use the terrain to your advantage to fix your clothes when its needed. Or use those obstacles to funnel in enemies one at a time until the rest can catch up, then move again.


Being wrong never felt oh so right.

As the player you can chain together your stripping if there are multiple items on opponents weak enough to rip off their bodies. This really streamlines battles overall, but the animations are always the same, so you’ll end up seeing these stripping animations dozens of times. There are some accessories that can change the animations, but you’ll end up seeing those for dozens of times as well. At least there is some variation. There are special attacks that can be used with the partner you are traveling with. Each girl has her own animation, but the accessories do not change this animation, so its always static. This attack does give the added bonus of stunning nearby enemies, so it is best used against groups and to get cheap damage on bosses.

Akiba’s Trip does have its share of problems though. The combat system can get jerky. Even outside of combat your character can jerk around while running in a straight line. Loading times are relatively quick, but they just load the area for you to explore at first. The people in the area load in after you’re able to run around. This is not the biggest problem normally, but when you’re looking for an NPC for a side mission, or group of enemies for said mission this style of loading can get annoying. They can be right next to where you spawn in, but you won’t be able to immediately see them and might run around the rest of the screen looking for them. I would not have minded an extra few seconds of loading if it meant that NPCs would be already loaded into the area.


Collect all the panties!

There are also issues with the combat system. Each attack button serves as a high, mid, and low attack. If you want to attack somebody’s shirt you hit O for a mid attack for example. The problem is that tapping it once can lead to about three different possibilities. When you need short, quick attacks you’ll get the long winded attack animation that almost never hits. Then you’ll get smacked upside the head by an enemy to the side of you before you’ll get a chance to set up your defense for a counter. When you need that long winded attack as a finisher you’ll get a flubbed quick attack. Holding the attack button down will lead to the stripping animation, or button mashing QTE depending on damage to the targeted cloth. If there is little damage then you’ll be denied the QTE! I feel like the shoulder buttons could have been used to better effect in combat, letting you get easier control over exactly what attack you perform. This opinion may be my recent experience with Tales of Xillia, which has amazingly smooth combat and tight controls in comparison.

Akiba’s Trip is a good game overall, even if it is rough around the edges. The setting is cool and filled with random, wandering vampires to take down, the trick is finding them. The characters are well written and there are branching story paths to travel down. The path you take depends on which girl you wish to romance. This game would be much better if it gave you the option of romancing the best girl in the game, Finnish exchange student cosplayer maid Kati Raikkonen! I actually did enjoy the English voice acting. None of the characters were overbearing or grating over the course of the game, and each voice felt like it fit the character well. English dubs are easier to follow when you’re hammered, so you can refrain from the superior Japanese dub comments. I have not played the PS4 release but it does have some extra features and content not in the first wave of releases.

Spooky Plays: D

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Welcome back to a world of horror and fright. You may remember last year when I did a review of a game that not many would think of when pondering the options to step into a good atmosphere that sends chills down spines and squeals up throats. Thief: The Dark Project was that game, and the horror came from the masterpiece’s years spent in development hell when its focus was changed about a half dozen times. Well, if you want to read more about that game check it out right here: https://whydidiplaythis.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/unexpectedly-spooky-thief-the-dark-project/ . In contrast to a jumbled mess of juxtaposed design and experimentation that somehow worked brilliantly, this year I bring you D. Just D. The letter D. No more. No less. D.

D is a horror puzzle game developed by WARP and published by Acclaim. It was originally created and released on the 3DO, but given the system’s less than stellar sales records, the game was ported over to Sega’s Saturn and Sony’s Playstation, as well as DOS in the Western markets. In Japan, the Saturn release was a smash hit, debuting at the top of the sales chart. Acclaim insisted on porting it over to the other consoles themselves, and localizing it for the international market. The Saturn port was also successful on the sales charts in the West despite that console’s lukewarm reception. Sadly, Sony did not manufacture enough copies to even dream of satisfing pre-order demands for the Playstation release, and few more were ever produced. This leads to the oddity of the Saturn version being the easiest to find in the US. There’s not too much difference in price between the two though, Saturn averages out to be cheaper. The 3DO version stands up as the hardest to find and most expensive release. I blame this on the fact that searching for just “D” leads to so many other results that its annoying to find this specific game for any of its systems.

The game’s development is a wonderful tale in and of itself, with Kenji Eno going to extreme lengths to keep the real story of the game hidden, even from his coworkers, in an attempt to sort of cheat his way into a publishing deal. He made the game appear more like it was a clean cut adventure game with high quality graphics, not unlike Myst before it. Since Kenji Eno personally visited manufacturers in the USA to switch out his clean version from the real version he also bypassed any possibility of censorship.

Even today the horror imagery and well detailed (for the time) art design and environments stand out among its peers in the genre. Where Resident Evil would release after this game and rely on bad voice acting and jump scares, D does an excellent job of instilling a creepy atmosphere around the player and the young woman you control, WARP’s digital actress Laura Harris.

One interesting way that this atmosphere was achieved is a design choice that forces the player to sit and play the game. There is no saving or pausing. You have two hours of real time to finish the game from start to ending. That may seem like a short time, but I ended up being about ten minutes shy of beating it when I first played it. The second time was the charm for me.

One of the reasons you might get stopped and take a bit longer to finish the game is the puzzle design. Its quite reminiscent of point and click adventure games, but given its short length, most of these puzzles lack the depth or insane difficulty of some PC adventure games that are similar to D’s presentation. The exploration and movement works well for being limited to a controller. The odd part about the game’s movement design is that some rooms have paths that go all over the place. One example of this is in one of the bedrooms. You’ll step inside and be looking at a painting, and you can only walk towards this painting at first. Later you’ll need to get into a table to the right of the painting, but to get to the table from the painting you have to turn left, walk to the other door, then turn and step to the bed, turn to the left again, and then step forward to the table. You can’t just turn right when you’re already standing next to the table.

The game certainly feels aged though. Compared to other horror games its quite tame. As you play you’ll find the atmosphere is where the real tension is, and there are some creepy images and unexplained phenomena throughout this mansion Laura finds herself in. The occasional dessicated corpse catches her by surprise, and a wall of spikes early in the game might be only real jump scares in the game, but none of them are harmful. This game did influence later titles when it comes to presentation though. D’s unexpected success in all markets is simultaneously a beginning and an ending, as slower FMV puzzle games were nearing their twilight. D’s future influence lies in its tight artistic designs, well produced visuals, and its use of sound to create a setting and experience that will stick to the player. Its length actually helps it in this case. Since the game is so short everything that happens gets stuck in your mind, and you’ll rarely find yourself scratching your chin trying to remember something like you might with a long winded RPG or even other horror games!

If you have about $20-40 burning up your pocket or paypal balance, and you want a good, creepy experience that doesn’t require a long term commitment, then D is a fantastic purchase.

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