Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: D2 (Dreamcast)

This is the third game in a trilogy of sorts by Kenji Eno. As opposed to the 60 minute time-limit in D and the limited saves/insta-kills of Enemy Zero, D2 is actually a bit pedestrian by Eno's standards. D2 is essentially a cinematic RPG...or is it a Survival Horror title with RPG elements? Whatever the case you kill things, level-up, and follow a storyline. 

A simple ride in a plane becomes a catastrophic ordeal when it's hijacked by terrorists and a mysterious hooded figure making strange chants(how'd he get through security?) Somehow this plane is hit by a meteor and the remnants of the survivors are scattered throughout the Canadian wilderness. Laura and Kimberly are two of them and they must work to solve the mysteries while surviving the harsh weather and monsters that have mysteriously been seen in the area.

As Laura the player is expected to explore abandoned cabins for useful clues and items, explore the mountains of Canada, fight off a variety of formerly human creatures that exhibit plant-like characteristics, and maybe even figure out what the heck is going on(though that's not quite guaranteed either).

Exploring the various buildings is simple though a bit clunky. These areas are all done in first-person and Laura tends to focus on objects of interest(though you have to look around yourself for a large number of hidden items). Laura isn't very talkative but she can still have extended conversations with Kimberly and anyone else she happens to run into. The few puzzles in this game are relatively simple to solve if you're familiar with adventure game logic. 

The bulk of this game is spent outside where Laura can run around in third-person. Aside from finding various items hidden in the snow she can actually hunt for food using a sniper rifle. It's possible to beat the game without food as Laura can uncover quite a few healing sprays throughout the adventure(I wouldn't recommend it on a first playthrough though). Laura can also drive around on a snowmobile after a certain point though this doesn't come into play very often. Laura can also get attacked by monsters. These foes come in multiple forms and all combat is handled in first person. Using a submachine gun(with a handful of other weapons to follow) the object is to know what points to hit an enemy at to keep them away from Laura while at the same time killing them. Many encounters involve 2 or 3 monsters at once and keeping them all from ganging up on Laura is required for survival(though if you abuse hunting you should never really have to worry about dying. There are unfortunately a small number of enemy-types but the game is fairly short and a number of boss battles keeps things rather fresh.

I think it's a great idea that Warp decided on the hunting/food system for D2. Most importantly it allows any player with a bit of patience to beat this game. Players looking for a challenge can ignore hunting entirely. To add to this Laura can also levelup provided she gains enough experience. Though you can't avoid fights in this game(they're random encounters and you can't escape in mid-battle) you aren't exactly required to gain exp as the only stats that really go up are Laura's HP and a skill statistic that maybe slightly increases damage dealt. Success in the bossfights for example is mostly due to finding particular weakpoints. Without even adding in difficulty levels Warp has developed a smart way of giving D2 a scalable level of challenge for any gamer. 

Despite being rather dated due to initially being released in 1999, D2 still shows quite a bit of clever game design and it's pretty damn weird. If you're into the strange and unique(and possibly also one of those guys who relentlessly pores over the artistic elements in games) this definitely fits the bill. It's also really not bad at all for Survival Horror fans.

Oh and definitely check out this Kenji Eno interview done by 1up. It's really fantastic.

Next up I'll look at Confidential Mission. A James Bond-styled gun game by Sega.

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