A game reviewer for several years, Jordan reviews games from any era. They tend to ramble about game design and archiving old media.
D is a "Psychological Horror Interactive Movie" developed by WARP and published by Panasonic in 1995 for the 3DO. While it has had its share of ports, the Sega Saturn version is what we will be looking at today.
Voted as "Third Best 3DO Game" by GamePro back in '95, does it still have the right to hold that title? Well, for 3DO maybe, but let's get into some detail.
Before we jump right in the game's guts, let's take a moment to discuss the story. The year is 1997, Laura Harris is contacted by the LAPD, they inform her that her father, Dr. Richter Harris, has gone on a shooting spree and locked himself inside the hospital he works at, leaving police unable to get inside. Laura, hearing this news, rushes to the scene and into the hospital. When she views the scene her father has left, she covers her eyes in fear. When she finally looks again, she discovers she is in a castle. This is where the entire game takes place.
So, now that we understand why we are here (no spoilers in this review either!), let's talk about the things that make D . . . tick!
Like any game, the very first thing you are going to experience is the visuals. Now, this is the most complicated part of D. For the time these visuals were impressive, and I mean IMPRESSIVE. Games at the time were still trying to get CG right, and here came a game that decided to make its entire package just one big FMV (unsure about the other ports, but the Saturn port spans two discs of just video).
But, that is D's biggest downfall—the technology for Computer Generated Graphics has grown quickly over 20 years, leaving D looking extremely outdated and making most of the characters looking like sentient putty.
I want to say that the controls in D almost do not exist, which kinda makes sense considering this was for the 3DO first. The only thing you really need is the D-PAD, and B (or whatever your action button is, I was using the 6-button controller, and that was my mapped action button).
Occasionally you will need to use the bumpers to select an item, but other than that, walk around and press B. The only time I think I pressed buttons in rapid succession was one quick time event near the end of the game. Other than that, I played the whole game with one hand . . .
With how simple the controls are, how does the gameplay stand? Simple, it doesn't. You could almost consider D a visual novel, I would almost compare how it plays to The Silver Case a horror-themed visual novel by "Grasshopper Manufacture." You walk a little bit, investigate an item, maybe solve one of the four to five puzzles in the game, and then walk (snail's pace) to the next part of the story. The problem is, the game operates on a timer, a timer represented by the pocket watch in your inventory. The time serves almost as a kill switch, when you walk into the hospital it is 3 p.m., and you need to finish the whole game by 5 p.m. While this can add a sense of urgency, the game has no save feature, no pause menu, and no continue option.
So, let's say you have to use the bathroom. Too bad, the clock is TICKING. So you have to dedicate yourself for two hours to this game or do not bother! Also, if the game hits that mark, GAME OVER. No continue where you left off. Nada. You have to start the whole game over again!
A bit of personal grievance with this game was near the end, where you have to go down into a rotation room that you control with a lever. There are a total of five possible rooms you can go to, but the entire room turning mechanic is random and is obviously used to elongate the game. The worst part of this area is the fact that each room contains a key item to continue, but you have to do the rooms in order. This means you are running out the time in the game just to progress at all since two of the possible paths are blocked!
There were times in D that I thought my disc was damaged, because for the most part sound is really only limited to the "scares" of the game. When you do get to experience the music of the game, it is usually very compressed or very mediocre orchestral scores (I will give it credit that the theme of the game sounds very good, and fits the game proper).
The game was put onto CD media, a format meant for high-quality sound, and it isn't like the Saturn couldn't handle high-quality music. (It had a MUSIC PLAYER!) Unfortunately, they never seem to take the opportunity to try and touch up the compressed music and sounds in the game.
None. Hit the credits, turn it off, and play something better. You could go back and get the ending you didn't get if you wanted, but there is very little difference in the endings to make it worth going through that boring grind again.
In conclusion, D was impressive for the time, Resident Evil was still a year from release, and the idea of a horror exploration that was in top-notch CGI was tantalizing. But D, a game over 20 years old, is definitely stuck in a time capsule. It doesn't hold up nowadays, and the developers even ditched this system with the sequel by switching to a TPS.
While, obviously, you can tell I did not enjoy the game, it is and always will be a landmark for where horror attempted to go in gaming. So if you do get it, buy it cheap, and don't get your hopes up.
Controls are simple
Audio sounds heavily compressed
2hr time limit does make up for lack of saving
Movement speed is SLOW
THE ROTATION ROOM
© 2020 Jordan Yenney