D (video game)
North American 3DO box art
|Genre(s)||Interactive movie, adventure|
D[a] is a psychological horror interactive movie and adventure game developed by WARP and directed by Kenji Eno. It is the first entry in the D series and was first released for the 3DO in 1995, and later ported to the Sega Saturn, PlayStation, and MS-DOS. The story follows Laura Harris as she goes to investigate a hospital after learning her father went on a mass murdering spree and barricaded himself inside. The hospital morphs into a castle upon her arrival, which she must explore to find her father. The player controls Laura through CGI full motion video sequences, and must complete the game within two hours without a save function.
D contains scenes of striking violence and cannibalism. Since the game depicted horrifying violence unlike anything seen in a previous video game, Eno deliberately chose to bypass censorship. He submitted a "clean" version for publisher approval late, knowing that they would require him to hand deliver the game to the manufacturer. On his way to the manufacturer, he switched the clean version with his master version containing the more disturbing content.
Although it sold over a million copies in Japan, D was not commercially successful in North America. Eno attributed this failure to Sony not printing enough copies to match PlayStation pre-orders. WARP would later take revenge on Sony by releasing later games exclusively on Sega platforms. Reception of D was positive, with critics praising the horror elements, story, presentation, and graphics. The game was followed by Enemy Zero and D2, which star the same "digital actress" Laura although their stories are unrelated.
D is an interactive movie which features adventure game elements, a psychological horror storyline, and heavy use of full motion video. The player directs Laura's movements as she explores the game's environment, solves puzzles, and unravels the story. The movements occur through FMV sequences as she walks to the desired location, from where the player is greeted with a static screen which may contain items they can interact with or other paths to direct Laura. The player is only given two real-time hours to complete the game and no save function. Depending on the player's actions, there are different endings.
The story begins when Laura Harris is contacted by Los Angeles police, receiving a disturbing message: her father, Dr. Richter Harris, has gone on a mass murdering spree and barricaded himself in the hospital. Laura rushes to the scene of the crime, desperate to find an explanation for the well-respected doctor's actions. Upon entering the hospital, she is so horrified at the murdered bodies lying about the halls that she covers her eyes. When she uncovers them again, she finds herself in an unknown dark castle.[b]
Unwilling to give up her search, Laura continues through the dark corridors of the medieval hall. While attempting to find her father, she experiences a series of flashbacks of her mother being stabbed to death. Laura's father (taking the form of apparitions) warns her to leave, saying that staying too long means being stuck in the alternate reality forever. He warns that he will soon become an emotionless monster and will eventually try to kill her. Still shaken, Laura proceeds to find her father residing at the peak tower of the castle. Angrily, the father reveals the sordid past of his family: Laura and her father are part of a bloodline with an insatiable appetite for human flesh, dating back to the infamous Dracula. Laura had killed and eaten her mother years ago, but it was erased from her memory by her father. As Dr. Harris begins to transform into a vampire, Laura has to make a choice: kill or be killed. There are four endings available depending on the players' actions.
- Time Elapsed Ending: If the player runs out of time (2 hours), the other world will be closed off, and Laura will be pulled back to the real world. A screen will follow simply saying "Out of Time. Please Try Again."
- Bad Ending: If the player approaches Laura's father and doesn't shoot him, the screen will fade to black. The sounds of Laura's father devouring her are heard over the credits.
- Good Ending: If Laura fires the revolver that she found earlier in the game before Dr. Richter Harris transforms, the bullet will kill him and stop his transformation. Laura cradles her dying father in her arms as he confesses that he allowed the transformation to occur out of scientific curiosity and thanks her for stopping him. With his death, the realm created by his mind fades and is replaced by the normal surroundings of the hospital. After the credits, a screen will appear suggesting that the player can try the game again in order to see any missed scenes.
- Best Ending: Throughout the game, the player may see scarab beetles in various places. If they view all four of them, they'll receive the best ending, which consists of the Good Ending as well as the sound of a baby crying near the end of the credits.
Development of D lasted about one year and was directed by WARP president Kenji Eno. There were three phases to D's development: the adventure game structure, the story creation, and finally violence was added. Since the adventure gameplay was largely finished before the story began to take fruition, flashbacks were added to detail the plot. The plot was largely based on that of Dracula, but Eno found it too boring, and so added violence and cannibalism to make the game more striking.
Because D's violent themes were more horrifying than any video game yet at the time, Eno believed it was likely D would not be permitted for publishing. With this in mind, Eno kept many of the violent sequences a secret, including from other members of WARP. When the game was finished, he submitted a "clean" version (i.e. without the violent and disturbing story content) for approval. He deliberately submitted the master late, knowing that part of the penalty would require him to hand-deliver it to the manufacturers in the United States. While on the plane ride to the US, he switched the "clean" discs with the finalized discs including the horrific content, thus completely bypassing all censorship.
Though it sold extremely well in Japan (the Saturn version reached number 1 in the Japanese charts in its first week), D initially failed to make an impact in the US. Nevertheless, Acclaim took it upon themselves to not only port D over to the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and MS-DOS, but to localize all three versions to both North America and Europe. While most of these releases sold well, Sony failed to manufacture enough units of the PlayStation version to match preorders, resulting in sales of less than a third of what they otherwise would have been. Kenji Eno explained:
"When I released D on the PlayStation... the sales people gathered orders for 100,000 units, but Sony had given their other titles manufacturing priority. So Sony told me that they had only manufactured 40,000 units... But then, in the end, they had actually only manufactured only 28,000 units, which is very bad. So the sales people had gotten 100,000 preorders from retailers, but Sony wasn't able to manufacture all of them. I was very pissed about that, because one title like that for a small company is very important. If that game doesn't sell well, then that's very bad for the company..."
There is a special edition of D for the 3DO called D's Diner: Director's Cut. It features additional sequences, four trailers for the game, a "D" "sound novel" that tells the history of Laura's family, ending as the events in the game unfold and a MiniDisc featuring three tracks from Kenji Eno's D soundtrack on it. Additionally, after completing the game with the "Good" ending and watching the credits roll, players are treated to a long trailer for the original version of D2, which was initially scheduled for the 3DO and later, upgraded for the Panasonic M2 before being completely reworked for the Sega Dreamcast.
At the time of release, D was well received. In their import review, GameFan reviewers stated they normally dislike interactive movie FMV games but praising D for being "innovative, imaginative and astounding" and "a masterpiece." In their review of the English 3DO version, they stated it is "the first game to actually scare" and "the most spooky game ever made", concluding it is "the best FMV game likely ever to be made" and "the best 3DO title yet." GamePro gave it full scores of 5 for graphics, sound, and control, and 4.5 for fun factor, stating it is "nasty, scary, well-thought-out" and "a frightening work of art", concluding it is "a great game with a good story and knockout graphics" but is "not for everyone." It was later awarded the 1995 GameFan Megawards for 3DO Game of the Year and Best 3DO Graphic Adventure/FMV Game, and the 1995 GamePro Editors' Choice Award for Third Best 3DO Game.
Famicom Tsūshin scored the Sega Saturn version of the game a 32 out of 40. Sega Saturn Magazine commented that the game manages to be extremely creepy and terrifying despite having almost no bloodshed. The reviewer predicted that the game would be outclassed by Resident Evil (still in development at the time of the review), but concluded that D was the best horror game presently on the market. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the Saturn version had reduced the load times seen in the 3DO version to almost nothing. They highly praised the storyline and "intelligently thought-out" puzzles, and described D as "scary enough to make you an insomniac." GamePro gave positive reviews for both the Saturn and PlayStation versions in 1996, concluding that if "you're looking for one game this year to scare the hell out of you, D is it." Maximum likewise gave positive reviews to both the Saturn and PlayStation versions, saying that D is similar to Myst and Mansion of Hidden Souls but better due to its much more enticing story. They also praised the FMV graphics and cinematic presentation, but criticized that the game has too little longevity, since its short length, addictive gameplay, and lack of overly challenging puzzles ensure that the player will be finished with it very quickly.
Game Informer was more critical in their review of the Saturn version, praising the "magnificent" graphics and the storytelling but criticizing the "tedious" gameplay, concluding the "story would make a great movie or book, but not a game." In 2008, Game Informer listed it among the worst horror games of all time.
Commercially, the game was a success, selling a million copies in Japan alone.
- D (Dの食卓 Dī no Shokutaku?, lit. "Table of D")
- This only occurs in the 3DO version. In later versions of the game, she is still in the hospital and explores further, until taken by a small metallic entity to the castle.
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