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|Designer(s)||Hiroyuki Maruhama and Kunihiro Shirahata|
Deep Fear (ディープフィアー?) is a 1998 survival horror video game for the Sega Saturn system. It was also the last Saturn game released in Europe. The game offers unique gameplay features, such as buttons that allow the player to use items in real-time. Players can walk and run while aiming. Jeopardy is created by the use of falling oxygen levels. The music to the game was composed by Kenji Kawai. The creatures and characters were designed by the manga artist, Yasushi Nirasawa.
The plot of Deep Fear is inspired by the films Leviathan and The Abyss. The game takes place 300 meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean in a naval fueling and research facility known as "The Big Table" (SSB-01). Players assume the role of John Mayor, an ex-Navy SEAL who has joined forces with a civilian rescue organisation called Emergency Rescue Services (ERS). The ERS was one of many civilian corporations who were offered space at The Big Table in order to raise funds after the US Navy cut the facility's budget.
A small capsule from space has landed near The Big Table. It contains a chimpanzee who was launched into space forty years before the start of the game, as part of an experiment about the effects of cosmic radiation on a living creature. The cosmic radiation caused the chimp to undergo a mutation whereby its metabolism slowed and it went into hibernation. Commander Clancy (see below) assigns Gena Weisburg (see below) to unravel the mystery of the chimp so the same effect may be used to allow humans to travel into deep space.
The Sea Fox, a small but fast nuclear submarine, has been dispatched to refuel at The Big Table and investigate the capsule. The Sea Fox crashes into the base at a part called the Navy Area, The Big Table's top secret research facility. Ignoring the high security level of the Navy Area, the base commander calls in a SEAL team as a primary rescue force, and also sends the ERS to extract an important doctor.
Hostile mutants in The Big Table are troublesome: human beings (both living and undead) are being transformed into grotesque creatures that kill. The hostile mutants are weakened by high levels of oxygen and so they try to destroy The Big Table's oxygen generators.
The mutation creating the hostile mutants is the result of the effect of cosmic radiation on common bacteria. John Mayor, who is afflicted with a cold, is unaffected by the infectious mutation and must try to rescue The Big Table's occupants and escape.
Players move John Mayor through the pre-rendered rooms of The Big Table which are shown from fixed camera angles using a permanent 3D control scheme. Players can turn on or off certain on-screen indicators such as an oxygen counter, health meter and bullet count. Once armed, players can move using the D-pad and can run while aiming a firearm. The game fully utilises the Saturn's six-button controller, allowing players to have instant access to a map screen as well as real-time use of grenades and health items, which may be used without resorting to the inventory screen.
The Big Table's oxygen supply is dwindling. Therefore, one necessity for survival is to refill low oxygenated areas and thus avoid asphyxiation. Overuse of firearms depletes the oxygen more quickly. In some areas, oxygens can be replenished (an unlimited number of times) by finding yellow oxygen boxes known as Air Systems (AS). When the player has a regulator, an AS allows him to refill it. If the player is not using the oxygen level indicator, a red emergency light will indicate a low oxygen level. Low oxygen level rooms will appear in red on the player's map. Oxygen grenades can be used to replenish low oxygen level rooms or hallways.
If the player is not near an AS or lacks oxygen grenades, they can use a regulator to breath in low oxygen areas and in flooded areas. Each room entrance has two doors with a vacuum system between them; this ensures that a flooded room will not leak outside the room.
Being an ex-SEAL, John Mayor is able to use all sorts of firearms and so, the player can move while armed and automatically lock on to enemies by depressing the aim button. There is an option for the player to switch manually between targets.
The Big Table has a large supply of ammunition for a number of different weapons. The weapons and ammunition are located in the weapon storage rooms. However, security is maintained and so some weapons can only be accessed by important individuals in The Big Table. The player obtains these weapons by securing the appropriate weapon storeroom pass-cards.
- John Mayor, the protagonist of the story, is a responsible and caring individual who, though quiet at times, is a very agreeable person. As he was a SEAL Team 6 member, he is strictly disciplined and is used to taking orders despite the odds against him. Since his resignation from the navy, he has administered the ERS. He wants to help people and forget about his past combat experiences. He can be grievous to an extent, as he sees every death as a tragedy and finds himself unable to let go of the past.
- Mookie Carver, the only other ERS member in The Big Table, is an energetic and compliant young man, though his sense of exuberance often gets the better of him. He has experience with submersibles and so is the pilot of the ERS submersible, Little Shark. He is a newcomer to the ERS being trained by John Mayor (an easy-going tutor). Mookie arrived at the Big Table before John Mayor and so is more familiar with its layout. Mookie is a fan of the New York Yankees and is keen to tell this to others.
- Sharon State is a passionate young lady from California who has an appreciation for animals. She is a part-time freelance photographer who is best at underwater photography. She also has knowledge of breeding animals, particularly dolphins. Sharon State is very responsible in her job as the Sea Farm company caretaker. However, she finds her post at The Big Table boring as there is nowhere to have fun. She perks up when John Mayor arrives at the base and she like to keep his company.
- Commander Clancy Dawkins (Commander Clancy) is an authoritative, dutiful and calm man with a large sense of responsibility who ensures accident reports are made and tries to prevent accidents as best he can. However, he is easily stressed after his "little mistake" of hitting a passenger ship with a missile.
- Dubois Amalric, from Alsace-Lorraine, is an accomplished individual; he was a top graduate of his MIT class and is an expert in computer designs and architecture. He was hired by the Navy in the nineties to design both the Sea Fox and every component of the Big Table, both of which he is immensely proud of. Much like his place of origin, there is a particular duality to his personality: due to his accomplishments, he can be conceited and eccentric. On the other hand, he is helpful and willing to do anything he can to save others.
- Gena Weisburg is the lead researcher of the MI Area. She is a stoic woman who dedicates herself to her work. Though she seems apathetic and a little cold at times, she has a few soft spots in her that prove that she is a humane and caring persons. As a biologist, she is seldom fearful of the unknown and is quick to observe and study what others will not.
- Danny Reynolds is the docking area foreman. He can be very stubborn and entitled but is well regarded, particularly by his colleagues. He also tends to be pessimistic and unnerved by bad news.
- Anna Lawerenson is a professional deep-sea diver hired by the Dynamic Network company and stationed in her own room in the DN Area. Anna is a very independent woman and is as strong physically as she is mentally. Although she may intimidate others with her tough build and outlook on life, she is a very open person and is often playful.
(Characters who appear in the storyline but are not base residents).
- Dallas Silver is the captain of the Sea Fox. He is a private man about whom little is known.
- Ken Fujiyama is an executive for the Shirahata Heavy Industries Corporation of Japan. He was sent to The Big Table in order to retrieve Monitor Data on the company's anti-pressure diving equipment. He is witty despite being a dedicated business man.
- McCoy Lambert is the leader of the SEAL rescue team.
(In addition to the human characters, there are a few animals.)
- Andrew, the bottle-nosed dolphin is used for underwater breeding in the Sea Farm despite being the only dolphin in the breeding pool. Andrew is very friendly and loves company. He is Sharon's prized dolphin as she has taken plenty of underwater photographs of him.
- Anthony, the dysfunctional chimpanzee interacts with Gena who is lenient with him.
- Rambo the bulldog roams the apartment area of The Big Table. He can be very gluttonous despite his fit physique and is often sociable. He is very dependent on his loving owner, Anna, as he will run to her room if he is frightened.
Similarities to Resident Evil
Deep Fear borrows elements from Capcom's Resident Evil such as first-aid spray capsules of various types which become the player's only healing item. There is a significant dependency on firearms in both games. Both games demonstrate poor voice acting and use non-sensical dialogue.
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In 2009, GamesRadar included Deep Fear among its games "with untapped franchise potential", commenting,
- "This atmospheric survival/horror game also used limited air supplies and moody silence to create tension (see Dead Space.) Though we’re puffing at the gills for BioShock 2, we’d love to get our feet wet in another Deep Fear game."