Rez (video game)
|Developer(s)||United Game Artists|
|Genre(s)||Rail shooter, music game|
Rez is a rail shooter music video game developed by United Game Artists and published by Sega for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. In was released in Japan in November 2001, followed by releases to the United States and Europe in January 2002. The game has since seen two remasters: Rez HD, released to the Xbox Live Arcade in 2008, and Rez Infinite, developed for PlayStation VR and released to the PSN in October 2016. The game was conceptualized and produced by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and is notable for replacing the typical sound effects found in most rail shooters with electronic music. The player creates sounds and melodies as they target and destroy foes in the game, leading to a form of synesthesia.
The game's development team contained several former members of the disbanded Team Andromeda, the Sega development team behind the Panzer Dragoon series. Rez Infinite, the latest version of the game created for virtual reality, was released to widespread acclaim, and is widely considered to be the best VR game to date.
Rez is a rail shooter in which the player takes control of an onscreen avatar traveling along a predetermined path through the computer network. The player does not control the overall path, only the avatar's position on the screen. The player targets foes by holding a "lock-on" button while moving an aiming reticule over up to 8 enemies. Once the "lock-on" button is released, the avatar fires shots that home in on each target. Failure to hit an enemy or projectile in time may cause a collision, which reduces the player's current evolution level by one and changes the avatar's form. The game is over if the avatar is hit while at its lowest possible level. At higher evolution levels, the avatar appears as a humanoid figure, while it appears as a pulsating sphere at the lowest level.
Some enemies drop power-up items when destroyed. Two different items enhance the player's avatar by increasing his/her "evolution bar" by one or three points, respectively. Another item enables the player to trigger an "Overdrive", which releases a continuous shower of shots at all enemies on the screen for a short period of time. In some game modes, score bonus items also appear periodically.
The game consists of five main areas. The first four are divided into ten sub-sections and conclude with a boss battle. The final area contains a larger number of sections and a boss rush, in which the player must fight variations of the bosses from the first four areas. The player then goes on to the network's core to restart Eden in a final boss battle.
The boss for each area features a variable difficulty scale, depending on the player's performance leading up to that point. According to Sega, this system was employed to make the game more accessible to casual players, while also making it more challenging for experienced players, thus potentially increasing its replay value. In addition, completing all five levels unlocks alternate gameplay modes, color schemes and secret areas.
Unlike most games, Rez contains almost no sound effects or spoken dialogue. Instead, the game is set to electronic music, which plays in the background and gradually evolves as the player moves among sections. The music is enhanced by musical effects (such as trills and drums) generated by the player's actions, enemies and surroundings. Player actions are usually locked to the rhythm of the music, such that shots and hits against enemies occur exactly on each beat (as opposed to occurring in real time). Graphical elements such as the polygons that make up the player's avatar, as well as background elements, also "beat" in time with the music. In reference to these coordinated effects, Sega focused its marketing of Rez primarily on the game's qualities of "synesthesia", the association of different senses and stimuli with one another.
The game is set in futuristic computer "supernetwork" called Project-K where much of the data flow is controlled by an AI named Eden. Eden has become overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge gathered on the network, causing her to doubt her existence and enter a shutdown sequence, which would create catastrophic problems everywhere should she be able to complete this. The player plays the protagonist hacker, logging into the Project-K system to reboot Eden while destroying any viruses or firewalls that happen to inhibit progress, and analyzing other sub-areas of the network to gain access to Eden's location. The Project-K name and much of the game's visual and synesthesia inspiration comes from the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, whose name is mentioned at the very end of the game credits, whereas the Rez name was inspired by the Underworld track of the same name.
Rez was the idea of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, a culmination of ideas he had during his career to that point. Mizuguchi was first drawn to video games from the game Xevious, finding that the game's sound effects were like music to him. Later, while in university, he was introduced to the game Xenon 2 Megablast, and found the game giving him "a sense of a new medium, the idea that games as an art-form can exist". Following his graduation, he started working at Sega on the arcade cabinet versions of Megalopolis (a non-game simulation set in a futuristic Tokyo):13 and Sega Rally (a racing game utilizing Sega Model 2's 3D GPU), both of which included a cockpit-style design to immerse the player in the game. Mizuguchi began forming the concept of a game around "a full body experience" from this work.
In 1997, Mizuguchi was on travel in Europe and had been taken to the Street Parade in Zurich, during which there was a large electronic dance music concert attended by around 300,000 people. Mizuguchi was taken in by the sights and sounds around him from this, and recognized how this experience was similar to the inspiration that Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter, had used to "[paint] a canvas of the sounds that he saw". He saw this tie to his previous ideas and envisioned a game where one would shoot down enemies in time to the beat of music that would put the player into a trance, forming the basis of Rez. Moving from his previous office in Haneda to another in the considerably more vibrant community of Shibuya, Mizuguchi and his team began to research how to structure this game, visiting clubs and attending Taiko drumming festivals, as well as meeting with VJs including those of the Mommy's Endorphin Machine collective.:18–19 He was particularly drawn to watching videos of various street bands, and he recounted the video of one Kenyan band that was "influential" towards Rez's design, himself having watched it over 100,000 times; in the video the music started with silence, then a single beat, and more instruments then began layering into the song as the music drew in a small dancing crowd. In 1998, Mizuguchi attended Burning Man and had the opportunity to experience a similar phenomenon in person as he walked during the evening from his campsite at the periphery of the event toward the epicenter where the light and music had attracted a large crowd of which he became a part.:7 Figuring that the capacity for music and sights to draw in a crowd would be the essential element to his envisioned game, Mizuguchi began exploring how to programmatically recreate this effect.
The music and gameplay was developed following a call and response approach, similar to that of what a disc jockey would do to get reaction from the crowd. In parallel with the development of the game's narrative and aesthetic, the team developed its mechanic of quantizing the notes, so that regardless of the player's imprecision that they would play out on the beat, which they "felt like magic" to players of any skill level. This quantization mechanic soon became the central focus of the game and it would go on for other games Mizuguchi developed including Child of Eden and Lumines.:26
Visual design for Rez underwent a number of changes during development of the game. Early on, Mizuguchi had entertained and soon rejected the idea of using visuals inspired by the artworks of Kandinsky,:29–30 however other early versions explored themes of hip hop culture (inspired by the virtual band, Gorillaz) and the evolutionary history of life. Early designs for the player avatar also underwent numerous changes from a spaceship, to a running woman, to a racecar. The visuals produced by the team during the early phases would frequently be reigned back in order to retain a central primitivism and purity,:19 Little definitive progress was made toward an overarching visual style until the arrival of Katsumi Yokota (who had previously provided visuals for Panzer Dragoon video games and more recently had been working on the anime, Tekkonkinkreet). Yokota's interpretation of Mizuguchi's central aesthetic of a move from darkness, silence, and individuality to light, sound, and community, expanded on the team's evolutionary concepts with an emphasis on primitive planktonic and other oceanic forms. Although the concept struck a chord with Mizuguchi, early playtests showed that players couldn't clearly identify enemies, and that enemy death sequences interfered with player line-of-sight.:30 These problems were solved when team member Jake Kazdal introduced Yokota to the music visualization plug-ins for Winamp that were beginning to be be used in clubs by Shinjuku VJs, and wireframe models inspired by depictions of virtual reality were adopted.:33
The game's story, though ostensibly about hacking a computer system, was envisioned by Mizuguchi as a metaphor for life's journey.
Rez was developed under the codenames K-Project, Project Eden, and Vibes, They eventually adapted Rez as a shortened formed of the word "resolve"; Mizuguchi further felt the name appropriate as it also had made a comparison to the movie Tron and the actions of characters in that being "de-rezzed".
A "Special Package" version of the PlayStation 2 release of the game was sold in Japan only, including a USB device called a 'Trance Vibrator', which pulses in time with the music. The intended use of the device would be to hold it, put it in a pocket, or sit on it while playing (a pouch was provided to protect the device); similar to the DualShock, it would vibrate in time with the music, but stronger than the DualShock's own feedback, helping to extend the synesthesia to the player's feeling of touch. Mizuguchi had found the DualShocks haptic feedback to be too weak for Rez, leading to the development of the stronger Trance Vibrator.
It has been noted in the gaming media, that Trance Vibrator can be used as a dildo or sex toy. In 2007, ScrewAttack ranked the Trance Vibrator the #1 best gaming peripheral in its "Best Gaming Peripherals" for this reason (though the reason given in the video was far more sexual for comedic purposes). The devices are available from various aftermarket retailers for (as of 2006[update]) approximately $60 USD. The trance vibrator is also compatible with Space Channel 5: Part 2 and the Japanese version of Disaster Report.
Reverse-engineering efforts to allow the Trance Vibrator to attach to and be controlled by a PC have been successfully executed in Japan, resulting in a device driver for Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000. Sam Hocevar also wrote a driver which is part of the Linux kernel.
The Xbox 360 version, Rez HD, and the PS4 version, Rez Infinite, use up to three additional controllers for the trance vibration functionality in the game.
A soundtrack entitled Rez / Gamer's Guide to… was released on January 23, 2002 with the following track list:
- Keiichi Sugiyama - Buggie Running Beeps 01 (5:20)
- Mist - Protocol Rain (7:08)
- Ken Ishii - Creation the State of Art (Full Option) (6:33)
- Joujouka - Rock Is Sponge (7:31)
- Adam Freeland - Fear* (Rez Edit) (5:06)
- Coldcut & Tim Bran - Boss Attacks (Remix) (7:15)
- EBZ - F6 G5 (7:48)
- Oval - Octaeder 0.1. (3:22)
- Ken Ishii - Creative State (6:20)
- Oval - P-Project (5:38)
Rez HD was announced for release on Xbox Live Arcade by Microsoft during their pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference held in September 2007. Mizuguchi noted during the show that he "always dreamed of a high-def wide screen and very good sound", and described the game as "100 percent the same game" as the original Dreamcast version. Mizuguchi noted that he had to get the license back from Sega to remake the game even though he made the original (because Rez was created as a work for hire), and that there are no plans for a 360-compatible Trance Vibrator peripheral, although the same functionality is provided through the use of extra Xbox 360 controllers. The title was ported to Xbox Live Arcade by Japanese game developer HexaDrive.
Regarding releases on other systems, Mizuguchi has noted that there is "no reason" not to provide Rez HD on platforms other than the Xbox 360.
Rez Infinite is a port of Rez for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR. It includes support for 1080p resolutions and 3D audio sound. In addition, Rez Infinite features a new level called "Area X". Although the game is intended for VR play, a PSVR is not mandatory and Rez Infinite can be played without the device. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the producer for the original Rez, lead the development of the title under his new studio, Enhance Games, effectively a one-man studio with outsourcing of some programming and art development as to avoid issues that Mizuguchi had faced at Q Entertainment. Mizuguchi had left Q Entertainment some years prior after becoming dissastified with the company, and spent the intervening time teaching and working on small mobile and music games. He opted to return to gaming after seeing the potential for virtual reality, creating Enhance Games to redevelop Rez for VR gaming. Development of Rez Infinite was aided by Monstars and localized by 8-4.
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2016)|
The game received an award from The Agency for Cultural Affairs Media Art Festival in Japan. Rez has been one of the chosen Dreamcast games to be shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's 2012 exhibition, The Art of Video Games.
By 2003, the PlayStation 2 version had sold over 100,000 copies.
Toonami reviewed it in 2004. SARA referenced the Total Immersion Event Trapped in Hyperspace, which preceded a cameo by Swayzak, the TIE's antagonist.
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2016)|
Rez Infinite received widespread acclaim from critics. Review aggregate Metacritic assigned the game a score of 89 out of 100, based on 44 reviews, making Rez Infinite the highest rated PSVR game on the site. The game received unanimous praise for its immersion, sense of place, visual and sound design, and its new level Area X. Despite the age of its previous iterations, many reviewers considered it to be the finest PSVR title to date, and an essential game for anyone owning the device. Martin Robinson of Eurogamer called the game a "modern masterpiece", and Alexa Ray Corriea of GameSpot considered it to be "a new classic".  Lucas Sullivan of GamesRadar thought that the game "achieves its full potential with PSVR", while Edge summarized "Rez Infinite is 15 years old, and the best VR game of 2016."
Reviewers praised the choice to remake the game in VR, and agreed that the game was best played in PSVR. Corriea praised the remastering of the visuals noting that "[hazy backgrounds] have been replaced with updated, crystal clear pieces of the cyberworld." Vince Ingenito of IGN thought that the use of VR "elevates [the game] dramatically", and Dominic Leighton of The Sixth Axis commented that the game "looks, and feels, like an experience tailored solely to the format". Ingenito lauded the game's control systems, noting that the aiming via head tracking in VR was "amazingly intuitive". Edge thought that the game was played best with head tracking whilst standing up, but cautioned "if you're a head-nodding dancer, perhaps invest in a neck brace." Robinson thought that in VR, the game gives "a sense of presence and ceaseless motion unlike anything else out there."
The gameplay was well-received, though opinions differed on its length. Ingenito thought the game was "surprisingly deep despite its relatively simple gameplay". Chris Carter of Destructoid thought the game was unique and "challenging as well on higher difficulties", but Leighton considered the game to be "relatively easy". The game's bosses were praised; Corriea considered them to be "most complex and challenging sections" of the game, and Carter thought they were "worth replaying multiple times." Infinite's new level, Area X, was widely considered to be one of the best parts of the game. Robinson considered the level to be "something else entirely", while Edge called the level "astonishing". Sullivan noted that the game's run time "will be a stumbling block for some", but still considered the game to be a "must-buy". Similarly Carter and Corriea thought the game was essential, but were left pining for more.
|The Game Awards 2016||Best Music/Sound Design||Nominated|||
|Best VR Game||Won|
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2016)|
- Jungle Rumble – a music game for PlayStation whose art director worked on Rez
- Audiosurf – music generated game for PC
- iS – internal section – futuristic shooter for PlayStation
- Vib-Ribbon - music-generated game for PlayStation
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Media related to Rez (video game) at Wikimedia Commons