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• REZ

developed by United Game Artists/published by SEGA/2002.01.08
1 Player/1 CD-ROM/SEGA Dreamcast, SONY PS2, XBLA

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This past Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the SEGA Dreamcast – a console which despite its limited success had a number of great and unusual games, Rez being among the best.  United Game Artists (UGA), the formal internal development team of SEGA led by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (now heading up Q Entertainment), is well known for its offbeat creations.  First there was the rhythm dance game Space Channel 5, and now REZ, inspired by “the creative genius of Kandinsky“.  Kandinsky’s style is certainly reflected in the game’s kaleidoscopic colors and patterns, resulting in one of the most beautiful and entrancing games ever made.

Gameplay

REZ is an excellent example of the railshooter, meaning you travel down set paths while destroying set patterns of enemies.  Railshooters, at their core, ask the player to relinquish a certain degree of control to the designers.  The player interacts with the game by moving a targeting reticule over enemies.  When the attack button is held, up to eight targets can be selected, and when the attack button is released, the targets are shot and destroyed.

You earn point multipliers from the enemies you combo.  Since there are set patterns, a strategy begins to develop as you master the game, until you are capturing each batch of enemies in the most efficient manner, quickly dispatching them and earning top scores.

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Similar to SEGA’s other railshooter, Panzer Dragoon, there are also smart bombs to be collected and used (destroying all enemies on-screen for the duration of 10 seconds).  And the player’s avatar goes through a series of evolutions.   When the player is struck by enemy fire, the avatar regresses one form of evolution, and as the player collects blue cubes dropped by enemies, he advances one form of evolution.  If the player regresses too many forms, he ceases to exist.  Therefore, the more forms of evolution one has advanced, the more times a player can take damage and survive.  Each evolutionary form has its own unique look & laser fire.

Graphics & Sound: Synesthesia

Visually, REZ is a laser light show from the gods, and easily the best use of wire frame and flat-shaded polygons to date.  Intricate patterns emerge from every pore of a level: wire frame lines that make up the landscape vibrate with each musical beat; flat-shaded mountains pulse and contract; enemies swirl to life and shimmer as they fire, and when destroyed explode in a cacophony of fireworks and sound.

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Each level has its own color scheme and theme, usually containing references to human civilizations, such as the pyramids of Egypt or hints of Chinese architecture, culminating in one final, dreamy trip through time and evolution beginning with the void, through to a completely virtual world.  There is even an unobtrusive set of code running constantly in the upper left corner of the screen which tracks everything that happens in the game, and if you play long enough it actually begins to make sense.

In line with the distinctly computer generated feel, the music is strictly electronica.  But the background music is only part of the audio landscape, as the player’s interactions release different musical tones based on the number of targets captured and released.  Certain enemies, once destroyed, release their own special musical chime.  And since the base sound is usually drum-like, the player can time a steady back beat even when there are no enemies around to be captured (doing so creates a song).

Reflections on REZ

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The visuals mixing with the player’s free-form musical beats creates a unique and incredibly addictive experience.  Replayability is extended into near infinity with the option to fully customize every facet of the play experience from the color scheme, camera position, starting evolution, beam-type, and more.  There is a score-attack mode, a free play “traveling mode” where you are invulnerable to enemy fire, the beloved Boss Rush mode (particularly good for showcasing the game to friends), unlockable levels, and the endless acid-trip “trance-mission”.  This is the level of customizability that all games should shoot for.

Quick Run-Down

PROS:

  • Unique blend of game play styles
  • Hallucinogenic graphics
  • Amazing boss battles
  • Options & different game modes extend playability

CONS:

  • A bit on the short side
  • No 2-player mode

One Sentence Review: Rez ranks in my personal list of the top ten games ever created.

One Word Review: Eyegasm.

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Perhaps due to its intense computer generated visual style, or its allusions to A.I. and the inner world of computers, one can surmise its title is more than just a passing reference to the Disney film TRON (“Rez” was a term used in the film as a synonym for “deletion”).  And, as a point of interest, the game was released in Japan with a special USB “vibrator” that pulsed rhythmically to the player’s interaction, further expanding the “sensational” experience that REZ encompasses.

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