Hello all! Last week, I reminisced about a DS strategy title; a super hard game wherein you couldn’t use the title mechanic if you wanted to get the best ending.
This week’s game is hard to explain.
D is a Sega Saturn, PlayStation, and PC title from twenty-two years ago, releasing in 1995. You play as Laura Harris, who goes looking for her murderous father who has locked himself in a hospital. Arriving at the hospital, Laura sees a mass of corpses and covers her eyes. When she uncovers her eyes, she finds she’s in a medieval castle. Despite this oddball turn of events, she goes off to find her father.
To say more about the story would ruin it; it’s a weird, grim, bloody, disturbing plot nonetheless. The game from a gameplay standpoint is weird as well, for its time. D is better classified as an interactive movie. You control Laura from her point of view, but your interactions with the game are limited to walking and occasionally opening a door or drawer and the like. There are puzzles to solve, some that can be quite nebulous when you’re just starting out.
D today would be classified, more or less, as a “walking simulator,” a term sometimes pejoratively used to describe games like Gone Home, Firewatch, etc. You don’t have the same kind of freedom in D; you walk along predetermined routes, and the game is generally one long FMV cutscene that you exercise limited control over. Push forward, for example, and Laura (slowly) walks a few feet forward. Come to a junction, and you need to choose left or right. That sort of thing. There’s not much else to how it plays, save that you have two hours to finish, you can’t pause or save, and there’s multiple endings.
D can be extremely tough to play today. It’s got a lot working against it; the gameplay is a bizarre mix of ahead of its time and antiquated. It’s meant to be played in one sitting. It’s incredibly slow paced. It looks beyond awful on modern displays. It’s generally confusing.
Still, it’s quite an important game when discussing the increase of cinematic elements in games over the decades. Adventure titles older than D had live-action cutscenes, and an attempt at a Hollywood vibe, but they, for the most part, were still squarely in the “game,” category. D, by contrast, aimed to be a full interactive movie, with less emphasis on “game-y” elements like combat and inventory management. For better or worse, D is an early example of a cinematic game—albeit one that gave you some freedom regarding choices and endings.
D is also an early example of a true mature horror game, beating Resident Evil to market by a full year and even dropping a few months before Phantasmagoria. D is actually more disturbing than those titles, even today; I hesitate to spoil things, but it’s bleak. Or, to quote my best friend, simply put, “It’s fucked up.” The cheese of Resident Evil is nowhere to be found in D, save for the weird looking pre-rendered characters (the game is from 1995, after all). It’s decidedly more “grown up” than a lot of other horror games around the time of D’s release (hell, even today). If you’re into horror, it’s almost worth a play based on that alone.
I say “almost,” because, as I said, D is tough to swallow today. It exists today as more of a curiosity, or a tiny piece of gaming history; a gruesome interactive movie that maybe isn’t fun to actually play (was it ever?), but it’s sure fun (and, perhaps necessary) to experience.
Thanks for reading my stuff! Yell at me on Twitter, and/or suggest other games I should cover!
Next week, seeing as how Netflix’s Castlevania is out, let’s talk about a game in that series. It’s one of the “bad” ones, but I’ve been wanting to replay and re-evaluate this one for a while.