By Levi . September 25, 2007 . 5:19pm
Okay, quiz time: what do you get if you combine one part Panzer Dragoon, one part Tron, four parts trance, and a whole lotta whatever it was The Beatles were on when they recorded Revolver? You get Rez, Sega's tribute to all things trippy and weird. Originally released for the Dreamcast and PS2 in Japan in 2001, Rez was later released for the Dreamcast and PS2 in Europe in 2002, and the PS2 in the USA in 2002 as well. The brainchild of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who has since become well known for games such as Meteos and Lumines, Rez has often been referred to as more of an experience than a game. It is perhaps that fact, coupled with the average gamer's hesitation to try such an abstruse concept as Rez, that doomed Rez to be a commercial failure (in the US, anyway). Of course, the limited print run didn't help, either (copies of the US version of Rez command a fairly high price on eBay). But more on sales in a bit. For now, let's take a look at some of the things that make Rez special.
At first glance, Rez may seem like your typical Panzer Dragoon-like rail shooter. Indeed, several members of the Panzer Dragoon development team were involved with the making of Rez. But after a few minutes of play, you'll begin to notice some things. First, the graphical style of the game is like no other game before it. The environments in Rez are mostly wireframe, with a few solid, basic polygonal objects thrown in from time to time. The next thing you'll undoubtedly notice is the music. Initially almost completely silent at the beginning of a stage, the music gets more and more complex as you move through a stage. A new layer of music is added every time you complete a part of a level (called "layer levels" in Rez). Adding to this is the sounds that result when you destroy enemies, which also add to the music (a similar concept was later used by Mizuguchi in Meteos). This makes it feel almost if you're composing the soundtrack to the game yourself, as you play. Destroying enemies also results in colorful swirls and patterns that spread around the area where the enemy was eliminated. The simple yet fascinating visuals and the pulsing, "interactive" soundtrack, when combined, make Rez one of the most breathtaking aural and visual experiences you can have while playing a video game. It's quite easy to be "sucked into" a game of Rez, and lose track of the world around you.
Another aspect of Rez, and one that is fairly unknown to US audiences, is the Trance Vibrator. Sold along with the game in a special package in Japan only, the Trance Vibrator is a USB device roughly the size of a business card that plugs into the PS2, and vibrates along with the music in Rez. This allows the game to not only affect your senses of sight and sound, but also your sense of touch, allowing you to truly "feel" the game. This peripheral was never released in the US, however, for unknown reasons. Still, that hasn't stopped it from receiving attention in America, especially from G4's Adam Sessler, who calls it his "favorite peripheral of all time".
So what can we attribute Rez's poor commercial showing to? Well, there are really several factors. First and foremost is the game's strange, unusual design. Second would have to be the game's cover art, which tells you little to nothing about the game itself. While it certainly is eye-catching, it's also something that most likely wouldn't make the average person shopping for a new game want to pick it up and look at the back, to see what the game's all about. Third, the game's limited print run in the US. Exactly how many copies were shipped is unknown, but the number's pretty low, especially based on it's availability now. Finding a used copy of Rez in a game store is like finding a diamond in a box of Cheerios. It's just not likely to happen. Still, Rez has a devoted fanbase, much like many games that weren't commercially successful, and is well-loved by many within the game industry.
For those of you who want to play Rez for yourself, you're in for a tough search. You can try looking at various game stores, but you'd better bring along a rabbit's foot and a four leaf clover, because you're going to need all the luck you can get to find a copy of Rez out in the wild. Of course, there's always eBay, if you don't mind parting with some significant cash for a copy. Those of you who own an XBOX 360, however, are in luck. Tetsuya Mizuguchi has announced that his company, Q Entertainment, has acquired the rights from Sega to bring Rez to the XBOX Live Arcade. Tentatively known as Rez HD, the XBLA version will feature the exact same gameplay as the original Rez, but in high definition, and with widescreen support, making Rez's visuals that much more awe-inspiring. While no exact release date has been announced, Rez HD is expected to hit the XBLA in early 2008, and is sure to introduce the experience known as Rez to a whole new set of gamers.