Survival horror is my favorite genre in video games, and I love it when I find these little known titles that helped kick off survival horror. D is one of those titles. I happened to luck out and find this game on a good deal on an unnamed internet auction site. I had heard good things about the game and was excited to get my hands on it, the only early survival horror that I have been used to came to me as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. I didn’t know about D fifteen years ago, but I’m glad I found out about it and its sequel that is on the Dreamcast. D was released in 1996 for PlayStation. It was developed by WARP under the direction of Kenji Eno. Originally published in 1995 for the 3DO it was smart of Acclaim to port the title to other systems so that Retro Horror Gamers like me could find it in the future. The game is a whopping three discs long, but that didn’t scare me, what scared me was the fact that I was diving back into video game history and I had no idea what awaited me after I inserted D.
The story is a very weird one; you witness world acclaimed Dr. Harris go on a mass murder spree at his hospital. Laura Harris, his daughter, breaks into the barricaded hospital to see what is wrong with her father. Upon entering the hospital you are greeted with a weird floating liquid which envelops you and takes you into a medieval dining room in a castle. You must search this giant castle for your father to finally find out the truth. Navigating the castle isn’t very difficult, but as you interact with items you learn more and more of the story. In the dining room you are greeted by a liquid-like version of your father telling you to go back or you will be stuck in castle wacko forever. To find your father and escape you must have your wits about you. Puzzle time is coming and there’s no Professor Layton to help you.
The game is all in first-person and it is very difficult to see everything you need to see due to the polygons. You see the world through the eyes of Laura and she really needs some glasses, or perhaps just a seeing eye dog. It is hard to discern certain items in the world due to the fact that graphics just were not up to par in 1996. I slowly walked by quite a few doors and completely missed them cause they just looked like a smudge in the world. For the time I’m sure this game was insanely impressive, a fully realized, interactive 3-D world seen through the eyes of the protagonist must have been mind blowing. I’m less impressed now twenty years later, but I respect what WARP and Eno did with this title, and I really did have a scary old time with the game. Eno added a lot of jump scares to the game, and I’m man enough to admit a few got me when I was least expecting it; I’ve guess I’ve gotten more jumpy in my old age. I will suggest that if you play this title, play in absolute darkness. I had a hard time playing at 2pm in my living room because of the sun; I had to take a break so that I could get rid of the glare on my screen. Just be sure when you are walking around the castle to try to interact with everything you see. You don’t want to get stuck in the same three rooms for a few hours.
One thing that surprised me was the fact that even though this game is three discs, it is insanely short. I blew through the first disc in about half an hour, which was kind of disappointing. I was hoping I was going to spend more than one afternoon in this crazy world that Eno gave us. The other huge surprise that wasn’t a jump scare is the fact that you cannot save your progress in this game. If you get this title and want to beat it you either have to leave your PlayStation running or give yourself about three hours to do it in one sitting. The controls are pretty easy. Once you take control of Laura you use the D-pad to move her forward and back and left and right. Right Trigger is what passes as a menu; you can scroll through the two items that the game gives you. I will warn you, they are kind of useless; one is a pocket watch that tells you the time and the second allows you a hint if you are stuck, but you can only use it a limited amount of times. As you interact with the world you find key items that allow you to progress, to use these items you must first find the proper spot for them, then bring up the menu and press circle (which is the interact button with everything else). Pretty simple, right? The real challenge is figuring out where everything goes and how to use it with no walkthrough. Are you up to the task?
Overall, this is a great game for survival horror fans who want to take a walk down memory lane. The atmosphere is spooky, the story is out there and the jump scares can be laughable at times, but man I enjoyed it. I never got to play any FMV titles like this when I was younger due to the fact that I never had a gaming PC, and I wonder how many titles I missed due to that. Playing D really was an eye opener to me that survival horror really did have its best years in the late 90s. Any self proclaimed survival horror fan should find a way to play this title: it is definitely worth the three hours you get out of it. I would also suggest bringing some friends along for the ride. It may make the puzzle solving easier and the jump scares funnier. Believe me when I say that you’ll all like D.