If Die Hard taught us nothing else, terrorists and Christmas make for an instantly-compelling story. It’s no surprise then that Warp’s sequel to their previous two games, Enemy Zero and D no Shokutaku, takes this concept and Japan-ifies it until you can’t help but ask yourself, “What the hell did I just play?” Love him or hate him, Kenji Eno’s impact sent ripples through the Japanese game community, and he made no bigger splash than with this swan song magnum opus for Sega’s last console which hit today in 1999.
D no Shokutaku 2 almost didn’t make it. Eno originally intended the title to be released for the M2 console, Panasonic’s vaporware successor to the 3DO. When that project finally ran out of money, steam, and consumer forgiveness, lesser developers might have just written off the experience as the cost of doing business, taken the huge tax write-off, and shrugged. Eno wasn’t taking any of that easy-path-to-the-dark-side nonsense–like Capcom with the original incarnation of Resident Evil 2, Warp Studios threw away the work they had done on the title and went back to the drawing board. The only difference? Capcom scrapped roughly a year’s worth of work, while Warp tossed out everything they had done on the game since nineteen-frickin’-ninety-six. The end result is one of the most unique horror gaming experiences available for any system to date.
It was a horror gaming experience that was greatly needed. While the Dreamcast set a record for number of games available on its release date, it was competing against the vastly larger library of the original PlayStation in addition to the promise of many forthcoming titles on the PS2. Sega’s largest weak point in 1999 was RPGs, a fact Sony wasted no time rubbing in Sega’s face. Their second-largest was scary games. Blue Stinger received average reviews, and while Biohazard 2 and 3 were great games, they were ports of games PS1 owners had been playing for years. Sega was pitching the forthcoming release of the exclusive Biohazard: Code Veronica, but that wouldn’t arrive until February of next year, nobody was even talking about Carrier, and a port of Dino Crisis was slated for release sometime in the 4th quarter of 2000. Two days before Christmas, Warp unleashed hell on Japanese Dreamcast fans twice.
First there was the game’s plot which was written by someone dedicated to out-mindfucking Hideo Kojima. Tentacle rape monsters, UFOs, rogue meteors, terrorists, airplane crashes, FBI agents, drug addiction, warlocks, time travel, and hunting for food in the Canadian wilderness…it’s like Eno put The X-Files, Urotsukidoji, Breaking Bad and Oregon Trail in a sausage grinder and D no Shokutaku 2 came out the other end.
Second, Warp released no fewer than four different versions of the game to the Japanese market. In addition to the standard, regular version with the cover art depicted in the article thumbnail, three other editions arrived on store shelves. Dubbed the “Bliss”, “Eclipse” and “Hope” editions, they contained no altered or new gameplay elements, just different cover artwork. All four editions retailed for ¥6,800, or roughly $60 US each, meaning collectors would need to shell out nearly $250 in order to own a complete set. Since video games were not yet considered commodities in North America, Sega nixed the special editions for D2‘s US launch. It wasn’t the only thing Sega wanted gone: despite carrying the Mature rating, D2 suffered a number of cuts for its US release, some of which only served to render an already confusing plot even less coherent.
Ultimately D no Shokutaku 2 proves why Kenji Eno was such a niche developer and Warp such a niche studio. Eno strove to push video games into territories no other studio was even contemplating, to tell stories no other writer would tell. Gamers who didn’t enjoy Enemy Zero or the first D no Shokutaku weren’t going to find anything to help them realize the error of their ways. On the other hand, gamers who like seeing what sort of semi-sane weirdness can spring from the minds of developers like Goichi Suda and Hidetaka Suehiro will eat D no Shokutaku 2 up like a KFC Double Down combo meal: you may get through it, but you’ll be a changed person by the end.
Enjoy the two-page photo mosaic-style ad spread which graced Japanese gaming magazines of the time, courtesy of SegaRetro.com: