Tuesday, September 20, 2016

VGR D4 - Dark Dreams Don't Die

I've been waiting so long for this one...

SWERY's new game turned out a great surprise, albeit a pretty short one!

Are you a fan of SWERY65? Check out these reviews!

VGR: D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die: Season One also known as simply D4
From Access Games/Playism
Played on PC
Also available on Xbox One

Type Time Travel/Mystery/Adventure game
Year September 2014/June 2015

This is story of a man with a very strange fate...

D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is the latest game from creative developer Hidetaka Suehiro - aka SWERY65 - and his studio Access Games. SWERY is the kind of developer that always loves to have an hand in his games' direction, design and story. And this is very much the kind of game I've come to expect from him.

Following a huge surprising and unexpected success with his strange quirky horror title that was the Twin Peaks tribute Deadly Premonition, a lot of his fans expected a lot from D4!

Don't let the title fool you! Despite a pretty similar title, the game has no relation to the experimental horror-ysh quirky Japanese D series (even though counting D, Enemy Zero and D2 we could technically get to a follow up titled D4). But some fans did find some connections between the games, so maybe it's just a voluntary reference.

D4 marks the first episodic game from Access Games. And it's an adventure game at that, a genre I always felt SWERY would be much more suited for (and in a way, a return to the team's early Tomba! titles back when they were at Whoopee Camp).

D4 tells the adventure of this private detective David Young, a former Boston PD Narcotics Unit cop.

You see, David suffered from a big tragedy two years ago. He found one day his pregnant wife "Little" Peggy dead in mysterious circumstances their bathroom. Since that day David found himself with two problematic details. One: he has a scar on his forehead and problems with his own past memories. He can't remember the events of that night, aside from Peggy's final words... "Look for D". Now he truly believes the one responsible for her death pr at the very least someone connected to her murder has a name starting with the letter D.

And two: David has somehow obtained the ability to play around time (because... SWERY, I suppose!). David is now able to travel back in time whenever he gets his hands on a "memento" from an important past event. But apparently he's always only a witness in the past and never seems able to change a thing. But it's not despite his best efforts to try change past events...

After the death of Little Peggy, David has now left the force. His former partner Forrest Kaysen (this name might ring a bell to fans of previous SWERY titles) still comes to visit him or hire him on hard-to-crack mysteries. Oh, and David lives with this strange girl that thinks she's a cat, Amanda (or is it his actual cat that he imagines as the child he never had?).

The first episode begins with David looking into the case of a missing criminal aboard a plane, just around the time it was struck by lightning. He might work for "D".

All David's really obsessed with his locating a memento that will grant him to go back to the day his wife got killed!

There's also this mystery of a strange new drug "Real Blood", which gets a bigger role in the 2nd episode (and is possible tied to the "Red Seed" from Deadly Premonition...?). Real Blood seems to be able to trigger strange side effects in some users. (Like, say, "time travel"??)

Along his adventure, David will cross path with a wide variety of wacky characters despite the plot being confined to an apartment and a plane (and other odd flashback scenes), including a grumpy U.S. Marshall, a crazy scared lady, the weirdest fashion designer and his mannequin partner, a stewardess that reminds him of Little Peggy who might be who she claims to be and a very creepy mysterious giant with a surgeon's mask!

The story knows to be a bit more serious and downplayed whenever it revolves around the tragedy about his wife's death. David's still haunted by the memories of his wife...

D4 actually plays like a traditional point and click adventure game. A lot of the game revolves around hunting the scenery for elements to play or interact with. Movement are restricted on a path (think Myst/Riven).

The player can't actually play around freely with time travel, it's always plot-related. Although you can go back to the present in David's apartment whenever you want to catch a break, eat something or discuss with the other characters.

Speaking of, the game uses a stamina and view bar forcing David to eat and drink pretty often. It does empty pretty fast, but you can find a ton to eat and drink around, and since you can even go back to the apartment for an eventful and memorable dinner with Kaysen it shouldn't be much a problem. It's a pretty important signature element from SWERY's games (here's a link to a pretty interesting article regarding SWERY’s reactive hypoglycemia and what it affects in his games).

From time to time some Quick Time Events - or QTEs - will come shake things up and break up the pace. An earlier scene in the apartment will prepare you for one of my favorite action scenes from any video games these past couple of years! QTEs were pretty fun and a lot better than what I've seen in most modern games recently, the best I saw since those from Shenmue I & II back in my Dreamcast days.

There's also "sync score" you might try to keep up by staying as much as possible in-character.

Finally the game has a pretty deep customization system for David Young AND the rest of the main characters, allowing you to bot buy and unlock several new pants, jackets, ties and even beards!

If you ask me why this game's titled D4, aside because it's a catchy way to condense the quirky"Dark Dreams Don't Die" tagline, I think it's a fairly apparent allusion to the 4th dimension, time. Which the games loves playing around with.

All the characters were pretty interesting and different. The great over the top acting certainly helped at time. I really enjoyed Ben Pronsky's delivery as our main hero.

It's a very cinematic adventure game.

The plot actually made a lot more sense than I expected by the end, although there's still plenty of mysteries left up in the air.

Most of the game is simple exploring the environments and trying to find and collect various items to either progress the plot or solve additional character sidequests.

There's also a bunch of collectables and a few odd minigames here and there!

D4 still had a similar overall Twin Peaks-inspired atmosphere.

D4 did try going for a much more ambitious narrative. The whole cast of characters were much more memorable.

While Deadly Premonition and D4 are not really directly connected, there were still plenty of references and possible ties between both games. Despite the different games and universe, you still get the usual trademark SWERY elements such as the appearance of a Forrest Kaysen closely tied to the mystery and the plot, as well as Spy Fiction and Deadly Premonition-inspired alternate costumes for our heroes!

I got to say after Deadly Premonition's average graphics (due to the nature of the game originally developed as a PS2-era title before being delayed to the following gaming generation) I wasn't expecting much from the game visually. But D4 was absolutely gorgeous (even more once maxed out on PC!). The cel-shading here can look pretty gorgeous sometimes! It's really nice having a visually modern and impressive SWERY title, with great expressive character models, detailed environments and a really pretty comic book-style art direction.

D4 is a great adventure game. It can be fun and weird at the same time. It has a unique great premise. Really fun QTE sequences. And I particularly loved the game's atmosphere!

Despite the episodic nature, this entire "Season One" was release from the start as an entire complete game which are composed of a prologue and two episodes, with both more or less broken down themselves into two smaller chapters.

The PC port is pretty good for a Japanese title, for once. Courtesy from Playism, a publishers specialized in foreign and indie titles. They carefully port and localize games for foreign markets. The PC version has minor noticeable upgrades such as a much better framerate, shorter loadings and a ton of other issues fixed!

The game was originally released as an Xbox One exclusive, to be played through the Xbox's Kinect controls via gestures (and voice!). It did allow you to play through the game with a standard controller though. Thanks to the PC release, we're thankfully able to play the entire game via mouse controls, bring the experience much closer to traditional adventure games the game was supposed to be like.

Like Deadly Premonition before, the game features a wide range of musical styles and sounds from composers Tomomi Teratani, Yuji Takenouchi, Rio Okano and Atsushi Yamaji. To no surprise you will find yourself listening to all sorts of comedic cues, pop rock, metal, vintage songs, instrumentals and many more! You can even unlock those songs as vinyls to play in David's apartment!

Overall, D4 turned out to be a really fun game. In pure SWERY style! It's bizarre enough and explores a lot of similar themes as Deadly Premonition before, only it finally ditched the clumsy fighting elements finally.

If I was to have any real issues with the game, I just wish there were more episodes. Although it's already a fun and long enough experience for a first season by itself. I really wish they could just come forward and announce a new season, already! With this cast of quirky characters I could really see David Young going on several more new investigations, even once past solved the murder of wife!

I'm just really glad the game's no longer an Xbox One exclusive so everyone can enjoy it on a PC!

Highly Recommended adventure game for anyone that is looking for something different from the countless mainstream action games this generation's already suffocating in. The hilarious food scenes alone are well worth looking into the game, in my eyes! (The clam chowder and the hot dogs dinner were some of my favorite, there's even a few others hidden in the game..) 

The game does end on a cliffhanger preventing me to call it another cult classic as Deadly Premonition was before. But it seems SWERY keeps hinting there might be more D4 to come, specially if sales of the recent Steam version can help it.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Murrays!

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