With Rez Infinite sitting comfortably as (by far) the best-reviewed part of Playstation VR’s launch, people are once again talking about the groundbreaking rhythm shooter that now spans 15 years and three console generations, and for good reason.
Rez came from the mind of Tetsuya Mizaguchi, the visionary mind behind early rhythm game Space Channel 5, to the ill-fated Dreamcast in 2001. There was and remains nothing else quite like it. Rez is an rail shooter with rhythm elements. By default, the game plays a minimal breakbeat electronic song. but with every bullet you shoot and enemy you destroy, the game plays a note. The more quickly and accurately you dispatch enemies on beat, the higher your score, and the better the resulting song would sound. Many reviews compared this merging of the audio, visual, and control elements to synesthesia. The re-releases on PS2 and Xbox 360 took this… a step further.
To further the immersion and add a tactile element, the Japanese version of Rez on the PS2 offered a peripheral called the “Trance Vibrator.” This would pulsate and vibrate to the beat of the game, aiding you in keeping rhythm, and thus aiding high scores. The sex toy jokes came immediately, and the “washable cover” included with the trance vibrator indicate that this particular use was foreseen by the developers. On the Xbox 360 HD re-release of Rez, there was no trance vibrator peripheral, but it came with a feature that allowed you to use up to 3 other Xbox 360 controllers as trance vibrators, allowing players to triple their pleasure.
Rez dropped players as a computer program shooting its way through layers of security programs and firewalls to stop the AI, Eden, that controls much of the future’s network landscape. We are told Eden has gone rogue, and must be stopped. In the early levels, you fight threatening shapes, but as the game goes on, the things you fight take on greater complexity in form.
In the final stage, Area 5, it becomes clear that Eden hasn’t simply gone rogue, she’s become self-aware and questioning the nature of consciousness. She is trying to find answers to the meaning of life by simulating the evolution of life from its primordial stages, to the rise of intelligent life.
Viruses in the simulation caused Eden to experience self-doubt and attempt to shut down, taking the entire internet with her. In the climax (assuming you get a high-enough score) you rid Eden of the viruses and her self-doubt and she re-forms, whole again.
The game itself is relatively short, but due to the mechanics emphasizing replaying for a better score, or just to make and hear music, strongly encourages replayability. Across its released on Dreamcast, PS2, and Xbox 360, it gained what can only be described as a cult following. Most recently, it’s come to the PS4 as a launch title for Playstation VR with a new Area X. This has led to a lot of coverage and renewed interest for the game. However, little of that coverage has mentioned something that even many Rez fans don’t know. Rez received a full-blooded sequel (story-wise, it’s a prequel) on Xbox 360 and PS3, that was undeservingly ignored by the general gaming population. In Part 2, I will discuss the sequel, Child of Eden, and the unfortunate circumstances that led to it being ignored and forgotten.