After Rez was released, Tetsuya Mizaguchi became a star game director basically overnight. He left Sega and began his own game studio called Q? Entertainment. As a part of Q? Entertainment he directed several games that, much like Rez, added rhythmic elements to traditional game genres. From these rhythm puzzle games came the sequel to Rez.
The first game, Lumines was a breakout success on the PSP, adding musical elements to a puzzle game similar to Tetris, but entirely unique. This was followed by Meteos, another puzzle game on the DS, and Every Extend Extra, a rhythmic deconstruction of the shmup genre.
The follow-up to Rez has its origins, surprisingly, in a DLC pack for the Xbox 360 version of Lumines, Lumines Live! In October 2007, Q released a free downloadable skin for Lumines Live! featuring a music video from a band called Genki Rockets, called Heavenly Star.
It turns out this isn’t just any band, but the band of the musically-oriented game director himself, Tetsuya Mizaguchi, and he had big ambitions for the band. Genki Rockets, like Gorillaz and Hatsune Miku before them, is a virtual band with a backstory. The fictional lead-singer named Lumi (portrayed by Rachel Rhodes) is the first human born in space, in the year 2019. Always beholding the earth from the International Space Station, she sings about her dream of walking the surface, feeling the wind on her skin, and of extremely long-distance love with a person she can only see through screens.
Making their debut at a Japanese Live Earth event introducing Al Gore, the group promoted a strong environmentalist view. People quite naturally assumed this project was separate from his work in games, and no one really thought, when Child of Eden was announced for the Xbox 360 Kinect at E3 2010, that the projects were in any way related.
The gameplay and title (the AI in Rez was named Eden) clearly connected the two games, but the trailers didn’t necessarily capture the connection. On firing up the game, however, you’re greeted with an introduction that ties together Rez, Child of Eden, and Genki Rockets.
As the introduction goes, Lumi’s music and messages to the earth were so beloved that in the 23rd century, as humans ventured into space they created a huge network of all of humanity’s collective knowledge, the network called Eden. Scientists then used their collected data on Lumi from the 21st century to recreate her personality within Eden. This fledgling consciousness is attacked by viruses, and the player must defeat the viruses to ensure that Lumi is fully born as the child of Eden. Presumably, Lumi becomes the AI named Eden that we rescue in Rez. The story and the visuals are much brighter and more optimistic, with Tetsuya Mizaguchi soliciting happy memories from fans for use in the game. Each level incorporates a lot of Genki Rockets music, and beating the last level grants you a long credits scene of the rescued AI version of Lumi singing.
Child of Eden, played with the controller is extremely similar to Rez, and like Rez it got a lot of fantastic reviews from the press, pulling a very respectable 84 on Metacritic, 6 points higher than the Rez release on PS2. The game was roundly praised for its visuals, music, and evolution over the gameplay in Rez, as well as one of the best uses of Xbox Kinect. Like Rez, it features incredibly deep replayability and quite a bit of challenge for expert players. Unlike Rez however, which only gained popularity over time, Child of Eden has been basically forgotten in the years since its release. I’d say there are a few reasons for this.
It was tied to the gimmicky Kinect and Playstation Move
Not only was it announced at the press conference for the Xbox Kinect, then Project Natal, but it was one of the early games bundled with the Kinect. Rez was particularly popular with hardcore gamers for its difficult arcade-y action, while the Kinect was targeted to capture the so-called “living room audience,” which is to say the non-hardcore audience that Nintendo successfully captured with the Wii. Similarly, the game was delayed for release on the PS4 so that it could be compatible with the Playstation Move controllers. Because it was tied so strongly to motion controls, many gamers failed to notice its connection to Rez, or assumed that you couldn’t use a controller, and couldn’t get the Rez experience.
Advertisement was scarce and downplayed Rez
I, like many, hardly knew that Child of Eden was coming out, even as a huge fan of Rez. I learned about the game from the webcomic Penny Arcade. Their scarce advertising dollars were used to play up the physical interactivity aspect with Kinect, and made no mention of or connection to Rez, leading many fans to not even know the games are related. Possibly they underestimated the cache that Rez carries with gamers, and did not believe that those gamers would account for a great number of sales, especially when they probably dreamed of Wii Sports numbers.
In essence, I think they targeted a big audience that was less likely to be receptive, rather than a small audience that would have loved the game.
At any rate, do yourself a favor and play it
I was hoping that the release of Rez Infinity would draw eyes to Child of Eden, which I believe is criminally under-appreciated. The music is wonderful, the gameplay is an improvement over Rez if you use the controller. Stage 4, Passion, is a beautiful ode to the advancement of technology set to the wonderful Genki Rocket song Maker. It’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.