Saturday, June 19, 2010
With the fantastic Deadly Premonition only available in English region locked for American 360s, there are those considering the Japanese PS3 version, which is region free and £20 on eBay from Korea/Hong Kong. But without any knowledge of Katakana there will be some sticking points. Well Zach, do you think we should help them? Yeah, me too Zach, we just have to be sure not to spoil anything.
A lot of people have complained about needing to drive everywhere in DP, despite there being an item in Chapter 2 which allows fast-travel. It’s entirely in Katakana though, so I’ve done a quick translation chart to make life easier if you’ve imported the Japanese PS3 version. If you just want that, scroll down, but if you want to hear me rant about Heavy Rain and explain why everyone should play Deadly Premonition/Red Seeds Profile, keep reading.
For me, after hearing the Simon & Garfunkel style guitar music with vocals (I've searched Youtube and found NOTHING on this), an opening scene debating the sadomasochistic relationship of Tom and Jerry, and then a car crash ending up on a lonely road surrounded by forest, with the objective being to walk that long road to town, I knew Deadly Premonition was something special. It wasn’t playing by anyone’s rules but its own, and the sheer scale of things was impressive, even if the texture mapping on the trees was not. I felt isolated and cut-off from the rest of civilisation.
Seldom in over 20 years of gaming have I seen a game so divide people. The METACRITIC page attests to that. My reckoning though is, those who criticise it the most are probably younger reviewers still struggling to grow real MAN BEARDS like myself and Francis York Morgan have. Anyone from back in the day who played the games of Kenji Eno, from the 32-bit era onwards, should take a liking to DP. It’s also comparable to some of Suda 51’s works. Both of these men created games brimming with interesting, non-conventional design and story ideas. They were almost always heavily flawed as a result, and barely playable in the case of some of Eno’s work, but they were always interesting enough to persevere with and I ended up loving everything their studios created. SWERY of Access Games, the guy behind DP, is definitely a worthy successor to Kenji Eno’s legacy, now that WARP is dead, and DP follows a similar route of being conceptually and narratively really interesting, but without the expensive production values to back up the ideas.
DP has the same kind of bent appeal that D2 on the Dreamcast had – even down to almost Dreamcast era visuals in places. You need to eat, you wander vast expanses, and the story gets increasingly crazy. DP though has much better characterisation, perhaps the best I’ve seen in a game. Which leads me on to Heavy Rain.
Jim Sterling not only gave DP a perfect score of 10, he also said it was better than Heavy Rain. At first I thought his tongue-in-cheek piece was trying to get people to notice DP through gross exaggeration – but the more I play it, the more I think he was absolutely right, at least in terms of scripting and character development. David Cage tried so hard, too hard in fact, and HR ended up a pretentious, sophomoric overworked mess which telegraphed what it expected you to be feeling long before the fact. I loved it, but not for the reasons anyone else did. All the characters suffered from overwritten flaws: the grieving father. The drug addict. The rape victim. The prostitute mother trying her best. The psychotic bad cop. And so on. They were all surreal, exaggerated pastiches of characters from cheap films. Though extremely entertaining, none of them felt sincere to me (“oh Shaun, SHAUN, I LOVE YOU SHAUN! Hey, Maddison, want to have sex? My finger’s a bit shorter and I just killed a man, but that won’t affect my performance, honest.”).
This is SWERY, the guy who made Deadly Premonition... I think... I found the picture on Insert Credit.
In contrast, the character development of Emily Wyatt and the professional relationship between her and York (especially over improvised meals) is played out beautifully and subtly. When first discovering George’s secret I was moved far more than the personal troubles the characters in HR had. Every single DP character has such a colourful history, all of them portrayed with convincing subtlety, that it was a joy uncovering them through the side missions. Oh, and DP is also bloody hilarious in a lot of places.
I’ve not finished the game, I’ve not even reached the areas people have described as being the best, but there’s a charm and richness here which I seldom see in games. And contrary to the criticisms people make, the gameplay isn’t quite a deal breaker. I enjoyed the combat. At worst it’s a boring though easy obstacle, at best it’s some mindless fun (get the flamethrower for the Wall Woman by collecting all 7 bones on the map and giving them to Brian - it makes things much easier).
What I did especially like though was needing to eat food and buy gas and sleep. It reminded me of STALKER. In fact I wish you needed to eat more often, and that you couldn’t simply get a new refuelled car using the flares. I wish you had one car, and when it ran out of juice you had to walk to the gas station or catch a lift. I also wish the driving sections played like Tokyo Bus Guide, with penalties for not using your signal lights. And when you reload your gun, wouldn’t it be cool if any bullets still in your current clip were lost, forcing to think about reloading? I think SWERY could have taken the realism to even crazier heights.
Furthermore, DP isn’t an example of a game held up only by its narrative – it simply wouldn’t work as well as a book or a film. Frank Cifaldi aptly put it when he said: “the game tells you its story in the interactive way that only a videogame can.” DP works so well because it is a game, where you can choose to speak with characters and explore the expansive game world at your leisure. If you’re impatient, then acquiring the radio and the infinite machinegun via side-quests (plus selecting easy mode) should make the game much easier and quicker.
BONUS: WAHP podcast episode with SWERY interview.
The main sticking points in the Japanese version are the radio item, and using the map, since both require Katakana reading ability. This also affects side quests, since while the objective is often spoken in English, actually finding the people can be tricky when using the map and side-quest list. Hopefully this translation table makes things easier (CLICK it for a bigger version).
Once you’ve acquired the radio from George in Chapter 2 (make sure it’s the first thing you do), you can select it via your items menu. Places you’ve visited are added to the list over time (though not always), so it continues to grow. It’s easy if you can read Katakana, since the script is used for foreign loan-words in Japanese. If you can’t, then it’s a case of trial and error. This probably isn’t a full list, since I’m only up to Chapter 13, but it’s good enough to ease you in and get to most important places. If you’re REALLY keen, you can also use the above list when reading the in-game map, which is also in Japanese.
Make sure to grab this Greenvale map too, which has everyone’s house name in English on it. Thanks to the guys on GameFAQs who put it together (I think it was Sinister XIII and some others).
There’s a FAQ on GamesFAQs, and also THIS forum topic for quests, and THIS forum topic for getting all the cards. With a little help and perseverance, DP is one awesome ride.
Posted by Sketcz at 10:53 AM