In 2001, Sega and United Game Artists released an on-rails shooter for the Dreamcast called Rez. It was nothing short of a sensory revolution.
Appearing at first glance to be a simple on-rails shooter with some neat wireframe art, Rez didn’t show its true colours until you sat down with it yourself. Once you focused on the screen, gripped the controller, took your first few shots, you realised, uh, wait, is everything I’m doing matching the beat of this soundtrack? Even though I’m doing whatever the hell I want?
How is this possible?
Rez was the brainchild of Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Space Channel 5, Lumines, Tetris Effect), and while its initial sales were terrible, the game has won itself a well-deserved and enduring fanbase. It has since been re-released on everything from the PS2 to the Xbox 360, with an expanded and upgraded edition on the PS4 in 2018.
I’ve got a special place in my heart for the Dreamcast original, but I also understand anyone who is partial to the PS2 edition. It was compatible with the game’s vibrating peripheral, called the Trance Vibrator, whose illustrious history we’ve celebrated previously.
I know we now live in an age of video gaming where, thanks to a proliferation of experimental indie titles, it feels like the games x music thing has been done one million different ways. But it’s important to remember that in 1999, when Rez first released, that wasn’t the case. This was some pioneering shit, and even twenty years on, its combination of classy, minimal visuals and a thumping electronic soundtrack make it feel like something that could have come out today.
In honour of the game’s birthday, a video has been released featuring the responses of artists, musicians, and writers, recounting their experiences with the game, and what made it so special. It’s very sweet! It’s also making me feel old as hell.