|Platform(s)||Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows|
|Genre(s)||Adventure, interactive movie|
Enemy Zero[a] is a 1996 horror-themed adventure video game for the Sega Saturn, developed by Warp and directed by Kenji Eno. Players assume the role of an astronaut who awakens from cryogenic sleep to find her spaceship overrun by invisible creatures who are hunting and killing the ship's crew. They must navigate through the ship in a combination of puzzle-driven exploration rendered in full motion video and first-person shooter sections rendered in real time, during which they must rely on sound to either avoid or kill the invisible enemies.
Enemy Zero was initially designed for Sony's PlayStation, but due to grievances with Sony, Eno announced the game would be Saturn exclusive in a dramatic press conference stunt. As support for the Saturn outside of Japan was waning at the time, finding overseas publishers for the game became an uncertain struggle, with Sega itself ultimately taking on publication of the game in both North America and Europe. Upon release the game met with a wide spectrum of responses from critics, with some finding the game slow-paced and frustratingly difficult, while others praised its innovative emphasis on sound and the unique tension resulting from the gameplay design and setting.
Despite the divisive critical response and the exclusivity to a declining platform, Enemy Zero was a modest commercial success. After its Saturn release, it was ported to Microsoft Windows. It was the second game to star the "digital actress" Laura, the first being D. Laura is voiced by Jill Cunniff of the band Luscious Jackson in the English versions and Yui Komazuka in the Japanese version.
In Enemy Zero, gameplay sequences alternate between interactive full motion video (FMV) and real time exploration, both from a first person perspective. The interactive FMV component uses gameplay identical to an earlier Warp game, D. The player explores node-based environments, acquiring items for their inventory and solving puzzles.
The real time component of Enemy Zero is unique. Enemies are invisible, and location is only possible through the use of sound, with notes of different pitch helping the player find the distance and direction of enemies. Additionally, every gun in the game must be charged up immediately before each shot, and charging a shot for too long will cause the charge to dissipate, after which the charging must start over. Since all available guns have very limited range, this makes timing crucial; beginning to charge the gun too late or too soon will allow the enemy to reach Laura, resulting in an immediate game over. Reloading the gun and moving the character around are mechanics that have been made intentionally slow, which incentives players to avoid combat and direct contact with the alien enemies as much as possible. In the early segments of the game, avoiding detection is not only recommended; it is required, since the player has no means to defend themselves without a gun.
Aboard the AKI space craft, a space station dedicated to biological research, Laura Lewis is in a deep cryogenic slumber. The jets of the chamber dissipate as the craft's emergency systems are activated. Laura is awakened by a large detonation on her deck. Outside a door marked with the letters E0, something of great strength is trying to break free. The door is thrown down, and the hallway is filled with a bright, incandescent light, followed by a horrific growl. Pipes and the remains of the steel door shift around, as if being stepped on. Laura, unaware of what is happening, uses the video phone above her sleep chamber to contact one of her crewmates, Parker. Laura watches in confusion as Parker looks away from the monitor, to his room's entryway doors. A screech sends him backing up to reach for his gun. Laura watches as Parker is mutilated by an unseen enemy.
Getting dressed and grabbing her gun, Laura heads out to learn what attacked Parker. As she ventures through the ship, Laura's earring-shaped "guidance system" gives her aural warnings of invisible enemies (seen escaping in the intro sequence) roaming the ship's corridors. She discovers that even the ship's captain Ronny has also been killed by the creatures as well. Laura eventually meets up with Kimberley, another crewmate, and they make a plan to rendezvous with the other survivors. On their way Kimberley is attacked by an enemy and disappears, forcing Laura to make the journey on her own. She meets up with George, the ship's resident computer scientist; as well as David, her lover, and together they plan to head for the escape shuttles. Exploring the deceased captain's study, Laura discovers a log file that reveals that goal of the mission is to capture the enemies and bring them back to Earth for use as biological weapons on behalf of Vexx Industries, and that the crew is expendable in case of an accident.
David is attacked by one of the enemies, and when Laura discovers his corpse, she learns that David was actually an android. She performs a body-scan on herself and finds that not only is she also an android herself, but that one of the enemy larvae is developing in her neck. George confronts her and tries to wipe her memories, but is attacked and killed by an enemy. When Laura heads for the escape pods, she finds Kimberley again, who kills the larva nesting inside of Laura, and reveals that she and Parker were assigned by Vexx Industries to supervise the mission. Kimberley then triggers the ship's self-destruct mechanism, and leaves Laura to join Parker, killing herself while cradled up next to his corpse. As Laura heads for the escape shuttle, her guidance system runs out of battery, but instead she receives guidance from David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the ship's computer systems. Laura reaches the escape shuttle just in time as the AKI blows up behind her, and she enters cryogenic sleep one more time as she makes the return voyage to Earth.
Commenting on the impetus for Enemy Zero, designer Kenji Eno said, "I wanted to ask the question, 'Why do human beings exist?' That's why the game evolved into something with an enclosed space and invisible enemy - so that you would be forced to think about your own existence."
Enemy Zero began life on Sony's PlayStation. Its unveiling at the 1996 PlayStation Expo in Tokyo was described by journalists as the highlight of the show. Irritated by Sony's failure to meet even a third of preorders for the PlayStation version of D (and to a lesser extent, their policy that all marketing for third party games had to be approved by them), at a press conference during the expo Kenji Eno made a shocking move. Eno showed a preview of Enemy Zero. At the end of the clip the PlayStation logo appeared, but slowly transitioned into the Sega Saturn logo, indicating that the game would now be a Saturn exclusive. Despite popular opinion that the Saturn cannot handle 3D games as well as the PlayStation, Eno commented "...the PlayStation and the Saturn aren't that different, so moving it [Enemy Zero] to Saturn wasn't too difficult." Acclaim Entertainment, which had published the Saturn and PlayStation versions of D in North America and Europe, withdrew their interest in publishing Enemy Zero in those regions due to the change in platform.
The game was written by Yūji Sakamoto, who went on to write the film Crying Out Love in the Center of the World and the TV series Quartet. Fumito Ueda, director of the cult video games Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, worked as an animator on this game before becoming a video game director. Enemy Zero was in development for nine months.
The full motion video sequences were all rendered on Silicon Graphics workstations using PowerAnimator.
While Eno did the music for D, Michael Nyman, composer for films such as Gattaca and The Piano, was hired to create a score for this Warp title. In an interview, Kenji Eno explained how this came about:
...I like Michael Nyman a lot, and I like his soundtracks, so I was thinking that it would be awesome if I could get him to do the music. I thought, "That would be impossible, but it'd be great if that happened." ...then, there was a big earthquake in Kobe, Japan in 1995, and Michael Nyman was donating pianos to schools in the city. When this earthquake happened, he said that he wanted to check out how the pianos that he donated were doing, so he came to Japan. When I found out that he was in Japan, I invited him back to my hotel room and tried to convince him, for six hours, to come work with me. So, at the end, Michael was like, "OK, I'll do it, I'll do it. Just let me go back to my room." So he went back exhausted after being convinced for six hours. We didn't work out terms or conditions; he just said that he would do it.
Eno had initially considered asking Ryuichi Sakamoto to create the score, but decided that his style would not be appropriate for the game.
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||April 18, 1997|
|Recorded||August 19, 1996, CTS Studio, London|
September 28–30, Abbey Road Studios
|Genre||Soundtrack, Contemporary classical, minimalism|
|Producer||Michael Nyman, Kenji Eno|
|Michael Nyman chronology|
|Singles from Enemy Zero|
The music was performed by the Michael Nyman Orchestra and Sarah Leonard. "Confusion" is a modification of material from Nyman's previous score, The Ogre, while the Enemy Zero/Invisible Enemy/Battle theme were modified into portions of Nyman's score for Man with a Movie Camera. The main theme is a variation on "Bird Anthem" from Michael Nyman.
"Laura's Theme," "Digital Tragedy," and "Love Theme" are solo piano works and are included on the EP, Enemy Zero Piano Sketches, which was released eight months before the complete soundtrack, and two months before the game.
Released and received with much hype in Japan at the end of 1996, E0 was released in North America and Europe in 1997 under Sega. It was later ported to Microsoft Windows by Sega.
20 copies of a limited edition of the Saturn version were produced and sold for a price roughly equal to 2,000 US dollars. These special copies were hand-delivered to recipients by Kenji Eno himself. The game thus holds the record for the "Most Exclusive Special Edition" of a video game, according to the 2012 Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. Due to popularity in Japan, Sega sponsored the production of a few Enemy Zero items such as the official Enemy Zero soundtrack by Michael Nyman, a model of the in-game gun, and a strategy guide.
|CNET Gamecenter||8/10 (SAT)|
|Consoles +||89% (SAT)|
|EP Daily||8/10 (SAT)|
|Mean Machines Sega||90% (SAT)|
|Sega Saturn Magazine||88% (SAT)|
Prior to Enemy Zero's release, John Ricciardi of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) made it his pick for "Sleeper Hit of the Holidays", commenting that "I've yet to play an English version of the game (fortunately the Japanese one isn't too dependent on text), but I'm happy with what I've played of the import and I was a big fan of D." American magazine GameFan awarded the game the Megaward for Best Import Game of the Year, for the year 1996. British magazine Mean Machines went as far as to do a full review of the game nearly a year before its release in Europe, despite acknowledging in the review that there was considerable doubt that the game would ever be released outside Japan, since no publisher had yet picked up the overseas rights. They opined that the state of the art rendering in the full motion video was by itself enough to give the game a high grade.
Upon release, Enemy Zero received a wide spectrum of reviews, and critics sharply disagreed on a number of points. GameSpot reported that the puzzles are all either so easy that the solution is obvious before the player even encounters the puzzle (e.g. finding a keycard tells the player that they will eventually find a locked door to open) or so illogical that even after completing the puzzle it is not apparent what triggered the solution. In contrast, Next Generation insisted that "puzzles are logically designed, not contrived." They also stated that the story never seems too derivative of the Alien films, whereas GamePro and Shawn Smith and John Ricciardi of EGM all described it as a blatant Alien rip-off. While most critics found the game's audio design atmospheric and immersive, The Electric Playground complained at the near-total absence of music and said the audio overall was "not the sort of creepy aural atmosphere that keeps you light on your feet and looking over your shoulder."
Critics almost unanimously praised the high quality of the full motion video, but also almost unanimously criticized the resulting slow movement of the player character. GamePro went so far as to call Enemy Zero "the slowest, most boring game in ages", giving it a perfect 5/5 for graphics but 3/5 for sound and 1/5 for both control and fun factor. The reviewer also complained that the first-person shooting is frustratingly difficult. However, a slight majority of critics instead praised the difficult challenge of confronting invisible enemies with a slow-firing weapon, saying that it creates a unique and intense brand of tension. The Electric Playground, for example, concluded that Enemy Zero is "one of the best Saturn games I've played all year. It's high points are the innovations, like the energy gun and the VPS, that make playing this game unlike playing any other." Next Generation also gave a generally positive overall assessment: "Not only is Enemy Zero a fine adventure, but it also manages to advance the graphic adventure by emphasizing other senses besides pure sight. It may still have some of the faults of FMV-plagued games, but those problems dwindle to nothing compared to the overall experience."
EGM's four reviewers focused on the game's cinematic atmosphere and presentation. They remarked that while the slow, cerebral pacing would be unappealing to many gamers, Enemy Zero is a generally successful attempt at creating a different and frightening experience. Sega Saturn Magazine similarly acknowledged that many Saturn gamers would find Enemy Zero excessively challenging and/or slow-paced, but concluded it was the most successful attempt to create a true "interactive movie" to date. GameSpot instead found it to be too much of a mixed bag, commenting that while the hybrid of an unconventional first-person shooter and an FMV-based puzzle game could have been a success, the poor design of the puzzles drags down the successful shooter segments. Edge highly praised the first of the game's three discs for offering a "suspense-ridden atmosphere" and tense encounters with invisible aliens, comparing it favorably to the films Alien and Blade Runner. However, the magazine criticized the other discs for ruining that suspense with "space soap" themes and an almost embarrassing plot.
Ulrich Steppberger of Maniac Games sid that although the game replicates the ambiance of Alien, it has problems typical of FMV games such as trudging through long barren corridors and solving puzzles. He also said the weapon was unwieldy and hard to use, the ping system to find the enemy is not useful, while saying the FMV were high quality. French magazine Consoles + concluded that, while it might not please everyone, it is a "gory, original and beautiful" adventure game with "high difficulty" and a "special atmosphere".
Electronic Gaming Monthly named it a runner-up for "Adventure Game of the Year" (behind Tomb Raider II) at their 1997 Editors' Choice Awards. In 2017, Patrick Arellano of Blasting News listed it as the fourth best obscure horror title in gaming.
The game was a commercial success, with Eno projecting the Saturn version to sell inbetween 500,000 to 700,000 and achieving that goal.