Review by MD

"Create your own shooter? Sounds great!"

Introduction

The concept is simple and highly original: design your own 3D shooting game, complete with the ability to modify everything from music to animation. This is such a great idea that I have to ask, why didn't someone think of this before? Well, someone did: Dezaemon 3D is the latest entry in a long-running series that began on the Super Famicom and made its way to the Playstation before ending up on the N64. Sadly, the games have received little attention in the States. I hope this review will change that (if only for a few people), as well as offering some buying advice to would-be shooter designers. The game, after all, will be expensive to import and may require some searching.

First Thoughts

The initial reaction upon seeing the game's bevy of options is pretty much overwhelming. There are so many details to play around with: 3D enemy design (the graphics, not the levels, are 3D), level maps, item placement, music composition, timing this, position that - thankfully, the game comes with a think manual and a series of in-game tutorials to help prod you along. None of this, of course, will be useful to you unless you know Japanese, but even if you don't, you'll probably be able to feel your way through by trial and error. In any case, prepare to spend some serious time with this game.

Investigating the Options

To fully enjoy Dezaemon 3D, you'll need lots of creativity and just as much free time. Once you become accustomed to the way the various editors function, you'll find them to be very usable, but never simplistic; the great attention to detail is both a blessing and a curse. It is impossible to simply dive right in, but on the other hand those who want to start from the ground up may do so.

To craft a good game using Dezaemon 3D requires a lot of perseverance. You're also limited, of course, by the game's engine, and your level of comfort with it will make or break your enjoyment of the game. A good way to test out what the editor can do is to play through one of the two included sample games. One of these is entitled Solid Gear and is a fairly conventional and straightforward shooter. The other is called Usagi-chan and is crazy and fruity in a uniquely Japanese way (references such as Gun Nac and Panic! come to mind). I'd like to be able to say that these two games alone are worth the price of admission, but they're not. I consider myself a seasoned shooter fan, and to me the controls feel a little clunky. The level design is also pretty boring, but that's something you can fix on your own. These two games, if not spectacular in their own right, are at least fun diversions when you get tired of designing your own.

Diving In

Because the game's options can be so overwhelming, you'll want to take things slowly and learn a step at a time. Creating an entire original shooter, even an entire level, seems like an impossibly huge task, so the best way to approach is it is to break it up. Work on creating a good song, or a good series of enemy skins to go over your 3D designs. The individual editors can be fun to work even outside of the context of creating an original game; it's wonderful, for example, to hear a song you just composed coming out of your TV speakers via the game's four-track sound composer. Most games enable players to gloss over such details, taking everything for granted. In fact, that's generally how good games should function. Dezaemon 3D, however, forces the player to slow down - way, way down. Plowing your way through ''option'' this and ''option'' that when all you really want to do is play through the finished product can be agony. Like any creative effort, designing a successful shooter takes patience and time. But for those with the motivation, Dezaemon 3D makes all the necessary tools available.

Annoying Stuff

This game, like any other, is not without its flaws. For example, why was the ability to save to a controller pak not included? As it is, you can only copy your game if you own expensive backup equipment, and therefore the only people who will be able to enjoy it are those who have direct access to your Dezaemon 3D cartridge. If controller pak saves were enabled, we might be seeing a proliferation of homemade shooting games online (via the Dex Drive and other devices), similar to the tide of homemade RPGs made with RPG Maker. It's rather frustrating to be confined in this way, and it's a big reason not to seriously pursue designing your own game.

The SRAM space on the cartridge also seems to fill up very fast. I'd be surprised if anyone could actually cram a full, commercial-quality shooting game into the N64's on-cart save slot. You'll probably be exhausted and satisfied after creating only one level, but it still seems like a shame to have the effort wasted. Unless you have a backup device to extract the SRAM files you create, you may want to consider not taking on the frustration that will come with these concerns.

The Final Analysis

Is Dezaemon 3D deserving of your time and money? Well, unlike the latest Mario or Zelda game, it's simply not for everyone. In this game, the goals are completely self-defined, and therefore it's easy to lose motivation. Once you commit yourself, it's also easy to get so frustrated you want to throw the game in the ocean. But if you're willing to put in the effort, you may just find it rewarded.

This game is a highly original offering with its own unique pros and cons. How many games do you know of that can claim to offer creative satisfaction to the player? It's sad that efforts such as this, upon which such care has obviously been lavished, are relegated to back shelves in Japan, with slim hopes of ever reaching Western shores. It takes a certain kind of gamer to appreciate Dezaemon 3D, but for those with the drive, ''playing'' this game can be a unique and rewarding experience.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/14/01, Updated 06/14/01


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