Shin Force | Sega Saturn Review

Shin Force > Systems > Sega Saturn > Reviews A-M

Shin Force ~ Saturn ~
Deep Fear
Geoffrey Duke
2x CD
07.16.1998 (Japan)
Top-down/ Cinematic
3D Pad
Backup 82
     > I wouldn't go as far as to describe Deep Fear as an answer to Capcom's Resident Evil, but rather, a new spin on the same tried and true gameplay. It's basically Resident Evil set on an underwater military research base where you must constantly replenish your air supply (either in areas of the base itself or the oxygen mask you find) before time runs out. Because there's no escaping your environment, all you can do is survive...

     > You play the role of John Mayor as part of an emergency rescue team aboard a huge seabase located deep on the ocean floor called The Big Table (named after its shape and posture). Soon things start taking a sinister turn for the worse as people start sprouting clawed tentacles and turn into vicious bloodthirsty monsters. What a coincidence that John Mayor happens to be a former Navy Seal who is more than prepared to face the kinds of situations most normal people wouldn't hesitate to run away from without giving it a second thought.

     > Following in the footsteps of Resident Evil, all the voice acting is in English, so importing this game is a cinch since the story won't be lost on you. However, Sega of Europe actually localized this game in Britain where it was the last Saturn PAL game to see release, which means an entirely English version of this game is available with all the in game documents that shed light on the story and item descriptions in English too.  Even in the Japanese version though, much is labeled in English anyway (such as oxygen and health bars), making it one of the most importable games for this console from Japan.

     > Like Resident Evil, the game renders detailed static backgrounds seen from fixed angles which have stood the test of time well, and grainy polygonal character models which are really starting to show their age. Judging from the 3D character models seen in Athlete Kings/Decathlete or even Die Hard Arcade, I'd be so bold as to venture a guess that the Saturn was capable of better in Deep Fear. But that's just me. The only time the frame rate drops is when you enter submerged underwater areas, but that falls in line with the atmosphere of moving in slow-motion.

     > The most impressive part about Deep Fear's graphics are the cinematic sequences, which are easily some of the best seen on the humble Saturn. However, when you consider that  they all could have been rendered in real-time on the Dreamcast (without too much hassle) a la Code Veronica, it makes you wonder if Sega jumped the gun.

     > Again, exactly like Resident Evil with the right shoulder button used to aim for quick targeting, only now you can fire while moving rather than remain a sitting duck. Accessing your inventory and investigating your surroundings is reasonably quick and painless (without too long a delay). Certain ammunition found in locker areas (depending on what locker cards you have) and health packs are in infinite supply, so you don't have to worry so much about conserving anything. You just have to stock up on health etc. before going to areas where you won't find much in the way of supplies. This keeps the survival element in the Survival/Horror gameplay from becoming all out run 'n' gun shooting mayhem. No problems here.

     > The game has a classic old-school Survival/Horror control scheme: no matter what direction you are facing, pushing up moves John forward, and pushing left or right turns him in those directions etc. Oldschool gamers will find themselves in familiar territory here while collectors might need to take some time to settle in. Camera angles also switch from one area to the next, making movement a pain sometimes if you're new to this setup as you might lose your bearings (for example, John may be facing the camera in one area while walking/running out of it, but have his back against it as the camera switches to the next). You'll go through many areas where the camera switches from one fixed camera angle to another, and enemies stand in your path all the time and sometimes jump down on you, so it's wise to prepare yourself first.

     > Hit and miss. The music by Kenji Kawai (best known for his haunting music in Ghost in the Shell) is amazing in its dark anime-style pulse-pounding execution at times. However, the game's sound is badly let down by some awfully robotic voice acting. John, the main character for crying out loud, doesn't sound natural/human even half the time. One or two characters, like commander Clancy sound natural at times with syllables flowing fluidly with genuine emotion, but the rest of the time everyone isn't exactly voice acted by the most fluent of English speakers in the world. This area could have, and indeed, should have been brought up to a higher standard.  Every other sound effect (like pressure doors opening) is believable, however.
     > Part of the fun is being immersed (literally and metaphorically) in an eerie atmosphere where plenty of shooting action with a cool arsenal of weapons (including a speargun for submerged areas) awaits. It's just a shame the game has very few surprises in store for players. Many of the best moments in the Resident Evil series are those that you never saw coming. Having said that, some gamers are sure to soak up the Navy theme (pun intended), as there are some dramatic moments in there which will leave you on the edge of your seat. The Big Table losing contact with a nuclear submarine, which then launches a torpedo to add fuel to the fire, is one such moment. One thing that really puts you in the game is the ability to stare out of a window in the seabase to see the submarine stranded on the seabed.

     > You tackle people mutating into feral monsters as well as solve a mild puzzle or two every now and then mostly in the form of fetch quests where you must find the right item for the right job like in all those old Spectrum Dizzy games I'm still fond of. The only problem is you're sometimes told exactly what to do and exactly how to do it, rather than be left alone to figure it out for yourself. So basically, you sometimes feel like a fetcher going through the motions. There was one puzzle I particularly liked involving the creation of a misty chemical needed to expose an invisible laser fence shooting down from a ceiling where you had to run through it with careful timing. The game needed more puzzles of that caliber if it hoped to be more than a small fish in a sea of more thought-inducing sharks (some of us actually like games that require you to think for a change). Having said all that, there are a few times when you're not quite sure how to proceed, demanding you explore a little first for usable items. There are times when time itself is of the essence like when you have to figure out a way to escape a sub falling over a chasm. Deep Fear should have built more on these strengths. Of course, you're always running out of air, so that alone helps create a sense of urgency to keep you moving.

Bottom Line
     > I cannot help but feel that this was a concept best saved for the Dreamcast. The story is really only let down by the voice acting the likes of which would leave you yearning for the sometimes monotonous voice acting of Shenmue. A lack of more natural voice acting, better conceived/more frequent puzzles, and a relative lack of surprise encounters (coming seemingly out of nowhere without warning) stops Deep Fear from being all it could have been. Those gripes aside, Deep Fear isn't a bad first effort by Sega. If you're searching for a truly underrated Saturn Survival/Horror gem, then hunting down a copy of the cinematic Enemy Zero (with its beautifully chilling soundtrack) might be the best way to go (in this reviewer's ever-so humble opinion).
Overall: 7.9 | Graphics: 8.3 | Control: 8.6 | Sound: 7.2 | Fun: 7.5
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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