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Enemy Zero (Saturn) artwork

Enemy Zero (Saturn) review

"I'm going to tell you about an obscure survival horror game. The name of this obscure survival horror game is Enemy Zero and it stars Laura from D's Diner . . . but it doesn't star Laura the character, it stars Laura the actress, because game designer Kenji Eno was an avant-garde madman who wanted to turn CG models into small-screen starlets."

I'm going to tell you about an obscure survival horror game. The name of this obscure survival horror game is Enemy Zero and it stars Laura from D's Diner . . . but it doesn't star Laura the character, it stars Laura the actress, because game designer Kenji Eno was an avant-garde madman who wanted to turn CG models into small-screen starlets. Unfortunately, either the Sega Saturn's technology or the development staff's talent just wasn't up to the task, ruining a perfectly good sinister scheme. Laura's porcelain features and ceramic expressions can't quite hold their own against the timelessly charismatic likes of Natalie Portman. Mmmmmm.

The game itself doesn't fare much better, even when compared only to its contemporaries. In Resident Evil, the main house makes up one piece of a larger adventure. That wasn't claustrophobic enough for Kenji Eno. His four-disc Enemy Zero is set entirely within a small and visually dull spaceship; much of the game consists of crawling through a maze of twisty air ducts, all alike.

In Silent Hill, creatures were often intentionally obscured by fog or shadows. You could sense them lurking around the corner, you could make out a silhouette through the mist . . . but rarely could you get a good look and objectify the monsters into a tangible form. That wasn't mysterious enough for Kenji Eno. The monsters in Enemy Zero are outright invisible. This flagrantly flies in the face of survival horror fans' expectations. We want to see the beasts that eat our faces, dammit!

Visible enemies would have also helped combat feel less ridiculous. As I wandered through corridors, high-pitched beeping alerted me to the presence of invisible enemies. I held the "shoot" button down, and the pistol began charging. The pistol takes a few seconds to fully charge, and then it fires! Unfortunately, the gun has an absurdly short range and must be frequently recharged at energy stations. Predicting the enemies' distance and timing shots appropriately is not just difficult -- it's annoying. It's even more annoying when Laura misses and must crawl through an air duct, recharge, and crawl back . . . just to miss again. It's easy to miss when the target is invisible.

Enjoy re-watching repeated cutscenes as Laura enters and exits the air ducts every time a pistol recharge is needed.

Enemy Zero's puzzles aren't as irritating as combat, but they aren't appealing either. Early in the game, Laura picks up a severed finger and uses it to open a fingerprint-scan lock. Laura then makes a point to keep the finger in her inventory for a nonexistent future use instead of tossing it. Many reviews explain that such puzzles make the game "creepy". I would like to say that this puzzle exemplifies an oppressive sense of danger, but it's barely a puzzle at all . . . and it sets a high "creepiness" bar that Enemy Zero never again clears. The game places an object in a room; the object is then used to access a door/locker/computer inside that same room. This trend is repeated frequently, only with special sunglasses or a computer disk instead of a severed finger.

On the plus side, female gamers will be pleased to know that Laura never comes across as inept or submissive. There's no burly male to lead her through the alien-infested corridors, and when Laura does receive guidance, it's from another woman. She's an empowered leading lady. Sega must have recognized this as a potential marketing point, since they actually hired Jill Cunniff from Luscious Jackson to perform Laura's voice.

There's a problem. Laura doesn't speak. When Laura encounters other survivors, they speak at her while she grunts. Laura occasionally gasps upon entering blood-stained rooms. Paying Jill Cunniff to grunt and gasp was a depressingly typical marketing ploy by Saturn-era Sega.

There's another problem. As revealed by fellow pervert staff member Gary, Enemy Zero's hard mode begins with a lurid shower scene. Some people would say that shower scenes make characters feel more human. I would say that Laura's uncanny valley is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.

Enemy Zero tried some new (and insane) ideas, but it just isn't an interesting adventure. The most memorable moment is an Aliens ripoff/homage. It's not memorable for good reasons. One character reveals his deepest feelings in cheesily dramatic fashion, and Laura expresses her love through grunts. It's laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, this is a survival horror game . . . and it doesn't demonstrate the scope or scares to compensate for such silliness.

Good actresses rise to the top by taking roles in good movies; good designers rise to the top by designing good games. Enemy Zero is the kind of bloated, over-ambitious adventure that kills careers. Development studio WARP didn't last much longer, and neither did Laura.



zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (February 28, 2010)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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zippdementia posted March 07, 2010:

This is a great review. What makes it great is that it tells a series of stories, whether those are telling stories about past survival horror games as comparisons or ridiculous facts like hiring Jill Cunniff to gasp. My god.

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