so it seemed perfect. And then, as I searched online after that for the word ‘Rez’, I found the Underworld song.”
Rez was released in Japan in November 2001 on Dreamcast and PS2, then arrived in Europe the following year in January and February respectively on the two platforms, and in North America on PS2 only in January. In Japan, the PS2 version came packaged with the Trance Vibrator, a sit-on peripheral that connected via USB to deliver extra feedback to the player’s backside and which prompted plenty of sexual innuendo in the west. “I thought it was quite funny,” Mizuguchi laughs. “That’s a very human reaction.”
Rez was well received among press and players. One common criticism was its short
Your first project at Sega was a hydraulic motion ride. Was that in any way a precursor to
Yes, the motion ride moved in time to the music and visuals to create a good feeling, which definitely fed into Rez. In a way, that was the first step. If a motion ride was interactive, you’d have something like Rez. Maybe, but it’s not easy to find new ways to make music games, and there is risk involved. Those games do innovate in their own ways, too. Rock Band was a great innovation, and [Harmonix co-founder] Alex Rigopulos also tried new things with Amplitude and so on. He’s a very artistic and creative person who makes blockbuster games that appeal to a lot of people. Rez is a different kind of game, but I think it’s important to have both.
bosses were on a variable difficulty scale, so that they adapted to player skill. On what criteria did you base that calculation?
I don’t remember. But I wanted to make sure the player got a different ending depending on their skill, and would want to see what would happen if they played through again. I really wanted people to play it over and over again, and to have different results depending on their performance that day. The marketing team asked me how many hours of gameplay the game had, and I said, ‘Several hundred!’
Music games in the ’90s experimented with mechanics, but now the genre has settled into a groove – tap in time with the icons. Is there a lack of innovation in music games today?
duration for a full-price title, with just five main areas and some extra play modes, and perhaps this contributed to the disappointing sales figures. And yet the game’s legacy has endured: Rez is consistently voted highly in best-games lists, has won awards, and was shown as part of an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012.
“I was nervous when Rez was first released,” Mizuguchi admits. “The feedback you get is different than what you get after a year, or five, or ten. Yes, it’s a short game, but a lot of people played it over and over again. Now I can be like, ‘I told you so,’ but at the time I didn’t know yet whether people would do that. The reception the game gets now, 15 years on, means more to me than the initial reception.
“I think the reason it is still so warmly received is that it touched a deep nerve. It tapped into something primitive in a new way. It took so much effort to achieve that, but now I feel it was all worthwhile.” Drawing on themes of information overload and digital revolution, Rez still seems as relevant today as it was at the turn of the millennium. “I wanted to make a story that would stand the test of time and never get old,” Mizuguchi says. “I wrote a lot of backstory for Rez, but we left nearly all of it out. Instead we relied on themes: computers and viruses, life, reincarnation. We kept the philosophy as universal as possible, and told the story through design.”
Mizuguchi left Sega in 2003, when the company merged with pachinko maker Sammy. He decided to pursue his own path, founding Q Entertainment, and would go on to make musicpuzzler Lumines and Child Of Eden, a spiritual prequel to Rez on 360.
Mizuguchi left Q Entertainment last year, and now works freelance on service-based mobile titles, but says he is planning a return to traditional videogames in the near future. Although nothing is yet confirmed, he says he hopes to eventually make a third Rez- style game.
“I had always wanted to make Rez as a trilogy, and for the sequels to come along as the technology allowed new forms of expression,” he says. “I was waiting for that [before making Child Of Eden], and I was always thinking about it. I still am. If there was an amazing new type of display, or maybe virtual reality, I’d be interested. I’d like to try something new.”