Ok, let's Begin!
Enemy Zero (EZ) is a Sci-Fi survival horror adventure. It was produced by the developer WARP under the guidance of Kenji Eno for the Sega Saturn, 1996 in Japan with releases in North America and Europe the following year. In fact, this was the game that Kenji Eno debuted his annoyance at PlayStation's failure to keep up with preorder demands of his first game D by launching the game, only to have the PlayStation logo at the end change to that of the Sega Saturn exclaiming that EZ would be exclusive to Sega. EZ is supposedly the second game that involved the protagonist Laura Lewis, however, this is incorrect. D's protagonist is not actually in this game that protagonist was Laura Harris, not Laura Lewis who is in this game. Laura Lewis although looking like her D counterpart; blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes, is clearly in the distant future. There is also a far more conclusive reason why Laura Lewis cannot be connected to Laura Harris later on but I'll leave you to find that out. The game's creator seems to have upped the ante with this game retaining the blood and violence while adding a dose of polygonic nudity into the mix, indeed on hard mode, there is supposedly an added scene of Laura in the shower, so if you're into that kinda thing then good for you. How Kenji Eno kept getting these passed publisher censorship I don't really know.
The AKI floats through space now on its return journey back to earth. Aboard the AKI Laura Lewis is in a deep cryogenic slumber. Somewhere though deep within the AKI something stirs and smashes through one of the bulkheads. The ship detects the presence and raises the alarm activating emergency protocols. The cryogenic chamber activates its wake up procedure, rouses Laura. Laura, unaware of what is happening, uses the videophone above her sleep chamber to contact one of her crewmates, Parker. Parker responds on the video feed but is barely audible. Then something rocks Parker's camera as though some quake had occurred. Parker looks off camera and his face turns from surprise to panic as he reaches for his gun. Laura, helpless, watches Parker fire several rounds to no effect as the unseen enemy attacks, spraying Parker's blood across the back wall.
Getting dressed, Laura prepares to head to Parker's room to find out what happened and if necessary deal with this unseen threat.
I know this is only a partial plot but these types of games are best when you don't know the full story.
Nerdy C's Pros and Cons
The alien threat in EZ is a terrifying entity. Unlike the Xenomorph from Alien, EZ creatures are invisible, strong, and fast but can be harmed with a well placed close-ranged shot. That combination makes for some tense cat-and-mouse and some very close calls, there's no denying that it gets the heart racing. It's also worth noting that there are no second chances with these creatures, if they find you and you fail to kill or dodge them then you're dead.
EZ has more agency in it than D. D was effectively a point-and-click movie with puzzles but with little meaningful interaction from the player, the skill in D is down to working out the puzzles against the clock. In EZ there are the puzzles, but also the player's interactions with monsters in a first-person shoot 'em-up style allowing for moments when the player's patience, timing, and auditory skills are put to the test, making for a more intense survival experience.
There's more voice work done in EZ compared to D which was only voiced in the European version, while its Japanese counterpart was subtitled. In EZ all the characters are voiced except Marcus but that's only because he doesn't get a speaking role. The voice acting in EZ is excellent when compared to other CD-based games of the era. I'd say that only one character falls flat and that's David. I especially like how Laura reads her log when you load as if she's logging the situation.
EZ has some wonderfully haunting music scores throughout, though it can be hard to hear it at times over the pings of the detector. That notwithstanding, the music is superb in creating varying moods of isolation, comfort, fear and dread. The score was composed by Michael Nyman, famed composer of The Piano and Gattaca. According to Kenji, he convinced Nyman to work on the game while the composer was donating piano's to Japanese schools after the 1995 earthquake. As the story goes, Kenji basically invited Nyman to his hotel room and spent six hours trying to persuade him to work on the music for EZ. An exhausted Nyman basically said, "If you let me go back to my room, I'll do it."
It's not unfair to say that EZ is heavily influenced by Riddley Scott's Alien with some other elements of 70s to 90s Sci-Fi thrown in. I could predict the occasional plot point thanks to my prior knowledge of Sci-Fi however it would be an injustice to say it's a straight-up clone of Alien. The writing and direction changes up things enough to be familiar and yet very different with surprising twists in the story as well as having good 3D acting at the time. An interesting side note is that the director of ICO and Shadow of Colossus, Fumito Ueda, actually started out as an animator for EZ. Though apparently, Kenji Eno takes little credit in nurturing his skills saying that he hired him because he could see that Fumito was already very talented.
Okdoky let's start with the first puzzle, it's not difficult but it has one fatal flaw. There are five buttons and three of these buttons have to be pressed, all the buttons look and light up the same. So which buttons do you press?
"What's that? A clue? No such luck. Get pressing!"
Yes, the first puzzle, for some reason, has to be brute-forced, and there doesn't seem to be a reason why. So here's the solution: far-left one, far two furthest to the right on then press power. There, I've saved you 2-hours of tedious guesswork. You're welcome.
Laura Lewis, for the most part, is a silent protagonist. She only really speaks at the end and when loading a saved game any other time it's screams, whimpers, sobs, gasps and grunts. It's an odd choice to me especially since WARP's gone to great detail to have Laura act and react to news realistically, well for a 3D model. Maybe it's an artistic choice but it does seem odd when Laura doesn't really interact to open dialogue with other members of the crew. Especially as I feel that clues and extra world-building could have been added less clunkily if Laura just replied in conversations. By the way, I'm aware Laura's memories aren't all there due to the cryosleep. This amnesia though is initially acknowledged by Kimberly when you meet her near the end of the first disc, and remarked in passing by other characters later on, but not Laura herself. The amnesia is mentioned in the game's manual but for a game trying to imitate a movie, you'd think it wouldn't ask you to read the manual for important plot points.
EZ's creatures are indeed a great Pro but they are also a source of terrible frustration. The method of detecting these creatures is a set of three pitched pings; high ping your looking at the creature, low ping you're looking away and an in-between tone is either left or right of your position. The closer you are to the creature the more rapid the pinging gets until a siren noise goes off, then death. If you're quick you can dodge the creatures but you can also run headlong into them if you haven't got your pings down right. Some areas though don't really allow for dodging, so a well-timed blast and O boy, do I mean well-timed blast is required. The larger invisible creatures can only be harmed with a full charged shot and even then only at point-blank range any earlier and you'll miss and charging too long will overload the gun, making it unusable for a short time. It's so precise that it's really hard to get to grips with it and is really quite frustrating on the higher difficulty levels. The lower level difficulties give you more charges in your gun and less battery loss when using your save log, which also costs power to load. I really recommend you use the training section on disc zero if you really find it hard to work out but it won't make the annoying pinging any better nor will it tell you about the roar.
EZ has 4 discs only 3 of which house the actual game. The first disc, aptly named disc zero, is dedicated to the game's opening, staff, training room and an FMV trailer. Though the trailer is eye-catching, and the training room is essential. I do feel that disc zero is been underutilized. It's not that I'm against it been there, just seems a bit of a waste, maybe they just couldn't fit all the game on three-disc so since a forth was needed they just added a few bits so it didn't just have the games opening on it.
Nerd O Meter Rating
A genuinely earned Low 4 out of 5
What can I say about Enemy Zero? I'd argue that it's definitely an improvement on D with more actual interactive gameplay, though I feel that because of its setting D was able to provide more interesting puzzle's, except the annoying random room. The story in EZ is more interesting than D's, despite the heavy leaning on Alien, as there are more character interactions and development, coupled with voice acting that is actually good for the most part. The creatures in EZ provide a good level of tension and are a threat throughout. D on the other hand loses tension when it becomes apparent that Laura Harris can't actually die from any of the horrors in the game, only the time limit. So in conclusion, if you like your Sci-Fi horror and want a game that challenges your abilities as a video game player with a bit of puzzling in there, then I'd say Enemy Zero is probably more your thing than D.
On a side note, I played this game with two controllers. The original controller for the Japanese console and the special 3D controller which EZ is compatible with. I wouldn't personally buy the 3D controller for this game as I don't think it utilizes its functions fully, but once I got used to its sensitivity, I did find it a bit easier to move around the game with its analogue control. So if you happen to have one I recommend the 3D controller, especially if you're more used to modern analogue controls.