Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Oct 25th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Sega Saturn, sega, saturn, horror, import

One of the major trends overtaking the gaming world in the late 1990s was the rise of the survival horror genre. Capcom's Resident Evil and Konami's Silent Hill are the most well known from this day, but many Japanese developers threw their hat in the ring. Deep Fear is Sega's big entry to the burgeoning survival horror genre. It would be developed for Sega's Saturn and released in 1998 in Japan. It would also be the final Saturn game released in Europe, and would be released just over two weeks before the Japanese release. A North American release was prototyped but sadly never released. However, this has been largely made irrelevant as years later this North American build would be leaked onto the internet.

The game takes place in an undersea US Naval base called the 'Big Table'. A strange space pod crashes down into the Pacific Ocean. The US Navy tracks it down using a submarine called the SEA FOX and brings the pod back to the Big Table. John Mayor is then introduced to players, who will be controlling him, and the game starts off with John having a prank played him. John and his partner, Mookie, are then assigned to assist workers in the Navy Area where the SEA FOX had returned but had just detached itself. John has a mission to rescue any of the personnel, and especially head researcher Dr. Gena Weisburg. This first job starts to show the strange mutated monstrous creatures that will inhabit the Big Table over the course of the rest of John's journey deep beneath the sea.

Due to the story taking place in the USA it made sense for the entire game to be written and dubbed in English. Despite the lack of official release, Deep Fear became a rather popular game to import, especially since official Saturn releases had died down in North America, and the remaining die hard fan base had something they could rather easily play that was new at the time of its release. This has become even easier since the release of the leaked North American build, giving players a fully English option to play the game in the region without the need for a PAL conversion.

The gameplay is quite simple, and it's easy to see why it was a popular import. John Mayor is controlled via tank control. His training and the stock supply of the Big Table gives John access to a rather wide armament of firearms. An interesting gameplay design decision is the ability for players with a Saturn 3D Controller to control John directly instead of with tank controls. The analog stick gave them this option and they took it. This is a good feature for players who dislike tank controls. Another interesting gameplay feature is John's ability to hop backwards, a useful tool to avoid a charging enemy. Ammo is quite plentiful and found in the various weapon lockers around the Big Table. It is a military base after all. Hard resource management is not a major focus of the game. That idea would go to the game's air supply management. The various rooms all have their own air supply meters, with very few exceptions. Central air supplies also serve as save points and can be used to refill the portable air supply found very early in the game. Deep Fear's main enemy involves the various staff of the Big Table turning into bloodthirsty monsters or mutants of some kind.

Deep Fear is honestly one of the best looking games released for the Saturn. Its look and art style generally holds up to this day. The game does have stiff animations which do stand out as particularly dated and seem to be rather cheap even for this era. This is likely a result of the limited budget Sega was starting to give to Saturn games as the focus shifted towards designing, planning, and releasing the Dreamcast. The sound in Deep Fear is mostly creepy ambiance with some music mixed in during cutscenes and hectic/tense parts of the game, rather typical of the genre. The sole composition credit was given to Kenji Kawai.

Deep Fear is one of, if not the best, playing of the tanky survival horror games of this time. The game is short but can be quite a bit longer for a blind player on their first playthrough. The game is easy even with its stiff tank controls, and Deep Fear does a great job of slowly building up the tension and danger that's overtaken the Big Table. Using the 3D controller almost breaks the game and makes it even easier, but even more fun to play. The game is basically Sega's rip-off of underwater horror cinema of the late 80s. Deep Fear packs all the cheap and cheesy voice acting charm of the era into a sweet package. Its lack of full release in North America meant that it was overlooked by the general gaming public, but its English production and ease of playing Japanese imported Saturn games in North America have given Deep Fear the rare nature of being one of the defining pieces of an often overlooked aspect of gaming culture and history, the import scene. It was a cult classic on its release, and any fan of the 32-bit era of survival horror should play and enjoy Deep Fear for a Halloween.

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One of my favorites on the Saturn.  It's less tense than the classic Resident Evil games because ammo is not limited, but that also makes it more accessible/less frustrating.  The cutscenes and music are awesome, and the voice acting is "so bad it's good" (especially DuBois!)  It's too bad its obscurity meant we never got a follow-up. 

I can confirm the Japanese game is easy to get through.  There are translations for the files you find, and there was only one "puzzle" that I had to consult a walkthrough for due to language barrier.  I did not realize a US version had leaked.

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