PlayStation Gamer REVIEW

DOUBLE CAST

Publisher:
Developer:
Type:
SCEI
Suger & Rockets
Anime / Simulation
Version tested:
Reviewed by:
Date posted:
NTSC - Japan
Kenneth Lee
07/27/98

Double Cast One of the most interesting arcade games during the '80's upon retrospect would have to be the 'Cartoon games,' "Dragon's Lair" and "Space Ace." Any hard-core gamer can recall those days when you first saw these two games: As you played it (or watched people play it), it was amazing - here was a video game that allowed you to 'play' a cartoon! You were actually controlling the direction and flow that the cartoon would take! Of course, after the initial 'Wow-factor' wore off, this genre of gaming became one of the most ridiculed as well - there is practically no real gameplay involved - just move the joystick or press the button at the right time (when the screen would flash) and that is it. After you saw Dirk the Daring save the Princess for the second or third time, it became boring. Realistically, it has been about a decade(!) since anyone has attempted to make this type of game again, but from out of nowhere, Sugar&Rockets (Sony Japan), the developers who brought you "I.Q." comes along and pushes this genre to the next level with their new game, "Double Cast," the first in their 4-part "Yarudora" series of games. Featuring high-quality, stunning animation from Production I.G., multiple story paths, and 27 endings(!!), "Double Cast" is truly the new standard for 'Cartoon / Anime-based Full Motion Video' Games.

Double Cast At its core, "Double Cast" is like a turn-based "Dragon's Lair." An anime sequence plays, then at the critical moment, instead of pressing the joystick or button at the right time, a menu pops up, with choices for what you want to do, e.g., "1) Search the room for evidence; 2) Look out on the veranda for clues; 3) Talk to ..." And unlike "Dragon's Lair" or "Space Ace," you don't have to worry about dying at every sequence if you made the wrong move. So they removed the 'twitch' gameplay element, and now it must be totally boring, right? Wrong. What they've done, as aforementioned, is give the player Multiple Story Paths to take, and each story path has their own animation and story changes! While the gameplay is short (as are all games in this genre - with Space Ace being finishable in less than 45 minutes), "Double Cast" does last longer than any other Anime/Cartoon based game - an average game of "Double Cast" will take you about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to finish. Now at first, this seems ridiculous - paying $60+ for only 2 hours of gameplay?? But, then you realize two very important things: 1) This is more like 'watching (and playing)' a full length Anime Movie, which at 2 hours for a movie that's fully animated, is pretty darn good; and 2) There are twenty-seven (27!) different endings for this game, which means that you'll have more like 45+ hours of gameplay. And with the branching system, some paths and secrets will only come up if you make the right choices to get there. It constantly rewards you for checking out new paths and making new choices (and you get to see the great animation).

Double Cast Besides the cool gameplay, the high point of "Double Cast" would be its gorgeous Anime art and 2D Animation. Done by Production I.G., the unstoppable power that animated the "Ghost in the Shell" anime movie, "Ghost in the Shell" PSX anime movies, "Tales of Destiny" opening movie, and many others, Double Cast's animation is no different - just gorgeous, beautiful, high-quality work. Like "Dragon's Lair," you truly do feel like you're 'playing an Anime.' The coolest aspect about the art of the "Yarudora" series is that each game features art from a high-profile Manga / Anime artist - for "Double Cast," Keiji Gotoh is the main character designer and artist (from "Martian Succesor Nadesico" and "Hyper Police" Anime fame). But before you get your hopes up too high, it needs to be pointed out that the content for the nice animation is totally different from "Dragon's Lair" or "Space Ace." It is mainly dealing with regular people in modern-day Japan, as "Double Cast" is more of a drama than a fantasy / sci-fi story.

Which leads us to the most intriguing aspect of "Double Cast": The story. The genre for "Double Cast" is essentially a Romantic / Psycho-thriller / Drama, if that can be imagined. Before everyone writes this off as "boring," it must be said that Sugar&Rockets did a phenomenal job, as they pushed the genre beyond 'just action' and into an intellectually and emotionally engaging mystery. You start the game being woken up by a strange high school girl, Mitsuki, who happens to have amnesia. You decide to befriend her for a bit, and that's where it all starts. Note that I'm not giving away any more of the story, because, that is the main reason to play it. Another amazing aspect of the story is how well it is all integrated together: The Anime movies flow from one to the other, and as you make your choices, you can miss huge areas and important clues, but you can still 'beat' the game and receive a 'complete story.' For example, the first time I beat the game, I got a completely 'Romantic' story and ending. The next time through, I found another path, and it turned into a psycho-horror game! I ended up being hacked to pieces. Uhm. That's the extremes that this game can take. As a result, suffice to say that each of the 27 endings are vastly different and rewarding for the player.

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Lastly, there are the Extra Touches that Sugar&Rockets put in, to help add the icing to the cake, so to speak. In the "Options" they give you the ability to have the Game (Anime) played in Letterbox format, and even 16:9 Anamorphic format, for your Widescreen TV's! It supports Dual-Shock Analog Controller, but only for the Shock, and as a result there are many moments that you'll get 'shocked' when an important event happens: Essentially, in many places, the Dual-Shock that you receive simulates your heartbeat! For example, in one scene where you have to play a romantic lead (in a film) with Mitsuki, when she gets close to you, the controller will vibrate and shake in a regular strong, quick pace to try and simulate your heart beating if you were in that nervous, close-encounter with a girl. Interesting and questionable for now, but during the alternate story path when a homicidal maniac is hunting you down, the Dual Shock support effectively adds a new aspect to the regular gameplay. Finally, when you beat the game, you will unlock "Replay," which basically will allow you to play your entire game as an Anime Movie! In other words, all the menus will be gone, you can just sit back and enjoy and watch a '2 hour anime' of what you just played, and you can save it to memory card. They also give you a new Anime Intro Movie if you get a "Good Ending."

"Double Cast" is truly the next step in the "Anime / Cartoon Full Motion Video" genre of games. With an intriguing and complex story, gorgeous Anime movies, and twenty-seven endings, "Double Cast" is outstanding, and provides plenty of entertainment, both as a video game and as an anime movie. Unfortunately, the one downside is that you need to know a high-level of Japanese to play this and understand its intricate and phenomenal story. Also, it seems to be 'Gaijin-proofed,' as for some reason, the menu / path choices will change order every time you play it! For example, the first set of choices may have been 1) Go to the shop; 2) Call your friend; and 3) Help Mitsuki. The next time you boot up the game (or even re-load a game), the choices will randomly change to something like 1) Call your friend; 2) Help Mitsuki; and 3) Go to the shop. Besides that facet (which is no fault), "Double Cast" is something any import gamer who appreciates anime and has a knowledge of the Japanese language should track down immediately.

Final Scores (out of a perfect 10):

GRAPHICS:9.4
+ Gorgeous, high-quality Anime-tion from Production I.G.
+ Beautiful character designs and art from Keiji Gotoh.
+ Hours upon hours of solid, stunning animation and still art.
+ 27 Endings that are all well-animated.

SOUND/MUSIC:9.2
+ Outstanding Voice Acting from some of the best seiyuu in Japan, such as Yuko Mizutani (Mihoshi (Tenchi Muyo!)) (but she doesn't sound like Mihoshi (phew!).
+ There is nearly as much spoken dialogue as there is animation! Hours of spoken dialogue!
+ Great vocal song when you get a "Good Ending."
+ Nice instrumental tracks.

GAMEPLAY:8.0
+ The next level for 'Anime / Cartoon FMV' games, like "Dragon's Lair."
+ Multiple paths and branching allows for many hours of gameplay.
+ Many secrets and plot elements revealed only through extensive play of the many different paths.
+ 27 different endings.
+ You're 'playing an Anime.'
+ Replay mode - allows you to watch your entire game as one long anime movie.
- Could be a tad "boring" for some, as realistically, you are only making basic menu choices and watching a movie play.

OVERALL: 9.0
"If you ever felt like 'playing an Anime,' this is it. Sugar&Rockets first attempt has yielded an intriguing game and anime that constantly rewards the player as they traverse the multiple story paths, with remarkable Anime movie sequences and a complex, well-written plot."

Reviewed by Kenneth Lee, klee@interplay.com

(c) Sony Computer Entertainment / Suger & Rockets


Review Copyright (c) 1998 by Kenneth Lee (klee@interplay.com). Please feel free to email me with your comments, questions or criticisms about my review. Thank you very much for your time.

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