Kenji Eno's WARP - Where are they now?
Written by Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra Sunday, 13 January 2008 18:02
Though the company got off to an interesting start in 1995, which saw the release of Flupon World and Trip‚Äôd for the failed 3DO, it didn't break out until later that year with the release of D.
D, the original Japanese title of which was D no Shokutaku, is often referred to as "D's Diner." This is a result of a mistaken Gamefan Magazine article which mistranslated the original Japanese meaning of the title, which actually means, "D's Dinner Table."
Useless geeky information aside, D quickly rallied a cult following when it was released on the 3DO. It was a survival horror adventure game at a before the survival horror genre was invented, and after adventure died.
In D, players assume the role of Laura Harris, a young an attractive woman from LA. The gameplay was set on a track, preventing the player from exploring the pre-rendered 3D world. Gamers who interacted with D led our heroine Laura through the twisted mind of her father, who butchered a number of people in an LA county hospital where he was a doctor.
The game combines disturbing images, psychosis, imaginative puzzles, a twisted plot and decision making, which is - of course - accompanied by brilliant audio and sound effects. A pure adventure game, don't expect to find action here.
Though the game sold poorly in the US on the 3DO, now defunct game publisher Acclaim took it upon themselves to take the game to the masses in America by publishing it on both Saturn and Playstation, thereby expanding the audience.
In 1997 the developer had two major releases for the Sega Saturn. Real Sound and Enemy Zero. Staying true to his roots in music, Eno decided that he wanted to develop and publish a videogame that blind people could play. The result was Real Sound, a risky venture by WARP that used only sound as the interactive element in the forms of music, effects, and voice actors.
The game was met with rave reviews, but minimal sales. Due to its nature, the title was never released outside of Japan, because it would've essentially needed to be re-created for an English speaking market. In 1999 an update of the Saturn game was released for the Dreamcast, called Real Sound: Kaze no Regret.
With Enemy Zero (a.k.a. E0) we find ourselves re-united with our familiar Laura, this time, in space! She awakes from a cryogenic sleep to find that her friends have been killed by an alien that has escaped, and is now loose on the ship. Through exploration and wit, Laura must hunt and kill the enemy zero before it kills her.
Following with the sound motif, the gameplay of Enemy Zero is incredibly unique. The enemies are not visible, and can only be detected through the use of sound. Different notes, at different pitches, and at different intervals are the only means of the player to determine the distance and direction of enemies, and when to pull the trigger.
At the time, the unconventional gameplay aroused harsh reviews from critics, and the games sales suffered. However, more recent looks back at this game - in an age where gaming and gamers are far more sophisticated - have revealed that E0 is a jewel in the rough.
In 1998, WARP became the first 3rd party publisher to commit to the newly announced Sega Dreamcast. In 2000, D2 was released, reuniting gamers with Laura once again... and this time, she could be controlled in a fully 3D world.
Combining adventure, survival horror, and RPG elements together, D2 was such a unique title that many did not know what to think about it. It was too slow to be an action title; it had too much action to be a pure adventure, and it didn't have enough RPG elements to make it a true RPG - though it did have a leveling system and random encounters.
The size and scope of D2 was epic for its time, featuring a very large playing field, fully interactive 3D environment, immense story, well crafted plot... and just as twisted as ever.
The sequel to D, was originally scheduled for release on the 3DO M2 system. This version of D2 is often referred to as M2D2 because the M2 version of the game was so completely different from the Dreamcast incarnation.
When Matsushitsa bought the rights for the M2 console from 3DO, they bought with it the rights to 10 to 12 complete titles that were ready to ship with the system, the originally D2 being among them. As a result, it is unlikely that this game will ever see the light of day.
Where are they now?
After D2's mediocre sales, reception and reviews, WARP disbanded, left the videogame industry, and re-emerged as a new company called 'Superwarp,' which was created to provide online music, networking solutions, amongst other things.
In 2005 Superwarp was dissolved as well, and Kenji Eno formed a new company called 'From Yellow to Orange' or "fyto." fyto will pick up where WARP left off, and Eno will once again be designing and developing videogames.
Though the company has not announced any new games at this time, Eno revealed at E3 2006 that his company is working on a brand new game for a console with and new control device, leading many to believe that he is working on project destined for the Nintendo Wii.
Fans of WARP games, fans of Kenji Eno‚Äôs singular and often times misunderstood brilliance, and fans of Laura Harris will have to continue to wait to see what, if anything, the new fyto company will produce.
Update: February 20, 2013
Today, at age 42, Kenji Eno has passed. Unfortunately, there will be no more games created by him, or involving him. We are left to remember what he has given us, and to enjoy those treasures. I can only hope that one day the code for the unreleased and completed "M2D2" game is released, so that the world may enjoy each game that he touched. Eno died of complications related to hypertension.