D/Generation vs D/Generation HD

Still very stuck on the same three puzzles in the third island segment of Stephen’s Sausage Roll, I decided to spend a little time on something different. I remember quite liking the MS-DOS version of D/Generation back in the day, and the recent HD remake was in a bundle, so I gave it a try.

The original D/Generation was something of a surprise for me. The box art made it look like some sort of dreary horror game, and the premise — that you’re tapped in a futuristic office building with a bunch of hostile globular mutations — sounded like a run-of-the-mill shooter. But in fact it’s mainly a game about solving door puzzles by triggering switches remotely by banking bullets off walls. Or at least the better parts of it are like that. Those are the parts I remember.

And, while I’m aware of how memory lies, I have to say that I think the original version was in some ways better. The HD can make it look more realistic, but realism wasn’t what I liked about it — quite the opposite! The original version’s stylized isometric pixel art may have cost it sales in 1991 (and is probably the reason for the misleading cover art), but it fit the game to a T. The environment is quite artificial and blatantly tile-based. The first two enemy types you encounter 1That is, the A/Generation and the B/Generation are spheres and cylinders. This was a game styled around visual clarity, and the remake throws a lot of that away because it’s insufficiently appreciated.

Speaking of visual clarity, I really dislike the change to how walls a displayed. In the original, any wall or door that obstructed your view of a room interior was displayed as a cutaway, just a bar along the floor at approximately 1/4 the height of a full wall. In the remake, all walls are full-height, but turn transparent when you’re near them. The result is that you usually can’t see the full layout of a level when you enter it, and this interferes with my ability to immediately start making a plan of action.

The original had these green floor-mounted rotating turrets, part of the building’s security system that had been somehow turned against the humans. The remake reinterprets them as some sort of mutant worms with toothy mouths, even though they still behave like rotating turrets. In the very first room in the building, the remakers decided to add a gratuitous corpse, even though the mutants absorb their prey. Basically, it seems like they wanted the game to be Isometric System Shock. Whereas I want it to be more like Realtime DROD With a Laser Gun. (It even shares with DROD the mechanic of “special door that opens when there are no more monsters in the room”.) So yeah, I’m a little disappointed with their choices.

There’s one thing, however, that I’m disappointed was left exactly the same: limited lives. As in, if you get killed too much, you either load a save — a manual save, not an autosave — or you start the whole game over from scratch. This is not something I expect from a modern game. The only way to gain more lives is to rescue survivors, which has odd implications when you think about it. So I suppose there’s some motivation to leave lives in just as a way to make players want to rescue survivors. But honestly, you don’t have to bribe me like that. The “Survivors Remaining” count in the UI is enough to make me want to rescue them all.

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1. That is, the A/Generation and the B/Generation

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