With the release of Rez infinite last year for PlayStation 4, many saw this as being the definitive release of a classic music game. Fifteen years on from its first appearance on Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, here it was revitalised in 4K on PS4 Pro and even venturing into VR, with many lauding it as the best game on PSVR at its launch.
However, as it comes to PC today, Rez Infinite has taken one step further. It has native 4K and VR support for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but Enhance Games have made the textures throughout even higher resolution than on PS4 Pro. With its PC release, we spoke to its creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
TSA: Rez released such a long time ago, and I think it’s fascinating that it’s stayed so much in the consciousness of gamers. What is it about it that you think has helped it last this long?
Mizuguchi-san: This is not a typical music-based game. We designed the game using a very deep, deep human basic instincts about music. So we combined the two elements into Rez. One is like playing music, where if you play an instrument you can get a groove with somebody, and then you can feel the high of making the groove, a chemistry. The other element is like a DJ playing, the changing ambience, the mood and the backtrack of the music.
So we combined them together. Shooting the viruses and you get the effects within the music, which is the fun of the instrument player, and shooting the cube, and then you can change the whole background music. Then with the sound of the music reacting with the visuals, so you have this chemistry.
We wanted to create a game that we want to play again and again, like when you listen to music again and again. I didn’t want to make a game where if you clear it, that’s all.
TSA: It’s one of those running themes through your games since Rez as well. Lumines obviously has the puzzle element, but blended it with the music so well, there’s been Child of Eden as well. Is this particular style of music game something that you will continue to explore?
Mizuguchi-san: I always have a key word: synaesthesia. There’s a cross-sensation feeling, with visuals and music, even vibration, that’s physical and emotional. So yeah, this is like a life work! [laughs]
We have new technology all the time, so when we had the PSP [for Lumines], this was like an interactive Walkman. Child of Eden, we had Kinect technology; you can play like a conductor. Now we have VR, so there’s no frame, it’s all 3D and audio is 3D too. With the PC you’ve got 4K, and it’s so high res.
Every moment we have a big reason and motivation to make the next thing.
TSA: Do you feel that having these enhancements with VR is truly fulfilling your vision for Rez, or is there still some way to go? I know that you’ve dressed up in the synaesthesia suit once or twice!
Mizuguchi-san: When I made the original Rez, we made the Trance Vibrator, which is like that kind of shape [he signs a small oblong and laughs] and you can feel the vibration through the controller and the Trance Vibrator, but it’s like two points and we wanted to create a kind of orchestral feeling.
The new activators now, you can feel the sound texture, so you can feel the sound of bass, drum, guitar and any type of sound. We put twenty-six vibrators in the suit and the sound texture is moving as you’re playing. If you have the chance to come to Tokyo, you should wear it…
TSA: I mean, if you’re inviting me, I’d be happy to! [laughs]
Mizuguchi-san: [laughs] Fifteen years ago, that was impossible, but now it is getting possible.
TSA: Is it gratifying to see the influence that Rez has had in other games? Yes, you’ve still got Rock Band and other straight forward rhythm action games, but there’s also more experimental ones like Thumper and Aaero, and there are similarities or inspirations. Is that interesting for you to see?
Mizuguchi-san: Um, I’m going my own way [with my games], but it’s a good thing to have many game designers, artists and creators gathering under games and technology to try to make music.
I’m a music lover, but not only music. I’m trying to combine all elements as the experience. My big thing is how can I make people feel good and happy, using any elements, and music is very important.
TSA: You have explored lots of different genres through your games, but are there any that you’d still like to try and combine with music and this synaesthesia effect? I’d love to see you take on a racing game, for example!
Mizuguchi-san: I believe we can do anything, any genre. Synaesthesia is getting richer and much more high res with the new technology. So yeah, we can make magic, like an illusion, like a dream, and anything is possible.
So I have many ideas for the future, but…
TSA: Nothing you want to share at the moment. [laughs]
Mizuguchi-san: Yeah, this is too early.
TSA: I think one thing that some people would like to see is a full sequel to Rez, now that we have Rez Infinite. There’s maybe a hint that you’re thinking this with the Area X level, as well. Is that your way of exploring where Rez could be if a new game were made now?
Mizuguchi-san: This is a prologue for a future project – I can’t say a future Rez, but maybe. Area X is very important to me to show and present the future vision.
I wanted to make it Rez, basically, but to create a new experience using the new technology. We decided to generate many, many particles and have them react to the sound of the music. So as you shoot, the particles spread, and the blending of this lets you feel synaesthesia because you can see the sounds, you can see the music. I think this is a totally new experience for everybody.
Of course if you play with 4K, you can feel the beautiful particles moving, reacting and changing with the music and if you have a chance to play with VR, it’s much more immersive. I think it’s not double or triple, I think it’s ten times more, a totally different experience.
Playing on 4K PC is so beautiful, but if you play in VR, it’s totally different. I hope that many people can play both.
TSA: How was it bringing Rez to VR? One of the things about this technology is that there’s the potential to design game’s completely differently for it and explore games in very different ways, but obviously Rez is a well established game.
Mizuguchi-san: Yeah, we tried a few types of game design and game mechanics for Area X. The original Rez, this is a rail shooter, so you can’t move by yourself. It’s like the music notes are moving and coming to you to shoot and get the sounds. With Area X I thought it should be that you can move freely. It’s like flying or swimming and you’re free. I think this is the best point about Area X as you’re free and you can see any places.
The same mechanism as Rez, where the sounds make the music, but we tried to make it more emotional compared with the original. I think you can understand the meaning when you play until the ending of Area X. […] Some people cry by playing Area X until the end…
TSA: That’s not something you’d want to do into a VR headset! [laughs]
Mizuguchi-san: [laughs] That was a very happy moment to me and to my team, watching people’s reactions and checking the tweets.
TSA: You’ve had lots of other projects in the past, so I want to ask, what would it take to bring back Space Channel 5? It’s not the same synaesthesia style of game, but it was one of my favourite Dreamcast games, and I think we need more Space Michael Jackson!
Mizuguchi-san: [laughs] That was a fun project! So, it’s a Sega IP – Rez is also Sega’s IP, but I’ve got the license – but with Space Channel 5, if we want to do this we need to talk with Sega…
And ideas! If we do this with new technology, what kind of Space Channel 5 can we create? What’s the new experience? We’d need time to think about that.
TSA: Obviously, you also just create music on its own, with the music project Genki Rockets. One thing I’m interested about is if there’s a difference for you between composing music just as music, and composing music with game design in mind as well?
Mizuguchi-san: Hmm. It’s a very interesting question.
You know, music in a game, if you just use it as background music, that’s no problem, you can use any kind of music. If you want to combine the music with the game design deeply, like Lumines, Rez, then the sound itself is very powerful. So each sound has meaning and energy and a power to move you.
It’s like architecture and I love that. The tuning is so important for us, so we need to get the time to tune the game, and usually game design tuning is just on the game design, but we tune every moment and the sounds. This sound should be louder with more bass, how we combine the many, many layers, and the continuing flow to make the mood.
It’s the same approach for me to produce music. I’m not your typical music producer! [laughs] I’m thinking about mood all the time and how we can factor in the sound effects.
TSA: Finally, and speaking of Genki Rockets, I believe it’s Lumi’s birthday in 2019? [laughs] Have you got a celebration planned? Are you thinking of Genki Rockets 3? You’ve got just over two years…
Mizuguchi-san: You’re giving me pressure! [laughs] Um, yeah. Secret. [laughs]
Thanks to Mizuguchi-san for taking the time to speak with us. Rez Infinite is out for PC with 4K and VR support today.