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When you think of movie tie-ins for the Dreamcast it’s hard to pick more than a dozen titles; in fact it’s no secret at all that the system struggled for licensed titles in any shape or form. This was a far cry from the heady days of the Saturn which took full advantage of the full motion video capabilities and became synonymous with movie tie-ins and games which are commonly known in Japan as “Cinema Games”.

The game received a US release but as usual the Japanese art is superior

The first such title to appear on the Dreamcast would come as an exclusive in the form of “The Ring” in 2000. The game is loosely based on a famous Japanese movie (later bastardized by Hollywood) involving a haunted video tape which would doom anyone who viewed it to a seven-day-long death sentence. The Dreamcast title switches things up by switching from a Japanese to US setting, and focusing around a story set around the trials of Meg Rainman, a young researcher who decides to investigate into the mysterious murder of her now deceased boyfriend, and their four co-workers (yes Meg broke the age old code of not shitting where she ate).

The screen shots on the back avoid featuring actual in game images, mmmm....

While the movie was based around the premise of a cursed VHS, the game has tried to infuse a little irony of having Meg encounter not a VHS tape, but a video game which when loaded up spells out the word "Ring". Meg is in turn, sucked into a dark alternate dimension were she inexplicably finds herself wearing soldier's gear, holding a fully armed gun and trying to especape the ghoulies which inhabit the vortex. Escaping the reality and a sudden phone call informs her that she'll be dead in seven days, leaving you to unravel the mystery of the Ring and save young Meg's life.

Ring follows a Blue Stinger action orientated approach to survival horror

The game play mechanics in Ring are obviously heavily influenced by the Biohazard series with its action orientated game play. Unfortunately, the controls for the game are hideous even when compared to the standard tank controls of the era, and loading screens are long and even make Capcom’s titles feel comparatively swift. Collision detection is also often clumsy, occasionally requiring you to circumvent what looks like an otherwise passable walkway. These technical issues make getting around something of a chore, since the game is heavily based on exploration. Triggering a new event or story sequence is often dependent on being in the right room at the right time, and clues are rarely given about exactly what room that is which can lead to lots of aimless walking around. I did enjoy that pressing the left trigger on the controller turned your equipped flashlight on and off to illuminate areas and that doing so will also alert enemies to your presence. Ring also allows you to save whenever you want by running up to radios and turning them on.

Meg's constant smirk, especial considering the recent death of her boyfriend is somewhat eerie

Yet, all of these control issues could be forgiven if the game actually gave a sense that you were a part of the movie but Ring has fails to do this completely. It has none of the tension or suspense of the original film, and you have to wonder if mowing monsters down with a pistol or shotgun has anything at all to do with the original plot of dying as part of a murderous ring, or in this case a haunted video tape. Plot progression is comparable to getting your teeth drilled as you are required to talk to exactly the right character, or pick up an obscure item just to move along then again and look for more inconspicuous items in the dark and fight absolutely inept monsters. Finally, Sadako Yamamura, the ghostly main character from the original film only makes the briefest of appearances despite her name being plastered over the packaging and in the credits which leads you to question if this game was really intended as a movie spin off at all.

The game received a modest promotion campaign with adverts like the above airing in Japan

Visually, Ring stands out and  poking around the game's pitch-black environments is highly enjoyable, and offers some genuinely jump-outta-your-seat moments. The concept of light and shadow in this game is used more effectively than in say, Code Veronica which is high praise indeed and the whole package has a certain visual flair and clarity that suggests the game received a rather handsome budget. Which beggars the question, if Amsik Ace Entertainment, the game’s developer were willing to make such an investment acquiring such a license then why didn’t they produce a game more intone with the psychological thriller which it was supposedly inspired by? If you can go into the game with no prior expectations of the original movie then for the minimal outlay, and cheap price it should set you back, there is some amount of enjoyment to be had in this Dreamcast exclusive, but overall it seems like a much wasted opportunity.

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