I wrote this a few months back but never got around to publishing it for whatever reason, now is a as good a time as any though…
Those of you who know me personally know that the Sega Dreamcast is my favorite classic console, and that the PS2 is one of my least favorite consoles (due to it’s role in killing off my beloved Dreamcast). You might also know that most of my CEs are for the Xbox and Xbox 360 and I almost never buy anything outside of the NTSC region, especially not if the release isn’t in English. So how is it that one of my newest and most cherished acquisitions is a PS2 title from Japan? One word: “Rez”.
If you know me, then you’d know that the game at the top of my “best games of all time” list is Rez. If you’re unfamiliar with the game you owe it to yourself to play it. It was originally released in 2001 for the Dreamcast in Japan and later in Europe, never to see an official release on US shores until it was re-released for the PS2. I played a bootleg on a friend’s Dreamcast in college and was instantly addicted. The game answers everyone who ever raised the question of: “Are games Art?” with a resounding “YES!”.
The game itself transcends language and makes an attempt to immerse the player using as many senses as possible and syncing them up such that you can feel sound or hear light in a process the game’s creators call “synesthesia”. If you’re interested in playing it yourself The game has been remastered in HD with surround sound and can be purchased on the Xbox Live Arcade or as part of the “Qubed” collection. You may have heard of the recently released “Spiritual Successor”: “Child of Eden” which carries the concepts into the modern age leveraging the graphical horsepower of the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well as the Move and Kinect controllers to further immerse the player into the game.
Enough about the game, you’re here to read about the special package. Like most valuable CEs this one was very limited in production, rumored at only 500 units made. The box itself was designed by Tsuyoshi Kusano and echo’s the game’s art style. The game’s story is based around organic growth and evolution yet at the same time it’s represented in a very computer-generated/technologized art style. Similarly the packaging uses high quality raw cardboard to represent the organic side of Rez and is decorated with very utilitarian print and symbolism that represent the technologized side of Rez. It’s all tied together with the very artful construction as the box uses no glue, tape or fasteners anywhere and is completely held together by the way it’s cut and folded, almost like an origami sculpture.
The concept of synesthesia is carried over into the content of the Kanzentousui Set. Kanzentousui, depending on who you talked to, translates as either “Complete Euphoria” or “Perfect Intoxication”. The premier include is a set of Rez themed Tapex Vibration headphones. These are high quality headphones with small motors in them that cause them to vibrate and pulse with the music in the game.
Also included is a t-shirt and sticker set (both also designed by Tsuyoshi Kusano) as well as a set of “cooling eye patches” to help you relax after playing the game.
I had never seen a copy of Kanzentousui Set available anywhere so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Being such a unique item I asked it’s previous owner about it’s history, and I was very surprised at the response I received:
I used to be the editor of EDGE (UK mag) and I received this copy from Mizuguchi’s assistant at Sega (I believe several hundred copies were given away to people in the industry and 500 sold in stores). I think it was partly as a thank you because back in 99 (?) when the game was in development, I made a trip to Japan with an editor friend (Simon Cox, then editor of Official US Sega Dreamcast magazine) at a time when the game still didn’t have a name.
The soundtrack to the pre-production game at the time included a brilliant piece of techno called Rez, by the UK band Underworld (such a bummer the UK music label wouldn’t allow this to be used). Simon and I (Jason Brookes) suggested ‘Rez’ as the possible name for the game, and he loved it. As a result we are credited in the end sequence I think.
If you’re at all familiar with Rez then you’ve probably also heard of the mysterious “Trance Vibrator” peripheral. The Trance Vibrator was a smooth orb shaped USB device for the PS2, it’s sole purpose was to vibrate in time with the in-game music. Players were encouraged to place it in their pocket or tuck it under their legs while playing to help improve the synesthesia. Of course, the gaming media and most gamers often joked about the possible, sexual, uses for the device. The HD re-release on the Xbox 360 continues this “tradition” by allowing you to use the vibration features of additional controllers allowing them to work similarly to Trance Vibrators, though it’s not quite the same. The Trance Vibrator was released as a stand-alone peripheral, as well as a part of a “special package” bundle with game. The Kanzentousui Set doesn’t just include a copy of the game but a complete sealed (and rare in it’s own right) Trance Vibrator bundle.
Despite it’s rarity, quality and rich history this set isn’t likely to command the same value as some more common special releases. While it’s lauded universally by game critics and aficionados alike, it never got much mas market attention or interest. At best it has a cult following, which is a real shame as it’s a wonderfully crafted game. I’m proud to have the Kanzentousui Set in my collection as the packaging so perfectly reflects the character of the game itself, which all things considered is exceptionally uncommon for a CE release from this era. Much like the game itself, guests who view my collection often pass over the Kanzentousui Set for CEs of games they’re more familiar with, that is until they notice that simple and elegant box displayed prominently on the shelf is completely unfamiliar to them, and then I introduce them to Rez.