The quiet stealth launch of D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die during Tokyo Game Show 2014– followed by our flattering review of it– was what finally convinced me to fork over the money for an Xbox One. That’s right, I bought an Xbox One just to play SWERY65’s underrated gem of a game, despite it still being in its first season only (two episodes and a prologue). Sadly, based on recent events and from the way things have been going since the moment it was unveiled, it seems that D4 may suffer a similar fate as Shenmue, in that the first season of this bizarrely creative adventure may never see its intriguing story carry on and reach conclusion.
Things were not looking good from the very moment the game was first announced, as despite the involvement of Microsoft Game Studios, a general lack of interest in the title from Microsoft became apparent very quickly. From its poorly displayed appearance at E3 2014, to the little to no promotion leading up to its release, it almost seemed like Microsoft had no confidence in the commercial success of D4 to begin with. This takes you back to the time when EA picked up the publishing rights for Shadows of the the Damned (by Grasshopper Manufacture), relying solely on SUDA51’s namesake (although his little involvement with the project didn’t quite justify that move). Little effort was made by EA to get Western gamers excited, and so Shadows of the Damned ended up getting a quiet release with little fanfare, before joining the bargain bin pile in no time.
D4 too has gone through a similar unfortunate ordeal, as it wasn’t long after the September launch that Microsoft heavily discounted the title since initial sales were not too flattering. Despite SWERY65’s enthusiastic efforts to promote his labor of love, D4 hasn’t been doing well and so just mere months after its launch, Microsoft has already decided to offer the game for absolutely free as part of their January Games with Gold promotion. As cool as it is for a game like D4 to be free and reach more people, it’s still a bad indication of its commercial performance (a stark contrast to its glowing critical reception), and a discerning sign of its future… or should I say a potential lack thereof.
It’s unfortunate to see such a wickedly cool adventure game struggling to get the Xbox One user-base excited, but then again it was almost expected to see that audience not get on board with an offbeat experience like D4. Logically speaking, D4 probably would have thrived on on the PlayStation 4, and gotten a stronger support from PS4 owners who actively seek experiences that ooze with Japanese charm and personality. That said, games like D4, coupled with the likes of Crimson Dragon, and upcoming exclusives like Phantom Dust, give the Xbox One a distinguishable demeanor from its competition.
With D4 being free next month, it would be sad if everyone did not try to at least increase its download numbers. Maybe then Microsoft will see that there is consumer interest in something different like it. It’s just that it needs substantial promotion and hype to get people to care. This isn’t a case of blaming gamers/fans, as they’re not the ones at fault. When the main publisher isn’t enthusiastic about their product, then how can you even expect the intended audience to be interested?
The people who supported D4 were the ones that were able to hype it up themselves, whether they were fans of SWERY65’s past efforts or were simply into quirky Japanese adventures. That said, D4 honestly has enough appeal to win over even the most Western oriented gamer, with its smart-mouth writing and excellent voice acting. Above all, it takes place in an all-American setting with strong Western vibes in its characters and storytelling. It’s really one of the most original adventure games around, and if you’re into the stuff that Telltale Games has been pushing out as of late, then D4 will provide a refreshing alternative. Above all, D4 is perhaps one of the rare instances where the Kinect device is put to compelling and enjoyable use.
Here’s hoping Microsoft decides to take their unique gem of an exclusive more seriously, and give D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die enough exposure moving forward to allow subsequent episodes and seasons to see the light of day.