Entering The Ring on Dreamcast

Amazing that The Ring video game was released for the Dreamcast two years before the U.S. remake of Ringu even made it to theaters. That’s why the supernatural threat in this game is Sadako, not Samara. Just like the Ringu movie franchise went off the rails quickly, so does this game. Don’t be expecting Sadako crawling from a well. This entire game takes places in a lab building and involves a virus spread via a video game.

The Ring: Terror’s Realm is relatively short if you follow a walkthrough, otherwise you’ll be running around in circles for hours trying to figure out what to do next. It’s crazy how convoluted survival horror games used to be compared to how streamlined they are these days, with rarely a question of what you need to do to move forward.

As horror games go, this one is ruined by an annoying soundtrack melody that plays continuously throughout the entire game. The only bright side is that you can just turn the sound low or off, because there’s also no voice acting (except minor scenes at the beginning and end of the game). All dialogue is presented as captions, and you have to hit a button every time there’s a down arrow to advance to the next lines of dialogue.

Your character comes to work at a lab after your friend dies. You discover the lab created a virus, and there’s a video game that is passing along the virus. You get the dreaded “seven more days” call, after which you have to solve the mystery of how to stop the madness by running around two different versions of the lab looking for clues. You have the ability to enter a computer video game to reach “terror’s realm” which is a poor man’s Silent Hill, with the whole lab given a dark and gloomy makeover. The trick is you can’t go back and forth until you finish doing all that needs to be done in each version of the lab at any given time, which would be hard to determine without a walkthrough. The terror realm is frustrating because there are no lights, so you need to keep finding and feeding batteries to your flashlight until you eventually turn the power back on later in the game. It’s important to use the flashlight sparingly, like turning it off in halls when you know there are no monsters.

Speaking of monsters, don’t expect to be battling Sadako throughout the game. This is a typical survival horror experience with a variety of monsters to fight. There are even some cheap jump scares, with monsters popping out of closets and bathroom stalls now and then. The first monster looks like Yeti. A green version of the enemy looks like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There are crawling enemies that are hard to hit and very aggressive. Later there’s a big gorilla enemy that seems to show up right when you’re at the point when you have no bullets or flashlight batteries left. Shooting enemies from afar is okay, but if they get too close you get stuck in a tedious loop; they grab you, you wrestle them off, you start to aim your weapon, they grab you again, etc. Argh!

You have a laser line to help with targeting, and the gun aims where your flashlight is pointed, but if you keep the flashlight on, monsters find you—supposedly. They found me in both light and dark. If you keep the flashlight off, you can’t see items you need to pick up. Argh! Even more argh is that moving is done with the d-pad, and aiming is done with the single thumb stick, which feels very counter-intuitive (Dreamcast seriously needed two thumb sticks). The auto reload is a bit slow, so you can go into the status screen to do it faster during battles, which makes the action stop so you can breathe.

You start with a pistol in the terror realm, and later you get a shotgun, assault rifle, and even bigger weapons. But here’s the thing that makes no sense to me—you spend a whole lot of time gathering powerful guns and bullets right near the end of the game in the terror realm, however, you end up back in the regular realm for the final battle with just a pistol and have no access to those big guns! There are item boxes in both realms, but the contents don’t transfer over, and neither do things you are carrying in your inventory. You literally spend all this time collecting massive weapons (which take up two fricking inventory slots each) and then never get to use them! I don’t get it. If I was doing something wrong or missing something, someone who has played this game please clue me in as to how to have full access to all your weapons in both realms.

The game options offer several controller schemes, including fixed camera, over-the-shoulder, and even first person. Meanwhile, when not playing first person, there is a button option so you can examine your surroundings in first person, but it’s mostly useless because you can’t move, shoot, or interact with anything while in first person mode. There’s a run button as well, but very often you’ll find that if you try to open a door and then run through it, your character gets stuck on the door frame and the door closes. You simply have to remember to walk through doors, not run. That applies to only certain doors though. Most doors are classic survival horror doors—you click on the door then wait for a slow animation of the door opening.

You can save your game any time you want at radios in certain rooms in both realms, but item boxes and save radios aren’t always in the same room, and in the terror realm, those rooms also aren’t “safe rooms”…you can expect to find enemies in them every now and then. It would be nice if the save and item box rooms were marked on the map (which you have to go through the inventory screen to check), but the map is pretty useless, with no room marked by its name. The map does at least mark rooms you’ve accessed and those you haven’t in different colors. Also, maps aren’t automatically in hand–you have to locate them on walls and pick them up.

There are two annoying timed events during the course of the game, but the majority of gameplay consists of typical fetching missions to find items to move forward in the game, until eventually you find The Ring video and watch it!

As the game nears the end, you’d never know to go to a certain office and examine a bookcase to move forward if you didn’t read a walkthrough. There’s a classic cut scene of the main bad guy turning into a boss monster near the end, but all you have is the damn pistol because of the world switch causing you to leave all your big weapons behind, and it sucks. You need tons of bullets to kill him…before needing tons of bullets to fight the final boss. This is where you’re going to want to have a Codebreaker disc around to fill yourself up with some infinite pistol ammo. How I miss the days of Codebreaker and GameShark.

When it’s time to battle Sadako, who’s nothing like the Sadako we know and love (this bitch is a fricking blonde!), you fight her on a roof. Oh well. Or rather no well….

You have to shoot her with the damn handgun until she turns into 5 crows, then shoot and kill all the crows. Sadako then comes back and you have to start the process all over again. You have to do that three times. There’s a napalm gun in one corner of the battle space for her final return a fourth time, but I couldn’t get over to it, so I just shot her with one handgun bullet and she died! Other than the dive-bombing birds, the only major danger is that if Sadako gets too close to you she whips you with her blonde hair. Overall it’s an anti-climactic end to a cheap knockoff of better survival horror games of the time.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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