Few may know the name Osamu Sato, yet the influence his art had upon the mediums of music, graphic design, and photography cannot go unstated. While he may not have been too keen on the nature of video games as a whole, there’s no doubt he easily identified the importance of interactive digital imagination, expressed boisterously in his most well-known body of work, a PlayStation-era game now heralded as a cult classic and a relatively expensive collector’s item.
Despite its name, LSD: Dream Emulator is more like the stuff of nightmares, which makes it perfectly suitable for the often strange, over-the-top, yet highly imaginative creations found among Media Molecule’s recently released Dreams. They’re almost like two peas in a pod or, more accurately, two hallucinations in a chrysalis…
Dreaming In The Past
Sato’s experimental video game, which he viewed more like an exploration of surreal art in a digital universe, was initially released in October 1998. He underscores it best himself in a 2015 Vice article: “I find my creations are rather contemporary art using game consoles.” While much of it was intended to express Sato’s imagination, it was also highly influenced and based upon a dream journal recorded by Hiroko Nishikawa, which incidentally was sold alongside the game. Due to a limited release, restricted only to Japanese markets, few at the time were even able to experience the title, and far less were even interested, which led LSD to fall swiftly out of sight and mind…but not for long.
With its extremely psychedelic undertones, 3D environments, and ambient music all wrapped into one rather eccentric video game, LSD: Dream Emulator eventually attracted a cult following, most of which derived from the west. Seeing that there were no objectives or goals at all, other than the exploration of various settings, from a Japanese village to the interior of a house, the game’s main enjoyment sprouted from the artistic oddities and random occurrences when interacting with its static environments. In fact, the more players “dreamed” in-game, the worse the dreams became. There’s even a creepypasta based around it, which most certainly amplified its outward interest.
Almost identical to the modern-day Dreams itself, Lovely Sweet Dream was an unending rabbit hole with twists, turns, and a shady figure known only as the Grey Man. If (and when) transposed into the ever-evolving landscape that is Dreams, LSD would then be collated alongside a variety of other lost video game artifacts, like PT, Dead Space, and Stardew Valley. Kotaku even released a video dedicated to the title that explored its fundamental value to the industry writ large. Everyone should play LSD at least once in their life, not merely for the viewing of its strange and unreplicable environments, but also for the fact that there’s nothing quite like it.
Hence, why LSD needs to be recreated in Dreams. It’s pretty much impossible to find on the contemporary market unless you’re willing to shell out around $400 for a Japanese copy on eBay, which you would then need a Japanese PSX or first-gen PS3 to even play. The fact that it was released on the Japanese PlayStation store in 2010 does help, but not for those that live outside of the country. It might have its recreations and the emulators that still give it somewhat of a life on PC, yet unfortunately, LSD HD and its counterparts simply do not give the original justice. Utilizing Dreams, on the other hand, could not only prove worthwhile in reviving the game but could be an interesting artistic experiment, what with Dreams’ Remix capabilities.
LSD: Dream Emulator isn’t Sato’s only video game, evidenced by the likes of Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong Nou, Rolys-Polys Nanakorobi, and Tokyo Wakusei Planetokio. While none may have reached the level of acclaim that LSD so easily acquired, nor even emulated its simultaneously mundane and insane playability, they did showcase the power of Sato’s enigmatic art and the extreme lengths of his imagination. Adding only weight and depth to his artistic endeavors is Nishikawa’s dream journal, one excerpt of which has been translated via HardCoreGaming101:
“Where is this? It looks like the grounds of a shrine, like a deep, dark forest. I’m wandering around. I can’t get over the feeling that I’ve been to this place before. The temple and the tower look much bigger than usual, and I feel as if I were lost in a world of immensity. It’s very dark with no sky above, like being in the depths of the earth. Anyway, it’s a world I know.”
Given the fact that Sony executives have alluded to Dreams’ immense capabilities, going so far as to say it will “change game creation as we know it,” inviting LSD into its nearly never-ending setlist of worlds would prove promising beyond belief. Players could not only interact with it on an experiential basis but also adapt it on a creative level, improving upon its every inch consistently. Much like in the very original game itself, wherein dreams would last only ten minutes, creators could find crafty solutions so as to push the envelope and allow Dreams a far wider range of artistic expression through literal dream-like interpretations. It would be akin to the Inception of the video game industry; a dream within a dream within a dream.
After all, what is Media Molecule’s game intended to be but the very life-breathing essence of imagination?
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