DenSen (meaning ‘electric wire’ in Japanese) was one of the first titles ever announced in the late ‘90s by Sony for their new PlayStation 2 and scheduled to be released in spring 2000, but in the end it vanished without any official statement. The project was in development internally by SCEJ and it looked like a really original game.
A little school girl would walk around and ride on electricity power wires with a coat hanger, to explore a floating, surreal Japanese town, in which along with traditional houses and streets we can notice a huge housewife dancing with her bag on a flying island. From the only video ever released on a demo CD published along with Japanese PlayStation 2 magazine PLUS (October 1999) we can see that players would have been able to follow branching directions that would have taken the game’s protagonist to different parts of the city, sprinting while hanging on power wires, somehow similar to grinding on wires in games like Jet Set Radio, or the most recent skyhooks in Bioshock Infinite.
The main designer behind DenSen was Kiyoshi Sakai, a name that will probably remain unknown by most gamers, but that could seem vaguely familiar to some people that enjoyed such weird games as Umihara Kawase, as he is also the creator of this crazy platformer series. Starting from 1994 Umihara Kawase was published with a cult following on different consoles such as the SNES, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, PSP, Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita, but most of these titles were never released outside of Japan. The music played in the Densen demo video is one of the tracks from the original Super Nintendo version of Umihara.
By knowing how the Umihara Kawase series is played, we can assume that Kiyoshi Sakai would have offered something similar in DenSen, with the school girl that would have had to reach the ending of the level in the fasted and craziest way possible, using hanging on power wires instead of the grappling hook.
In an interview with Sakai by Gosokkyu, they asked about DenSen to its creator that answered:
“Densen is a title we planned while I was working at SCEJ. However, before we had spent the adequate time organizing all our ideas, it was pushed forward and announced. As a result, it ended up failing. It was an SCEJ title, so I don’t know whether they have any plans to bring it back or not.”
Even if Densen was never released on the PlayStation 2, its weird premise influenced one of the strangest yet fun games of the “128 bit” generation: Katamari Damacy. Keita Takahashi (creator of Katamari) remembers that while working at Namco he saw that same DenSen video and it blown its mind:
“The PS2 was released in Japan around the time I joined Namco, and there was a Sony launch game that I was excited about called Densen, but which got cancelled. In that game, you used coat hangers to slide along an electricity cable like a zip line, which I thought was a wonderful idea, because it’s a twist on something you’d see in everyday life. I realized that the world around me could be in a game, and that had an effect on Katamari Damacy.”
An interview with Sakai about Densen was published in a Japanese book and thanks to Zammataro’s translation we have some more details:
- The game’s protagonist is an office lady named Yoshizawa Kyoko
- The game is supposed to be a “dream sequence” of her escaping from the bore of her ordinary life.
- Each level was supposed to be her waking up from her daydream and having to run off to work.
- The game’s mechanics had the player unlocking new areas by powering up certain devices using power lines with her attacks to get through.
- Enemies and such are also supposed to be a representation of the protagonist frustrations in real life (here Sakai points at the bag lady model in the demo video, which he claims is the protagonist’s mother).
- Surprisingly, it was supposed to have end bosses, all related with the “frustration relief” theme, some of the proposals was her pet dog, her boyfriend, etc… They were supposed to be defeated using or activating the environment’s gimmicks.
- According to Sakai, the game was complete to “3%”, essentially most of the concept stayed on the drawing board.
As of September 2015, Kiyoshi Sakai is still working on videogames at Agatsuma Entertainment and their latest games were Code of Princess (3DS) and Sayonara Umihara Kawase (3DS and PS Vita).
Huge thanks to Zammataro for the contribution!