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Resident Evil HD Remaster First Look

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Sorry this is going up on Sunday night.  Normally Retro Game Night is recorded on Friday and goes up Saturday morning, but we had to delay recording a day and these HD videos take a lot longer to render and post to YouTube.  Either way, the video speaks for itself, but Fred got a retail copy of Resident Evil HD Remaster on PS3 that will be coming to the US in “early” 2015 (according to Capcom).  Well since there was another option, we grabbed it early.  Enjoy!

Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Retrospective: Resident Evil 4

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Editor’s Note:  Although I love classic games as much as the next guy, few games get to be restored as often as Resident Evil 4.  Therefore, the recently released Ultimate HD Edition has the most cleaned up, 1080p native graphics to date and thanks to screenshot technology being what it is we were able to grab those assets directly from the game without any quality loss.  We at GH101 have decided to feature screens from this version in the interest of clarity, despite the fact that they do not faithfully represent the graphical fidelity of the many previous versions.  Hopefully purists will forgive us.  – Fred Rojas

The Story of the Scrapped Versions

re4_boxWhenever a game sits in development hell for too long, it has an adverse affect on everyone’s feelings for the game.  The examples are too many to count but a couple quick mentions are the likes of DiakatanaToo Human, and of course Duke Nukem Forever.  With a few exceptions, games that take too long to make can’t help but not live up to the hype and therefore disappoint an all-too-eager audience.  One of these exceptions is Resident Evil 4.  Originally announced in 1999, the concept was a Playstation 2 game with a brutally strong protagonist that was more action focused per the ongoing desires of Shinji Mikami (series creator that has been trying to go more action oriented since Resident Evil 2).  This new iteration was appropriately tasked to Hideki Kamiya, notable for his director work on Resident Evil 2, and in connection with Noboru Sugimura, writer of Resident Evil 2.  After a European trip that netted a Gothic art style and given the goals of the game it was decided that the camera would have to be dynamic and movable (much like Capcom had started in Dino Crisis) and thus ditch the traditional pre-rendered background in exchange for a fully rendered world.  Much of the development style, tone, and even Kamiya’s direction involved a what was described as a “cool” world and eventually it got so far removed from the roots of both the survival horror genre and Resident Evil series and instead integrated demons and a new protagonist, Dante.  A small fraction of the Capcom Production Studio 4, named Little Devils, converted this new concept with the juggling bug this team had seen in Onimusha: Warlords and eventually renamed the project to Devil May Cry in November 2000.  While it spun off to a good game and an ongoing franchise that still lives today, Devil May Cry left Resident Evil 4 in a rut without a dev team (and some hardcore RE fans still refer to the game as Resident Evil 3.5 since the core concepts remained intact).

It wasn’t until nearly a year later, late 2001, that the large scale Capcom Production Studio 4 team regrouped to begin development on Resident Evil 4.  Sugimura was still involved at this time and his scenario company Flagship and the original concept was Leon Kennedy breaking into Umbrella’s European headquarters to save a girl (who’s identity has never been revealed) while fighting various types of zombies and other creatures a la the original game.  At this time the third person view was already the gameplay style although Leon was overcome by the Progenitor Virus, thus giving his left hand special abilities, and included first person action sequences like we saw hints of in previous games.

re4_hookmanAs time went on the concept developed into the demo that was shown at E3 2003 known as Maboroshi no Biohazard 4 (Hallucination Biohazard 4 in English), but it has been come to be nicknamed Resident Evil 4: Hook Man Version by those that talk about it in the RE circles (FYI: Resident Evil is Biohazard in Japan but not here due to the metal band’s trademark).  Development of this version began when Flagship’s original scenario was dropped and Mikami brought in Yasuhisa Kawamura, scenario writer for Resident Evil 3, to make a scarier game.  At first the movie Lost Souls was the template and it featured an unnamed female protagonist that found herself in an abandoned building with a killer on the loose.  An in-between version re-introduced Leon as the lead, had him working with a mutated dog as a sidekick, and eventually making his way through Umbrella creator Spencer’s Castle to rescue a girl and fight his way out (with Hook Man as the killer and a newer version of the Nemesis character).  Eventually this was adapted into a final version that would become the demo.  In this version Leon was traversing a haunted castle, infected with a virus, and it was causing a mix of various jarring camera effects and hallucinations.  To help with the goal of a scary atmosphere and merge the perspective of the player with Leon, an over-the-shoulder camera, laser sight, and quick time events (QTEs) were integrated, some of the more notable attributes of the final game.  Enemies in the demo ranged from suits of armor that came to life and eventually a the Hook Man, a ghostlike zombie with a torn hook for a left hand, as a final enemy for the demo.  You can find a 5 minute video of this build on YouTube (pardon if the link isn’t valid over time) that was found in the Biohazard 4 Secret DVD that came as a pre-order bonus for Resident Evil 4 on GameCube in 2005.  Cost of development and technical obstacles forced Mikami to step in and assist in scenario writing and development, something Kawamura has gone on record saying he’s ashamed of, and completely scrapped the game.  It was 2004 and Resident Evil 4 was back to square one.  Fortunately you can find most parts of this version (aside from the demo video) in other Capcom games: many of these assets ended up in the PS2 game Haunting Ground, the Progenitor Virus concept was the base for Resident Evil 5, and of course the Spencer Estate concept was revitalized in the RE5 DLC Lost in Nightmares.

The Deal With Nintendo

re4_3In November 2002, Capcom announced a 5 game deal with Nintendo that would see five of the titles coming to the GameCube, known as the Capcom Five, and among those (despite some miscommunication) only Resident Evil 4 was to remain console exclusive.  After rumors suggested that users and investors were adding pressure to move the game to the much more successful Playstation 2, Mikami even came out and claimed he would “cut his  head off” if RE4 ever made its way to another console.  In late 2003 Shinji Mikami took over directional duties and had a large part in scenario and writing duties to completely re-invent the series.  He spread a massive campaign in interviews and told the Capcom Production 4 Team that the focus was to be on action and not horror.  To assist with this he dropped the Umbrella involvement completely, created the Ganados concept, and clearly borrowed from many earlier versions of the game, including the new Dante-like look and personality for Leon.  By E3 2004 Capcom locked down a January 2005 release for Gamecube and then to everyone’s shock an awe a Halloween 2004 announcement for 3 new Resident Evil PS2 titles revealed that a port of Resident Evil 4 with expanded content would be hitting the PS2 later in 2005.  This made Gamecube fans livid, some of which admitted to purchasing the nearly dead console purely for the now three year prospect of finding the game only on Nintendo’s console.  For the record, Mikami did not cut off his own head and the PS2 version did come out.  I have never been able to find out if there was any action from Nintendo for breaking the exclusivity, although in those days it wasn’t always a paid or contractual deal so perhaps Nintendo had no leg to stand on.

The Game

After all that hype and pressure, it’s a miracle that Resident Evil 4 is as wonderful as it turned out to be.  If you’ve never played it, the genius of Resident Evil 4 is that it sticks to the basics of game design while also offering a look and feel that is fresh.  Easily one of the most gorgeous games from that generation, I still contest that the Gamecube version is the best looking from that time period, so if you have a choice that game really was developed for that console.  Additionally the game was long, like 15-20 hours long, and didn’t feel as such.  Each of the five chapters feel like complete games in and of themselves and while enemy types and bosses do reappear from time to time, the environments and scenarios are unique for the most part.  Even more striking is the way that game develops alongside the player as a whole.


In the first act you are traversing the woods of Spain as Leon, completely unaware of what’s to come but you know it’s not going to be good.  Eventually you get introduced the Ganados, who at this point are townsfolk that have established farming villages along the countryside, but of course they are violent toward you.  After killing off a pair of cops that accompany you, the Ganados turn full attention on you and with the different ways they attack based on where you shoot them and how close you are too them, it’s clear that these are no zombies.  Ganados will throw weapons at you (that yes, you can shoot out of the air), duck under your laser sight, run around you, and overall give you that sinking feeling of being entirely alone against the world.  Not only that, but the world is quite jarring for the time, with the over-the-shoulder camera and focus with the laser sight on where to shoot everyone, it’s a steep learning curve.  That’s why the first main area, a central town, is so pivotal and one hell of a demo.  You enter into this town that is fully populated by Ganados that all give chase upon your arrival.  You can go in and out of houses, down different paths, jump out of windows, and navigate a small space where you have almost no idea where to go next.  Since your perspective only allows for what’s directly in front of you, a somewhat accurate interpretation of what being in that situation in real life is like, it’s dangerous to take a corner without knowing what’s going on and you always take a risk of being jumped when you dare look behind you.  Sure it’s seen as somewhat tanklike controls today, but back then it was about as good as you were going to get out of Capcom.  Then the chainsaw guy arrives, a larger sized villager with a potato sack on his head and eye holes cut out, and he begins to chase you at a much faster pace than the others.  This doesn’t meant that the horde of Ganados back off either, you’re now thrown in the mix with all of them.  No matter how many times you shoot Chainsaw Guy he won’t die for good and you have limited ammo at this point and most people will probably get caught by him at least once, which triggers and instant death where Leon’s torso is sawed diagonally across the sternum.  It’s freaky and it demonstrates the biggest change in Resident Evil 4: you won’t be scared, you’ll just feel immense tension, which triggers a different kind of fear.   When those church bells ring after a certain period of time and clear the town of danger, I had to literally take a break and step away from the game.  My thoughts at the time were, “damn, that was close.”  It was a great rush.

re4_2From there the game digresses into a somewhat interesting storyline that contains a mass of interesting and tactical scenarios.  Whether it’s fighting the sea creature in the lake, tackling El Gigante for the first time, eventually meeting and dealing with Salazar, knife-fighting Krauser, and eventually unraveling the mystery of Las Plagas, Resident Evil 4 is a thrill ride.  Each new area of the game will challenge the skills you had previously learned and try to force you to use them in new ways to the point that your cumulative skills make the initial Ganados fight seem like a walk in the park.  When I completed the game for the first time after getting the game for my birthday in 2005 (I had a Gamecube for the few other Resident Evil games on the platform) and again that Christmas on PS2, it was fantastic and I couldn’t offer it up to enough people to experience.  Capcom and Mikami had gambled big – the series was to be discontinued if a failure – and they had succeeded admirably.  For better or worse, Resident Evil would never be the same.

It sold well.  1.6 million units on Gamecube and more than 2 million on PS2, not to mention eventual ports to the PC (terrible initial attempt) and Wii before receiving HD remakes on 360/PS3 recently and eventually the Ultimate HD Version on PC this year.  I think the reason it keeps being remade is that Resident Evil 4 still looks amazing today, now with updated assets and filters, and the gameplay, while seemingly dated, is still that perfect mix of locked in time and tolerable to a modern audience.  If you have yet to experience this game and are even somewhat of a fan of Resident Evil, you should pick this game up and give it a go.  It was a steal at $50 back in 2005 and today it’s a reminder that not all re-invented games in development hell end up being underwhelming, dated messes.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Podcast: Silent Evil 2: Resident Hill

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This week we are tackling quite possibly the two most popular titles of survival horror: Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill 2.  Resident Evil 2 was scrapped only a few months before completion and completely redone, resulting in many of the staples that carried the franchise forward and stands as a fan favorite.  Meanwhile Silent Hill 2 waited until the Playstation 2 hit the market and with one of the creepiest atmospheres of all times redefined what horror gaming could be.  We openly discuss the notable aspects of both.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil Code: Veronica

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Technically the Resident Evil series has more Sega console lineage than what I and many other gamers regard as a Sony franchise.  The original launched on the Saturn alongside the Playstation and although it took some time, enhanced versions of the second and third title appeared on the Dreamcast.  Mind you, all three of the first titles still premiered on Playstation and were ported to Sega’s platforms.  Code: Veronica was first announced and released on Sega’s Dreamcast and marked a significant change for the series.  A mere one month after its February 2000 release date, the Playstation 2 had one of the worst launches in history with a vast library of titles no one wanted to play.  To have Veronica on the launch list to usher in Sony’s new console would have been amazing.  This wasn’t a case of Capcom turning its back on Sony, though, they had always planned on having named titles on non-Sony consoles, reserving numbered titles for Sony.  Given that Sega co-produced the game, it was clearly a paycheck game to give the Dreamcast a strong exclusive library, but it also ended up being a great addition to the series.

Despite his incessant begging, Claire decides it's best not to come out of hiding

Then:  When the Dreamcast launched, the timing in my world was really lousy.  Coming out at the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was swimming in a sea of amazing Playstation titles at bargain used prices.  By then the Internet was more prominent and I had a subscription to Electronics Gaming Monthly (EGM) so I knew that the PS2 was around the corner with a DVD player and backwards compatibility with all my Playstation games.  Even though the small $200 price tag of the Dreamcast was tempting, my college dorm would be screaming for a PS2.  Furthermore, the controller was awkward and the library of games looked like a lot of arcade title ports, which had begun to dwindle and held little interest to me.  I wanted longer, deeper experiences like I was enjoying with Parasite Eve and Resident Evil.  Needless to say it was like a kick to the chest when Code: Veronica released as an exclusive title for the Dreamcast just before the PS2 launch.

To make things worse, the game was given high marks by all the major gaming publications and many were saying it was a return to form for the series.  Technically it was a sequel to the second game and expanded on the Chris and Claire Redfield storyline.  Even more tempting the game was huge, taking up 2 discs on the Dreamcast, which already had higher capacity than CDs.  I loved RE3 and critics felt it was only okay, so needless to say I needed this game.  Luckily for me (but not for Sega), the Dreamcast discontinued quickly and I was able to pick up the console plus Code: Veronica during holiday 2002 for around $100.

Early enemy once you take control of Chris...seriously...

It was great, the pinnacle of the concepts that had been established before.  You really felt isolated as you trudged an abandoned island where you found almost no survivors, zombies randomly respawned and you were trapped with huge monsters with no way to escape.  This game was hard, much more than any of the previous games, which really only employed an occasional difficult hook.  In Code: Veronica you were always on the verge of death with no ammo in tow; it was the only time in the series that I actually used the combat knife.  After a brutal eight hours of play I finally overcame the impossible odds only to fall at the hands of Umbrella as Claire.  I stared at the screen in disbelief, what the hell else could they cram on that disc?  Then I was prompted for disc 2, which at that point had been completely forgotten, and began the second half of the campaign as Chris Redfield climbing rocks to aid his sister.  A brief plot point from the beginning came rushing back as I began the even more difficult half of the game.

In the end it was just too much for me, having no easy access to a walkthrough, and I gave up on defeating the Ashford twins on that remote island.  I wanted to cry when I walked into a GameStop not a month later and got propositioned to pre-order Code: Veronica X, a higher quality PS2 port.  Not only that, there was a special bonus disc, Wesker’s Report, that came free with pre-ordered copies.  This was my first, and definitely not last, experience with companies tempting me to re-purchase games I already owned for a meager upgrade in content.  Never did beat Code: Veronica X either, this time quitting almost immediately following the Chris portion of the adventure.

Now:  With the re-release in HD on modern consoles, I’m still reminded how much this title is the apex of a concept thought up in the second game.  A fully functioning island with everything going awry and every nook, cranny and building could be explored.  Sure, it was properly planned and the fixed camera angles remained, but credit should be given to creating a fully interactive island.  Furthermore, this title is sparse in items and insane in difficulty – easily the hardest in the series – which makes your heart pound when you’re low on health, haven’t saved for 25 minutes, and getting chased by three dogs.

Fight a tyrant in the cargo area of an airplane? Code Veronica makes you do just that.

In hindsight, I can’t see modern gamers wanting to play this title in the least – hell, even my coveted Wesker’s Report DVD is rampant on YouTube.  It harkens back to a time long forgotten and only if you had tracked the progress through each game would you appreciate Code: Veronica for what it accomplishes.  Tank controls, fixed camera angles, large difficulty and sometimes unfair scenarios are just a bit too much when compared to all the the better options in contemporary survival horror.  Still, if you can appreciate the series for what it does best or go into it knowing that the experience will feel dated, you can find a gem with this title.  The story goes deep and helps expand on a plotline that I hope will be picked up at some point in the franchise.  I now have a full walkthrough and I’m trudging slowly through the game trying to my best to not constantly consult the guide.  I’ve died a half dozen times, gotten stuck once, and fully started over so far.  How am I ever going to do this if I’m not even as good as I used to be?

Fact Sheet

  • Release Date: February 3, 2000
  • Consoles Released For: Dreamcast – all other versions are the enhanced Veronica X: PS2, Gamecube, PS3, Xbox 360

Fun Facts

  • While it was supposed to be the beginning of the spin-offs on non-Sony consoles, Code: Veronica is the only game in the series that builds heavily on the cannon without a true number in the title.  Even more baffling is that most other spin-offs like Survivor, Dead Aim, and Outbreak all appeared on Sony consoles.  Despite not being a numbered addition, most fans consider it the fourth installment to the series.
  • Despite being named in the title, Veronica Ashford is actually a dead relative that doesn’t appear in the game.  In addition it is revealed that the Ashford twins aren’t quite what they seem (but I don’t wanna give spoilers).
  • The 50+ programming team of the first three Resident Evil games would eventually form Capcom Production Studio 4, which would be solely responsible for Resident Evil titles moving forward.  Since then things have changed, but they were responsible for Resident Evil 4.  Capcom Production Studio 4 was not responsible for the GameCube remake or Resident Evil Zero, that was actually Production Studio 3.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (RE3) gets the worst treatment within the series because it was released on the tail end of the Playstation cycle and as the third release in as many years (most people remember RE‘s re-release, the Director’s Cut, more than the initial release), there really wasn’t that much new brought to the table.  Having said that, it was the most polished title on the Playstation and finally made the concept attempted in RE2 a reality.  With a few slight tweaks, like the ability to flip a quick 180 and a much more agile Jill Valentine, RE3 felt a lot more like games of the time.  Unfortunately with the diluting of the franchise via frequent releases and the fact that the game looked identical to the first two on the box, it just didn’t hold players’ interest.

Then:  Resident Evil 3 released about a month before Halloween, my favorite holiday, in 1999 so naturally for me it was just as essential as costumes and horror movies.  I was finishing my senior year in high school and had so many things on my plate with sports and theatre that even I, one of the largest RE fans, considered skipping it.  That is, until I read the preview in Electronic Gaming Monthly that revealed Nemesis.  As returning protagonist Jill Valentine was attempting to escape Raccoon City, you would consistently encounter a huge mutant opponent.  Not much was revealed about Nemesis, save that he was a big hulk of a creature and had a rocket launcher strapped to his back.  This immediately became a day-one purchase for me.

As much as I regret ditching my buddy Joel’s house party and taking a day off work unpaid, RE3 was totally worth the sacrifice.  The game started you off in a similar background to the second title except that you were armed to the teeth, you had an infinite ink ribbon and plenty of moves at your disposal.  Raccoon City felt like a playground with branching paths and alleyways as well as many buildings you could enter.  Despite all that, your progress in the game was surprisingly linear, with only one way to eventually proceed.  It was interesting to see characters from previous titles make short appearances, like Brad Vickers, the helicopter pilot from the original.  Even though she was only dressed in a tube top and miniskirt, a costume choice I found ridiculous even in my testosterone-induced youth, Jill was spry.  She could run, cut corners, turn around quickly, leap boxes, and shove zombies aside like you would expect from a true zombie outbreak survivor.

Sometimes both decisions sounded a little stupid, other times they both seemed rational and necessary.

My favorite part of Nemesis was definitely Nemesis himself.  His first appearance came at the police station, a staple from the second game, where you meet up with STARS member Brad for the second time in the game.  Just as you think this will be a new possible teammate, Nemesis drops down and slaughters Brad like he’s nothing.  The cutscene then changes perspective to Jill as the beast turns and mutters, “SSSSTTARRSS….”  That’s the moment you see her “oh crap” face as the cutscene ends and you gain control of Jill as the giant lumbers over to you with two options: run or fight the monster.  Those that had played previous titles knew that running from anything wasn’t a good idea – it was only a matter of time until you were cornered.  So naturally I chose to fight the monster.  I had a decent arsenal and plenty of bullets but no matter what I threw at him, Nemesis didn’t even stagger backwards.  Then he pulled out his rocket launcher, the coveted one-hit kill weapon that ended the first game, and fired it right at me.  Damn he had good aim.  I missed taking the rocket full force but was definitely injured by the nearby impact.  Then he charged at me, running incredibly fast and slammed me to the concrete.  Now it was my turn to say “Oh crap,” and ran into the RFPD.  Normally you would be safe there too because enemies didn’t move from area to area, but not moments later the game paused, I heard the standard door open/close, and there he was chasing me inside the PD!  In no time flat I was pummeled to a bloody pulp and the horrid “you are dead” screen appeared. 

That was when I learned a valuable lesson: Nemesis was not to be underestimated.  For the first time ever I had encountered an enemy in the Resident Evil franchise that could not be killed.  I had to run from this creature for the sake of my life.  As the game progressed, Nemesis would make cameos at the worst times, almost like I was playing an early version of the sadistic AI director in Left 4 Dead.  Capcom didn’t waste time varying the encounters either – sometimes you would have to run and escape to a safe location, other times you would find your path very much blocked and you would have to get the brute down for the count before moving on.  Some may consider Nemesis to be cheap or unfair, but he was just another great way to integrate horror to me, especially now that I could kill zombies with the precision of a black ops field agent.  With an ending that concluded the Raccoon City incident for good, it was bittersweet to think the journey was over (little did I know), but also very satisfying. 

Now:  If you have never played a classic Resident Evil title and wanted to give the tank-controlled originals a try, RE3: Nemesis is probably your best bet.  Sure Code Veronica X perfected the formula, but it’s terribly difficult and long in comparison.  On the other hand, this title has two difficulties, easy or hard (which any gamer who usually plays on “normal” pauses to contemplate for a few minutes) – easy is very accessible without being a breeze.  I also like it because it requires the least amount of prior knowledge with the series; in fact, it can be played as a standalone title (but there are plenty of nods to the previous games).  Given that you start off with unlimited ink ribbons, a huge arsenal and an agile new set of moves, it dodges that outdated feel without the ramped up difficulty of future titles. 

If I were escaping a zombie outbreak and had to make sure I was equipped for leaping over things and high railways, this skirt would definitely not be my top choice.

Going back to it this week I am still reminded how much I love this iteration.  Many people complain that there aren’t two campaigns, but in truth very little of any of the separate campaigns were very different.  In Nemesis graphics and area design replace multiple campaigns and craft an overall lengthier story, despite the fact that there’s only one.  Additionally your main enemy, the appropriately named Nemesis, is the best format of the Tyrant enemy that I have encountered.  I know that RE2 is the most popular, but RE3 is clearly the best of the PSOne titles.

Fact Sheet

  • Release Date: September 22, 1999
  • Consoles Released For: Playstation, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PSN (PSOne title)

Fun Facts

  • While it is the third in the series, the events of the game take place just before and a few days following the events of Resident Evil 2.
  • While in development, the team referred to the title as Resident Evil 1.9.  I have been unable to find documentation on why they did this, but my theory is that producer Shinji Mikami was consistently upgrading and expanding on his definitive concept began in the first title.
  • The second feature film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is loosely based off RE3: Nemesis and is the closest game-to-film adaptation in the movie series.  Unfortunately writer Paul W.S. Anderson appears to have taken the wrong portions of the game and integrated them into the movie, making a sloppy mess of the plot.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 2

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 2 (RE2) hit the market with a steep price; like other series favorite RE4, this title was scrapped and redone after it was more than 60 percent complete.  In order to keep hype and demand strong for the series after the extremely popular original, the sequel began production one month after the release of Resident Evil.  This first version, dubbed Resident Evil 1.5 by Capcom when production stills and videos released, featured a similar plot without crisscrossing paths.  Leon was still the male protagonist and Elza, a motorcyclist college student, as an early version of what would eventually become Claire Redfield.  Graphically the game was much uglier, looking the same (or worse) than the original, but only so that more zombies could appear on-screen.  In 1.5 Umbrella had already closed down, the outbreak still occurred, and the police station looked a lot more modern.  Players could equip different clothing, which changed their appearance (as did combat damage).  There were also many more survivors for players to encounter along the way, some of which played new roles in the final version of RE2.  Producer Shinji Mikami scrapped the project when it was near beta (60-80 percent completion) because he found gameplay and locations to be “dull and boring”¹.  Originally the series was supposed to end with the sequel, but supervisor Yoshiki Okamoto wanted a more open-ended series.  As a result Elza became Claire Redfield to connect to the first game and the plot was made more big budget movie style to get Capcom to the 2 million copy sales goal.  Graphics were updated, adding more polygons to each character, and items were made much more scarce to increase tension and fear.  Since it would miss the planned early 1997 release date, the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Complete Edition were released instead and included a demo of RE2.

Then: What I remember most about Resident Evil 2 was just how prevalent it was at the time.  That game released on almost every console imaginable and with plenty of advertising behind it.  It released in late January and thanks to my January 6 birthday I was able to get both RE: Director’s Cut and RE2 in a homemade bundle from Babbage’s as a present.  I also owned a Playstation by this point so there was nothing holding me back from enjoying the next installment to its fullest.  I even replayed the original, this time playing as Chris instead of Jill, and finally completing the game (I got the so-so ending).

Raccoon City Police Department - my most coveted location in the game

Not only was this game the sequel, it had two discs, one for each character.  Not knowing back then that the easy version of the campaign was the female’s, I started up Claire Redfield’s campaign.  Since I was playing it for the first time along with everyone else (and didn’t yet use the Internet/newsgroups for walkthroughs) I remember being extremely frustrated with this title.  Unlike the original, there was a scant amount of ammo and I wasn’t yet accustomed to dodging zombies, so I kept dying in the disorienting intro.  I’m sure critics at the time applauded the fact that your overall futility mirrored the character’s situation for immersion, but I was ticked off that every time I died I had to restart the whole game, including unskippable in-engine cutscenes.  The first game started you off with a typewriter and an ink ribbon; RE2 required you to run like hell for the first 15-20 minutes before reaching some sort of solace with the Police Department.

These guys were nastier than anything in the original

After reaching the Raccoon City PD, however, it was back to a familiar ground with an all new intriguing story.  Graphically the game was gorgeous, generating great backgrounds and high polygon renders that felt like a well-deserved sequel.  New enemies like the licker gave you a run for your money and the upgraded G-virus made the bosses and bigger uglies more mutant-like and horrifying than ever before.  Still, the game had that familiarity that I was thankful for.  RCPD was basically a bigger version of the mansion, complete with an underground passageway and subsequent lab, just like the original.  Two campaigns and branching storylines also assisted in creating that similar but different feel.  I also liked that the game ended with an obvious setup for multiple sequels.  It was satisfying, especially since that cheap opening was the only truly unfair part of the game – of course this was solely the opinion of my 16-year-old self.

Now: Ironically enough, I find the love and hype surrounding this title to be very questionable, even for nostalgia’s sake.  Back when I first got the game I merely completed the campaign for both Leon and Claire to learn the story, but I never touched the B scenarios and had no idea that Hunk and Tofu were unlockable characters.  Even with those in mind, this game is little more than the next step to what Mikami was finally able to produce in Resident Evil 3: a scenario where you’re literally running the streets of an abandoned Raccoon City.

My only guess is that RE2 was offered on so many consoles – this was the only iteration to get a port on N64, which I still can’t believe – that it’s most familiar to the largest number of players.  This campaign is predictable, short, basically the same path as the original and gets super easy at the end.  It’s one of those games that can be very difficult if you don’t know what’s coming but boss battles don’t even have me batting an eye now that I know all the little tricks.  Remember the first time you took on the big crocodile and he took thousands of hits to kill?  Man was I ticked to find out that one flipped switch and a single bullet could end him quick and easy.  To me, this game just feels too in-between so it doesn’t hold significance in any regard.  Everyone was clamoring for a fleshed out remake after the original’s release but I can’t see why it’s necessary especially considering the sequels.

This is your final boss - have fun!

Fact Sheet

  • Release Date: January 21, 1998
  • Consoles Released For: Playstation, N64, PC, Dreamcast, (modified ver), Gamecube, PSN (PSOne)

Fun Facts

  • Pre-rendered cutscenes were created using stop-motion videos of action figures and adapting them to CG.  Ada Wong’s figure couldn’t be created in time and for this reason she’s the only character not to appear in a pre-rendered cutscene.
  • Ironically, given the circumstances of the original, Resident Evil 2 was given a more gory “game over” screen in the US and was also more difficult to prevent rentals of the title.  In Japan you can’t rent games so it wasn’t a concern.
  • Director Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami apparently disagreed greatly on what RE2 was supposed to be.  Mikami frequently tried to get staff to adjust the game to his liking before eventually deciding to go hands off of the title save for a once-a-month visit.  This would result in the scrapped RE 1.5, although Kamiya was still director and Mikami still producer on the finished product.
1: Various sources have been cited in the past for Mikami’s comment, mine was found in an old copy of Tips & Tricks in regards to a Famitsu interview.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

“You have once again entered the world of survival horror…”

Those famous words set up a genre that has undergone more definitions than probably any other in video games.  Depending on your personal taste in titles, survival horror can mean different things but it was used first and defined by Resident Evil¹.  This game was basically a haunted house brought to life and has spawned a series that many gamers, myself included, follow endlessly.  Despite the direction of the series not holding well with fans of the originals and a slew of poorly made films, Resident Evil lingers on, if only in our nostalgic minds.

Then: It was 1996 and I was still clinging tightly to the 16-bit era, strolling into my local FuncoLand and asking to see the selection of Sega CD games.  Up to that point, simply asking for that section revealed that you had the coveted $400 console powerhouse that so few 14-year-old gamers had at the time.  I had traded a small fortune in Magic cards for mine, but no matter how many Funco employees warned me, I refused to believe that full motion video (FMV) titles like Night Trap and Sewer Shark were horrid.  That is, until the Playstation came out.

I walked in and all of the back wall Sega Genesis/CDs were removed, completely replaced by new consoles: the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation.  With staggering price tags of $400 and $300 respectively I had no chance of getting my hands on these consoles anytime soon.  At the same time, I was intimidated by the introduction of polygons, titles like Virtua Fighter 2 and Battle Arena Toshinden looked daunting to control and complicated.  That is, until I went back to the trade-in section where a screen displayed a group of marine-looking characters getting attacked by an unknown creature.  Even more enticing, the situation was in FMV, a personal favorite of the Sega CD fans, and looked like a cheesy horror film.  While the employee lazily looked up trade-in values for my pathetic stack of Genesis titles I asked him what the game was.  His response said it all: “What?  Resident Evil?  It’s one of the first Playstation games.  Basically it’s a horror game that drops you into a haunted house.”

He couldn’t have handed me the controller fast enough.  I eagerly booted up the game and re-watched the opening cutscene where a group of police officers get attacked by what looked like disfigured dogs and end up in a spooky mansion.  I was worried when the screen displayed those 3D polygons I feared so much, but the camera angles were fixed and the characters moved at a reasonably slow pace that I could control.  I know this is probably a burden to most gamers today, but back then it was more difficult to grasp the concept of 3D space.  I explored a blood smear and entered a back room only to find a zombie feeding on a body – the short cutscene amazed me with its detail and blood.  Before I knew it, I was back in the action and the zombie was coming for me!  I had selected Jill as my character because I’ve always chosen females as my gaming characters if available, and I did what most of us would have done in real life: I ran.  My partner, Barry, was still looking over the blood smear in the dining room and I escaped into there for safety.  Thankfully he pulled out a huge .357 Magnum and blew the zombie’s head clear off.  I was sold.

At that moment the sales guy told me that I would get $22 in store credit and that my game time was up.  I handed him the controller, scooped up my games and headed out the door.  Back in those days it was always good to have a friend with rich parents and that friend in my life was Chris.  It took a few visits and convincing, but eventually Chris took enough interest in Sony’s console to get one.  Not two weeks later he was slated to go on vacation for the weekend and with a ton of begging he agreed to let me borrow the console – unbeknownst to him I had already traded in a slew of games and allowance to purchase Resident Evil on my own.  That was the best weekend of my high school career that didn’t include dating.  Resident Evil had it all – dogs jumping through windows, traps, and even huge sharks and snakes as bosses.  Even the horrid voice acting and the famous “master of unlocking” line² aided in the true b-movie feel.  Furthermore, it was difficult.  As a  console gamer, the concept of saving often, especially when you never knew what was coming next, was new to me.  After stumbling upon a snake with only a handful of Beretta rounds and three shotgun rounds, I quickly learned my lesson.  Sadly, Sunday evening came just a bit too fast and despite nearly 12 hours of persistent playing, Chris came home and I had to give back his Playstation before getting through the final lab.

It would be two more years before I was able to afford and pick up Resident Evil again, but luckily there were a few more games to enjoy at that time.  I had long since sold my copy of the original game, wanting the later released Director’s Cut, and unable to get Chris to show any interest in the game.  I purchased the Director’s Cut  and RE2 in an in-store bundle at Babbage’s and spent an entire summer week, the one my girlfriend always spent camping with her family, surviving the various perils of Raccoon City.

Now:  Resident Evil still holds a special place in my heart (as well as the hearts of many gamers who experienced this title like I did), but my opinion is shrouded in nostalgia.  By the release of the second title, most games were taking advantage of the dual shock controller and offered moveable camera angles.  Protagonists moved with a smoothness like that of Lara Croft, whereas the characters of Resident Evil were boxy, slow-moving, and unable to move with the versatility of their opponents.  It’s pretty sad when you’re competing against a zombie for mobility or speed and losing.  Still, I love the games, even today in all their blurry PSOne mess.  For the newer generation the GameCube or Wii remakes are the way to go, bringing a slightly updated feel to the classic.  I just don’t feel right playing a Resident Evil game without a Playstation controller, though, despite having beaten the game on every possible console/PC iteration.

As a history lesson, it’s a great glimpse into the progress gaming made at the time with the introduction of immersion and monster closets to intensify gameplay.  If you were just hoping to replay a classic and you have never touched a title in the series, you will find Resident Evil hasn’t aged well at all.  Limitations of the time were adapted to create a free flow for gaming, but it’s a tough and slow-paced road from beginning to end.  Heck, you spend most of your time running from and shooting at creatures you can’t even see.

Resident Evil Fact Sheet

  • Date of Release: March 30, 1996
  • Consoles Released for: Playstation, Saturn, PC, GameCube, DS, Wii, PSOne on PSN

As you can see, the update on the GameCube was drastic and visually stunning.

Fun Facts

  • Director Shinji Mikami had previously done an RPG-like version of Resident Evil on the Famicom (NES) back in the 80’s.  The game is named Sweet Home and never released in America (although a translated version is available for emulators).
  • The Japanese version was much more violent and difficult.  Scenes in the opening FMV were altered in America which changed the visuals to black and white, cut so many moments in the attack on Joseph that it’s impossible to tell what happens, and cuts a shot of Chris smoking.  There were also random scares removed from the US version and none of the boxes are connected in the Japanese version (you have to return to the specific box you put items into).  Many of these features were added to the US version in the Director’s Cut, save for the original opening (which was wrongly advertised on the box).
  • Capcom released the Director’s Cut after the original concept for Resident Evil 2 was scrapped and they needed something to keep fans interested.  In the Japanese release you could get the complete edition that allowed you to view video and screens from the canceled game, named Resident Evil 1.5, or simply purchase the regular version that released in the US and contained a demo of Resident Evil 2.
  • In the GameCube remake several new plot points and areas were integrated into the mansion of the original.  Certain puzzles were changed or removed completely while others remained unchanged.  This version is still seen as the most definitive and most difficult of all versions.

1: Resident Evil is known as Biohazard in Japan, although due to legal issues with the band of the same name, the US and European versions had the name changed.
2: The most popular bad line in Resident Evil is when Barry hands Jill a lock pick and says, “maybe you, the master of unlocking, can use it.”

Written by Fred Rojas

October 24, 2011 at 11:14 am


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