Gaming History 101

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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

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