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Welcome to the Survival Horror

Many Ways to Play

by Zachary Miller - March 17, 2011, 5:14 pm PDT

Gotta catch 'em all.

In 1996, Capcom released a game called Resident Evil on the PlayStation. Inspired by an earlier Capcom outing called Sweet Home and loosely based on concepts born in Infogrames’ Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil has become one of the most well-known horror franchises in gaming. Always happy to milk a success, Capcom has eagerly ported, enhanced, and remade this game multiple times over the last 15 years. This gives gamers multiple methods of experiencing the original Biohazard. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? History calls, dear readers!

The original release, on the PlayStation and, soon after, on the Sega Saturn, is infamous in North America for its tank controls, hilariously terrible live-action cut scenes, and the phrase “master of unlocking.” Because of its localized snafus, the game comes off as a B-grade horror movie rather than a real scare-fest. Certainly, the game had its moments. A certain scene involving zombie dogs crashing through the windows still ranks high on this writer’s “jump-out-of-your-seat” moments. The game is honestly difficult to play today, thanks mostly to its archaic control scheme, which, because of the game’s success, became an unfortunate genre standard for the next decade. In Japan, of course, the series is called Biohazard, a much more appropriate moniker. Apparently, it was impossible to trademark the word in North America, so the name Resident Evil was pulled more or less out of thin air.

"Jill, you seem underdressed for this mission"

Just over a year after the game’s 1996 release, a “Director’s Cut” was put out on the PlayStation. It featured rearranged key items, new costumes for the main characters, and small upgrades to the gun combat. It also included the original game, but with an Easy mode with more plentiful ammo and guns that did more damage to enemies. A second version of the Director’s Cut, called the “Dual Shock Ver.,”  was released shortly after the release of that controller and, predictably, featured support for its analog controls and rumble. The game also features a re-done soundtrack and a second disk containing bonus features.

If you’re one of the lucky few to own a Sega Saturn, you’ll get an exclusive mini-game (a survival mode with re-skinned enemies) and two new enemies in the main game: a new breed of Hunter called a Tick, and a second Tyrant. As might be expected, Jill and Chris also got new outfits in this release.

Barry and Jill are approached by a Tick, one of the re-skinned enemies from the Saturn version.

Of course, there’s also a PC version. Thanks to 3D accelerometer support, the graphics are cleaner. Jill and Chris both have new weapons exclusive to this version, and of course they also have exclusive costumes.

In 2002, Capcom made the wise decision to spruce up the original game for Nintendo’s newly-christened GameCube. This wasn’t just a graphical upgrade; it was a full-on remake. All of the terrible live-action cut scenes were replaced by CG cut scenes, and a new voice cast provided professional voice acting to give the story weight and an emotional charge missing from the original localization’s fuzzy translations and overacted delivery. Simply titled Resident Evil, the remake was one of the first GameCube games to really show off the power of the system, and remains one of the best-looking games for the system. The remake in many ways rebooted the entire series and retconned certain aspects of the overarching plot, including Alexia Ashford’s appearance in Code: Veronica and a new subplot involving the tragic test subject Lisa Trevor (one of the game’s most disturbing villains). Although the tank controls remain, Capcom included defensive weapons, a handy quick-turn, and a “run” button to make navigation of the giant Arklay Mansion easier to swallow. Additionally, plenty of bonus modes, new costumes, new weapons, new enemies, and even new areas were added to create a brand-new experience. Easily the most user-friendly version of the game, this GameCube remake, known by fans as the REmake, is not to be missed.

Lisa Trevor was easily the freakiest new addition to the REmake.

In 2006, on the game’s 10th anniversary, Capcom ported the original Resident Evil to the Nintendo DS, calling it Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. More appropriately called an enhanced port, Deadly Silence includes the original game with minimal changes and a Rebirth mode that includes terrible DS-specific gimmicks, such as slashing at zombies with the stylus and giving CPR to a comrade by blowing into the mic. Both game types include appreciated control updates, such as the tactical reload and knife button from Resident Evil 4 and the quick-turn. The action takes place on the bottom screen while the top screen displays either the map or your character’s inventory. Surprisingly, Deadly Silence includes two local multiplayer for up to four people. In one, players work together to solve puzzles and escape the mansion. In another, players kill monsters to compete for a high score. One might call it Mercenaries on a small scale.

And then, of course, there’s the Wii version of the GameCube game, perhaps the most egregious re-release of the game. Titled Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil, the Wii version is a straight port of the GameCube remake with new controls mapped to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk — never mind that the Wii is already backwards-compatible with the GameCube remake itself. The only possible advantage to owning this “Wiimake” is that players no longer have to switch disks before entering the mansion’s research facility.

Slashy slashy!.

Finally, if you own a PlayStation 3 or PSP, you can download the Duel Shock Ver. Of the original game over the PlayStation Network, although you should know that it’s borderline unplayable on Sony’s ubiquitous handheld.

There you have it, folks! With so many ways to play the world’s most famous horror game, there’s no excuse for missing out. Myself, I wholeheartedly endorse the excellent GameCube game. Just be warned, they kept that dog scene in, and it’s still scary, even when you know it’s coming!



OblivionMarch 17, 2011

Was the series ever that scary? I've heard the first three are, but I guess that sort of thing is subjective.

My first experience with the game was with the GC remake, which I rented. I hated it so much that it led to me ignoring all the praise of RE4 until I played a friend's copy of the Wii version.

pandaradoxMarch 17, 2011

The unfortunate part of Resident Evil is that you had to be there at the time of the game's release.  These games have a hard time standing the test of time because the stuff introduced in each gets copied, compromising originality and the experience.  When I played RE 1 on the saturn, I was thoroughly impressed with the danger of the game and it's great sense of atmosphere.  When I went back to play the remake, it only held it's own because I had the perspective of the first game to relate back to and those feelings were still very much engrained in me.  If you weren't there, you simply missed out.  This is why RE 4 probably resonated with you much more because it's not as old.  It's the whole great conversation and whatnot that can skew the context that each iteration needs to be taken in. 

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 17, 2011

I remember watching the first Resident Evil game being played around and I'll be honest, I thought it was pretty disturbing and scary. It was the first game of its kind for me. I mean, that first zombie you see in the first game actually impressed me. Note this was before zombies were EVERYWHERE in the media, so the rarity of the creature made it that much fascinating and disturbing to watch.

I didn't have a PlayStation, but I did have a Gamepro subscription so I learned a lot about the series. I finally managed to play the third game thanks to my cousins, and it was really fun. The game startled me, but I still had fun.

The problem, I think, the RE series has now is that zombies are no longer scary. They are now overused to the point where they are no longer appealing. I think it was smart of them to change them for RE 4.

ShyGuyMarch 17, 2011

RE4 had the Regenerators, which were their own kind of disturbing.


NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 17, 2011

Quote from: ShyGuy

RE4 had the Regenerators, which were their own kind of disturbing.


It also had some of the most disturbing deaths in any game to date. :O

TJ SpykeMarch 18, 2011

Like with insano, my first time playing a RE game was with the GameCube remake (and that was because of how great EGM made it sound). However, I liked the game and found it really fun.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 18, 2011

The next page of the feature is up, Andy Goergen remembers his experience with the Resident Evil Remake:

RazorkidMarch 18, 2011

When I was in high school, I didn't know anything about this game. I remember watching my friend play the first RE during a sleep over on playstation and it scared the crap outta me. For one, the graphics were incredible at the time, and I've never played or watched a game up to that point which was intentionally trying to scare you!

Also, I too miss being able to seclude myself and just get lost in hours upon hours of gaming (breaking only to eat and go to the bathroom).

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusMarch 18, 2011

I don't think the RE games have ever been scary. Startling yes, disturbing yes, cool yes, but never scary. The last time I saw something scary on TV was back when I was 5 and saw bits Aliens. I don't doubt it would be scary for people with much weaker mental constitution.

There is a game I have, but I don't play. It's called Penumbra. I watched a LP of it and quite frankly I don't want to play it. Not because the gameplay is bad or graphics are terrible. I dread the helplessness and isolation that game instills the player. I wouldn't even call it survival horror, just plain Horror. There are extremely limited ways to fight back which don't even exists in the sequel. In a way, it is the ultimate stealth game, but you have to run most of the time. You have to break your instincts as a gamer that you can just kill everything or you can always fight back.

That said, I don't ever want RE to be like that. It's not what RE is about. RE always has fight or flight, but has always leaned heavily towards fight.

RazorkidMarch 18, 2011

Yeah, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is like that. It's from the same developer and is a game that just terrorizes you the whole way.  I mean you are keyed up! And of course, there is no combat (the best element to make any game 10X scarier).

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 19, 2011

The next page of the feature is up, the history of the RE series on Nintendo consoles, written by me:

TansunnMarch 19, 2011

What are these "multiplayer modes in Resident Evil 4" you speak of? 

And why do the screenshot thumbnails, except for the first one and the last two, bring up pictures of kittens when clicked?

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 19, 2011

Are the pictures of kittens from Nintendogs + Cats? If so, yeah, the HTML coding I used had those pictures. Regarding the RE 4 multiplayer mode, I meant to say the "Mercenary Modes", though I could have sworn there was a Mercenary mode that had some form of multiplayer. I;ll fix those as soon as the page itself goes back to normal.

There will be multiplayer in the 3DS version of Mercenaries. Boy, do I WISH RE4 Mercs had multiplayer.

TenserMarch 19, 2011

Great read Pedro.

Sweet Home is an excellent game. I've completed it three times myself and it really shows the roots of Resident Evil. One of the notes near the balcony even loosely translates to the mansion as a house of residing evil.

Anyone who enjoys difficult, exploration base, old-school RPGs should check it out.

pandaradoxMarch 29, 2011

Quote from: oohhboy

I don't think the RE games have ever been scary. Startling yes, disturbing yes, cool yes, but never scary. The last time I saw something scary on TV was back when I was 5 and saw bits Aliens. I don't doubt it would be scary for people with much weaker mental constitution....

...That said, I don't ever want RE to be like that. It's not what RE is about. RE always has fight or flight, but has always leaned heavily towards fight.

Interesting way to look at it.  It's not necessarily weaker mental constitution.  I grew up watching horror films and thrillers of the sort.  My father would wait for tense moments and randomly yell to scare us (note: he's a good father, just a joker too).  So naturally, I became calloused to the genre.  The great thing about video games is that they ask you to forfeit yourself in light of the game's protagonist.  One of the biggest appeals of a game is to become someone else and not just passively experience that.  You get to be Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine.  Your responses are now theirs and you are in charge of their lives. 

If anything, this is asking a stronger mental constitution...

RE wants you to fight, that's how it's designed.  While it tries to intimidate and scare you, it gives you the ability to fight back, which is unique given that horror films bank on the feeling of helplessness as characters run and as the audience can only watch.  Jason would be a lot less scary if you were put in control of the characters and given multiple retries and weapons to fight back with.  That sense of empowerment is important for the series.  It's Survival. It's your imagination that changes the game.  Weaker minds would have trouble getting into it.  Accepting the reality of the game.  That is what makes RE fans come back.  They choose that world.

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