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.
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!