Survival of Horror: Resident Evil (1996)

I always wondered how people beat adventure games back in the early days of gaming. Text adventures, point-and-click adventures, how could one handle such punishing titles? They always appeared to be so obtuse to my young brain. There was so much trial and error, requiring you to be on your toes no matter what screen you were on. Sometimes, moon logic would have to take over and the answer to your issue would be the most absurd thing you could think of. The idea of it made me crazy as a kid. The most I had tolerated of these games was the Pajama Sam series, which was specifically designed to be easier for younger players such as myself.

Why am I bringing up this genre? It’s simple. Somehow, a little developer known as Capcom (maybe you’ve heard of them) managed to take this style of gameplay and turn it into the largest horror franchise in all of entertainment history. Resident Evil, a media empire that encompasses video games, movies, manga, novels, toys, and blood-scented candles. Beloved the world over, this franchise giant started its humble beginnings as, of all things, a remake of a Famicom movie tie-in title.

Originally, Capcom was set to make a Playstation version of Sweet Home, a horror RPG released only in Japan. When that fell through, they decided to go in another direction: an FPS game about ghost-hunting. After that, a game with a cyborg teammate. There was even a brief stint where the game had co-op. Eventually, the team settled into what we would come to know as Resident Evil.

That is the series I’ve fallen in love with. Resident Evil (or in Japan, Biohazard) is nothing short of my favorite franchise. It’s many things all at once: Scary. Hilarious. Horror. Action. Grounded. Over-the-top. The series has worn so many hats that it’s easy for some aspects to appeal to nearly anyone under the sun. I want to look into what makes this series such a longstanding success. Why do I love this series so much?

I did this previously with my Year of Final Fantasy several years ago when I worked for TechRaptor. This time, my eye turns toward the Spencer Estate and whatever monstrosities lie within. The 25th anniversary of the franchise is in March of next year. I’m beyond thrilled to revisit the series, where I’ll be replaying and writing about each and every main title, one per month until the big 25. There may even be some guest appearances for some spinoffs!

Now, let me tell you something: for a series that only goes up to 7 in terms of numbers, Resident Evil has fourteen main games. It’s nuts! However, I’m not going to let that dissuade me. I’ll gladly take any opportunity to play these games over again, this time with a more critical eye than before. Who knows what we’ll uncover together?

With that all said, strap in. Hop in the helicopter, crash in the forest, and make for that mansion with me. It’s time to take a trip back in time to the Spencer Estate. Welcome to Survival of Horror!

This is part of an on-going series. Be sure to check out the other entries in Survival of Horror!

Resident Evil — March 22, 1996 (PS1, PC, Saturn, DS)

Version used for review: Resident Evil: Deadly Silence, 2006

Warning: This review will spoil the entire game!

Story
“ They have escaped into the mansion, where they thought it was safe. Yet…”

The series begins, as most horror stories do, with murder. Resident Evil begins on July 24th, 1998. In the Midwest, poor Raccoon City is suffering a bit of cannibalism. Hikers and other people are being slaughtered in the nearby Arklay Mountains, and nobody can make sense of it. The local police department decides to send their elite police force, the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.), to investigate. Bravo team takes a helicopter into the forest, but 24 hours later nobody has heard from them. The Raccoon Police Department then sends in Alpha team, who discover a grounded chopper and nobody else. Something is very clearly wrong here…

♫ How bizzar, how bizzar! ♫

These fears are immediately confirmed as the team is set upon by a pack of vicious dogs, which immediately assaults team member Joseph Frost and shreds him to pieces in front of his teammates. Realizing he can’t be saved and that they’re next, the team retreats to their helicopter, only to find that their pilot Brad Vickers has fled in fear, taking the chopper with him and stranding them. Things look grim as the wild beasts turn their sights on the others.

The four remaining members of Alpha Team run for their lives, attempting to shoot the animals to keep them at bay. As they make their way through the brush and trees, a looming mansion comes into view in the woods, and they retreat into it in hopes of finding respite. However, Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton and Albert Wesker may have been safer outside. This is the Spencer Estate, full of traps and horrible monsters! It’s here that the story truly begins, and where your choice of character matters.

Resident Evil is an interesting tale, because the story it tells is broken. Not in the sense that it isn’t coherent, but in the sense that you can’t experience its story all at once. You start off the game choosing between two S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team members, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. While they have various gameplay differences that I’ll be discussing later, your choice has story ramifications as well. Each character unveils a segment of the game’s plot, and to date the two characters’ stories have never completely aligned. It’s almost like the game is told through what each character sort of remembers happening, while the player is left to put the two pieces together to fit a whole plot. It’s quite a bold storytelling move for 1996!

That isn’t to say the story is incredible by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a tale of mad science and corporate espionage, heavily inspired by B-movie horror schlock and wearing that inspiration proudly on its big, bulky shoulder pads. As you explore the mansion as either character, you immediately discover things far worse than the dogs. One of the first sights you uncover is a man hunched over your Bravo teammate, Kenneth. As you approach closer, you realize this man is… eating him! His face half-devoured, Kenneth’s head falls uselessly to the floor and the horrible zombie turns its sights on you.

This gave kids nightmares in 1996. And me in 2020. Gross.

This is where the story heavily diverges. Each playable character gets their own side character that they interact with in the story. In Chris’ route, he’ll encounter S.T.A.R.S. Bravo teammate Rebecca Chambers, a boisterous rookie that somehow made it out alive from the initial search. For Jill, her partner is the aforementioned Barry Burton, a grizzled middle-aged man with a very big magnum.

The two side characters never intersect, so while each protagonist plays through the same areas, the story events that unfold are mostly different. When playing as Jill, you may come across a pretty shotgun and find yourself locked in a room with a trapped ceiling. Here, Barry can save Jill and deliver one of the most well-known lines in gaming history. For Chris, there is no Barry to save him. He has to solve the puzzle to get his boomstick. However, Rebecca can come to his aid in other ways throughout his journey to compensate.

You see, blinding him with aerosol helps him! …Somehow.

The common thread between each character is Albert Wesker, the team’s captain. Soon after they make it to the mansion, they split up for only a moment with Wesker and return to find him missing. With their captain gone, everyone decides they need to figure out how to escape this horrible nightmare. With a house full of zombies, dogs and other monstrosities, everyone splits up to see if they can find a way to contact Brad.

Later on, each character finds out that the pharmaceutical company Umbrella is responsible for these monsters. Though they appear to be a harmless drug company, the Umbrella Corporation uses their massive funding to experiment with various viruses that can create dangerous bioweapons to sell to the highest bidder. One of these viruses, the T-Virus, leaks into the labs that are beneath the very mansion in which the S.T.A.R.S. are taking refuge. It turns out that the people murdering the citizens of Raccoon City are all zombies that escaped from Umbrella’s lab!

In this laboratory hidden beneath a fountain (because of course it is) that you need to drain by using two hollow books con two medals that you slot into each side of the fountain (because of course you do), you also discover that your team captain has double-crossed all of you. He’s been working for Umbrella for quite some time. This whole setup was his idea. He wanted to test the capabilities of all the creatures in the mansion against the S.T.A.R.S. to garner valuable combat data for the pharmaceutical company.

I’m sorry to spoil it for you, but yes. The man wearing all black and sunglasses at night IS the bad guy.

In Jill’s story, it’s here that Barry sides with Wesker and betrays Jill as well. Wesker has threatened his wife and two daughters, so he must do as he says or they all die. For Chris, Wesker shows just how cold he can be by shooting Rebecca in the chest without remorse. Either way, he chooses to show the player the creature for which the T-Virus is named: the Tyrant. It’s a hulking creature, a humanoid figure with a pulsating heart outside its chest and a giant claw for a hand. In his hubris, Wesker activates the Tyrant to finish off the player, only for the creature to turn on him and skewer him first.

After you defeat the monstrosity, Barry apologizes to Jill. Rebecca gets up and groans, and we see that she was wearing a bulletproof vest. Depending on who you play as, the lab’s self-destruct sequence starts either by Wesker (whose body is now missing), or Rebecca, who mentions that she noticed the self-destruct device earlier. Eventually, you all reach the helipad and signal Brad via a flare. However, the Tyrant shows up angrier than ever, mutating and becoming even stronger than before. Narrowly avoiding his vicious swings, you fight back long enough for Brad to show up! He drops down a rocket launcher, which you use to finally obliterate the science project for good.

Rocket launchers: Creating Rayman since 1996.

Everyone escapes as the lab, mansion and entire estate go up in flames in a wild explosion. The S.T.A.R.S. fly off in the helicopter back toward the city, grateful to be alive after such a harrowing ordeal. That, or the mansion doesn’t explode and the Tyrant lives to stalk the forest another day. Or maybe Chris and Jill survive but Rebecca doesn’t. Or Jill and Barry make it but Chris dies.

There are so many story decisions you can make throughout Resident Evil that change the outcome of your ending, which is very cool for replays of the game. You can save your side character and also the other protagonist to get the best ending, you can save neither and get the worst ending, or one or the other and get an okay ending for each one. There are a lot of choices for each character, and it’s a welcome addition to an otherwise thin plot.

As I said before though, it’s not an amazing plot. It’s fairly predictable and it’s told with some of the most impressively poor acting to date, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Be that as it may, Resident Evil tells a simple story that gets the job done. It’s not Oscar-worthy by any stretch of the imagination, but it is good enough to get someone interested in seeing where it goes.

Graphics
“Wow, what a mansion!”

Being a member of the first generation of consoles to utilize full 3D polygons, Resident Evil had some issues in development. Nearly everyone seemed to struggle with this new frontier for gaming in its early years, with a few standout exceptions. Unfortunately, Capcom’s horror title was having these same problems with the hardware. Rendering giant, detailed rooms was proving to tax the Playstation hardware far too much. The game was running at a snail’s pace, and something needed to be done.

Director Shinji Mikami then turned to another popular horror series, Alone in the Dark, for inspiration. That game utilized static camera angles, meaning that the creator could strategically place the camera in certain spots to frame a game’s environment exactly as they wanted the player to see it at any given moment. In addition to this, and the part more pertinent to Mikami’s hardware troubles, were the use of pre-rendered backgrounds. What this means is the developers took highly detailed environments and rendered a high-quality picture of them. This picture, as you might expect, requires much less processing power to display. It also offered up backgrounds that could display far more detail than if everything were rendered in real time at the cost of being unable to move the camera (since the backgrounds are pictures, not 3D models). You then add collision detection based where one would be when walking around said background.

This proved to be exactly what Resident Evil needed in order to get running. The Spencer Estate suddenly sprang to life on PS1 hardware with the inclusion of these pre-rendered backgrounds, and the game began to purr for Capcom. Because of this method of rendering, characters and enemies were able to be modeled with more polygons, making them look sharper than other models of the time. The estate itself looked great as well, with Capcom able to show off the lavish mansion and its grounds as an elegant front for the dim and creepy tunnels and laboratory lying beneath.

Blowing up DS screenshots doesn’t really do it justice.

By today’s standards it’s not exactly controversial to say that Resident Evil looks dated. As with just about any game of that time, the Playstation hardware made the game look wildly impressive… in 1996. Surprising nobody, it’s not exactly a looker in 2020. Not many games of that early-generation era held up graphically, however. Of the bunch, Resident Evil looks great by comparison to its competition. The use of pre-rendered backgrounds helps to make the mansion feel more lived-in, with details scattered throughout the entire estate to help sell the illusion that the Umbrella Corporation wants you to see.

That being said, the few full motion video cutscenes in the game have definitely aged the worst of any of the game’s graphical elements. FMV in the 90s was almost always choppy and poor, and sadly Resident Evil is no exception. Thankfully these scenes are extremely sparse, but you can tell the second you see it. In addition to poor FMVs, this first entry is the only one to have live action actors. For the intro and the various endings, a cast of real actors are used. However, it’s exactly as hilarious as you expect from a first-time Japanese game director directing no-name English-speaking actors on a budget the size of a mildly long grocery shopping list. If you haven’t seen the intro, I implore you to seek it out on YouTube. You wouldn’t be able to tell it was a horror game if I didn’t write it here for you!

All in all, the use of pre-rendered backgrounds end up being a great setup for Resident Evil and a fantastic way to skirt around the limitations of the Playstation hardware. The backgrounds look good by the standards of the PS1’s early days, and the character and enemy models benefit from the additional polygons. It ends up crafting a very pretty 1996 showcase for Sony’s introduction to the console space.

Sound
“Is that voice Enrico’s?”

Do I really have to talk about the voice acting? Surely you’ve all heard it a thousand times by now. It’s quite possibly the most famous part of Resident Evil. I know it’s bad, you know it’s bad, can we move on? …No? Oh. Okay then.

When I say bad, I mean it is the stuff of legends. Even if you’ve never touched this series once in your life, you have definitely heard some of these classics of bad voice acting. I touched on this earlier, but you have to remember that this was a Japanese game director’s first game. As if that weren’t enough, he was trying to communicate with English actors that were getting paid jack, and if they were lucky, squat. This turned out to be a beautiful mess that brought us some of the most hilarious dialogue to grace our precious ears.

Whether you’re chomping on a Jill Sandwich or praising the master of unlocking, it’s hard to overstate how ridiculous nearly every interaction sounds in this game. See, in the 90s, good localization was not really a priority. As such, lines that sound perfectly fine in Japanese turn into an alphabet soup that congeals into something that could be mistaken for English. In a weird way, it perfectly fits the B-movie tone of the game. The funniest part about this is that Resident Evil is only dubbed in English. As it takes place in America, Capcom chose to make the game’s cast only speak English, with Japanese subtitles. Many of those players would read one thing and not realize that what they were hearing was some severely screwy interpretation.

Thankfully, the music in Resident Evil fares much better in this regard. Music is a universal language, after all! Masami Ueda crafted the soundtrack to the game, and he had a fantastic turnout for the franchise’s first installment. Not only that, but it was the composer’s very first time composing as well. He did an incredible job for his first ever produced work.

Some highlights that jump out to me are some of the more ambient tracks that play during your trip through the Spencer Estate. The first one that comes to mind is the very first theme that plays when you’re going through the mansion, aptly named “First Floor of the Mansion”. It sets the tone for the environment very well, a fitting piece for showing off an elegant mansion with something sinister lying just beneath. It doesn’t jump you right into the horror, it eases you into it slowly. Something is wrong, you just can’t tell what yet.

Another standout for me is the “Mansion Basement” track — no, not that one! I know you’ve probably heard the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut Dual Shock Version and wondered how I dare to put a track like that in this game. However, that re-release had totally different music and a new composer, Mamoru Samuragochi. A supposedly legendary composer, it was discovered that he was losing his hearing and that what resulted in the ever-horrible rendition of “Mansion Basement”. Sad for any composer, but inspiring that he was able to forge onward. Until he was found out to be lying for decades, that is. Not only was he not deaf, but he wasn’t even really a composer for most of the time!

Sorry, I got off track here but that turns out to be one of the most interesting stories surrounding the first Resident Evil game, so I had to share it. Anyway, back to the point. The “Mansion Basement” track in the original release is great. It comes at a time when you’ve fallen into a hole and the only way out is to go through the zombie-infested basement. It sounds sharp as notes cut off suddenly and harsh with its banging percussion, echoing the panicked gameplay on the screen as the strings mimic the tension reaching a high point in the game.

Another fantastic standout is “Third Floor of the Laboratory”. This is when you descend the staircase from the lab’s entrance beneath the mansion. You’re met with disturbingly grotesque naked zombies that were clearly being used for experiments with the T-Virus. In addition, the laboratory itself feels grimy and unkempt. It’s cold, desolate and endlessly unnerving. Yet again, Ueda captures this feeling in musical form, creating a haunting melody with the unnatural sound of synthesizers to match the horrendous experiments lurking within.

There are plenty more tracks worth your time and attention, but I’ll leave it there for now. Suffice to say, the music is fantastic and Ueda’s freshman attempt at composing is stellar. He manages to perfectly encapsulate the mood of any given room and put it into song.

Overall, sound is a bit of a mixed bag or all good, depending on if you’re a glass-half-full type or not. For me, the music is remarkable. The voice acting, however, can be a severe point of contention. There’s little argument that it’s objectively bad, but it’s so hard not to fall victim to the charms of the horrendous VA. That’s not to knock the actors themselves, by the way, merely the direction they were given by a director who was working around language barriers. That being said, for me the acting is entertaining because it’s bad. I can absolutely understand if others feel differently, though. However, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Whiny Wesker and I don’t think you would, either.

If you’ve played this game, you can practically hear his voice crack from this image.

Gameplay

“Stop. Don’t OPEN that DOOR!”

As you might have guessed from just about anything in this article thus far, Resident Evil is a horror game. Unlike other games in the at-the-time budding genre, Mikami’s first attempt in the space was to create a different little genre all his own. Dubbed “survival horror”, he wanted to make a game where you are severely outmatched in nearly every way. However, Mikami didn’t want the player to feel powerless. He set out to make a game where you’re at a disadvantage, but can still defend yourself if you’re smart.

With that in mind, you set out into the depths of the Spencer Estate. Now, remember what I said earlier about static camera angles and pre-rendered visuals? This immediately posed another problem to Mikami and his team when making the game. By going to the boundaries of the screen, you would transition to a different screen that may have put you at a different perspective or position than the previous screen. If you were holding in the direction of the screen transition, you would be moving in an entirely different direction after you changed to another screen.

It’s here that Mikami chose to take more inspiration from Alone in the Dark. That game utilized a control scheme called tank controls, and Resident Evil does as well. What this means is that no matter where your character is standing, the movement controls never change. If you press up on the D-pad, your character will move forward in front of where they’re looking. D-pad down means you step backwards, and left and right pivot you in those directions. This works well with these fixed camera angles because even after a screen transition, you’re still moving in the same direction and can react accordingly.

This control scheme can be a headache for some, but I never found myself having a problem with it. If you’re not familiar with it, then it will take some time to get used to. However, because the game is well-designed, there are several rooms before you’re in any immediate danger. This lets you test the controls and get a handle on them before the game tosses you into the deep end.

Using these tank controls, you must navigate the harrowing mansion and various grounds of the Spencer Estate. You encounter all sorts of grotesque creations during your visit: zombies, dogs, giant snakes and sharks, gigantic spiders, horrible frog-like Hunters, and more.

Pictured: More.

The game paces out the introduction of these enemies well enough that it maintains a level of tension throughout the game. A new area can bring scary new threats, so it keeps you on your toes at all times. Hell, even when you eventually return to an area or two later on, the enemy layout has changed. You can never know what to expect here!

Combat in Resident Evil is quite basic. When encountering an enemy, you aim whatever weapon you have equipped. Now, this game has no real method for precise aiming and isn’t built around it. You aim, line up your shot in the direction of the enemy, and let loose. You can also aim your angle upward or downward, in case you’re fighting an enemy crawling on the ground or on a staircase landing above you.

In the Japanese version of the game, aiming your weapon automatically aims it at the nearest enemy, and you can cycle between targets by pressing a certain button. However, because Capcom wanted to sell lots of rentals in the United States, they wanted to increase the difficulty. As such, they ordered Mikami to remove this auto-aim feature from the original North American release. It does make the game harder, but not impossibly so. You simply have to line up your shots well.

In addition to facing off against various terrible creatures, the player will have to contend with puzzles and traps throughout their journey. The Spencer Mansion is filled with locked doors and hidden passages that are all blanketed by various puzzles, machines, keys and other things that stand in your way. Sometimes, it’s as simple as “this key goes in this door”. Other times, you’ll need to do a bit of chemistry in order to create a plant-killing formula. It’s no wonder the people at Umbrella had issues, even getting around their workplace can be a maze-like chore!

It’s worth noting that this is also an acceptable solution to problems.

The nice thing about the mansion is that the game expects you to learn the layout of everything so you never feel lost. Mikami set up the mansion like a puzzle box that constantly sends you from one wing to the other in order to familiarize the player with its layout. As a fan of the game, I haven’t had to look at the map in years since I know the Spencer Estate so well. However, it’s not hard for just about any player to get to that position. Mikami lays out the mansion so well that it becomes second nature for players after the first one or two playthroughs of Resident Evil.

You will want to play through at least twice, by the way. As I mentioned before, you choose between two different characters at the start of the game. In addition to the story changes brought on by your character choice, they play a bit differently as well. Jill Valentine can carry eight items at a time, while Chris Redfield can only carry six. She also gets a lockpick, allowing her to open various desk drawers littered throughout the mansion. By contrast, Chris has to find small keys that take up some of his already-limited inventory. Not only that, but Jill gets a grenade launcher that Chris misses out on entirely, and under certain conditions she can bypass a puzzle or two as well. While it sounds like Chris gets a raw deal, he does have one distinct advantage over Jill: he has far more health than she does, meaning he can take more punishment before needing to use precious healing items. The two stories add up to make a fairly different game for each character, so I recommend trying both.

Most importantly of all regarding gameplay, however, is that the game is fun. It’s a blast to run around the mansion and experience everything again and again, especially with the various endings you can get. I always have a good time running around the mansion, and that’s how I know Resident Evil has fun core gameplay. The game is actually quite short compared to other games of the time, but it has the right design to make it fun to play over and over.

Extras/Replay Value

“See? Just relax, and play.”

Upon finishing Resident Evil, you may find yourself wanting more. It’s a tantalizingly addicting game, and Capcom wanted something to encourage replays. In addition to the two-character setup, the game also has several different rewards for completion. You can get different costumes for each player, but the big reward is what encourages the most replays. If you can map everything out in your head enough to beat the game in under three hours, you’re gifted the holy grail of the franchise: the Infinite Rocket Launcher!

♫ O come ye, o come ye to Raccoon City! ♫

Sing, cherubim, sing your praises! Somebody call Squaresoft, because there’s a new RPG in town! All those pesky monsters that terrified you throughout the game? Begone! Got an annoying Hunter problem? Bombs away! The Tyrant giving you some guff? Rain hell upon your mortal foes! You’re not trapped in the Spencer Estate with these monsters, they’re trapped in here with you! Seriously, I can’t overstate the catharsis that the infinite rocket launcher brings. It’s glorious, and the perfect reward for a horror game. Going through and nuking everything in your path is satisfying in ways that are hard to put to words.

As if that weren’t enough, various editions of Resident Evil also brought various other bonuses and modes to the table. The Sega Saturn port of the game brings us the series’ first Battle Game, a timed mode where you have to run through waves of enemies, killing them in order to get a high score. It’s fairly basic, but an extra mode is still welcome to set it apart from the original game.

Speaking of the original game, the PS1 got a Director’s Cut version of the game a year later, as an apology for the delay of the much-anticipated Resident Evil 2. This new version has interesting things like new camera angles in the house and different costumes to unlock, but it also adds new game mechanics. The pistol in the game now has a chance to shoot off a zombie’s head, which gives it a lot of utility. However, the biggest addition brought to this version is Arrange Mode, which swaps around a bunch of items and enemies to throw veterans off their game. It’s a neat mode that’s worth checking out. Just keep in mind, if you’re looking for this version of the game, do not buy the Dual Shock version with the changed music. Buyer beware!

The final version with new content is the DS release, Deadly Silence. Capcom developed this port to celebrate the series’ 10th anniversary and it is, without a doubt, the most feature-packed release of the original Resident Evil to date. In addition to having the Classic mode of the game, Deadly Silence introduces Rebirth Mode. It’s like Arrange Mode from the Director’s Cut, but changed around even further and adding in touchscreen and microphone-based minigames. Sometimes, you may find yourself in first-person when you enter a room. Here, you have to use your knife to stab and slash through some enemies before you can continue into the room again. Other puzzles are replaced with touchscreen-based ones as well.

What’s worse: The computer in the super-secret lab being locked by a three-letter password, or that horrible keyboard?

This little knife addition is its own mode in Deadly Silence as well, The Master Of Knifing. You attempt to go through five stages of enemy waves, scoring high in an attempt to unlock characters… for multiplayer. Oh yes, Resident Evil: Deadly Silence has multiplayer. Co-op or Versus, you and up to three friends can select from nine characters to go through several stages of the estate, either trying to escape together or escape before your opponents do. It’s a fun little diversion, and I had a blast playing with some of my friends when I first played it a couple years ago. As you’d expect, it’s a bit hard to get four copies of the game together nowadays, but if you can get even one friend to try it with you, give it a shot!

As if Deadly Silence didn’t have enough to wow you with, they also implemented several gameplay changes that make it, for my money, the best version of the original Resident Evil. A big one of these is the ability to skip cutscenes and door animations altogether. As much as I love the door loading animations, it’s nice to be able to just zip by them whenever I feel like playing some of the original game. This version also adds in the quick-turn feature first introduced in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, which makes moving around the mansion just that bit more smooth.

The knife no longer takes up an inventory slot. Instead, it’s auto-equipped with the L button, just like in Resident Evil 4. This version even adds manual reloading from that game as well. Pepper in some new extra costumes and you have a winner. Oh, what’s that? I haven’t sold you on the features yet? Well, I have just the thing, because I saved the biggest gameplay tweak of all. In this amazing, glorious version of the game, you can… become a sexual deviant and touch your characters…? When I was younger I thought this was hilarious, but looking back on it, it’s… uh… it’s definitely a choice. Using the stylus, when Jill, Chris or Rebecca are in their idle animations, you can touch the breasts or butt with your stylus and they’ll react accordingly. This hasn’t quite aged well, as you might’ve picked up. I felt the need to mention it just because it’s so incredibly bizarre.

All that aside, you can see that the developers had lots of interesting ideas for extra modes to put into the game. Anything from unique costumes to awesome weapons, from knife challenges to co-op, Capcom threw a bunch of stuff at the wall and a lot of it stuck. Not all the additions are implemented great and some are borderline creepy, but overall, there’s plenty to keep you playing for a few hours after you escape the mansion.

Conclusion
“Wow, that was great!”

Looking back at the humble beginnings of this series, I can hardly believe Resident Evil turned out to be as big as it is now. I love the game, but I never could’ve predicted that Capcom would have created the largest horror IP of all time. To be honest, Capcom clearly had no idea the goldmine they had on their hands either. It’s a quick, exciting experience that doesn’t take up much time. It’s just arcadey enough, with enough variation to encourage and support many replays. At the time, it was scary enough to stick in everyone’s minds.

A lot of this first entry is “enough”. It passes the bar in so many areas despite it being the first in the series, headed by a lot of first-time developers and a first-time director working in a genre that was largely unexplored. In some ways, the game even created a genre in the form of survival horror. That said, it’s not perfect by any means. There are some rough edges, some due to the passing of time, and some due to the fact that it was a freshman team through and through. Despite this, Mikami and his team delivered a package that still stands the test of time, even with its few faults.

Resident Evil is worth your time, even if you just play it once. Seeing the birth of one of gaming’s most popular franchises can be a gamble. Sometimes, it plays great and remains great even to this day. Other times, it may show its age and simply not be fun compared to what we’re used to today. On this spectrum, Resident Evil lands closer to the former. The gameplay is solid, the music holds up, there are tons of things to do after you escape, and it remains memorable throughout despite (or perhaps because of) the hilariously stilted voice acting. As far as firsts go, this one is a hit!

Oh stop it, you’re making me blush.

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Connor Foss

Just a writer who loves games and specifically survival horror!