Visual aides will be posted from a PC
Lying somewhere between game freak and having had a fair share of video games, I’ve had a surprisingly low number of instances of rushing home from the store to play my newest, most anticipated game. One to be precise. The Resident Evil reboot on GameCube. Long fan of the classic survival horror and eerie architecture (subjective), I learned of this one a year after it has been out. Couple that with console exclusivity deals and Nintendo’s new direction in the post N-64 generation, and it is summed up why the apprehension in purchasing decision. A seventeen year old won’t just shell out a few hundred bucks. My uncle brought with him the Xbox 360 and a GameCube when he returned from college and, presto, one half of the puzzle was solved. It had been two-and-half years already since the game was first released.
If you loved the original games (debut and sequels) this retained all of the allure of its predecessors with the caveat of throwing in notions of ‘what should have been’ now fulfilled. Granted the original sequel, the massively successful Resident Evil 2, was merely ported as-is to the same console, a prequel was thrown in in its place; Resident Evil Zero. You play as Rebecca in a plot that tells the story of Bravo team’s visit to the woods one day before Alpha is dispatched because contact was lost. Visually it is the Remake with a slight rollback. In terms of gameplay, however there is a buddy system and no magic item boxes. Overall it is not as polished and the enemy lineup runs the gamut from series staple (zombies, dogs and hunters) to the outrageously novel (oversized frogs and bats? Really?) Couple the latter with a sound design that is Code Veronica-esque and you get shades of a hurried product (like most of the posts on this site) though not entirely a shabby one. Personally I never cared for Code Veronica. Although it sounded cool. Enough with the narrative-prequel type of sequel.
Thanks to the more powerful processor of Nintendo’s console, this classic remake benefitted from a realistic rendering of the mansion, and the result is the joy of watching your character walk though hauntingly beautiful stills with a soft color saturation. Visually, this is the video game equivalent of makeup and effects utilized to exceed budgetary constraints to a level that is not even funny. It is as if it were in mockery of the limitations inevitably imposed on every game designer. Consider it a triumph to not merely succumb to the BluRay reissue of old releases ploy, although it is more than the film remakes simply practiced on a video game medium. The game has enough new additions to elevate to more than just a more technically proficient reprise.
You ask, how can a canon-reliant game next outdo itself? Glad you asked. The audio visual binary components here are reimagined. The score retains the old motif but is now joined by different instrumentation of old compositions. A few previously unheard tracks are included. One called the Sombre Interlude, is a terrifying piece first heard after a critical conjecture in the game. Nowhere are plateauing and building for the next episode of suspense tied into sound so beautifully and effectively than at this moment, and every time you hear the piece thereafter. In opposite to all this, and for your eyes, the mansion gets a complete facelift. You now face new rooms and corridors replete with redesigned interiors and shuffled items and artifacts that function as paraphernalia for, you guessed it, new puzzles. The doors are a highlight. The flooring a delight. And the lighting is as what many an effects specialist fails to produce; you walk in dark, dimly lit, and bright sets, sometimes all in one room. Don’t you hate when someone is sleeping in their bedroom in a movie and the lighting just never seems real enough? Maybe because you are not shown the switch from light to dark or vice versa (i.e. the actors don’t touch a light switch, so the dark/light is artificial design). More locations outside the mansion are introduced to expand an adventure that at no point feels bloated or padded. Unless you mismanage your inventory (magic boxes scrapped in Zero). In the story department it is more of the same, but this was 2002, and no one was ever in it for the story then. To recap, a police squad is lured to the mansion through the guise of murder reports only to find sanctuary in a mysterious private estate in the woods nearby. The background of the mansion’s architect features in a subplot previously not (fully) explored in the earlier canon shedding light on the potential nefarious vibes permeating the place, its owner and ultimately its purpose in the same conspiracy you have already uncovered.
Jill and Chris are back as the playable characters. The game is overall harder to play although the difference in difficulty per character is obvious. Chris’ scenario is difficult in comparison but therein lies much appeal. Speaking of which, I like to use Jill’s Sarah Connor’s outfit in the replay mode then go to a specific room where the angle is a frontal closeup. I press the back step button then watch her breasts bounce in an epic display of the congruence between physics and the feminine sex appeal. The excellent lighting work allows for even better opportunities to do that except those are too fleeting to be done on purpose or even recreate immediately! Rebecca is playable in certain situations, much like in the original, except she wasn’t meant to be so endowed I guess. Or maybe her alternate outcome affords her more support. Who cares. You spend the majority of the game with Jill anyway. Barry, Wesker and Richard are all back. The voice acting is not as atrocious as the infamous
The reason an old game featured more than a decade later is it is one I still play from time to time. While the originals were classics that never achieved retro-relevance the same way the Super Mario World had, it is something of a yearly ritual for me to play it while I indulge in nostalgia and wishful fantasy of what the films might have turned out like. That the films eschewed prolonged suspense in favor of overwhelming the characters with back against the wall face-offs with hordes of the undead is counter to what games had always thrived on. The original sequel for instance took full advantage of off camera sound effects to suggest the imminence of danger. Remake honors that tradition and turns the tactic into a sustained onslaught on the player’s emotions. While that is only obvious during the times you play in the mansion, it serves to make the place a nexus of macabre. No other area is visited twice, unless used as a shortcut. The mansion is your imposed home. Your oppressive sanctuary. Elsewhere, you are only passing by. But while you are here, enjoy your stay.