One of the major gaming memories I commonly cite is the time when the Resident Evil remake on Gamecube gave me nightmares. Because, you know, I’d rather tell you about myself at my wussiest, rather than, say, how great I was at F-Zero GX.
I think I just had to play it because it was the prettiest game I’d seen at the time. Oh, sure, I knew that the backgrounds were pre-rendered, but the level of detail is just out of this world. It was the greatest thing I’d ever laid eyes on, so I, of course, played it despite all the nightmares it gave me.
I later predicted, quite incorrectly, that we’d never see a modern port of the game because the backgrounds were rendered in 4:3 480p resolution, and it seemed unfathomable that Capcom would put forth the effort to modify that to modern standards. Oh, how wrong I was, because not long after I voiced that prediction to a friend of mine, the Resident Evil remake was ported to modern consoles.
That was then, however. Nowadays, video games are my realm, and within them, I am a god. Therefore, it’s difficult for me to really get scared by a game. I felt safe revisiting my old nightmares this time around and was able to appreciate it for the game it is, rather than for how many times I had to walk away due to terror.
If you’re unfamiliar, the original Resident Evil is the story of some super-cops who are sent to a mansion in the middle of a forest to search for the previous team of super-cops who went missing. Inside the mansion, they find zombies. It’s then up to you to unravel the mystery behind what caused all these zombies to hang about.
Resident Evil was first released for the Playstation back in 1996. It was revolutionary in many ways, often credited with popularizing the survival horror genre if you ignore all those Alone in the Dark games. Or Clock Tower on the Super Famicom. Or, heck, its obvious progenitor, Sweet Home on the Famicom.
In any case, it was a popular game that spawned a series that continues running to this day. However, like many games of its era, it aged like garbage. Its cutscenes are goofy, the voice acting is terrible, and the graphics, well, they’re tolerable if you like games from that time period.
So, Capcom promised to bring every Resident Evil game to the Gamecube and one of its first orders of business was to completely remake the original game. Six years made a world of difference to the game.
What hasn’t changed about the game is its static, pre-rendered backdrops. Unlike games in the series post-Resident Evil 4, you’re not given a behind-the-shoulder vier of the action, but rather you see everything from fixed camera angles.
What has changed is that the game is visibly gorgeous. Not only are the pre-rendered backgrounds lavishly detailed, but the character and item models are too. You’re given the option to inspect each item, and how well they hold up to scrutiny is amazing. It’s hard to believe this game was originally released on Gamecube. I’m as impressed now as I was then.
You can either play as Jill “Bra-less” Valentine or Chris “Vanilla” Redfield. This isn’t the scenario A and B setup from later games, however, the two storylines are just different takes on the same chain of events. Chris, for example, gets partnered with rookie Rebecca Chambers, while Jill is set up with the overly reliable Barry Burton. Certain events play out differently, but you’re essentially playing the same game either way you go. It’s still a nice way to promote replays.
Resident Evil’s brand of horror goes beyond sticky-icky monsters. It presents an environment where you’re constantly vulnerable and could easily run out of supplies if you’re not careful. The entire mansion acts like a giant puzzle where you make progress by small steps as you figure out where to slot each crest and gemstone you come across. None of the puzzles are particularly hard; I easily made it from start to finish while only really becoming stumped once or twice. However, the way they all fit together is admirable.
The limited inventory space can be a bit of a drag, however. You can only carry a small handful of items at any time, and are often required to drop off what you aren’t using at magical boxes that teleport your inventory around to other magical boxes.
This means you’re not going to be carrying an entire armory of weapons at any time, but it also means you might need to backtrack a lot. Did you finally find where that stone emblem fits? Better trek back to the item box to pick it up, because you haven’t even had to think about it in yonks.
Careful management of items is essential to this game, as it is very careful about where it places its health and ammunition. It’s sometimes better to avoid zombies altogether, especially in rooms you know you won’t be returning to.
A new addition to the game is the “crimson head” zombies. Simply put, these are zombies that have come back with a vengeance. Once you kill a normal zombie, it lies on the ground dormant for a period of time. If left long enough, it will get back up faster and meaner. You can, however, prevent the undead from returning by simply burning their corpses with a lighter and kerosene. It’s an interesting wrinkle in your scouring routine when you also have to consider where you left dead zombies.
I should note that I probably needed to play this game on a higher difficulty. I picked medium, as I often do, but I finished with an absolutely obscene amount of health and ammunition. The number of grenade rounds I still had stashed away at the end of the game was borderline embarrassing, I could have opened an apothecary with the leftover herbs, and I probably could have bathed in the remaining first-aid spray. My experience isn’t necessarily going to mirror yours, I just thought it was amusing how much extra gear I finished with.
LET’S SPLIT UP
I’m happy to say that Resident Evil is almost as good as I remember. Almost. There’s a lot of backtracking that my brain kind of glossed over in my memories. Even with all that backtracking, however, Resident Evil is an outstanding game with great atmosphere. It’s also the gold standard for remakes; taking what was great about the original and expanding and refining it. The only problem is it makes the original version seem worse by comparison.
That’s a pretty okay problem to have, especially for a remake. So, while Resident Evil fails to horrify me these days, it at least provides a comfortable place for me to stay.
This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using a digital copy of the game. Eesh, those loading times. The game and system were paid for by the author.