Resident Evil (Halloween Special)

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Resident Evil is by no means the first survival horror game, but it's generally regarded as the title that popularized this genre. Originally intended as a remake of Capcom's "Sweet Home" for the Nintendo Famicom, it soon grew a life of itself and became its owns series.

I often see a lingering doubt as to whether or not Resident Evil was largely inspired by InfogramesAlone in the Dark. Both feature similar gameplay styles, controls, combat and camera angles, however, the Japanese market is usually less than accepting of western PC games, leaving many to wonder if this was a case of parallel thinking. 

What many may not know however is that the original Alone in the Dark was a surprise hit in the land of the rising sun, so much so that Resident Evil was not Japan's first attempt to emulate Alone in the Dark's gameplay. That honor falls to Riverhillsoft's Doctor Hauzer, a fully 3D survival horror game launched only in Japan for the 3DO, though it contained no enemies or combat to speak of.

Launched a year after the Playstation version, the Saturn port received a few graphical tweaks and an exclusive battle mode. Despite this, the two versions play very much alike. So with all this said, has it stood the test of time? Well, it mostly depends on what you're looking for, but in my opinion, it most certainly has.

Resident Evil gives you the option to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield of the elite
task force STARS. The team was sent on a rescue mission but things quickly go astray and the few surviving members find refuge in a nearby mansion only to realize it's crawling with zombies and other monstrosities. 

Players must now uncover the mansion's secrets while avoiding its dangers. To do this you will have to find keys, solve mostly basic puzzles, manage a relatively low supply of ammo and healing items as well as learn when one should avoid confrontations. Despite ammo being a valuable commodity, I found the game overall easier when playing as Jill Valentine. Her larger inventory allowed me to carry more items at once therefore saving me a few trips, she can also lockpick desk drawers for extra items whereas Chris requires you to find the key. Moreover, Jill also has access to a Bazooka which makes short work of almost every enemy in the game including the last boss. I got the feeling Chris was more resistant to damage but that's not nearly enough to offset the advantages you get when playing as Jill.

Many players have always scoffed this series due to what is aptly called "tank controls". To put it simply, your character control so sluggishly it feels as if you're controlling a tank rather than a person. While this is something of an issue it does mean gamers can't just blindly rush at enemies, rather they have to plan ahead juggling the awkward control scheme and the ammo supply.

If a character's inventory becomes full you'll have to find a chest. There you can store every item you find throughout the game. All chests are shared, meaning what you place in one will appear in the other, while this design decision can shake one's suspension of disbelief at first, it does save players from having to backtrack. Saving is also limited to finding typewriters and ink ribbons to use them on. I managed to find 16-18 ribbons through each playthrough which is more than enough to finish the game and still have a few spares.

Graphically, Resident Evil looks good for a 3D Saturn title, all the backgrounds are pre-rendered giving them a nice, detailed look. Enemies and usable items are all rendered in real-time and while our two main characters look pretty good, everything else has a very low-polygon count. This is especially noticeable for usable objects which will often stick out like a sore thumb against the clean photo-backgrounds. These pre-rendered backgrounds can also create perspective and camera issues, often making it hard to aim or completely blocking your view of incoming enemies. In some cases a zombie can be standing right on top of the player but you can't even see him coming, I found this especially infuriating during boss fights.

The story is initially told via a black and white live action cutscene featuring some of the cheesiest
acting you will ever see. Meanwhile the remaining plot progression being conveyed through equally hilarious in-game cutscenes.

In fact, this is perhaps Resident Evil's greatest strength and greatest weakness. It tries so hard to be a scary game but its dialogue is so poorly written that when coupled with the terrible acting magic happens! I would gleefully listen to every character interaction and laugh at the truly awkward deliveries of an even more awkward dialogue. While this may appeal to some it does have the side effect of ruining the tension or any sense of impending danger. This is compounded further by the soundtrack which does a wonderful job at establishing an eerie feeling of unease.

I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil. The tank controls and goofy dialogues aren't for everyone, but it does offer a genuinely fun and even tense experience. Blowing a zombie's head is satisfying as is discovering a new key or unlocking a puzzle. The plot won't win any awards but that only makes it the ideal b-movie experience turned videogame.

Saturn vs. PlaystationHaving played both the Playstation and Saturn versions back-to-back I can safely say most graphical differences are insignificant and purely academic in nature. I found that the Saturn version features sharper backgrounds and better character models for Chris and Jill. While they still had the odd clipping issue these were much rarer and far less noticeable on the Saturn than its Playstation cousin. 

Moreover, the models themselves had better geometry and proportions. On the flipside, water, smoke and any other transparency effect looked terrible on Sega's 32-bit system. The lack of hardware accelerated transparency effects strikes once again and as a result water and smoke are all dithered. The main character's shadow seems to have a few issues on the Saturn version, namely it "clears" any blood stains being rendered in-engine. I also noticed the Saturn ran at an overall lower resolution, the same goes for FMVs. The loading animations looked more pixelated on the Saturn and generally took longer than they did on the Playstation. Finally, exploding a zombie's head was much more satisfying on the Saturn as the developers added a new graphical effect making the overall combat a bit more gory. I can't say that one version trounces the other graphically, but I did prefer the Saturn port for its sharper backgrounds and better character model which make for most of the experience. 

The Saturn does have an exclusive "Battle Mode" in which you must clear zombie infested rooms as fast as possible. It's a neat little feature but one that I become bored with after only a few minutes. None of these differences are enough for me to score one version over the other. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste.

- Good mix of exploration and puzzle solving 
- Blowing a zombie's head off never gets old
- Hilariously cheesy dialogue...

- ...However, cheesy dialogue may not appeal to everyone
- Tank controls can be a major turn off
- Combat is prone to camera and perspective issues

Final Grade: B+

I am not a fan of this cover, while not as cluttered as its Playstation counterpart I still have trouble telling what's going on. Chris' face looks off with one eye twice as big as the other. I'm assuming those dark figures are shadows, but it's hard to tell. This cover is just a mess and I am not a fan of its cheap looking orange CD. Why couldn't they keep the clean look of the Playstation disc?

I'm assuming the Sega/Sony rivalry meant keeping the contents of the manual a secret from each other because this version was definitely handled by a different team. For starters it actually has screenshots (even if they're all black & white) but it has none of the background information you'd find on Playstation manual.

The closest you get to a backstory is a page describing the events of the intro video. I'm not sure what the point of it is considering I can just check the intro video at any time.

Overall the cover is a little better than its Playstation cousin and it does come in a sturdy late gen Saturn box, but the manual is a disappointment.

Packaging Grade: C+

Scariness Rating:

Regardless of which version you play, it's not much of a scary experience. The music does a good job at conveying loneliness and you get an occasional jump scare, but they're not particularly well done. One and a half screaming Monroes out of five.

Halloween Feel:

Are B-grade horror movies your idea of a good Halloween? Then this might just be for you. Unfortunately the voice acting is bit too cheesy even by low budget horror movies so I had to dock a few points for that. Two and a half Jack O' Lanterns.

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