It is hard to believe that Capcom perfected their survival horror franchise in the span of six years. The original Resident Evil on the PlayStation came out in 1996, the GameCube remake was released in 2002 and it was at that point that Capcom showed the world how to make a gorgeous video game in the early 2000’s. I remember having a hard time deciding which console of that generation to buy first. I weighed my options and thought about what games were out. Then I read somewhere that Capcom was bringing us back to the Spencer Mansion and my decision was immediately made. I gleefully ran to a place of business and purchased my purple cube. This was in an era where we didn’t have to wait for updates after purchasing a game or title. So I got to pop in the first disc of Resident Evil and delve back into the world of survival horror.
Let us talk about the gorgeous graphics first. Capcom outdid themselves with the Spencer Mansion re-design. Every little detail is there; from chains on the walls, torn and dilapidated wallpaper, spooky doors to unlock and plenty of zombies ready to take a chomp out of you. Capcom even redid the opening scene, sadly this time around with no human actors and less hokey jokes. In 2002, this game looked like one giant cut-scene, it was truly amazing, and I’ve dabbled in the HD release of this title as well, and wow GameCube games have aged the best from that generation. The character designs and animations are realistic and gorgeous, the zombies are scary and slowly rot before you, and all the boss designs are truly frightening. This is one beautiful game from start to finish and really is the definitive way to dive into the history of the series, and I suggest playing it on the PS3 or the Xbox One. It will be easier to find and the HD touch makes the game almost look almost current gen.
Capcom really fleshed the story out with this remake. They tied the first game’s lore into Code Veronica so much better, and saved it from becoming one hot mess of a story. Something Capcom would eventually ruin in Resident Evil 5 and 6. I played as Jill through my first playthrough and I enjoyed how the Remake re-wrote some of the super cheesy lines. The lines fit a bit better with normal human speech, but gone are the “Master of Unlocking” and “Jill Sandwhich” lines. You are still trapped in the Spencer Mansion trying to get out and save your life and the life of your partner. As you do this you unmask a traitor and find a newfound love for Barry Burton. For those who have bested the original version on the PlayStation you are in for a surprise, many of the items are in different places and you are dropped into a far bigger mansion. Not only do you have to find the four keys but Capcom tacks on masks and such to continue your way through the mansion and into the lab. I enjoyed Capcom’s re-writes and fixes for the story and it makes me want to play this game over and over again. I wish Capcom could still create games like this. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Resident Evil VII but I didn’t feel the innate urge to replay it immediately.
Capcom didn’t fix the controls with the GameCube version, but in the HD remake of it you can play with updated and more modern controls. That’s another reason to find or download that version instead. Tank controls can be very taxing and frustrating if you are babied by the current generation of games or if you’ve not ever played an original Resident Evil title. They worked well then but if you never played the original, they don’t feel quite right now. The D-pad or left thumb stick move your S.T.A.R.S. member around, but it gets tricky when the camera shifts on you, if you let go of your direction you can end up going backwards. Yeah, like I said it gets confusing and difficult if you are trying to dodge zombies. Even after playing for about 8 hours I would get balled up while going up stairs when the camera would switch. People who play a lot of first-person shooters will have a rough go with the combat at the beginning. It works well once you get used to it but definitely goes against what other genres would have you do. To ready your weapon you push the left trigger, then fire with the A button. Should you have any issue with the first two control mechanics Capcom was nice enough to add quick-turn to this installment, just flip the C-Stick to which direction you need to go, hit the left thumb stick and the B button and you’ll be running in the opposite direction of danger.
This is the entry that really changed survival horror; not only are there multiple baddies that want to eat you or gut you but you also have to deal with other obstacles. First off is item management which can be pretty difficult. You have 8 slots as Jill and a space for a lock-pick you will eventually be given. So you have to carry a weapon, ammo, health and certain puzzle items. The Spencer Mansion is laced with puzzles that you must solve to get to safety. Some of the puzzles are pretty simple, but some really make you scratch your head, always remember to examine everything and combine items. Several new mechanics were introduced in this game, then never revisited again is the defensive weapon slot. As you search the mansion you can find defensive weapons that will automatically trigger when you are grabbed by an enemy. Knives, batteries for a tazer and certain grenades can keep you alive in a tricky situation. Another mechanic they introduced was the burning of bodies. Graphic right? But if you don’t burn them they evolve into harder zombies to kill, so keep your oil canteen and lighter nearby. The biggest challenge I always had and still have in these games is to run and gun, you learn quickly not to do that or you’ll find yourself surrounded with only a knife, which pretty much means instant death. Also, one more caveat here, there are no checkpoints, when you die, you go to your last save so save smart.
I love this game, this is definitely in my top five Resident Evil games ever, but there are several always fighting it out for the number one spot. This one was the first though. The first to begin the long series that still resonates today. The characters, the weapons, the viruses and the villains are some of the best ever created in a video game. Albert Wesker is one of my favorite villains in any game or media franchise and it was so nice to see where it all began again. Every survival horror fan needs to play this game. Yes it can be frustrating and yes no one uses pre-rendered backgrounds anymore but you’ll be experiencing history. If you thought you were a badass as Leon Kennedy in Resident Evil 4, you will be shown what it was like before Mikami re-imagined his own creation and you’ll get your ass handed to you. This is as close to Dark Souls as we could get fifteen years ago, and I enjoyed every painful minute.