Having profiled the prequel game RE0, we know come to the one that arguably started, and most certainly popularized, the survival horror genre in Resident Evil. The game is as well known for its impact on future games as it is for its incredibly atrocious dialogue. The original concept for the game was intended to be a remake of an earlier Capcom horror game Sweet Home and the mansion setting was even inspired by The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Through the course of development the game was changed from that original aim to its eventual incarnation. The version I played was the Director’s Cut, which is essentially the same game except for ‘beginner’ and ‘arranged’ modes, the latter of which switches the locations of items and enemies. It was released a year and a half after the original as a way to compensate for the delay of Resident Evil 2.

The plot centers around the town of Raccoon City which has had a rash of bizarre murders. STARS team Alpha is sent in to investigate after contact is lost with Bravo team. Of course this is when things start going wrong as the team is forced to take refuge in an old mansion. Playing as either Chris or Jill, they navigate the traps and puzzles, uncovering the truth behind the T-Virus and the murders, all the while dodging the undead former inhabitants, crows, very rabid dogs, a giant snake, blood sucking plant as well as artificially created Hunters. The basic game progression is the same for either character with the exception of dialogue and a supporting character.

In 2002 the remake was released for the Gamecube as part of the Capcom-Nintendo exclusivity agreement. No mere port, the REmake, as it is often stylized, is an upgrade in every way. The biggest update are the visuals and graphics, just check the below pictures for a comparison. Environments, though pre-rendered, are incredibly detailed, even to the point of water running over rocks and cast shadows being realistic. The characters are likewise overhauled and can even run up stairs instead of going through the usual transition screen. Gameplay changes include the rearrangement of key item locations, new areas and a sub-plot that were left out of the original. Defensive weapons are added, with knives being used by both characters, but Jill gets a taser and Chris gets stun grenades. Shoving such a grenade in  a zombie’s mouth and then igniting it with a gunshot never gets old. Zombies that aren’t decapitated or incinerated will revive after a while into stronger, more aggressive versions called Crimson Heads, adding a new strategic element to the game. All these additions might not even reach the level of the redone dialogue which is light years better then the Zero Wing-esque broken translation of the original.

Even 10 years later the REmake stands out as a top game with the graphics in particular being a match for the later sequels and other top games on the market. It manages to up the tension of wandering through the mansion, wondering whether that sound you just heard is the wind or a zombie shuffling towards you. Due to its success, the REmake has take the place of all other versions as the definitive installment of the game. This is not hard to believe once you’ve played it, though I went back and played the Director’s Cut for nostalgia’s sake. It was also a way to get a sense of how far the series has come and how much it’s accomplished in the gaming industry. Next up, we’ll see what happens when the T-Virus spreads beyond the mansion in Resident Evil 2.

The main hall as seen in the REmake

The mansion’s main hall as seen in the original