Resident Evil (1996) Is One Of The Most Important Games Ever Conceived

A crouched, broad, human-like figure grunted inexplicably. The stomach-turning snorts came to a sudden halt. A brief moment of silence swept the room like a graceful Swallow. The figure meticulously turned its suspended, lifeless limbs until its origin was revealed. A citrine, leathery, cracked blanket matted the beast's decadent skull. It's eyes of the darkest abyss severed any chances of hope I had left. Situated below the drained relic of a nose was a tightly-drawn mouth, sucked of any life, oozing with a red humanly fluid.

The beast snarled.
There was no way out.

Released worldwide in the hit-heavy year of 1996 (with other hits such as Tomb Raider), Resident Evil served gamers with an instant fix of gore-filled horror, never before experienced on a home console. Despite being an action-orientated "survival-horror" title, Resident Evil was very slowly-paced, even for it's time, as each step required the type of precision seen in the burning pupils of an Italian artist spliced with the concentration and memory of a European Monk.  Despite this somewhat apparent flaw, Resident Evil was an absolute blast to "scare" oneself with. The archaic manor house in which the game took place provided an intimate backdrop for the mood and scene of the game thanks to the rich colour palette before branching out to the mansion's decrepit outhouse, an eerily desolate scientific laboratory and an intertwining, obscured sewer tunnel, riddled with hideously malformed "monsters", a dying ally and  ludicrously-placed traps, both deadly and unexpected. This was Resident Evil.

This is where the beauty was revealed. The game tried its best to make you lose, whether it be by providing the player with limited saves, offering a certain amount of ammo (generally not enough), rarely placing health-restoring herbs - both few and far between - or tactically placing hideous, threatening creatures, the game wanted to make the journey as tedious, painful and stressful to the player as technically possible; this elaborately grim game-structure really shines through the game's playthroughs; with a beginner's first-time playthrough ranging from 6-12 hours, a second-time user could complete the game in 3 hours if they know what to do - the beauty of exploration befell Resident Evil. This undeniably beautiful work of art was topped off with a hauntingly-complex musical score and a shocking plot-twist to keep the player standing on their already bruised toes.

An aspect of Resident Evil that made the game so unique was the ability to live out two different characters' stories. Initially asked to play as Jill Valentine or hardened warrior, Chris Redfield, the two characters offered more than a major skin-change. With Jill's story being closely linked to another survivor named Barry Burton, the player experiences a moving change in their relationships, the true meaning of friendship and how important it is to stick together in order to survive; on the other hand, Chris' story began with him being completely alone and exposed to the Spencer Estate's tricks of the trade. As expected, Jill's story-portion was the easier one due to having Barry Burton closely tie-in with her path, offering both guidance and support thanks to his firepower and lockpick given to Jill which opened more of the game up at the start in comparison to Chris' story.

A gruesome entity approaches Jill
The unsung hero of Resident Evil that made it so irresistible was the game's length. After truthfully spending countless days and nights traversing the dusty hallways of the Spencer Estate I slowly began to memorise the quickest paths, hidden enemies and useful item locations. Taking this further I then began to challenge myself by embarking on daring speedruns without using unnecessary ammunition and saving a couple of times per playthrough - looking back I had quite some nerve! This wouldn't have been as easy if the game was too long. The linear nature of the game allowed for the player to perfect the game and receive an award for doing so. Providing the game be mastered in under 3 hours, the player would receive the best weapon in the game as a reward for their bravery: the rocket launcher. The very first time I unlocked this marvelously destructive firepower was a memorable moment even today. The crushing pressure of pushing myself to conquer this game was blinding, but when it was finally done the game could be enjoyed as a game made for killing zombies without having to consider ammo.
This was the ultimate weapon.

Another convenient aspect of Resident Evil was the ability to access a costume cupboard and changed the character's clothes respectively. Not only did this add enough juice to warrant another playthrough, but it succeeded in changing the "feel" of the game for the costumes available were radically different to each character's default threads. However, this couldn't be done on the user's first playthrough due to a key being required to open said cupboard, this can be seen as a good thing as it kept the game fresh in my eyes.

Resident Evil's success can be traced through the fans who loved the series for what it was (myself included) and the extent to which the series survived. Being almost two decades old, the Resident Evil franchise has smashed records and satisfied gamers due to the unique gameplay and lovable characters of whom are still used. It is due to this that Resident Evil spawned a sequel - multiple sequels - a series of films, comic books, spinoffs, a remake and re-released superior copies of the game, packed with additional bonuses. Not only has the original spelled success for its own series, but it has inspired developers to produce similar content which in itself is a huge success. This just reflects how important the game is, had Resident Evil not been made then who knows? We may not have survival horror games like they are today. We may not have an intricate item system within these games. We may not have another genre in its place which would leave a huge gap in the market. We may not have seen classic horror games such as Silent Hill and wouldn't have seen the mastered Resident Evil 4. This game's impact was phenomenal.

2015 brought interesting news for fans of the original Resident Evil, as Capcom officially announced the re-release of the Resident Evil remake, formerly exclusive to Gamecube, but now available on current and last-gen consoles. In a continuation of the fantastic-reception the previous titles had received, the ReREmake received high praise among critics, most notably for its re-rendered 2D backgrounds, bringing the setpieces to more life than they'd ever been seen in prior.

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1 comment:

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