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Game Review: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

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Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. By now, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis from 1999 is by far my favorite title in the old series of games. I love this game, and I return to it often on my PlayStation that has seen far better days.

That being said, Resident Evil 3 is not a perfect game. Objectively Resident Evil 2 stands as the far better game, and the reasons why I like Resident Evil 3 are personal to me. Don’t worry, I won’t be speaking through rose tinted glasses here. Just because it is my absolute favorite, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the flaws.

The game has some very clunky elements. Questionable decisions were made that just don’t allow the game to have that same polished feel that its predecessor had. The game is certainly a step sideways rather than forwards when it comes to enhanced gameplay.

So let’s dive in and take a look at this amazing game, and why it fell a little short.

The Burdens of an Acclaimed Reputation

As I explained in my Resident Evil review, the game was a spiritual successor to Sweet Home, and the birth of survival horror as a genre. Due to the huge success, a second game came shortly after, and the fans clamored over all of the wonderful new additions Resident Evil 2 had to offer.

In the late 90’s Resident Evil had proven itself to be a series that was beloved by gamers everywhere, and this made it a hit. With two widely successful games in the series so far, and sales filling their pockets, Capcom knew they had a real gem to work with. A few spin-off games were already in production, but Capcom didn’t want the fans to wait too long. This resulted in another developmental kerfuffle.

They had faced one of these controversies in the past. I’ve highlighted that particular mess with my review of Resident Evil 1.5, which you can read here. The short version is this; Resident Evil 2 had a prototype that was scrapped due to disagreements in the development process.

Ultimately, this resulted in a lackluster game that was never finished. This prototype is loved by a select few, and is known in the fandom as Resident Evil 1.5.

Those still on the team at the time revitalized the game from the ground up. This was the right decision, making Resident Evil 2 the success it stands as today. Upon release, it quickly made incredible sales numbers. Many fans argue it’s the best game in the entire series, and really among the classic games it is very hard to dispute this fact.

Anyway, perhaps these past lessons about rushing the development process hadn’t been learned. Two spin-off titles were being produced at the time, and instead of making an entirely new title, both of these spin-off titles were in the running to take the place as the third official entry in the series.

For clarification, one game was Resident Evil: Nemesis. The other was Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

Quite frankly, I believe this is the core issue with a lot of the problems the game has. It stands to reason that taking a spin-off title and trying to contort it into a main story leaves, much to be desired.

Side Note: A Theory I Have

To be honest though, I don’t think the rush to release a new title was entirely unsound. Even though I do think the game did suffer a bit because of it. I’m sure that the precedent set by the swift release of prior games made the developers and the production staff behind the game feel a true sense of urgency.

Other horror titles were also in production by competing studios at the time, and this likely had a part to play in the decision to rush to a release. The games slipping into the market would promise some very heavy competition. What games you ask? That’s a very good question.

There are a few, but namely Silent Hill comes to mind as one such powerhouse title. It was in production at the time, and saw an earlier release in 1999 as well.

I can only imagine that the knowledge of Konami working to release Silent Hill in a timely manner, and Squaresoft releasing Parasite Eve in 1998 proved to Capcom that their hold over horror games on the PlayStation could be considered fickle at best. It is merely a theory, but I’m sure this contributed to some of the rushed decisions we ultimately see when in regards to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

What is important to remember is that while there were many horror titles in the original PlayStation era, few series were as popular, or as widely loved as Resident Evil or Silent Hill.

It is true that Clock Tower comes to mind as one such series that may stand up well against them, but due to gamers already knowing of that franchise as early as 1995, it’s hardly a fitting comparison. It released before the first Resident Evil had even seen the light of day, and Clock Tower already had a strong fan base crossing over from other platforms.

The Chosen Successor

From here on out, I will be calling the prototype to the game the “Nemesis prototype”. Capcom eventually chose their Nemesis prototype to become the third game in the series. It would proudly bear the number three upon it’s front casing, with the titular monster standing menacingly behind the title. When fans saw the game, we were hyped, and we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on it.

The game is known to us now as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, released in September of 1999.

The issue is, this game was crafted to be a spin-off title first and foremost. It was never built or conceptualized to be a main series title. Originally, it had been handed to a small, and frankly very inexperienced team of people. The sort just getting their feet wet with larger and widely loved titles.

There was little knowledge among the group when it came to the vast lore of Resident Evil as a series. The game was intended to star an entirely new character, attempting to escape the horrors of the city now infested with zombies. However, this creative choice would not stand well against the already released and widely popular Resident Evil 2. The story was just too similar in thematic beats and story telling.

With two games out and set in stone, it was imperative that the next story reflected the already loved and established characters. With stories that hadn’t been entirely finished yet, the world needed building. The environment and threat from Umbrella needed to be extrapolated upon. When the “Nemesis Prototype” was chosen, and it underwent an exclusivity deal with PlayStation, cementing it firmly in place.

From there the wheels began turning into motion. Key plot lines were changed to include Jill Valentine from the first game as the main character for this new title.

She was chosen because she could still escape the city, and tying the story in closely with the events from the second game allowed many of the thematic elements to be kept from the initial prototype. They could still keep them well in-hand, without crapping all over the general premise that the “Nemesis Prototype” started with.

Shinji Mikami stepped in to help, as his previous experience gave him insight as to just how the game should be produced. Ultimately, the game is a mixed bag. Now let’s discuss why.

Story Troubles

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis makes the entire Resident Evil lore a bit messy thematically. Some parts take places before the events of Resident Evil 2. Meanwhile, others take place during the events, and some take place after the events. This makes the game stand as a strange narrative window into almost all of the early Resident Evil plot lines.

Jill is a former S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team member. She is coined by Berry, another teammate as the maser of unlocking.

In the first game, what started as a search for missing Bravo team members went south when monsters chased the group deep into the forest. Taking refuge inside the mansion, sinister truths began to unfold as zombies and other monsters run rampant.

At the start of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Jill recounts the events. When the team returned to report what they’d seen at the mansion, the truth wasn’t received well. Due to the mishandling of information, and conspiratorial cover-ups, the dangerous T-virus has run rampant in the heart of the city. Now she must survive the hordes of zombies all over again.

Umbrella wasn’t going to go down without a fight. They had a new master plan. The pharmaceutical company gone wrong had a new bio-weapon they’ve been working on. This one is intelligent and deadly. Releasing it into the city streets, they’ve given this abomination one single mission. To eradicate remaining S.T.A.R.S. team members, and this creature will prove to be Jill’s most dangerous opponent yet.

As she calls it “My last chance, my last escape“. She attempts to flee the city, and bring light to these new horrors. During her escape, Jill teams up with a member of Umbrella’s own mercenary unit. A man by the name of Carlos Oliveira.

While it’s true that plot line itself is fairly straightforward, trying to break down exactly when certain events take place in relation to Resident Evil 2 can be a bit difficult. Thankfully though, this only really influences the most die-hard fans. An average player won’t be impacted by the questionable bits of lore buried deep.

Resident Evil has never really had the knack for complicated storytelling, particularly in it’s earliest games. What makes the plot of Resident Evil 2 so good is that it is very cleanly cut and masterfully written upon those surface level ideas. The details embedded into the core of the game need not be considered by the casual fans, and I think that has a lot going for it.

Meanwhile, Resident Evil 3 just can’t hold up as well. It can be too easily compared on a surface level, and to differentiate the game from its predecessor you need those finer details and several times playing the game due to branching paths. I’ll get to that later. For now the only point I want to make here is that most titles in the franchise linger on the surface elements.

That is where most gamers will collect the vast majority of the plot elements, and Resident Evil 3 fails to accomplish surface level storytelling. You need to be willing to dive deep to get the best out of it, and that shouldn’t happen in a zombie shooter.

This game requires that you understand the entire lore of Resident Evil up to that point. The events at the manor play a large role in the backstory. The corruption between Umbrella several key characters from the previous two games can’t be understated either. If you don’t know of these games, you likely have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s my direct point. The devil really is in the details on this one, and that makes Resident Evil 3: Nemesis much harder to simply dive into blindly.

Nemesis or Mr. X Clone?

Welcome to the devil within those details I mentioned above, the main big baddie of the game. This is another point of contention for the game. Nemesis is a clunky bugger on a good day, but we’ve already seen his mechanical style before. He chases the player in key moment of gameplay. Sound like something we’ve seen before? Well, it should because Mr. X does this during Resident Evil 2.

Many times when Nemesis crops up, the player can choose to fight or run away. Some battles are scripted boss battles that can’t be avoided, but there are plenty of times you can just run away too. This is a good time to discuss the multilayered storytelling, and the choose your own adventure style of gameplay. Occasionally, the player will encounter a moment when time slows down and the screen fades a bit to a whiteout.

Two choices will come onto the screen, and you have a few moments to choose one before the game picks for you. Doing nothing will always choose the option highlighted first. These moments don’t always include Nemesis, but it happens often enough with him that this is as good a section as any to discuss it.

I think this is why I love the game so much, and why it is my favorite. The layering of complex choices upon a first or second run of the game are staggering. For example, the first time this happens is an encounter with Nemeses. You can choose to run away, or you can choose to fight him. Here’s the funny thing though, you don’t have to fight him even if you choose the option to do so. Instead, you can run up to the dead body of one of your teammates and collect his identification card so that you don’t have to find yours later.

After grabbing it, you can run inside the police station and avoid the fight. Or if you choose to fight him accidentally, you can just run inside the police station anyway having done nothing.

This sort of complex narrative is done through player interaction, and it builds a very distinct style of gameplay that just can’t be overstated. You have options, often times way more than you think you do. Being creative and thinking about how best to tackle a situation is the core of the Resident evil formula, but here it really thrives.

How you choose to play after you’ve made a clear cut choice matters. It can and often does split the narrative path.

This matters on a personal level, and tactically it offers a far more robust gameplay experience on top of it. Without this key detail, Nemesis would certainly be a Mr. X clone many claim him to be. However, because these events are so often tied to a Nemesis encounters in some way, he’s absolutely not a clone, he stands on his own merits.

Your choices change some of your item pick-ups, bits of the narrative, and other small details. Each choice gives you a lot of tiny tactical options. Therefore, I firmly stand on the opinion that Nemesis is a much more improved villain over all. This is simply because the main story ties to him in a way that Mr. X could never hope for. Mr.X is an on rails experience, and he feels that way. Nemesis is on rails too, but at the time the game released he didn’t feel that way. That’s the difference here.

That being said, I still stand by what I mentioned before too. A casual player will miss out on the value this can offer. This concept is made for a hard core Resident Evil fan first and foremost. If you’re not going to think around the choice you pick, or you can’t think fast on your feet with all of the previous knowledge of Resident Evil games you should have by this point, most of the super small details will be lost on you.

Tank Controls and Dodge Maneuvers

Let’s talk about the new mechanics and the old. You know the game looks good for it’s time, even if it looks a bit trashy nowadays. You also know the soundtrack had to be good, and that’s a fact too. Typewriters and ink ribbons return, as well as all of the other stuff from previous games. There’s not much new here, though now there’s a gun powder system, that’s fairly standard and expected in the franchise now. Back in the day it was really cool, but why gush about something we’ve all been exposed to by this point?

So, we go to the core contentious mechanics that heavily influence the fandom. The Tank controls, and that dodge mechanic from hell. First however, let’s discuss something very few people bring up, in a segment I like to call “zombie eats bookshelf”. See for yourself…

See the zombie? See that bookshelf? He does that every single time! Without fail, I have yet to see him not have a go at the bookshelf instead of me, the fleshy person he should be after. This zombie absolutely loves that shelf. He won’t ever attack me unless I stand there long enough for him to figure out how to turn around. All of the other zombies could be dead, and he’s still playing with that shelf. Every single time, on any play through. He is not the only zombie to favor a wall or some other object either. The zombies are dumb, very, very dumb.

The enemies have never been too bright in these games, but certain ones are regularly more stupid this time around. It’s a real issue in this game because I notice it more in this one than in previous titles. This zombie tends to be the worst of them, which is why he gets the spotlight for most idiotic bullet sponge in the game in my opinion.

Okay, now then, onto take controls. I’ve said this before but tank controls deserve to be a gameplay choice, and I will 100% fight on that hill until the day I die for one simple reason. For me, it makes many games easier to play and enjoy. It doesn’t suit all gameplay styles though, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis proves this in spades.

Now the tank controls themselves are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them even slightly, however a new gameplay mechanic was added that is without question very problematic. This little piece of unholy garbage is known as the “dodge maneuver”, and it’s just as crappy as you’d think it is by name alone.

What make tank controls fun for me is their predictability in the right sort of space. I know that when controlling my character, it will only run forward in very specific ways, and turn under very direct parameters. Tank controls aren’t a fluid control system. That’s why I like them.

However, the dodge maneuver takes everything I love about tank controls, and it ruins them. First of all, not only is the move clunky, it is very unpredictable. You might as well just send your character directly into the enemy you were trying to avoid. Trying to dodge will likely do it anyway, the thing is useless to anyone who isn’t a seasoned pro at the game.

The maneuver isn’t exactly player friendly, not to mention entirely not needed. That is the maneuver’s only saving grace. You don’t actually need to use it, and you can beat the entire game without having to use it at all.

Yep, you read that right. We don’t need this thing, the good ole fashioned Resident Evil “bait-and-run” works well enough on zombies. It’s the tried and true method. As for Dogs and other dangerous enemies, your old skills in previous games will serve you better than that maneuver.

Stop, look, and listen in every new area. All of the old hallmarks are there, including obvious warnings and attack patterns. Yes, some enemies move faster in this game sometimes, but you can and should be outsmarting or outrunning them. Classic Resident Evil has never been about blasting your way through everything, and it’s not about that here either.

If you ignore the dodging mechanic will you take a few hits? Oh yeah, sure, you will. However, you probably would have taken just as many, if not more hits just by using the damn maneuver anyway. You can still get the best rank in the game, never having used it once. Leave that thing to the top tier speed runners, the rest of us don’t ever need it.

Virtues of Easy Mode

This is the one and only game in the series that I will praise for having an easy setting. In most other Resident Evil games, having an easy mode only makes enemy placement or some puzzles easier to contend with. Enemies in these games are “bullet sponges” nine times out of ten on harder difficulties. Killing certain zombies qualifies as a strategy, and you don’t earn your Resident Evil stripes unless you know what zombies will screw you later. In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, though having an easy mode set up the way it does actually has replay value.

On this mode, you’re geared out hard core. You have a wealth of bullets and ammunition at your disposal, and you can basically blast your way through the entire game. Unlimited ink ribbons and even coveted Magnum rounds are in the first item box you come across along with a slew of other healing items and weaponry.

You don’t have to play by the rules. You can run the early game with that high end weaponry. With unlimited saves, and more firepower than most people would ever know what to do with, this thing isn’t exactly an “Easy Mode” as much as it is a “Fun Mode”.

I’m actually kind of sad not all the games utilize this mentality, because easy mode turns Resident Evil 3: Nemesis into a glorified fun house and there’s something to be said for just toying around in the game every now and then.

In other games, this would be the worst idea possible, but Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has branching paths. Having a mode like this allows even the most casual players to see all of the options without investing too much time into the game. They can just recklessly blast their way through with no loss of difficulty later when they play for real.

This mode is far too easy to prepare you for harder difficulties, so the addition hurts nothing. Enemies basically melt, and your item boxes are bursting with all the equipment you need to thoroughly trounce Nemesis in every encounter you have with him if you’re even halfway competent. If you want the true ending, you still have the play and beat the game on the hard setting with absolutely none of the advantages easy mode gave you.

After playing easy mode, the curve in difficulty will be absolutely astronomical for the unsuspecting player.

As much as I love the typical way to play the game, I’ve got to admit, toying around in easy mode every now and then isn’t half bad either. Yeah, there’s absolutely no real difficulty at all, but it is fun. It has a real place here, and this is the only Resident Evil game where I will praise its inclusion.

Final Thoughts

This is a hard final thoughts to write. It doesn’t come easy to me, because I love this game, but at the same time it is a mess beyond words sometimes. I guess that’s the acknowledgement I need to give it. Let’s do that, then.

Let’s end right back where I started. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Just because Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is my absolute favorite game in the classic series, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the flaws. I do, trust me, they’re everywhere.

The game is a mixed bag. I’ve praised it, I’ve bashed it, and I still can’t help thinking that my not so favorite zombie will still toy with the bookshelf next time I play the game. I’ve got my complaints with the game mechanics, and yeah the story was a bit clunky. Nemesis isn’t perfect, and although the branching paths are my favorite part of the game personally, I can see why people wouldn’t like them.

When you boil it all down, the game can’t possibly stand on the same level of quality as Resident Evil 2. There’s no denying it, I won’t try. The game was a major letdown for a lot of people. They had high expectations, and the game couldn’t live up to them.

Still, it’s not a complete failure either. This game had a lot of things going for it, and it was nice to have Jill back for another main series title. The easy mode is pure fun to play, and the freedom of gameplay and narrative choice surpasses both of its predecessors by far.

That being said, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is the game that I like best. At least when it comes to the classic Resident Evil titles. I can’t urge you to play it, objectively it just isn’t that earth shattering. I refuse to tell you to avoid it, because I like it too much, and maybe someone else will to.

This thing is a very old game. If you you must play every Resident Evil game out there, pick it up and enjoy. If not, that’s okay too. Don’t feel like you’ve lost your chance at a true piece of monumental survival horror history. This game isn’t like the ones that came before it. Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 have the claim to fame, and those are the ones you should pick up if that really matters to you.

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This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Game Review: Silent Hill

Hey everyone it’s Kern here, and today we’re going to look at an old classic. A game that probably doesn’t need an introduction for being one of the most bone chilling experiences for keeping gamers up at night.

In the 90’s, survival horror began to become an iconic genre that spilled into the gaming market. People all over the world wanted to sink their teeth into something a little more unsettling than the average shooter, platformer, or role-playing game of the time.

Silent Hill is one of those classics that likely doesn’t need an introduction. If you were into horror as a genre and loved gaming back then, this was probably one of the games you picked up to play. I know that I did, that’s for sure.

Game consoles of the 90’s such as the PlayStation could support better graphics, and PC gaming had been receiving plenty of its own horror classics for a while at that point. However, those of us on consoles needed to catch up, and we needed to do it fast. Thankfully, two types of horror franchises lifted from the shadows to meet this demand. Both of these titles hit the ground running, but they were vastly different in nature.

When 1996 came around, Capcom released Resident Evil. The horror title showed gamers just what they could hope for when it came to survival horror. It coined the phrase, and that successful effort would change the social sphere of gaming as we knew it.

Konami was hot on the heels of this new bandwagon, and they jumped into these new possibilities for gaming feet first. They aimed to make a game that could become Resident Evil‘s direct competitor. They knew this would not be an easy thing to do, as Resident Evil had cornered the market fairly spectacularly in the horror genera in one single game.

They wanted to create a cinematic game-play experience first and foremost. With this in mind, “Team Silent” was formed with a ragtag production crew. These were people with big ideas and bigger personalities. They didn’t necessarily fit the creative mold that others in the industry did, and that is why they were chosen. There was only one small issue…

The members of “Team Silent” had no idea how to go about making their new game. Horror games were not the staple that they are today. Survival horror was a newly coined term, and it was unknown territory. The team felt the weight of their task weighing down heavily upon them. They had the skills, but they had no idea how to apply that knowledge to a horror title. These once bright-eyed game enthusiasts began to become discouraged under the pressure.

Like many developers do, they began forging their own path. In the end, they ended up choosing a much more subdued narrative for their story. Something far more contemplative and vague than Resident Evil could ever be. All of their efforts eventually paid off, providing a game that split horror fans down two distinct paths.

Each path worthy in their own right.

While zombie fans had Resident Evil to keep them awake at night, others were hungry for something darker and thematically deeper. These fans had a different game to call a masterpiece. This game was known as Silent Hill.

As a gamer, it’s hard not to have heard of these two powerful franchises. While many consider both games it under the branch genre known as survival horror, Silent Hill is far from it. No, this game is without a doubt a psychological horror series.

Released in the early part of 1999, Silent Hill offered players a different type of experience. Unlike its zombie infested distant cousin, this game provided a look into unsound minds.

This game boasts a compelling narrative that wasn’t so simple to unravel. There are still questions left unanswered when it comes the lore of the game, meaning that new players to the series can still find it enjoyable.

With several games, decades of terrifying fun, and a spin-off movie, Silent Hill is by far one of the most fondly remembered franchises that requires a reboot.

For a while, fans even thought we were going to get that reboot when “P.T. Silent Hills” came out in 2014. It was a terrifying playable demo that has it’s own complicated story to tell.

I only wish to give it a brief mention here, because if I didn’t it would be a huge disservice to my love of the franchise, and everyone who worked so hard to bring fans another taste of the franchise.

Sadly, for many reasons, the reboot just wasn’t meant to be. Still, the legacy of Silent Hill, and the franchise as a whole, is something that should be remembered. Both for some of the best gaming in history, and some of the greatest failures later titles provided within horror as a genre.

Surface Level Shenanigans

It’s hard not to know at least a few fragments of Silent Hill‘s story. It may as well be a campfire tale, spoken with flashlights in hand while eating marshmallows with friends. Even so, the concept is effective for sending chills down any spine. The problem is, most of the story is left up to interpretation, and that’s by design. Silent Hill’s creator Keiichiro Toyama, made sure that the plot is as consistent as it is vague.

This writing style is a great way to spin fan-theories, and conjure about what goes on in the game. Unfortunately, since so much is left up to interpretation, and there are multiple endings, not everyone views the events of the game in the same way.

There will always be debates surrounding Silent Hill, and that’s the way it was designed to be. Just keep that in mind as I gloss over the very basic story.

There lingers a fictional town somewhere along the foggy shores of Toluca Lake. Within this small and seemingly insignificant location, a quaint little community resides here. One that probably fell on hard times and left forgotten about. It’s not likely one to attract a boat load of tourists any time soon, but something about that little town is compelling anyway.

As if the town has a voice of it’s own, it sings an almost sirens call. Unfortunate souls are attracted to this gloomy place. They find themselves wandering through a pit of dark truths, and murky discoveries. That sad, destitute little town, is known as Silent Hill.

You play as Harry Mason, a single father who’s on his way to Silent Hill for a small vacation. While driving at night, Harry swerves his car out of the way to avoid hitting someone that seems to be standing in the middle of the road. After waking from the crash, he notices that his daughter, Cheryl has gone missing. With snow littering the ground and fog thick in the air, he sets out to find her.

While Harry attempts to find his daughter, he wanders into the town. There he meets a police officer who attempts to help him, and eventually finds himself entangled in the dealings of a cult that seek to manipulate Harry for their own goals. As the game continues, players realize that the town of Silent Hill may as well have a life of its own.

However, all of that is only on the surface… The game has a deeper story… A darker one… I shouldn’t have to say this, but beyond this point, there will be spoilers.

A Town’s Sinister Tale

The above summery alone makes for a compelling story, but it isn’t the complete story. It’s not anywhere close to it. Instead, it’s a fabrication, made to lure the player in. Remember, this is a psychological horror game, and the story itself is intentionally vague. Nothing is as it seems.

I am now going to gloss over the actual story of the game, and if you haven’t played it before, you may struggle to keep up. This is not a simple premise, and it was never intended to be.

Contrary to what you might think given the details above, the story isn’t one about a father looking for his lost little girl. Even though you play as Harry, it’s not his story that begins to unfold as the player progresses.

Instead, Silent Hill is all about a little girl named Alessa. This little girl was born into the town’s religious cult. This messed up collection of demon enthusiasts preach a far different bible story than usual.

Apparently, the god they speak about returned to the heavens before the world was done being created. This ultimately lead to a flawed, and imperfect design. This god then promised to return one day.

The cult aim to speed up their god’s return the best way they know how. The crazy old lady, Dahlia is the current leader of the cult. She has the idea to use her own child as a means to do it. Unfortunately for Alessa, Dahlia isn’t just the cult’s current leader, she’s also her mother too.

Alessa has psychic abilities, and Dahlia believes that they can use that to impregnate her with god. Let me say that again. Dahlia, crazy person that she is, thinks that she can get her psychic daughter pregnant so that she will give birth to their god.

Obviously, it should come as no surprise that this plan fails spectacularly. The stress of the ritual forces Alessa’s powers to activate, causing catastrophic damage to Alessa, and her powers. During this messed up series of events, Cheryl is created. Once she is, Dahlia can no longer complete the ritual.

To make this explanation as simple as possible, the cult needs Cheryl and Alessa to reunite if they have any hopes to complete the ritual so that their god can be born. Alessa refuses to let that happen, and does everything in her power to keep the cult’s plan from coming to fruition.

Why does this matter? Simple, because the mechanics act as a metaphor for this story.

Everything in this game has mechanical weight that means something to the greater plot. For example, the story I just detailed above is the explanation for the “Otherworld” which is a commonly visited mechanic in the game.

After playing the game enough, you can figure out that the “Otherworld” is merely Alessa losing control of her powers and her mind every now and then. When she does, her mind allows the darkest parts of her torment to seep freely out into the world.

The monsters that players see are physical manifestations of this poor girl’s suffering. The puzzles are tied to her intrinsically. When you look at the game through that lens, everything begins to come together and make a lot more sense.

Most of the characters are mechanical in nature too. The side cast carry the weight of monologue heavy diatribes. The few actual characters you run into are unstable at best. Some characters openly lie willingly, and others will merely offer a version of the truth. As I said before, the town itself might as well have a life of it’s own, and it certainly seems that way as each person you meet continually muddies those narrative waters.

Harry himself is merely the vessel the player uses to understand this sordid tale. Cheryl acts as the simple narrative device that new players cling onto as the story unfolds.

Intuitive Design Done Right

It would be easy to assume that since this is a horror title, that it would have game design that felt similar to Resident Evil. That assumption would be incorrect. While they’re both horror titles, the way they display that horror is vastly different in context and narrative style.

There are a lot of the same hallmarks to horror series sprinkled in the game. Limited ammo, puzzles, and exploration are all part of the greater whole, but in very different ways.

At the time of the game, clunky controls were the staple for the horror genre. To some degree it is a hardware limitation of the time. They make a reappearance here as well. Thankfully though, it’s not as clunky in this game as its survival horror counterparts. I wouldn’t call them “tank controls” exactly. However, that said, running can be a chore on occasion.

Harry moves decently fast once you get him running, but you can’t always outrun every single enemy in the game. Some of the hallways are too narrow for the usual Resident Evil style bait and dodge. This means being prepared to stand your ground tactically. With this in mind, let’s discuss how to survive.

Weaponry isn’t just limited to guns and knives. There are plenty of objects to pick up and use as well, encouraging trigger happy players to take a different approach when it comes down to selecting weapons. Each weapon has its own “recharge” time, so to speak. Some weapons are faster than others, so learning how to time an attack is crucial to a successful enemy encounter.

Ammo should be saved for the larger fights, while other other items can be used to take down a lone enemy or two. Like Silent Hill‘s survival horror cousin, the best choice is to conserve weaponry and just run away when you can. However, because you can’t outrun everything, the average player will need a good stock of weaponry for those unavoidable encounters and boss battles.

As shown above and here as well, some spaces are tight and claustrophobic.

The camera accommodates this aspect well, adding significant tension to any environment. When it comes to the camera itself, it tends to be smooth and easy to control. No forcefully fixed camera angles here.

This allows for easier navigation, and comfortable coordination while in combat. There’s just one downside, it is a very a slow camera. This means anticipating where you’d like the camera to be is a skill players will come to learn quickly. The camera will move on its own to a decent spot whenever you enter a new area, and sometimes it’s best not to adjust it at all.

The concept of exploration is vast, and feels closer to an open world, at least for its time. It’s not as sprawling as an open world game is nowadays, but Silent Hill is a vast town, with plenty to explore.

The player is able to access a decent amount of the town fairly early in the game, allowing the player to stock up on supplies early and often. This is a double edged sword though. Stocking up early can give the false impression to new players that you will likely never run out of supplies, but it is very possible, and very easy to do so.

The game itself has a rather linear and set narrative direction. No side quests here, sorry. The game won’t let you venture too far from the beaten path. Once you’ve entered a building, that similar horror feeling will come flooding back to any players of Resident Evil. The hallways are dark, the areas are often crawling with enemies. Puzzle solving and key finding are the name of the game.

In general, exploration and backtracking are a bit more linear and laid out. A few doors in some locations aren’t meant to be opened at all. Silent Hill asks the player to traverse many locations around the town, so this “on rails” approach is slightly required. That said, environments can still be confusing to a newcomer. There are street names to remember, and fog to navigate. Thankfully, as Harry walks around Silent Hill, he’ll scribble things down on the town map. New players should check it early and often for clues and hints.

The “Otherworld” as the characters call it, will crop up from time to time, and the player will have to navigate that too. While it might be the same basic area you’ve been wandering around in already, this world is darker, grittier, and different. Previously opened paths will be cut off from access, and monsters can catch the player off-guard if they aren’t prepared for encounters. Previously safe spaces are no longer safe, and this added element makes backtracking fresh and enjoyable.

The puzzles are difficult, hands down. This is one such puzzle, and one of the most iconic ones. Truthfully, it’s a very common puzzle to get stuck on. Silent Hill offered some of hardest puzzles that a game of its day could provide. They’re vast and several are multifaceted, offering vague hints and very little else. They’re not impossible though.

This puzzle here, is proof of that. It’s all about understanding the words that you read, and applying them to a broken piano.

To make it simple to understand, you just need to know three things. White birds are white keys. Black birds are black keys. Some keys are broken and don’t make a sound if you press them. Pushing the keys in the right sequence is how you solve the puzzle.

Puzzles can be solved without looking them up. The game offers you everything you need in order to figure them out. As an added little bonus, the puzzles actually mean something to the core narrative, so they’re not just made to slow you down. They’re made to progress the story in subtle ways.

Unbinding From Hardware Limitations

Silent Hill was praised for its atmospheric dystopia and unsettling visuals. In truth though, the game was designed this way was because it had to be. Due to the limitations of PlayStation hardware, the fog was added to keep everything from rendering all at once. The same could be said for the particularly dark backdrops. Less rendering meant a smoother experience, and faster loading times.

However, this too, became part of the game’s lore. The particularly dark backgrounds in parts of the “Otherworld” were explained by Alessa’s psychic powers. The thick fog that settled over the town was explained as being a product of the nearby lake. The occasional falling snow ties the dreary world together, and helps to make everything much more believable.

On top of that, for its time, everything looks awesome. The careful quality control of visible details were crucial. The game is immersive thanks to each and every environment. Combat is mostly fluid, and each area is truly a spectacle of what horror can accomplish if it is done right.

Characters feel fully realized, although in cut-scenes there can be odd moments when they don’t look quite right. Enemies are fairly disturbed and the horrifying placement of certain details do enough to make a player unsettled as they play.

When it comes to sound, the music is masterful. To me, it is probably the absolute best thing about the game. It is, in a word, iconic. I hear its music and I’m taken right back to the emotions I had while playing the game. Now later titles in the franchise certainly blow this one out of the water, but they were more advanced games, and had a much more powerful consoles at their disposal. With that in mind, the soundtrack to Silent Hill is everything we could have hoped for from Akira Yamaoka.

The voice acting is good, not outstanding, but the actors do their job. Rather, let me put it this way. The voice acting stands up far better than most in horror games of the time.

The only time characters sound weird, is when they should sound that way. It isn’t because characters have a sudden case of inexplicable constipation. Some of the characters are completely insane, and others just aren’t normal to begin with. The acting lines up with that, and really, that’s enough.

Final Thoughts

I do not consider Silent Hill to be a survival horror game. That is my passion when it comes to horror games, and I stand by the fact that it is certainly psychological, not survival.

However, with that said, I have nothing but praise for the original Silent Hill. This game is by far one of the most unsettling games to ever launch on the PlayStation. Furthermore, you’d be hard-pressed to find such a deep and immersive story anywhere else for its time. The story holds up to this day, and the music does too, even if the graphics don’t.

There’s only one reason I have for why a person shouldn’t play this game. It strictly falls down to players who aren’t horror fans. If they’re not, the game wasn’t made or tailored to them, and of course they won’t like it. They shouldn’t go near this thing, if that’s the case. It’s nightmare fuel, plain and simple.

Frankly, I’d say that horror fans who simply want gratuitous gore and simple plot lines should avoid this game too. Particularly if you’re a fan of modern horror that holds your hand and keeps complicated questions of morality to a surface level.

There’s real psychological torment to be found in this game. Abusive situations and trauma linger deeply within the core of the story being told. Silent Hill has gore too, but that’s not the crux of the game. It’s window dressing into the far deeper narrative.

For the rest of us, as in those who occasionally like deeply disturbed horror, this game is worth playing. The experience is unlike any other, and I don’t say that lightly. I could say the same thing comfortably about the first three games in this series. They’re experiences that you just don’t find everyday.

If you like a good horror game, this game is for you. If you enjoy going back to experience classic horror titles in the genre, this game is for you. If you are an absolute diehard fan of horror in gaming, these have to be on your shelf, or someplace in your gaming library. These games are unequivocally made for you.

The original Silent Hill is a true psychological horror game. I love it for that alone. Just like it’s survival horror cousin, Silent Hill has a place on my shelf. It’s earned that place, and all of the acclaim it has received over the years. It fully deserves every ounce of praise it receives going forward too.

It’s 2021 now, and it’s time to put that into perspective. This February, Silent Hill turned 22 years old. Think about that. In America, the game is old enough to have a beer if it wanted. As gamers, we can’t let this game slip into the forgotten corners of our history. It’s too paramount to be forgotten, too important to be bypassed and ignored by younger generations. It’ll slip into obscurity without passionate fans behind it, and that would be a crying shame.

My final thought is; play this game. If you even remotely like horror games with a bone to chew on, experience Silent Hill for yourself. Take the time and do it. It’s worth it. It’s that simple.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Game Review: Resident Evil 2 (1998)

Hey guys, it’s Kernook here, back with another review for one of my favorite franchises, Resident Evil, and this time we’re looking at the second game in the series, Resident Evil 2.

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As I said in my Resident Evil 1.5 review, the series had a rocky footing when it came to making the squeal for the smash hit that the first Resident Evil became.

After only a month of the first game’s release they knew they’d need to make another. Production began, but the prototype was scrapped, and this failed prototype is known by fans as Resident Evil 1.5 You can read my review of that prototype here…

In spite of the failure, the staff working on the team picked up the pieces and set to work again. This time, they ended up creating a game that they knew fans would absolutely love. So much attention to detail was poured into every aspect of this game, and Resident Evil 2 stands as a fan favorite for several very good reasons.

It was everything we could have asked for in a sequel to the franchise. Literally, it was by far everything we loved cranked up and polished to the max. It deified logic now that I think about it. This game was full to bursting with great content, almost like a gift to the fans. A labor of love that without a doubt many people recall fondly.

There were more weapons, new characters with compelling narratives, better graphics and core improvements to game design. Ultimately this made Resident Evil 2 a much beefier gameplay experience than its predecessor, and it blew fans right out of the water.

So, lets dive into this game and take a look. There is a lot to unpack here, and I really want to do this masterful game justice. First, we should begin with a bit of history…

Topping Charts

It might not look like much by today’s standard, but don’t let that fool you. It was truly a landmark title for it’s time. Making it’s way to the PlayStation here in america in 1998, later it hit the Nintendo 64. Over time, several other ports followed. A lot of people were able to get their hands on it, and this likely had a lot to do with its popularity.\.

For younger fans of the series who may not recall those days, you need to remember that survival horror was a fairly new genre to console gamers. Resident Evil had given us fans this rare taste of what a horror game could be, and it had become nearly iconic among us as a result.

So, when Resident Evil 2 entered the scene, we gobbled up copies like a zombie horde after fresh meat. We were clamoring for more, and it delivered in spades. It’s no surprise that the game topped the charts when it came to sales, because it was fresh, and new. There was so little competition when it came to strong horror titles, this gave the game a distinct edge in the market.

The game beat out Super Mario 64, and Final Fantasy 7 when it came to gross profit margins and sales. That’s how popular this game was. Then again, survival horror was a scarce thing. There were platformers and role-playing games aplenty.

At the time, there weren’t many games like the Resident Evil franchise. I attribute these sales to that fact alone. The fact that Resident Evil 2 was just a good game comes secondarily in my personal opinion. It’s certainly a key factor, but let’s face it. That wasn’t the only thing going for it.

It’s easy to beat out other games if you can do the following:

  • Have one good game in the franchise that’s well known already.
  • Appeal to a mass and under served audience.
  • Have absolutely little in the way of solid competition for the genre of game you’re selling.

Resident Evil 2 had all of these factors at play, and that can’t be overlooked. On to of that, the game just looked awesome, and for graphic fanatics you really couldn’t do better than this in the horror genre at the time.

This is a zombie from the opening scene is a great example. It freaked me out for sure.

When fan saw this thing come shuffling out of an alleyway, it was amazing. The upgrades to the zombies and new additional enemies proved to make the hype for the series reach a new all-time high.

To make a very bold statement, Resident Evil 2 was a nearly perfect game, and a therefore a solid addition to the franchise.

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Nearly Perfect, Really? Yeah, It Really Was…

Resident Evil 2 improved on the standard formula of the first game, but it didn’t forget what made it so well loved in the first place. It changed nothing that would hinder the experience, only enhance it.

Director Hideki Kamiya and producer Shinji Mikami, hadn’t been able to see eye-to-eye on the original prototype, and this lead to a falling out of sorts. Hideki Kamiya took full creative control of the game after that, and this was ultimately the right choice if the popularity and sales are any metric to go by.

Plus, when it comes to Shinji Mikami, the man has interesting visions and all around bad execution when it comes to the Resident Evil series sometimes. It just isn’t his forte, but that’s a side rant. I’ll get to in other games, when that actually matters.

Anyway, with Hideki Kamiya at the helm the team got focused and things got done. A masterful story was crafted, and the world of Resident Evil stepped outside of the confines of a mansion, and out into the city.

The Plot Thickens. Coagulated Blood, Anyone?

Resident Evil 2 takes place about two months after the events at the mansion. The surviving S.T.A.R.S. members have done all they can, but the city can’t be saved. It’s come down with a bit of an infestation, and these buggers mean business. No exterminators are going to get rid of this viral mess.

Zombies have overtaken the city. Most of the residents are doomed to die in this hell, but if you’re lucky you’ll survive. You get to play as one of two characters.

The first is Leon Kennedy, a rookie police officer suffering his first day on the job. Today is just not a good day for him at all. The Second is Claire Redfield, a young woman in search of her older brother, Chris Redfield of the first game. To see the full game, you’ll have to play both of them.

These two characters have just arrived in the city, only to be greeted by carnage and zombie hordes. They meet entirely by chance, but they’re both happy to see a friendly face that isn’t trying to eat them. Choosing to stay together, they plan to head to the police station.

Leon gives Claire a gun to protect herself and things are going good. Well, everything except for the zombie in the back seat of a car, and a bitten truck driver losing control of his vehicle. This, of course, ends in the typical explosion you’d expect.

They still make it to the station, though how you get there depends on the character your playing. Once meting up again, they decide it’s best to just leave the city. Chris isn’t there anyway, and by the looks of it the little matter of the zombie horde isn’t going away any time soon.

The story is simple, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. The concept of escaping the city is enough on its own.

We’ve seen it in horror films time and time again, but getting to play through that concept in a game was an exciting addition to the format. It fits all of the typical troupes we’ve come to love.

Added to this are the characters themselves. Again, most of them have simple stories, nothing too complicated. The survivors are few and far between. Some are terrified, others are deranged, and a few have plans that go beyond the narrative scope of the game itself. Obviously, this leaves more questions than answers. However, a good horror title isn’t going to coddle you.

Resident Evil 2 certainly doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to these characters or their personal stories. There are some things you’ll just have to figure out on your own. Occasionally you will have control of two of the side characters, but those moments are carefully planned out.

Sherry Birkin and Ada Wong are wonderful additions to the game. They never seemed out of place, and their inclusions help to enrich the greater Resident Evil universe. Now, a nice thing about Ada Wong is that there are files in the first game to compliment her entry here.

It’s nice to have characters that are establish in the narrative, and Ada fills this role wonderfully.

Furthermore, the characters are edged up a notch by their voice actors. The acting is the game can still be hokey at times, but it’s a leap above what it used to be. It never takes itself too seriously, but it no longer feels like a campy horror movie made with bad actors and comedy that feels like it was written by a five year old.

Instead, this game finds levity in hopeful optimism, well placed snarky comments, and the occasional bad joke to lighten the mood.

When I think of great story telling and narrative clarity, I look no further than Resident Evil 2 as the benchmark for this series. It’s by far one of the best in this regard, it certainly feels satisfying even if it doesn’t entirely flesh out every conclusion, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

I never felt cheated out of an ending, or key character moments. I never felt as though the game refused to give me something meaningful just due to pure laziness. Every unanswered question felt like the correct choice. Either because we didn’t need to have it, or because the answer wouldn’t have been fulfilling anyway.

Some things are just better left unsaid. The game understood where the line was, never crossing it.

One last thing I want to mention, Leon and Clare have two scenarios each, and they take place basically right on top of each other.

Gameplay: A Mixed Bag

A great story isn’t the only thing that matters in a game. It needs to have good mechanics to back it up. There is a reason I say the game was almost perfect, or nearly perfect. Perfection is an impossible standard, and this game did have a few flaws.

Disregarding this would just be idiocy. The game is wonderful, and I’m a huge fan. However, setting down the fan goggles is absolutely required for a proper review. So, I’m about to do that. Don’t chase me with your pitchforks. I love the game too, but there are a few situational problems. No matter how slight they may be, it’s worth talking about them.

One of my small complaints is the lack of differences between the two main characters. They may have entirely different stories, but they feel the same to play. In the first game there were differences in gameplay based on Jill’s ability to pick locks, and Chris’s ability to carry a lighter and take more hits from enemies.

I feel none of that between Leon and Claire. The character specific weapons are nice, but this aspect is shallow when compared to it’s predecessor. It’s the story that makes up for this lack of gameplay.

While we’re still on the topic of characters, let’s discuss a new addition to the game.

Referencing back to the back to the scenarios I mentioned above, if you pick up certain items on an “A” scenario, you may not be able to get that item on a play through of the opposite character’s “B” scenario. You need to play both to get the real ending.

Depending on what scenario you play, and in what order, your starting location changes. Key items will be switched around. Enemy placement will dramatically be altered. There will be unique cut scenes to watch, and a new enemy to face. This adds replay value and a bit of added strategy.

Sadly, it’s not as much as you might think…

Fans praise this aspect of the game. I do as well, but I think we often over hype it. At the time it was genuinely a great addition, and a lot of fun. Still though, I think we place this aspect on a pustule far too often. It was good, but the popularity of this addition is almost legendary. That’s almost a bridge too far.

The new enemy added is okay, but he’s stupidly easy to outsmart. He’s all brawn, no brains. Intimidating when he first comes on screen, and then flat out annoying after you have an idea of how he works. He’s also the base idea for another enemy that shows up in the next Resident Evil title, and in my opinion the concept was done way better in that one. However, I’ll speak about that when I get to it.

All in all, the changes are solid here. They’re good choices, and you can tell they were made with care. They don’t hinder the standard Resident Evil format we all came to love from the first game. This was a boon for us. We could dive right into the game without any issue whatsoever.

All of the old mechanics we’ve come to know make a complete return. This includes fixed camera angles, tank controls, puzzle solving, exploration, healing and item management. This is the mixed bag part…

If you think tank controls absolutely suck, you’re in for a bit of bad news. They’re just as clunky as you recall them to be. Now, I’ve never had an issue with tank controls myself. For my personal situation, tank controls actually make the games easier to play, not harder.

There is a very direct reason for that. Given my Dyspraxia, which is a motor skill disorder, having limited movement allowed me to have better control over the character. I didn’t need to be careful of subtle movement, because the characters only move in very particular ways. When it comes to my thumb being clumsy, the game just didn’t pick that up. This meant I could pay closer attention to my environment, and not what my hands did of their own accord without my noticing. While I love tank controls, I do understand that most people hate them.

For me personally, it’s not a downside. Objectively speaking though, it very well could be. I won’t overlook that just because of my nostalgia or personal situation.

There is a ton of backtracking as well. If you hate that sorry, you’re stuck with it. Thankfully the game got really creative with backdrops and surprise zombies, so it’s not nearly as mindless as it was in the first game.

Puzzles are incredibly elaborate and diverse. Some are super easy, like this one. You just push statues. It’s almost a no brainier. Not all of them are this easy though.

In some places they’re insanely hard, and this is one of my favorite things. That said, they can be even more unforgiving than in the first game. I know many people who complained about some of the puzzles being too obtuse, and I can understand why some people would think that.

Although I loved the puzzles, some of them felt very out of place then, and still do to this day. That detail took me out of the atmosphere more than once, and ripped me out of horror I was trying to experience.

Item management is just as much a pain in the neck as always. This is to ramp up tension of course, and to make you think strategically. This was one of my greatest downfalls in the first game, and it was my downfall in this game too. As a new player deaths were attributed to my lack of item management in key places. Nowadays, I have it down to a science.

All-in-all, the gameplay was everything we needed it to be. It didn’t add an insane amount of new things, and that’s fine. Too much would have taken away from the simplicity of just enjoying a zombie title. Since there wasn’t a huge learning curve, we could enjoy the story which was spectacular.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics were a step above it’s predecessor, which is why it was impressive to look at for its time. The rendered backdrops were more detailed, even once compressed onto a disk. While the Nintendo 64 port couldn’t live up to its PlayStation counterpart in terms of visual aesthetic the pure novelty of playing the game on the system alone was enough to be noteworthy.

Nowadays unless you like retro graphics, it will likely look like crap. The only thing to do is blame the flow of time and pure advancement.

I’ve said this many times, but the sound design on any retro Resident Evil game is paramount to gameplay in a very important way that other games don’t suffer from. Due to the fixed camera angles and zombies loitering around just off screen, it is absolutely paramount that monsters give sound cues.

The enemies need to highlight where they might be. If you can’t see them, you’re as good as dead. This is the key to that new enemy I mentioned above, and this aspect is even more important for him.

He will chase you through certain places. Knowing where he is, and what he’s doing is fundamental. It’s going to be the difference between life and death during hard mode on your first play through. Even if you’ve played the remake, don’t underestimate him. With ammo conservation still playing a heavy role, new players are better left to just leave this thing alone.

Thankfully the sound engineers working on the game understood this, and the sound quality is top notch.

The Nintendo 64 port actually had a better sound quality, which is an odd little quirk. It’s a neat little claim to fame, though. At least that made up for the lacking visuals of the system’s hardware and the need for even more compression than was on the disk.

Final Thoughts

Resident Evil 2 is a very solid entry to the series, and arguably the best of the first three named titles out there. Now, as I mentioned in passing in recent years we received a remake of the game, complete with high definition graphics, great atmosphere, and all the gore you could hope for in a zombie game.

That being said, fans shouldn’t abandon the retro version of the title. The remake is wonderful, and it will receive its own review. However, it lacks one thing that I find fundamental to the franchise.

Charm… Yeah, you read that correctly. It lacks charm. All of the older games, and the remake of the first game all have something charming about them. There are these the little moments that make you smile, even if it’s for stupid reasons.

As games become more realistic we gain a lot in the horror factor, but we lose a bit of that charming, and sometimes silly, poetic atmosphere. That’s the trade off for horror of the current era, and it is to be expected.

The Resident Evil 2 remake is more gritty, not just in the realistic look of the zombies, but in every single way. That’s amazing if you just want horror, but if you want the far more optimistic story telling found in the retro titles you won’t find it in the remake. Instead, you’re going to get a lot of cursing, and darker dialogue.

To me, this is why the remake cannot fundamentally be held on the same sort of stage that it’s retro equivalent stands upon. They’re very different experiences, and they have to be treated that way.

I love the original Resident Evil 2 because of the characters, they have such optimism. With an almost foolish desire to save people and a near gentleness especially when it comes to Claire. To me, that’s what makes this game so beloved in the first place.

It’s not just the horror, it’s the heart. To me that defining factor makes this version of the game the definitive Resident Evil 2 experience.

If you call yourself a fan of this series at all, you should play this version at least once…

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Uniracers Review – Bombastic Fun

Unicycles, high speeds, colorful tracks and a plethora of tricks have made this SNES title a classic for any collector. Tragically, the game is super rare due to a lawsuit, and only 300,000 copies were ever distributed.

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Hey everyone, it’s Kern here. Welcome to my review of Uniracers. In some areas of the world, this game known as “Unirally“, I shall be using the american title, as that’s what I’ve always called it.

The game was designed by British developers known as  “DMA Design Limited,” now known as “Rockstar North Limited“. On the surface, Uniracers plays like any standard racing game.

The goal is to come in first place, or pull off stunts to achieve points in order to pass the stage. The game is sometimes silly or completely absurd. When it comes down to the naming of the tracks or the trick, this all boils down to the game’s core goal.

Uniracers is all about plain stupid fun. Unabashedly wearing idiocy on its sleeve and not giving a rats ass about who that annoys. Unicycles ride on a bombastic 2D tracks, riderless, and with a tenacity that could only come from the most insane stunt rider.

You’re more likely going to be paying attention to the track rather than what your unicycle happens to be doing. This is by design, as stunts will be your key game-play mechanic. They can’t be readily ignored.

Performing stunts causes the unicycle to go faster during races, and certain stages require stunts in order to reach a point threshold.

Overall, the stunts that can be performed are generally easy to do. There is a very low barrier to entry on basic tricks. For one of the easiest, all you do is to get some air and mash a single button. By doing that your unicycle will twist around in the air. This is called a twist, or some variation of the name

None of the stunts are overly difficult on their own, but the tracks can make them exceptionally harder to pull off. The idea is to be able to perform these stunts quickly in tight situations, all while avoiding a “wipe out” that will slow you down.

There are a few types of stages, obviously called tracks. Race tracks, circuit tracks and stunt tracks are evenly spread across the entirety of the game. There are nine total tours with five tracks each. Each tour contains two race and circuit tracks, and one stunt track. Mastering each type is the only way to achieve gold medals.

There are two types of skill curves in this game. The racers you face and the tours you race in.

The Tours

So, let’s talk tours first. As I said, there are nine tours. Each tour is named after an animal, complete with a goofy looking icon letting the player know exactly what they’re in for. Filling the early game you have Crawler, Shuffler and Walker respectively.

Frankly these are the tracks I like the best. I’m an average player, by far not the best. I flat out suck at some of the tours. I’ve beaten all the gold metal tours before as a child, and for the sake of this review, but that was only after months of playing.

I’m not great at this game, but I know it isn’t just me. This is a hard racing game to play to completion due to the style the game is played in. The tracks in every tour can be hard on the eyes due to the color splashes, and depending on the opponent it’s supposed to be completely unfair. More on that later.

Crawler acts as your starting tutorial. It is easy to play even on the bronze setting. It edges the player into the game fairly gently given that it is a high octane racing game.

Meanwhile Shuffler and Walker hone your newly discovered skills. You’re going to need them. The game isn’t unfair with it’s skill curve, but it’s certainly steeper in later tours on bronze and completely unforgiving on gold.

Hopper is your first step into intermediate tours and tracks. By this point in the game, you not only need to know tricks, you need to know when to best utilize them. On bronze it’s a clear ramp up, on gold it’ll eat an unprepared player alive.

Prior to this point, the need for tricks were fairly minimal, and most tracks could be won simply by paying attention to the course, or getting some air and just spinning around in circles.

In fighting games there are techniques known as “first order optimal strategies” or “FOO strategies”. This is a strategy that new players repeat on end because the attack is effective enough to serve their needs. They have no need to learn other stunts until the skill curve rises above the simple ones they’ve picked up. I use this this same analogy when it comes to Uniracers.

The easy tricks will carry you all the way to Hopper. Then you’re going to get slapped in the face by tracks that are no longer toying around. You’re not going to be able to pass the Hopper tour without knowing when to utilize your tricks.

Still, you don’t need to use many of them on the races. You just need to use them well. Jumper and Bounder continue this upward curve in skill steadily.

The next huge stretch in difficultly curve is Runner and Sprinter. These tours promise to make you eat dirt on your stunts, and demand that you’re able to follow the flow of tracks effectively.

I don’t have much to say on Runner or Sprinter because even though it’s a jump in difficulty, it’s an expected one. Let’s be honest, we all know what the worst set of tracks really are. We also know what unicycle is to blame for all of it. That is what’s really worth talking about.

Hunter is the final tour, and it’s as intense as the name sounds. All of your skills need to be utilized, and sometimes it comes down to good RNG, and sometimes you just luck out.

There is very little room for error on the tracks, and the errors you do make can only be corrected with a combination of well placed stunts and pure luck. Even on bronze, Hunter is no joke. Now, you’ll also notice this is the only one showcasing a “gold” rating, and that’s because to see the final boss in all of his glory I had to get it.

To get that gold rating, it took me several weeks of playing races over and over again to even get all the medals required. It wasn’t very fun because I hate gold level play, but there it is… stupid thing…

Though, as I said, there are two forms of difficulty in this game. The tracks are only half the battle.

The Racers

Onto the racers then. Each track has a bronze, silver, and gold opponent to race against. That means each track needs to be completed three times to have a chance at completely clearing the game.

I won’t bother with screenshots for the first three opponents, since they’re all just different colored unicycles. It’s the last one you face that matters. If your persistent enough to get all the medals the final boss is a special kind of hell.

Bronze medal courses have you racing against Bronson. In the vast majority of my time playing the game as a child, I raced against him. For my casual style as an adult, bronze races suit me best when I’m trying to just relax.

In the early game, Bronson rarely performs stunts to gain speed, and to my experience doesn’t seem to take provided shortcuts. In later tours it’s the tracks that provide the upward difficulty curve, not Bronson himself. He is your baseline barrier to entry on every track, and beating him opens up the silver race.

Silver medal courses have you racing against Silvia, a much more skilled opponent. Silver races are where I find myself most commonly playing when I want a decent challenge. She’s not too difficult, but if you have mastery of the tracks, she’ll give you a good test.

Unlike Bronson, Silvia uses tricks often, and in the right places. She will occasionally use shortcuts as well. She’s difficult to play against if you aren’t using the track to your advantage. New players will be able to learn by observation. A skill that you’ll need in any gold medal race. If you have a track giving you problems, learn by following her.

In gold medal courses, you’re up against Goldwyn. The training wheels are off with this guy. He’ll put you to the test as early as Crawler for casual players and by the Hopper tour he means serious business for anyone that isn’t an expert in the game.

Completing every tour against Goldwyn unlocks the final boss of the game. This monstrosity is named “Anti Uni”, a black and red unicycle that plays dirty. It openly cheats and often ends up throwing attacks at you. Honestly, I hate this thing for all the right reasons.

“Anti Uni” will do everything in its power to screw you over. From making the screen wobble, forcing sections of the track to disappear, and just flat out slowing you down.

This jerk even goes so far as to cackle at you like a deranged chipmunk when it has gained the upper hand. With attacks such as “barf mode” and “screen flip” messing with you at every opportunity, this boss is the most aggriavating thing I’ve ever seen in a racing game.

I won’t lie, I couldn’t get a decent image of “barf mode” because I can’t really look at it for too long without it hurting my eyes. For me, it’s a bit blinding. Screen flip, which turns everything upside down, is by far bad enough.

“Anti Uni” only appears on the Hunter tour, and as an average player I’ll openly admit I’ve never beaten this stupid thing in a gold race.

That’s why I much prefer Bronze and Silver metal races and earlier tours. Playing beyond Silvia just doesn’t have appeal to me. The fact I can choose the skill curve I like best and still enjoy all of the tracks is why I love this racing game so much.

Now, to be fair I have seen my older brother win races against “Anti Uni” at his most difficult when we were kids several times, so I know it’s beatable. I was just never able to do it myself.

In Conclusion

With all of that, said I come down to one simple conclusion. The sentiment at the start of this post bears repeating. Uniracers is plain, stupid fun.

At the best of times, the game is tenacious and bombastic in every aspect. Sentient unicycles speeding around on flashy track designs, with over the top rock music playing over them.

As a player you’re pulling stunts that have dumb names sometimes. The combination of gameplay is incredibly immature in some places, and just goofy in others. The game is better for it. In that way, Uniracers offers a high octane experience that’s just hard to match.

In the worst of times, the game is just flat out annoying and sometimes it even tries to be. It can also be very hard to play due to some of the tracks being hard to look at. One of Hunter’s tracks named “Neon” proves my point perfectly.

All that black background smashed against neon green and red? Yeah, that’s grounds for a bunch of not so very nice four letter words in my book. Especially when I need to redo the track for the umpteenth time.

To make that worse, the cocky and belligerent boss unicycle at the end of the game will absolutely screw with you. It has a laugh that inspires the sort of fury that can have you tossing your controller at your screen.

Then again, this game is from the same company that made the original “Grand Theft Auto“. I shouldn’t need to say any more than that. If you love racing games with that kind of devil may care attitude, you’ll love Uniracers.

It’s just that simple.

Maybe someday soon I’ll talk about the lawsuit that crippled Uniracers from being a common household name. However, that’s a complicated topic that requires a video all of it’s own, and that’ll be for another day.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Game Review: Resident Evil 1.5

Hey everyone, it’s Kern here. I want to take a brief interlude into the troubles of game design, and the subsequent cancellation of what would be Resident Evil 2‘s first iteration.

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Unfortunately, that particular version of Resident Evil 2 was canceled. It is now known by hardcore fans as Resident Evil 1.5. Frankly, this unreleased attempt of a game deserves a discussion or two, and that’s the reason for this post.

It’s a shame that director Hideki Kamiya, and producer Shinji Mikami, hadn’t been able to see eye-to-eye on the game. If they had, the Resident Evil 2 that we know and love might have been vastly different.

As a failed prototype, Resident Evil 1.5 is an interesting look into what Resident Evil 2 could have become. There is no official release of Resident Evil 1.5. Thankfully, the build of Resident Evil 1.5 was leaked on the internet back in 2013. Fans of the series have managed to cobble together some form of playable version.

If you look hard enough the content for 1.5 is out there. If you can’t find the game to play yourself, there is plenty of game footage among members of the survival horror community. It’s worth a look at the very least.

Before we do that, though I just want to remind you that I already did a review of the first game. If you want all of the nitty-gritty about that, you should likely read that first.

The original Resident Evil was a huge success. The game was foundational to the survival horror genre, it gave rise to it, truth be told. Resident Evil did one thing above all else, it proved that gamers had a true hunger for survival horror, and a ravenous craving for more games in the genre. This would lead to many iterations and spin-offs over time, but Resident Evil was the first of its kind to popularize the genre.

Resident Evil Retrospective Review

Resident Evil features a fairly typical story. A rescue mission is taking place. With a string of murders running rampant across the fictional Raccoon City, it’s up to the police to find out what is really going on. In response to this, the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, or “S.T.A.R.S.” have been sent to look into the issue. Having been sent deep into the mountains, the first team has gone missing.

Failure to Launch

The success of the first game was so large that it stood to reason that they’d make another. Just a month after the original game was released, development began for a sequel. Hideki Kamiya was slated to direct the new game. Shinji Mikami was going to produce it. These two masterminds dove into their new concept, eager to make a much better survival horror experience.

They had big plans to surpass the fandom’s expectations when it came to the new game. That wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do, either. They had high hopes to fulfill here, both for themselves and for the growing number of Resident Evil fans. Initially these two men had three core ideas on how to make the sequel even better than the original.

  • Firstly, they wanted to make playing the game feel more dynamic. They felt that the first game wasn’t as strong as it could have been in this area.
  • Secondly, they planned to vastly expand the scope of Raccoon City. They wanted to broaden the scope of Resident Evil‘s already compelling narrative.
  • Thirdly, they wanted to include a wider range of highly detailed and stunning pre-rendered backgrounds. This would lend the game even better imagery than what was provided in the original game.

Unfortunately, this new vision wouldn’t be the one to be published. Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami had all of the building blocks for a great game in place. However, each of them had different artistic visions.

Originally, Shinji Mikami wanted to complete the entire Resident Evil story with the sequel before moving onto other projects. He didn’t want to linger on this franchise for too long.

Hideki Kamiya vastly disagreed. He wanted to make a longer, more complex story. He planned on using the sequel to expand on Resident Evil‘s core themes. to create a wider universe.

In the end, Shinji Mikami eventually took a few steps back from the creative development of the game. It was his belief that the game was lackluster. He felt that the narrative was lacking something important. In his opinion, the game mechanics and story just didn’t meld together seamlessly. He asked to be kept informed about the game’s development, but otherwise handed the reigns over to Hideki Kamiya completely.

During the development cycle, Resident Evil 1.5 was nearly eighty percent complete before it was scrapped entirely. A new scenario writer had joined the team and everyone agreed that it was just better to rebuild the game from scratch.

Key Differences

Firstly, I suppose, is the game itself. Resident Evil 2 as we know it today is vastly different from Resident Evil 1.5. Many of the assets from the project couldn’t be used in the release of Resident Evil 2, most of them had to be remade. That being said, some of the modded versions of Resident Evil 1.5 use assets from the Resident Evil 2 game. They do this to help fill in the gaps in the unfinished product.

The story has quite a few changes in it too. Now, to be clear, the story wasn’t completely fleshed out in Resident Evil 1.5, and that reflects in the media. That said, the story as we do know it is vastly different.

In Resident Evil 1.5, the S.T.A.R.S operatives manage to convince the authorities that Umbrella is up to no good. They report that Umbrella was directly involved with problems in Arklay Mountains and within Spencer Mansion. During the game, this is referred to as the “Umbrella Incident”.

The Raccoon City Police were shutting down Umbrella’s laboratories, but the city isn’t safe. A massive viral outbreak has overtaken the city, and it’s the T-Virus.

There is a lot of political intrigue in Resident Evil 1.5. Subtext and implication suggests that Umbrella only released the virus to quiet the naysayers and silence opposition. The story slowly unfolds as the player experiences two different scenarios, starring two different characters. There are some interesting additions to the supporting cast as well.

The first is Leon Kennedy, a familiar name to anyone who knows of the Resident Evil franchise.

Leon’s personality stays much the same, and his basic story plot does too. Very little changes with him, and its clear that he was fleshed out conceptually very well from the start. Leon is still the rookie police officer we all know and love, but thankfully this time around it isn’t his first day on the job.

The second character is Elza Walker. she is a student at Raccoon University. Let’s be honest, she’s no Claire Redfield, that’s for sure.

Elza is a motorcycle enthusiast who returns back from a long vacation only to find that the city is completely overrun with zombies. She ends up crashing her motorcycle into the main lobby of the police station and closes the shutters, locking her inside.

Classic Leon is awesome in both 1.5 and Resident Evil 2. Though, I must say, the same doesn’t hold true for Elza. I prefer Claire over Elza any day.

No matter what scenario is chosen, the goals are roughly the same. Players must find a safe way out of the police department, save any survivors, and get out of the city. As far as survivors go, there are several.

The Birkin family makes a full fledged return. Sherry is still a child that needs protection. Annette and William are her parents. Ada Wong, Marvin Branagh, and Brian Irons, have returned as well. In Resident Evil 1.5, their roles have changed drastically. This is probably one of the most important reasons to play Resident Evil 1.5, because it gives us a look at what these characters could have been.

I won’t spoil too much, but there are some interesting things to take note of. In this version, Marvin spends a great deal of time with Leon throughout the game. Ada is an employee of Umbrella, she was under arrest until the outbreak occurred. Brian is more level headed, and less murderous, but his role is very small.

Mechanics: The Good, The Bad, The Broken…

There are a few oddities to make note of. Computers in the game make a point to remind the player to save their progress, but, there are standard Resident Evil typewriters too. I’m not really sure why the save system might be implemented in this way, but it is an interesting little detail.

You’ll have to be careful when running around. The game was still in development when it was scrapped, so there are plenty of broken boundaries.

You clip through things that you shouldn’t be able to, and all enemies can be seen. Yes, that also means you can see them through walls.

If you notice, it looks like Leon is standing on the table in this photo, and there are plenty of moments like this. Trust me, that’s not a rug. I assure you that dark square thing is, in fact, a table.

Furthermore, there is a huge range of weaponry to choose from in Resident Evil 1.5, but some of the items don’t have assets. Using an item that doesn’t have assets will crash the game.

Puzzles look to be standard Resident Evil format, though most aren’t completely implemented. You can go through the entire game without collecting key items. This is likely a good thing.

Other than that, playing Resident Evil 1.5 isn’t too different from the classic Resident Evil 2. There are more zombies on screen at any given time, and even other enemies can come in small packs. Tank controls and fixed camera angles make a return, of course. Anyone who has played the classic titles in the series will be well acquainted with them by now.

There’s just one problem. The controller can be very wonky…

The game never had an official console release. That means you have to play the game using an emulator. If you’re like me, you use an Xbox 360 controller. The directional pad on Xbox 360 controllers are a piece of garbage, and it can make playing the game difficult. If you have a controller with a better directional pad, you should use it.

The rest of the mechanical changes are small, but I have to admit that I actually prefer most of them. Shotguns can still completely destroy a zombie. However, you can’t aim upwards to take off a zombie’s head. Shotguns will only rip the zombie in half. This can be used to incapacitate a zombie entirely. If you aim below the belt, you can even take their legs clean off. I have to admit, it’s a nice touch.

There is one awkward thing, though. When comes to health bars and status effects, your character will show signs of being injured by having ripped up clothing or seeping wounds. This was a nice idea in practice, but for me it kills immersion. Obviously when you heal back up, the wounds go away and the clothing goes back to normal.

This looks a little odd, and quite frankly, I prefer the limping and slower movement speed that’s found in most classic iterations of the franchise. It simply works better in my personal opinion.

Interesting Visuals and Soundtrack

The sound design is a masterful mix between the first and second Resident Evil titles. The music itself has that classic Resident Evil vibe to it, but there is no voice acting in the game. Due to the fixed camera angles, it’s important that each monster has an auditory cue so that players can hear when they’re just off screen. This ethos is the same in all of the classic titles, and it makes a return here as well.

Visually the game is impressive for its time. However, as a fan it’s hard not to notice something. There is a strange middle ground between Resident Evil graphics and Resident Evil 2 graphics. Resident Evil 1.5 fits perfectly in the center of all of it, showing off what would happen if you merged the two styles completely. Everything is slightly more improved visually from the first game, but, the Resident Evil 2 that was officially released is by far better looking.

My favorite place has to be inside the police station. There’s a cold, sterile feeling that comes along with it. The colors are often muted, meaning that even the brown cardboard boxes on shelves become eye-catching. Truthfully, it isn’t as interesting as the police station in Resident Evil 2, but, it has its own charm to it.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of good things to come out of this failed prototype of a game. In truth, there are some less than stellar things about it too. It has flaws in spades, but, that’s the point of playing it.

Resident Evil 1.5 is a stepping stone for classic survival horror. It conceptualizes a game’s development cycle in a way few prototypes can. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

The hard work and love that staff put into their crafted worlds can’t be understated either. This prototype was a steppingstone that showcases just how much effort it takes to make a series like Resident Evil.

Fans of the franchise shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience this prototype in one way or another. If you have the chance to play Resident Evil 1.5, you should. If you need to watch someone else play it, you should still do it. The experience is worth the time, and I can’t stress that enough.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Resident Evil Retrospective Review

Hey guys, it’s Kernook here. Let’s enter into the realm of survival horror for a spell, shall we? This will be a retrospective review of Resident Evil. This review will only cover the original black box release of Resident Evil 1, for the PlayStation.

Resident Evil Review – Video Format

This review will not cover the directors cut, or the duel shock release of the game. That’s for two reasons. Firstly, the soundtrack was changed in both of those versions, and not entirely for the better. Secondly, even though I do have both the director’s cut and the original black box release, I usually don’t play the director’s cut version.

Furthermore, this review does not cover the Resident Evil remake. That’s a topic for a different day. It requires it’s own separate review. Today, I’m just going to be covering the original game. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started.

Resident Evil as a franchise will always be very near and dear to my heart. In order to understand why, I need to give you a glimpse of my childhood. My personal upbringing with gaming isn’t necessarily something that should be emulated.

In 1989, I was born with Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia, which are non-curable motor-skill disorders. They’re also kind of weird, and when I was a child there was no good way to handle the disorders. Experts in the field of medicine sort of just shrugged it off. They weren’t entirely sure how to help alleviate the symptoms, which are a long list in and of themselves. Look it up if you want to, just know that not all of them apply to everyone. There is a spectrum.

What worked for me, probably as a fluke was incredibly lucky. I just want to make that clear. I don’t advocate for buying games for children who aren’t ready to handle the context of that game. Furthermore, I believe it’s up to parents to police their child’s gaming habits. It’s not for the media or the public to decide.

That being said, as a child I spent a lot of my time playing video games. I belonged to a family of gamers. My earliest memories contain eight-bit and sixteen-bit images splashed across the television screen. Sonic and Mario were my bread and butter. We were lucky to have a Sega Genesis, a Nintendo, and a Super Nintendo in the house.

Our gaming library wasn’t particularly vast. Thankfully, we had a large and active gaming family. My bother, older cousins, and even my mom, played video games. We often traded games and systems, to experience the best of all worlds. The medium of gaming was everywhere for me.

When I think about it now, playing the Resident Evil franchise in the late 90’s was one of the best experiences I could have had as a child. It helped a lot for my personal and particular problems. So, from here on out, when I talk about the franchise, just keep that. I do have a positive personal bias towards the franchise as a whole, and I won’t disregard that.

The Beginning: Sweet Home Mutates into Resident Evil

Any gamer that was around for the 90’s knows that it was a very experimental time in gaming history. Prior to the 90’s, playing games with 3D animation was laughable, expensive, and to casual players it was unheard of.

Frankly, 2D gaming was cheaper to develop, more accessible to gamers, and pandered to a wider family-style audience. In general, 2D gaming was just the commonality at the time. Occasionally computers offered a stepping stone into 3D gaming, but even that was limited at first. A lot of games that looked 3D weren’t. They just looked that way, using clever techniques and tricks of the eye.

Sony changed that with the release of the PlayStation. The powerhouse of a system opened doors for developers, and allowed gamers a glimpse into what fully realized worlds might look like.

Capcom, a Japanese video-game developer, had the bold idea of bringing one of their classic games over to the new console. Its name was “Sweet Home“. Now, here’s a little food for thought. Sweet Home was a title for the family entertainment system. It was made in 1989, so everything about it was made with the older platform in mind. Bringing it into a 3D space was going to be a monumental effort. The game was a fusion, containing both RPG and horror elements. Knowing that this would not be an easy task, Capcom asked Shinji Mikami to help them with the project.

To say that the project was a massive undertaking would be selling the matter short. Everything was against them in this effort. Sweet Home was a complex game with multiple story lines, and very intricately created puzzles. They couldn’t just up-heave the general concept, and then proceed to cram it into a 3D environment.

That surely would have been a complete disaster. Thankfully, that’s not what they did.

Instead, the ideas and themes of Sweet Home took on a life of their own. Eventually, from the ashes of all of those great ideas, a new game was born. It was known as Bio Hazard in Japan.

Unfortunately, there was another problem. They couldn’t use the name. A DOS game had already registered that name for a different brand, so Capcom couldn’t use it.

Capcom eventually re-named the title, and it became Resident Evil. The game, in a word, was masterful. There were plenty of horror games to play at the time, but none of them were quite like this one. With the release of Resident Evil, so too, came the birth of survival horror.

An Aside: A Plethora of “You Died” Screens

I was young when I began my Resident Evil journey. The first game I ever beat on my own was Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Prior to that, I didn’t have the skills required to beat the games. I tried, of course, but I always needed help. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis had a freakishly low skill requirement on easy mode.

With tons of weapons and ammo in the item box at the start of the game, it’s actually pretty difficult to die. Well, I mean, unless you just stand there and let zombies eat you.

As a general rule, survival horror is not an easy genre to play. It’s generally made for adults. It’s not aimed at it kids, nor should it be. I played the genre as a child, but I had an older brother that was usually with me. Forcing myself to focus on cognitive puzzle solving, basic game controls, memorizing maps, and recalling enemy layouts were some of the hardest things I ever had to do in a game. This is why I say that playing these games helped me more than I ever could have perceived as a child. They were foundational tools for many of the skills I became able to do after holding a controller and thinking outside of the box.

After playing Resident Evil 3: Nemesis on easy, normal, and finally hard difficulty, I was able to go back to the older games in the genre and play them on my own. Before that, I usually never made it beyond the mansion in Resident Evil 1, or the police station in Resident Evil 2. Before that, poor inventory management, terrible ammo conservation, and a lack of ink ribbons usually did me in.

Entering the Nightmare

Entering into Resident Evil, a bazaar string of murders runs rampant. Victims are being eaten alive.

Resident Evil features a fairly typical story. A rescue mission is taking place. With a string of murders running rampant across the fictional Raccoon City, it’s up to the police to find out what is really going on. In response to this, the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, or “S.T.A.R.S.” have been sent to look into the issue. Having been sent deep into the mountains, the first team has gone missing.

When starting the game, players get to choose between two characters. Both of them are S.T.A.R.S officers. One is a man by the name of Chris Redfield. The other is a woman by the name of Jill Valentine. Each one has their own story, and it serves the player to go through each scenario at least once.

No matter what character you pick, you have a few not-so-simple tasks:

  • First, you must find the missing Bravo S.T.A.R.S. team members. At the very least, you must find out what happened to them.
  • Secondly, you must find out what has been happening deep in the Arklay Mountains just northwest of Raccoon City.
  • Thirdly, you have to survive this ordeal and come out of it alive.

The opening cinematic is the same for both characters. You find out that the other team’s helicopter has been heavily damaged, and no one is around. A pack of deranged zombie dogs attack the group. In a desperate attempt to survive the attack, the alpha team members make a mad dash to the nearby mansion. They hide inside, where they believe it will be safe.

Instead, they’ve walked headlong into the nightmare. The a virus has spread throughout the entire mansion, infecting everything from humans, dogs, plants, spiders, and more.

The Basics

The mansion itself is a labyrinth of narrow hallways. A maze that needs to be traversed bit by bit, carefully and with an eye out for the looming dangers.

Tight camera angles and tank controls keep the player on their toes. Now, I’ll say this, a lot of people complain about tank controls. In this current era of gaming, I agree they can be a bit clunky. That said, I never had an issue with them. In fact, they were almost second nature to me. For me, I had more of a problem with inventory management and trying not to use up all my ammo.

The game-takes small cues from Sweet Home, Alone in the Dark, and other story driven horror titles. With limited inventory and never enough ammo, players will be forced to explore many areas to find the items they need in order to progress.

Certain keys have to be acquired, and backtracking will happen more than once. This was a risky design decision, but I’m glad it works so well. Typewriters for saving and item boxes for inventory management will be utilized often. They have been carefully placed in areas that players visit often.

On the topic of item boxes and typewriters, they are instrumental in playing Resident Evil. These are core game mechanics across most of the titles. Space on your character is limited, and it is imperative that you plan accordingly. This includes saving your game. In order to save your game, you require ink ribbons. You’ll usually find them in small batches.

Every time you save your game, it costs an ink ribbon. The supply is limited and on the first play-through you might find yourself running out. The ink ribbon is a doubled edged sword, though. Higher end game rankings require faster completion times, fewer saves, and less healing items.

Thanks to constant puzzle solving, there is a sense of adventure woven into the narrative. To be honest, it couples nicely with the campy dialogue and nods to classic horror as a genre.

Nowadays, the original Resident Evil might be a bit too campy, but I still enjoy it. I think it works well, given the graphics of the era.

Newcomers need to remember that the PlayStation era was before high fidelity graphics were even possible in gaming. In my opinion, the goofy dialogue only adds to the charm. In some ways, it has even helped to age the game. Back in the day there were some parts of the game I had a hard time taking seriously. Nowadays, I think it’s actually impossible. I feel like everyone has that moment when they want to laugh out loud at least once. For me, that reason alone makes it an experience worth playing.

The Combat

Really, there is only one form of combat in Resident Evil. You can either aim your gun and shoot, or choose to run away. Both options have their place, and it’s important to know what option suits the situation best.

Skilled players can do no “save, knife only runs”, but that isn’t something average players will master. Certainly not on their first try.

Learning the contours of the mansion will help you to make these all too important decisions. You can’t murder every enemy in the entire game. Your ammo is limited, and this key fact is what defines the survival horror genre. Well, that, and the tank controls for earlier titles.

Your job is simply to survive by any means necessary. Choosing a live-and-let-live approach comes in handy inside wide open rooms. Outmaneuvering slower enemies will conserve ammunition. Narrow hallways will require a more aggressive approach.

Due to the stationary camera angles and tank controls, sometimes enemies will be hiding just off camera. The developers planned for that, giving every monster in the game some sort of audio cue. They were careful to make every sound distinct and clear against the ambient music of the soundtrack. Zombies have their moans, dogs growl, hunters make a clicking noise whenever they walk, and so on.

Even boss fights like Yawn have carefully placed cues to warn you about what kind of attack is coming. In general, careful players can usually avoid getting attacked by a monster off screen, all they need to do is wait and listen.

If you take damage from an enemy, you’ll have to rely on herbs and first aid sprays to heal you. They’re in short supply, and every time you get hit you put yourself into a sticky situation. Your character will begin to hold their side if the injury is bad enough. If they continue to take damage, they’ll begin to limp slowly, and this makes avoiding enemies difficult.

There are several boss battles, of course. Yawn is a battle you face twice. With the right weapons and preparation, they’re never too hard. If you conserve your ammo properly the bosses shouldn’t be your largest threat. In fact, I’d say that most boss battles in this game aren’t that big of a threat at all.

Instead, I’d say that forgetting where you might have left a zombie or two is a much bigger problem. Backtracking after a battle can be a death sentence. Especially if you’re low on ammo and healing items.

Final Thoughts

Resident Evil – Long Play (Jill)

Today’s long play starts where it all began, Resident Evil for the PlayStation, in 1996. Alpha Team members are headed for the mountains northwest of Raccoon City. With missing Bravo Team members to locate, and a diabolical pharmaceutical company performing twisted experiments, it is sure to be a nightmare.

The first Resident Evil game is a true classic among the survival horror genre. It isn’t insanely difficult, but it doesn’t forgive reckless new players either. The game has a learning curve, and it expects you to rise above every puzzle, enemy, and trap that it gives you.

The game is atmospheric in the best ways, utilizing visual assets in a way few games could back then. The musical sound design is flawless in the original black box edition of the game, ambient and often beautiful.

The musical quality is abysmal when it comes to the directors cut, or the duel shock releases of the game. Sadly, that’s the trade-off you make if you can’t get a copy of the original.

The voice acting is campy at best, embarrassingly bad at worst, but a lot of that dialogue became a touchstone for gamers around the world. People attend anime and gaming conventions cosplaying as the characters. Fan fiction flooded websites, and fan art followed soon after.

Best of all, nowadays speed-runners collectively band together to experience the game, giving rise to an entirely new audience of survival horror fans. All of that cannot be understated.

Obviously, with the original game being remade, we got to visit the mansion once more with the Resident Evil remake for the GameCube in 2002. Many prefer the remake over the original. I certainly do as well. The remake eventually received a PC port, which is by far the most visually impressive way to enjoy the game.

That said, returning to the original game every now and then is vastly important to gaming history. Survival horror as a genre would be completely different than it is today without the original Resident Evil.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest, and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll catch you next time. Meanwhile, check out some of our other great content below.

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