Tag Archives: Resident Evil 2

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 catch you in the next post.

Claire Redfield – A Remake Letdown

Since I just recently reviewed Resident Evil 2, a title that was released (1998) I thought it was prudent To discuss a character from that game and the personal impact that Clair Redfield had on me as a fan.

The reason I wanted to write this was because I grew up with this character, and now a younger cousin of mine is as well. I feel the need to reflect on this, because thanks to the remake a character I once really liked in this fandom has been tarnished significantly. These are the reasons why.

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As I said in my review of the retro title, 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. You can read the full review here.

Claire Redfield originally made her first appearance in the game. She’s come to the city looking for her older brother. By the time she gets there, he’s already gone to a safer location.

The city is infested with zombies, it isn’t safe. By the time she discovers that her brother isn’t in the city anymore, all hell has broken loose. She needs to leave too, and working together with Leon seems to be the safest bet. They agree to try and help a few survivors if they find any during their escape.

During Claire’s scenarios the player will be tasked with helping a little girl named Sherry Birkin. This is a somewhat key focal point for Claire’s main story. After culling the zombie horde and traversing a police station, sewers, and even an underground lab, eventually you escape the city with the Leon and Sherry.

If you’ve done everything right, you get a happy little ending that fades into the sunset. They’re you’re given a grade and score encouraging you to play again and get a better rank next time.

Claire promises to find her brother before the credits roll. Her story isn’t finished, and you’ll see her in later games.

The Resident Evil franchise has a knack for writing strong female protagonists, and there are no shortage of reasons why these characters are beloved by the fans of the games. That being said, Claire Redfield is probably one of my favorite characters in the entire series, at least as far as the retro titles are concerned.

In the early games, Claire is a little sassy, but all around sweet and sentimental. She’s got a kind heart, and a level headed optimism that plays a great counterpoint to Leon’s nearly blind obsession with doing the right thing.

While Leon almost fancies himself a hero in a police uniform, Claire is more down to earth about her ambitions and what she can be capable of. There’s a real soft side to her character that ultimately allows her to befriend Sherry Birkin. Through the events of the series, Claire sets herself on a path to help heal the wrongdoings and nightmares that plague the world.

I wish I could say I that liked the remake version of Claire Redfield just as much as her retro counterpart, but sadly this just isn’t the case. She’s a different character fundamentally and there are a few reasons why.

Claire Redfield is a far cry from her retro counterpart in the way she acts in the remake. Her personality and disposition are gritter, just like everything else. This version of her has a propensity to curse up a storm. She’s far more sassy and quick to fire off at the mouth, and there are times she’s flat out rude.

I don’t find these traits to be likable in the way she portrays them, and this isn’t to say she isn’t written well. She is very well conceptualized for this darker and gritter version of the game, but it’s hard for me to like her.

In fact, I hate this version of her character. Claire grows into having a certain amount of cynicism as time goes on in the franchise. After the series lore and the things she’s seen, that’s completely logical and understandable. Yet, this is tempered by the fact that she’s down to earth enough to recognize what she’s doing.

Now when I play Resident Evil games, I look for the charm and whit of the series. That was what the series taught me to do in my youth, and characters like Jill, Claire, and later in the GameCube era Rebecca were the ones that I heavily attached to. These women have diverse and complex personalities, which makes them incredibly easy to idolize. Young gamers need those idols. They’re no different than superheros in that way.

All of these characters become more cynical as time marches forward. However, to revamp Claire into this type of person from the start for the remake, is something that makes me not want to play the game at all.

I like the remake, but I’ve played it through about four times, and I’ve already gotten sick of it. Meanwhile, when I play the retro classic, I’m never sick of it. The reason for this is that Claire and Leon play off each other so well in the original version that I’m reminded of the journey these characters go on. As a gamer, I want to follow that journey.

Playing the retro games make me want to relive other great stories too, such as the ones in Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4.

There’s a real earnest side to Claire that gets buried under the grit and grime of the remake. She’s always been a tough person with a thick skin and the mindset to get things done.

She’s a real icon to younger gamers everywhere, and I’m offended that the remake just didn’t do their due diligence to keep what made her so awesome as a character in tact.

Although, that’s a more personal gripe than just being salty over a difference in characterization. Like I said, she is still very well written, but she isn’t exactly someone kids can look up to anymore, and that’s sad.

The thing is, I saw this first hand. So, maybe that soured my experience with the game a bit. For me, it’s the heart of the matter, though. It’s that I saw a true fan of this cool character become disheartened in a way I never expected.

You see, I have a few female cousins that are now just nearly teenagers. One of them loves the retro Resident Evil 2. She is enamored with Claire, just like I was as a kid. She even has a poster of the character on her wall. Actually, it’s my old one from a gaming magazine that I’d bought as a child.

She was so excited to play the new game, and I even let her come over and spend the night so that she could play it with me the night it released. So, there we were, a bag of Little Cesar’s crazy bread and a two liter bottle of soda in hand. The download completed, and of course we start up the game and play as Claire first.

We beat that play-through about fifteen hours later, after much death and plenty of slogging through every area of maps to the point of flat out stupidly at times. She really liked looking at all the little things they added, and when she had the controller she may have gotten a little too brave with kiting the zombies…

Yes, like I said, many game over screens occurred between the both of us. However, even though she kind of liked the game, she didn’t like Claire at all. When I asked about it, the response I got was confused and sad.

My cousin literally just… for a lack of a better term crinkled her nose and said “That’s not Claire. I don’t like her, she’s not very nice.”

Now I attribute that statement to the fact that the original game just doesn’t have talking when it isn’t in a cut-scene. The remake does. As you’re fighting monsters and exploring around, sometimes you hear a lot of not-so-nice things come flying out of Claire’s mouth. Her reactions to things are certainly realistic, but they do diminish those good attributes I spoke of above.

In the remake, she’s a lot less a hero in a biker suit. At least insofar as a young girl would be able to be inspired by. I realize my cousin she wasn’t the core age demographic for the game, but that has never once mattered when it came to the series before.

Recently, I discovered that it certainly didn’t matter as far as the remake for Resident Evil 3 was concerned either. She loved that one too, even when I absolutely didn’t.

The only game she hasn’t played in the franchise is Resident Evil 7. I think she’s just a little too young for that one. There are a few things in that game she just isn’t ready for. In my opinion, it’s a little too dark, and a little too edgy for her just yet. Every now and then, she still asks if she’s old enough to play it.

That’s the kind of fan I’m talking about here. It’s hard for her to dislike a Resident Evil game at all. She hasn’t asked to play the remake of Resident Evil 2 ever since the night of release. She doesn’t even want to play Leon’s side of it. She just doesn’t care.

That really put Claire as a character into perspective for me.

To say that my cousin was disappointed in Claire is a huge understatement. This is now thirteen year old girl is no Resident Evil slouch, either. Her first game was Resident Evil 1 for the PlayStation, full of campy dialogue and content that really can’t be called scary to a modern gamer. When she beat that, she wanted to play the remake for the GameCube.

I was a skeptic about that for sure. Back then, she was only eight years old at the time, and those monsters looked way more realistic. I didn’t think she would even get passed the first zombie encounter, to be honest. Still, I let her play it with me at her side. She proved me wrong.

This kid spent well over a month during the summer as an eight year old playing through the GameCube version of Resident Evil 1 top to bottom. That’s when I knew I had a real fan on my hands, so I unearthed everything I had from the series.

She survived through Resident Evil 2 for the PlayStation and liked it so much, I gave her my Nintendo 64 copy of the game. That way, she could have some version to play whenever she wanted. This is a girl that absolutely annihilated Resident Evil 3 for the PlayStation, and muddled through Code Veronica on my Dreamcast in a single winter break when we were up at a cabin a few years back.

When every little kid on the planet seemed to be Five Nights at Freddy’s, crazy that little girl was a zombie fan to the extreme. If I had a Resident Evil game in my collection, she was going to drive me absolutely crazy until I let her play it.

So with all of this being said, for me the night we played the remake of Resident Evil 2 I really wanted my cousin to like that game. For me, that would have been by far the best gaming experience I could ever have.

I wanted her to enjoy it just as much as all the others. When Resident Evil 6 could at the very least accomplish that much, I was pretty sure that the bar wasn’t all that high to reach.

Man, was I wrong.

All I wanted, was to to see the magic that a game could bring to a young die-hard fan. In a way, I guess you could say I wanted to re-live my own youth a little bit as well.

Every gamer eventually finds a title in a franchise that rips away the magic. A game that lets them down. For my cousin, that game was the remake of Resident Evil 2.

It’s a good game, it really is. Sadly though, it just can live up to the heart of the matter.

Game Review: Resident Evil 2 (1998)

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Hey guys, it’s Kernook here, back with another review for one of my favorite franchises. 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.

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.

They 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…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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