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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.
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.
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.