Level 2. In which I lean to smash every piece of art I find because there must be a key hidden within.
Towards the end of 1995 something crazy happened. O.J. Simpson was found not guilty! Also, the PlayStation came out. Whereas one of these things would be relegated to a trivia question, the other changed the world!!!! Okay, maybe not, but the PlayStation was the tits and since I was a spoiled brat, I got one for Christmas that year.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love my Genesis…or my Sega CD…or my 32X (what can I say, I was a Sega mark), but it just seemed like the right time to try something new. I was already familiar with this whole cd business thanks to the Sega CD, but, if you ever played that piece of crap, you’d know that what I knew wasn’t much.
One of the first games I got (besides Ridge Racer which came with the system if my memory serves me) was a little diddy with a somewhat odd title called…
Resident Evil (1996)
Alright folks, here it is, the big daddy of horror gaming. Don’t believe me? Ever heard the term ‘Survival Horror’? Yeah, that term was literally coined by Capcom (makers of the game) after RE hit the scene. To be fair, RE didn’t really invent the genre. Alone in the Dark, which featured similar gameplay mechanics did proceed it. But since almost nobody played that game (definitely nobody I knew anyway), RE gets all the credit.
The story finds some special agent types, called S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics and Rescue Service), investigating disturbing reports from the forested area surrounding Racoon City. It seems that there have been some recent attacks and the victims appear to have been…eaten! Anyway, the S.T.A.R.S. unit head out…and promptly crash their helicopter in the forest. Doing their best Harrison Ford impression, they casually walk away from the crash like it wasn’t shit. Unfortunately, the woods are teeming with zombie dogs. The zombie dogs, or zogs as I call them, force them to take refuge in a massive nearby mansion (The Spencer Mansion).
The game starts as soon as the doors close behind you. Character options are either Chris Redfield (sharp shooter and all-around panty dropper) or Jill Valentine (the master of unlocking—no, really, she is actually called this in the game. It’s like, shit, I can unlock like a champ, maybe I can be a master of unlocking as well…). Depending on who you pick, the story changes slightly. If you go with Chris, you meet jail-bait Rebecca Chambers. Choose Jill and mouth-breather Barry comes running to your rescue suspiciously fast. He reminds me of that weird cousin who always tries the bathroom door just after you go in. It’s like, dude, we all know you’re just trying to see somebody naked.
No matter who you select, the real star of the game becomes quickly clear: the house. This place is a work of art. Exquisitely detailed rooms. Confusing, yet somehow brilliant, floor layouts. Secrets and mysteries hiding behind nearly every painting or statue.
Much like Doom, Resident Evil loved forcing you to backtrack for various keys and items to progress in the game. Thankfully, some time was put into making this interesting. You didn’t just have to find a key to open a door. Oh no. You had to find a jewel that fit into the eye of a statue that released a crest that fit into a slot on a wall that unlocked a door to a nearby room that had a giant snake in it, after you killed the snake you found a key that lead you to a room that had a sheet of music that when played on the piano opened a secret room that held the key to get into the library where the actual key you were looking for was located in a book (whew!).
The house, owned by evil corporation Umbrella, was used as a lab to make monsters. The creatures came in several great varieties. You got zombies (both human and dog), killer crows and poisonous snakes, lager than normal wasps, and giant (I’m talking rhino sized) fucking tarantulas! These things are just the beginning. Later in the game, the areas which formally held zombies, were now home to a real nasty customer: The Hunter. Basically really pissed off Battletoads, the Hunters were a force to be reckoned with. Whereas the zombies shuffled around like it was like it was wine night at the retirement home, the Hunters were fast and very lethal. Flight was better than fight when a Hunter was on your ass.
Besides all the monsters roaming the halls, you also had to deal with the bosses. Bigger is better in RE. Humongous snakes, plants and sharks are scattered around the grounds. All capped off by the final boss, a big, naked, Terminator-esque freak show called the Tyrant.
Throw in some super rad live action video at the beginning of the game (alright, you got me on this one, the live action stuff is pure cheese), and enough twists to make M. Night Shyamalan jealous and you see why this sucker was a winner.
Resident Evil has a whole whack of sequels, spin-offs and remakes (Wikipedia tells me 22!). They are all good to some degree, but the real standout (my favorite in the whole series) is…
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Resident Evil 2 holds the very distinguished honour of being the best sequel of all time (IMO). Sure, Street Fight 2 was rad, and Red Dead Redemption was so much better than its little know predecessor that it’s almost laughable, but for my money, RE 2 takes the cake.
Not only was this game bigger and badder than the original in story, scope and graphics, but it did something that truly blew my sad little teenaged mind.
Let me paint you a picture. 17 year old Christian has just beat Resident Evil 2 for the first time. A celebratory gulp of Faygo Red pop swishes down my gullet as the credits roll on screen. What to do next. Being the popular chap that I was, my only options were, hang out with my mom, or play another game. Sorry Ma, but I had to go with the game. Just as my grey matter started quivering in anticipation of what game would get conquered next, a funny thing happened. A message appeared at the end of the credits. It said something like, do you want to play scenario B. Huh?
Now, if you had played RE1, you would have known that after beating it, you can start the game again, this time with extra weapons and outfits. I figured this must be something similar, but thanks to poor localization, was oddly phrased. But hey, I had time on my hand (it’s not like I didn’t have all night to watch the Italian channel hoping to see some boobs thanks to their liberal views on nudity), so I hit continue. And then my mind exploded.
To better explain what I’m about to say, I have to go back to what happens when you first fire up RE 2. As the game begins you are forced to pick your player. Option 1: Sexy biker chick, and little sister to RE 1’s Chris Redfield, Clare. Option 2: Metrosexual rookie cop, Leon. Because Clare was as close as I was likely to get to a girl, I of course choose her. From there, the story unfolds. Like RE 1, no matter who you pick, the game progresses almost the exact same. But now, when you star scenario B, your player is selected for you, in my case it was Leon. And this is where shit gets innovative. You suddenly find yourself playing the other side of all the events you had just gone through as Clare. Basically, it was a whole second game. All the unexplained things that happened during your first play through are addressed here. You even have a completely different big bad to fight. It was truly some brilliant game making from Capcom.
You might be like, “dang, it wasn’t that great, Christian.” And I’ll be like, “go fuck yourself!” This was before everybody had the internet (funny—and by funny I mean sad—side note, I didn’t own a computer until I was in my mid-twenties), so it wasn’t common knowledge that this second game existed. I had just finished, what I felt was a fantastic and completely satisfying game in RE 2, and then to discover this whole other game…it left an impression.
Unfortunately, Capcom never went this route again (except for a very sad sack attempt in Devil May Cry 2, but yeah, that game fucking sucked), so even to this day, it still stands alone.
Like I said above, there are a shit-ton of Resident Evil games out there, with more on the way, but the one that has me soiling my Spider-man underoos is the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake! RE 2 with current graphics and technology? Yes please!
Come back next week when we take a road trip to the WORST. TOWN. EVER!