While gamers seem to have standing debates among which consoles, developers, and games themselves are the best, there are certain truths that we can all agree on. One such truth is that survival-horror gaming as we know it, might look completely different without the help of a specific game. Since its first release to the Playstation in 1996, Resident Evil has become the flagship of the survival-horror gaming genre. Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami is known as the creator of the modern survival-horror game, a term coined by Capcom to advertise it. Following the release of Famicom game, Sweet Home, Mikami created Bio Hazard (Resident Evil for US release) and set the standard of survival-horror games.
With the computing power of the Playstation and Sega Saturn over that of the previous generation of consoles, Mikami and his team were able to develop much more than a 2D overhead sprite game. Resident Evil was able to set a theme and mood not able to be accomplished on the SNES, Genesis, or Super Famicom. By way of highly rationed essentials like weapons and health, RE forced the player to make choices on how to use those supplies. This, along with the standard control scheme, has become industry standard when making horror adventure games. The iconic atmosphere of the abandoned mansion in the first of over 20 games (including HD remakes and special editions) across all consoles helped pave the way of gaming horror. Resident Evil’s landscape was set by a number of things to set the mood. Among the most iconic are the large, empty mansion the player is made to explore to find out what happened to the lost police forces, the lack of essential supplies, the limited inventory storage, and even the typewriter save system helped set the tone.
Resident Evil had in place a sometimes complex puzzle system which the player had to solve to progress through certain parts of the game. While not always needed or easy to complete, the game had multiple endings based on player progress and completion. These became things the earlier RE games were known for and other properties tried to emulate. Largely due to the US success of Mikami’s game, elements of RE were incorporated into many other games stretching across multiple genres and console generations.
Another successful aspect of RE, sometimes overlooked due to its poor, often comical voice acting, is the sound and score (or lack thereof) of the game. Often while playing the game the only thing you hear is the sound of your own footsteps. This, along with creaky doors, zombie groans, and minimal music often keep you on edge about what’s next. Many games of the genre often use musical suspense cues that sometimes give away what’s coming. Resident Evil kept this primarily out of the game and kept you searching for that next clue with only your walking to comfort you.
While RE may not be your favorite game, it undoubtedly set a new height for horror games. Often becoming industry standard, Resident Evil helped truly define what a horror game could be and became arguably one of the most important games of the 90’s even with B-movie dialogue. Mikami and his teams continue to create new scares in the horror industry with The Evil Within being his latest foray trying to bring the genre back to its roots. January 20 will see a remake of a remake bringing the classic Resident Evil to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One for the first time. Along with it comes updated graphics, both new control schemes and classic control schemes for purists, and remastered sound effects to frighten fans both new and old.
by: Alex Horn