Bringing a dead zombie game franchise back to life
By Keith Liu November 12, 2015
- Capcom updates Gamecube classic to entice new audiences
- Includes enhanced graphics, costumes, controls and new game mode
JAPANESE videogame developer Capcom Co Ltd is hoping to re-ignite interest in its long-running Resident Evil game series as the franchise approaches its 20th anniversary.
The first Resident Evil game, known as Biohazard in Japan, was launched for the original PlayStation game console in March 1996. That classic title and its sequels helped establish the “survival horror” genre in videogames and brought zombies to the forefront of interactive entertainment.
It even spawned a string of movies starring Milla Jovovich, a couple of 3D-animated films and even a theatrical production.
But after the mixed reviews and commercial failure of Resident Evil 6 in 2013, as well as an aggressive expansion of spin-off titles, Capcom is taking the franchise back to its roots.
The original classic was released as Resident Evil HD Remaster in January this year on PlayStation and Xbox consoles and PC, featuring widescreen support, high-definition graphics and improved controls.
Come January 2016, Capcom will deliver Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster, the updated version of the 13-year old Resident Evil Zero.
This title was originally released exclusively in 2002 on Nintendo’s Gamecube console, and then for the Wii in 2008. This new HD Remaster version then, is the first time it will be made available on Sony’s and Microsoft’s platforms.
Capcom game producer, Tsukasa Takenaka was in Singapore last week to give retailers and the media a preview of the remastered title.
He highlighted that the game will not only feature enhanced high-definition graphics and sound to meet today’s modern gaming standards, but will also come with a variety of control options, based on the request of fans who had played this year’s HD Remaster.
The game engine has also been overhauled, and will utilise code from Capcom’s 2009 entry Resident Evil 5, incorporating true analogue control movements.
Based on the preview, it seems the cheesy dialogue and over-the-top voice acting from the early Resident Evil games haven't changed. And while the video cutscenes remained the same, they will be shown in full widescreen format.
Like most titles today, it will also support extra costumes for the characters and even downloadable content.
Takenaka, who is credited as a co-writer in Resident Evil 5 (one of the more successful entries in the series) said the decision to revive these decade-old games was to re-introduce the franchise to current gamers.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) at the event, he said, “There are a lot of new players who haven’t played the originals, so we wanted to interact with new players and explain how the whole franchise started.”
“Even for myself, I played the game 13 years ago, so I wanted not only new players, but also old players to remember, while playing the old stories with better graphics,” he added.
Considering the mature content of the titles, featuring human zombies and undead monsters with lots of blood and violence thrown into the mix, many of today’s gamers would probably have been too young (or too scared) to play them when they first came out.
For Zero in particular, the fact that it released on the family-oriented Nintendo systems meant that it was only enjoyed by a niche audience.
Series fan Evelyn Chew, a service support coordinator in her 30s who attended the preview event, told DNA that she never played Zero because she didn’t own a Gamecube or a Wii.
Her first entry in the franchise was Resident Evil 3 on Sony’s PlayStation featuring her favourite series character Jill Valentine. Since then, she has played most of the other titles in the series and is looking forward to this remaster.
“It was scary, I remember. In fact, it took me quite a while to play the game, I needed somebody to sit with me,” she recalls.
“I started with [Resident Evil] 3, there’s no background music, you only hear your footsteps, and that eerie door opening sound – so it just drew me in and I started to follow the series”, she added.
In Zero, the player switches between two characters, military officer Rebecca Chambers and convicted felon Billy Coen to fight zombies, solve puzzles and escape to safety.
Reviving classic games for a modern audience is never easy, and Takenaka said there were many challenges in bringing back Zero to life, which go beyond just improving the graphics and sound.
Part of that includes making changes throughout the game which are more in line with modern gaming conventions and expectations, but not to an extent that would alienate longtime fans.
One example is the new “Wesker Mode” option, which opens up after the player has completed the main adventure.
In this mode, players take the role of Albert Wester, the game’s villain, and use him instead of Billy. He, along with Rebecca, will also have special powers which lets the player complete the game in the fastest time possible.
One advantage though, according to him, is having the original director Koji Oda back at the helm. “It was difficult, but with his help we made a great game,” Takenaka said.
He also revealed that the events in Zero help to tie up many of the loose ends in the plot of the original Resident Evil.
To further highlight the narrative link between Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero, Capcom plans to offer both games in one retail package come January 22 next year, titled Resident Evil Origins Collection.
However, both titles will still be available separately through online channels such as Steam, Xbox Games store and PlayStation Store.
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