I’ll be linking to the video review that goes along with this at the bottom of the article. Yay for new formatting!
Today, I’m taking a look at the game that started it all, Resident Evil. Well, the Sega Saturn version, anyway. That came out a few months after the PSX release.
Originally released upon the world March 22, 1996 for the PlayStation and later ported to the Sega Saturn, PC, and, much, much later, Nintendo DS, Resident Evil turned the gaming world on its head. Atmosphere and who-dun-it mystery, mixed with solid gameplay and crazy puzzle solving made the game an instant success around the world.
Let’s take a look!
Preface: Yes, I know the game is 21 years old (Goddamn, that went by fast), but I’m still making this spoiler-free because, believe it or not, there ARE people who haven’t played it yet. Also, I’m going to cover the overall story as it doesn’t really matter who you choose lore-wise, outside of some minor differences. In the end, canonically, everyone escapes regardless of how well you do, so take solace in the fact that if you failed to save anyone, they still kinda got out.
I guess. How’d you even get hired on with S.T.A.R.S.?!
Resident Evil starts with us getting recap of the events taking place on the outskirts of Raccoon City that have citizens on edge and the police working overtime. From here, we join the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) Alpha team who is sent out to find their compatriots from Bravo. While en route to the last known coordinates of Bravo in the Akrlay Mountains, Alpha spots a plum of smoke rising out of the forest and decide to check it out.
What they find produces more questions than answers.
They find Bravo’s downed helicopter, but don’t get to examine it in any meaningful detail as they find themselves under attack almost immediately. In their mad dash to escape they rush towards the only thing they see– a mansion. Once they get inside, they realise that someone’s missing. Who it is depends on who you chose to play. If you chose Jill, Chris will be missing, and if you chose Chris, Barry will be missing.
Before anyone can really come to grips with everything that’s just happened, they hear a gunshot ring out and your chosen character is sent to investigate. When they find the source, they’re met with the recently deceased Kenneth of Bravo team. This is also where we get the iconic slow-turn-zombie scene.
From here on out, you’re left to your own devices to explore the mansion while trying to survive whatever creatures haunt its halls and the traps that fill its rooms…
Resident Evil is notorious for, at least, two things: God awful voice acting and tank controls.
I’ll get to the voice acting in a minute, but for right now, let’s talk about those tank controls. Personally, I love them. To me, they make perfect sense in a game with wildly differing camera angles coming at you constantly. They’re like an anchor, of sorts, because they don’t care what direction you’re faced, they work exactly the same all the time.
I know a lot of people don’t like them and find them confusing. I feel like those people are kind of stupid, but those are both opinions, so take them for what they’re worth.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely had my share of fights with the tank controls, but more often than not, they don’t hinder gameplay in any meaningful way. At least not outside of extremely high level play (I’m talking speedrunning, no damage, and knife only games here), but if you’re playing at that level, you could probably beat the game with a banana as your controller.
Outside of debatable controls, you’ll be tasked with solving a plethora of puzzles throughout the game. Puzzles can consist of something as simple as picking up a battery and placing it in a slot two feet away, or be as lengthy and in-depth as picking up a crest in one room, going to another and playing a piano, running one emblem to another room to replace the one you used to replace it with, leading to a grandfather clock sliding out of the way for a key that’s used in the mansion.
…ok, that SOUNDS way more complex than it actually is. I promise.
Along the way, you’ll come across some bosses, some of which have multiple strategies that can be employed. Maybe you don’t want to deal with that Giant Snake, well, you can run past him, grab what you need, and run out. Well, ok, if you’ve practiced it, you can, otherwise the old Nope Rope is probably gonna chomp that ass.
And that giant spider? Make him destroy the webbing for you if you don’t want to risk fighting him.
So, something that was sorely missed and there are a few things that I could’ve done without…
In my recent play through, one of the biggest hindrances of this release, was the lack of aim-assist, the increased enemy numbers (this is partially due to playing Chris because fuck me for picking the dude), and their difficulty. This was done to arbitrarily increase difficulty and boost rentals. For me, this added a ton of unnecessary stress and made the game more of a chore to play at certain points. That isn’t meant to imply that I didn’t have fun, because it’s goddamn Resident Evil and that’s what I do, so obviously I did, but I had to employ some strategies I generally don’t use in a normal play through like the ones mentioned above and serious dodging practice that I, honestly, probably needed.
If there’s one thing the Saturn got right, and I really mean that, it’s that it was the first release of any Resident Evil game with Battle Mode. You’ll have to clear a set number of rooms as quickly as possible with limited ammo, but definitely enough to finish, and enemies that get continually stronger with each passing room. There’s even a special zombie floating around in one of the rooms that’s a hell of a lot stronger than any other zombie found anywhere in the game.
All that said, there’s definitely something else the Saturn got right, and that’s looking good.
There’s a very distinct difference when it comes to the Saturn version of Resident Evil and, well, basically every single other platform’s release and that is the look of the character models. In the Saturn version, it looks like the colors are far more varied, deep, and vibrant than the other versions. The skins for the characters look amazing, but due to poor lighting and really rough jaggies on the models, they’re almost ruined.
On the flipside, the other versions have much better lighting, and cleaner character models. It’s a small thing to note, but I feel like the characters look a bit beefier in the Saturn release, as well. Everyone looks too damn skinny in the other versions. Literal fucking bean poles. What do they eat in Raccoon City?
If I had to point out something I wasn’t a huge fan of with the Saturn release, it’s definitely that the character models don’t look too great. At a distance, the colors and their blending can look great, but in some instances, it looks a bit washed out or faded. At some points, the lack of lighting even makes enemies look pretty bad. Hunters, for example, look pretty strange. Instead of a decent green, they look almost black and gooey. The Ticks in the mines do too. Well, the Ticks look more like walking lumps of shit, if I’m perfectly honest.
Does it hold up today, though? Well, yes and no. The colors, for me, hold up incredibly well, but the weaker, more jagged look of the character models is kind of a pain to look at.
Atmosphere is what makes up about 85% of any Resident Evil game, something they seemed to lose sight of with 5 and 6. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about those two in the future, and no, I won’t beat up poor RE4 again. Especially not after that last review.
A major part of the game’s atmosphere comes with the music, the ambient sounds, and the sound effects that bring this world to life.
Once you have the dog’s clicking nails ingrained in your head, you’ll be jumpy as shit for the rest of your life when you hear something that sounds even remotely similar. Seriously, my brother, stepdad, and myself all still get on edge when we hear anything that sounds like them.
The music direction is great and it shows when the music is calm, subdued, and quiet, or nonexistent, and then swells to a heart-pounding, anxiety laiden orchestra of “You’d better be on your damn toes.”
Every little thing in Resident Evil has a distinct and tell-tale sound. Zombies sound like they’ve got shoes full of squishy porage, Hunters have very bass-y, thick, heavy footfalls, and of course, the dog’s clickity nails. You’ll always know what’s waiting for you after you get through a door just by the sound the enemy makes when moving.
Enemies aside, the weapons you get to use all sound like they’ve got impact and actually hold some power to them, even if they’re a bit on the weaker side. Looking at you Beretta… I love the sound the Colt Python makes, it sounds like it’s gonna fuck up whatever it hits, and it damn sure does.
Ok, ok. I know. You’re waiting for me to talk about the voice acting. Well, let’s dive head-first into this dumpster of bullshit.
Jesus. H. Christ. Who the fuck directed these poor people? I mean, there are so many factors to consider; was it bad direction? Bad actors? Both? Neither? Uh…huh, yea, right… Resident Evil’s voice acting is legendary for being some of the worst voice acting ever recorded, and with good reason. I mean, shit, it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for the worse video game dialogue EVER. Seriously. Go Google that shit right now. I’m not joking.
I don’t even have to make jokes about it. It’s like one, long running joke in itself. It’s campy as shit and I love it.
So, bad voice acting, inflated difficulty, and questionable controls definitely put a few dents in the game’s reputation, but what it gets right and doesn’t falter with are the areas of having fun, teasing your brain, and giving you plenty of reasons to go back and replay the game multiple times.
A first timer playing the game might get between 8-10 hours out of it, and after that, your time will be cut down drastically. Hell, my last run was just under 4 hours long, and I hadn’t played Chris’ scenario in years. You can easily get a sub 2 hour run once you’ve got an efficient route. Doing so will unlock some goodies for you. They tend to vary to a degree depending on the platform you’re on, but you can always count on a Rocket Launcher with infinite ammo with a sub 3 hour run. The PC version has a special weapon for Jill and another for Chris in addition to the Rocket Launcher if you do this. There’s also the dressing room key you earn for getting the good ending with either one for some extra dress up fun.
So, is it worth buying? Well, you can usually find a copy of Biohazard (the Japanese release), which isn’t just arguably better, it completely is, for $15-$20USD. The US release doesn’t seem to want to go for anything less than about $60USD for the DISC ALONE. Considering the drawbacks the US version has compared to the Japanese version, do yourself a favor and get the Japanese release.
Unless you actually still own a PlayStation in some form (PS4 currently withstanding because Sony are being fucking stupid about letting PS1 Classics roll out on it, but that’s a rant for another day…), and in that case buy the Director’s Cut Dualshock Version. Yes, that exact one, because the regular DC Version has god awful music. You can probably find the disc pretty cheap if you’re on the PSX/2 and it’s definitely cheap digitally on the PSN. I think maybe $10 on there, for it? I haven’t checked in a very, very long time. Anyway, pick this bad bastard up and go shoot some zombies and mutant freaks!
That’s all for now.
Take care and watch your backs out there. I’ll see you out on the streets of Raccoon City!
Link to the video (hammy acting by yours truly) below!
Resident Evil (Sega Saturn) Review