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Feature: Resident Evil's Nintendo History

Posted by Zach Kaplan

Undead on the big N, past, present and future

The claustrophobic darkness. The creeping undead. The hideous monsters. The Resident Evil series has brought such thrills and chills to our TVs since 1996, and it’s taken quite a unique path when it comes to Nintendo consoles. With the month of All Hallows’ Eve upon us, we decided to take a look at where the series has been and where it could go on the Big N’s platforms.

First Moans

Resident Evil first debuted on the Sony PlayStation, and for a long time, it seemed like it would stay there. Its emphasis on horror, use of video footage and mature content just didn’t seem like a match for the Nintendo 64, with its abundance of family-friendly games. How could Yoshi’s Story share a console with the Tyrant?

But in 1999, that all changed when Capcom hired Angel Studios, as well as a few other production companies, to port Resident Evil 2 to the Nintendo 64. With some programming magic, the team was able to compress the huge game and its many videos from its original CD format to a 512 Mb cart with only tell-tale signs of shrinkage. It also included surround sound support, additional documentation in the form of the EX files, new costumes and more. This was thanks in no small part to the series’ signature pre-rendered backgrounds, allowing great levels of graphical detail without the slowdown. And to keep the game from tarnishing the N64’s family-friendly image, players could change the level and colour of gore as much as they wanted.

Small-Screen Woes

With its foot in the door, Capcom settled on its next project for a Nintendo console – a completely new, original and exclusive story title starring Barry Burton. Unfortunately, the platform that the company chose was the Game Boy Color, which is not exactly known for its ability to create spooky ambience.

Resident Evil Gaiden featured top-down adventuring with first-person fight scenes that popped up whenever the zombies got too close, having you match up your attack button presses with a timed reticule. It tried its best within the system’s limits, but it was still widely criticised for unimaginative puzzles, bad audio and everything else you can imagine that could go wrong in transitioning Resident Evil to the handheld.

And let's not forget about the cancelled GBC port of the original Resident Evil, which Capcom put out of its misery before it hit store shelves thanks to a low quality experience. Just watch the video below and you'll know why this virus never spread.

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The team hugely expanded the game world, incorporated health-affected running, revamped the voice acting and more for an experience that the company stated was 70% different from the original.

Capcom solidified its presence on Nintendo consoles with one of the most widely acclaimed titles in the series, a 2002 GameCube exclusive remake of the original PlayStation release simply titled Resident Evil. But this was no ordinary re-release. The team hugely expanded the game world, incorporated health-affected running, revamped the voice acting and more for an experience that the company stated was 70% different from the original.

New storyline elements, alternate endings and additional modes all made appearances, but one of the most memorable new features were the new and terrifying Crimson Heads. After killing a zombie, if you didn’t burn its body up with gasoline – adding yet another gameplay element – the enemy would re-awaken with more health and strength than ever before. And these weren’t witless stumbling creatures; they ran full speed at your character for a truly frightening experience.

The entire game spanned two discs and was considered by many as a must-have. It also whet fans’ appetites for what was to come – surely with this success, Capcom would at least remake Resident Evil 2 as well?

Looking Back, Leaping Forward

A few months after REmake came the second in a Nintendo-Capcom exclusivity deal, Resident Evil 0, a prequel that included the first co-op play of the series. Controlling two characters, Rebecca and Billy, you were to switch between them and trigger actions with one that would affect the others’ progress. It also featured a train, and everyone loves trains. While well-reviewed at the time, most remember this as a weaker entry in the series, with slow gameplay, a cooperative mechanic that arguably never reached its full potential and more. It’s still a decent phase of the saga, just nothing groundbreaking.

The third and final part of the exclusivity contract made a much bigger, bloodier splash. After almost ten years of top-down gameplay with claustrophobic tank controls, Resident Evil 4 put the camera behind Agent Leon S. Kennedy’s back, added a more action-packed sense of motion and evolved the series’ foundations into something brand new. It also traded in the moaning undead for a cult-like rural European sect.

Many took issue with the game’s severe departure from the established formula, but few could argue with the fact that this was indeed something truly special and terrifying. The only arguable downside is that while it was touted as a GameCube exclusive upon initial release, it's since seen life on eight other platforms. It changed the course of the series, revitalised a formula that many felt was approaching obsolescence and is still considered the favourite entry of many fans.

Ports, Ports, Ports, Spin-Offs, Ports and Ports

After a triple-dose of GCN Resident Evil goodness, excitement ran high in predicting what Capcom would put out next. Unfortunately, what followed largely failed to live up to expectations, and the very high bar set by REmake and Resident Evil 4 remained more or less untouched. This era also includes the co-op action-oriented Resident Evil 5, which, while a quality game, most agree takes things too far from its horror roots. That title never made it to a Nintendo console.

From this period, at the top of the barrel solidly rests Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, which added Wii Remote motion-controlled aiming to the already fantastic mix and gave fans a worthy reason to venture through the nightmare again. Another interesting entry is Resident Evil: Deadly Silence, a DS port of the original Resident Evil that suffers by way of some dated design choices.

But beyond that, Capcom saw fit to port its existing titles as-is. Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil: Code Veronica X were all nice to have on GameCube but felt like missed opportunities in the wake of REmake, while Wii releases of the GCN Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0 as part of the Resident Evil Archives series just felt a bit like overkill.

A number of non-numerical games of a different flavour have also seen life on Nintendo consoles, all of which make for quality titles but feel, to some, more like fun and entertaining stop-gaps before the next entries in the main series. That includes the Wii-exclusive rail shooters The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles and the 3DS's The Mercenaries 3D, which took a bonus game from 4 and 5 and expanded it into its own single- or multi-player experience.

The Future of Zombies

After the action-oriented Resident Evil 5 failed to meet the horror quota of many of the series' long-time fans, news that the upcoming Resident Evil Revelations for 3DS will take the franchise back into the darkness was well-received. The game will see Chris and Jill explore a "supposedly" abandoned cruise ship, and footage suggests that it aims to find a balance between the more contemporary over-the-shoulder control scheme and the claustrophobic, spooky, zombie-filled atmosphere of Resident Evils of old. Colour us excited.

With the Wii U on the horizon, Capcom has a big opportunity to pull off something great.

But what's next for the franchise? With the Wii U on the horizon, Capcom has a big opportunity to pull off something great. For example, the old camera angle and the new movement style could coexist with some clever dual-screen utilisation. One way of pulling this off would involve going back to the original viewing method, which would no longer seem so restrictive if the player could use the tablet controller to look around. There's also the option of using an over-the-shoulder viewpoint for the handheld screen and a fixed-camera framework for the main display, or vice-versa. This is, of course, in addition to the more obvious improvement of relocating the inventory and map to the controller's touch-screen. And there's still plenty of time left in the 3DS's lifespan: given its current tendency toward remakes, perhaps we'll see a revamped RE2 after all, if not another Chronicles title or a sequel to Revelations.

What do you hope to see from Resident Evil down the line? Will you plan on revisiting any of these games in this most terrifying of months? Or will October 2011 prove the month that you finally see what all of the screaming is about and try a Resident Evil game for the first time? Tell us in the comments below!

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User Comments (35)



zezhyrule said:

You Are Dead.

I just got RE 1-4 on PSN because the first three were free and 4 was 1/2 off. If I wasn't scared to death of the zombie things, I would be better at these games ;__;



Link79 said:

I'm still waiting on a port of RE 5 on a Nintendo system. It's just not right that every other numbered game in the series was made available to us except RE 5. Maybe they could port it to Wii U but it's doubtfull.



Tasuki said:

RE 4 Wii Edition is my favorite of all time. They really did a good job with the Wii controls which is why I love this game so much.



cecesigue said:

hope they dont feel is right to launch RE5 on WiiU, but im almost 100% sure they will. Capcom didnt make the money they wanted with RE5 and thats how Nintendo will make developers rush into the Wii U, even if the sales were not as incredible as the Wii launch sales. they will tell them that they can make money by adapting the old game to the "tablet" side of the Wii U.



blackknight77 said:

Since RE 5 Gold Edition is downloadable on PSN it could show up on the Wii U and hopefully RE Remake, RE 0 and the Umbrella Chronicles will get HD treatment. Also RE 2 for the N64 is a remarkable game



warioswoods said:

Wow I'd never seen that abandoned GBC port before. I'd love to play it. Often there's something even creepier about old-fashioned and limited graphics. I remember how frightening the very first Alone in the Dark was, with its abysmal polygon counts and simple backgrounds.

In fact, screw the recent trend towards realism; photo-realistic horror games are becoming less and less frightening. I want a survival horror game that looks more like the drawings that terrified me as a kid, in those Scary Stories to tell... illustrated books.




Splat said:

RE 4 Wii Edition is my second favorite Wii game after the great Monster Hunter Tri.



Kagamine said:

if RE: 2 was a port, why does it say only for N64 on the box? was it like that for all games becasuse i don't recall that



JonWahlgren said:

@bossmank: It had a few little extras not found in other versions that tied the RE2 fiction into later games that had been released since RE2 first hit PlayStation. So, technically, the game that hit the N64 was "exclusive" to the platform, even if the majority of it was not.



AceSpadeS said:

The GBC version actually looks pretty interesting. Seeing how all the different areas of RE would like rendered in that style at least....



Nintendoro said:

i hope Capcom will bring resi 6 to Wii U hopefully 3rd person survival horror game, not some on rails shooter. For 3ds, i still count days to get revelations. other than that, i hope they will port some of the gamecube best resident evil games like 0,1,4 in 3d. Resi 5 would be a welcome title (lost in nightmares included) if it shows up on wii u or 3DS with unique control system.



kobe1724 said:

I totally wasted my time with RE 5. I borrowed it from a friend over the summer for 20 bucks, and then I ended up breaking it, so my brother bought a new copy for another 60 bucks. We played through it, it was alright, but I still had to give the game back to my friend when the summer was over! 80 bucks for 3 months with an average game. RE 4 on GCN still remains my favorite RE of all time.



theJOE said:

barry had his own game? i find that hard to believe as he is the jarjar binks of the RE crew
'you were almost a jill sandwhich'



Expa0 said:

The original Resident Evil, Code Veronica X and especially Resident Evil 4 are great games.

Others I've played. REmake, Nemesis, Zero and ugh... Mercenaries 3d not so much



FonistofCruxis said:

Resident evil zero is so far the only game in the series that I've played and it was a pretty good game and I plan on getting more games in the series.



HawkeyeWii said:

For the past 2 years I have hunted down 8 RE games for Nintendo Consoles. they include REmake Archives, RE 0 Archives, RE4 Wii, both chronicles for Wii, RE2 GCN, RE3 GCN, and RE Merc.3DS. I think the 3DS is very capable of getting a port of RE5.



darklinkinfinite said:

I'm not sure its right to call the two Chronicles games non-narrative. Unnumbered, sure but the two Chronicles games are basically all narrative as they basically boil down the series' story into something that might actually work. After all the retelling of RE2 is about as close as you can get to the canonical record of events for the game since the canon adopts events from all 4 RE2 playthroughs.

In addition, the Chronicles games add on their own bits of story like Leon and Krauser's relationship pre-RE 4, Chris and Jill's activities pre-RE5, Wesker's escape from the mansion, and Ada's escape from Raccoon City.



GeminiSaint said:

I noticed one mistake in the article: Resident Evil 2 for N64 wasn't 512 MB big, but 512 Mb big (as in megabits, as opposed to megabytes). There's a difference, as 1 MB = 8 Mb.



Ren said:

The most intense experience I ever had with these was when it was new on the ps1, playing late at night. It really blew me away to play something that was actually scary.
After that was my recent first time with 4 on the Wii. Not that scary but a fantastic experience nonetheless. I'd love to go back to the old tank view, though, on WiiU. And be able to look around with the controller when a noise comes from somewhere - be nice to have it be scary again. Only silent hill: shattered memories has scared me little since the first RE.
A good sound design kind of seals the deal on these horror games.



Luffymcduck said:

That gbc version looks quite good, other than the fact that characters move really slowly.



Altrix said:

Resident Evil games never sold as well on Nintendo consoles as on Sony's consoles. Not even close. RE4 for GC sold 1,7 million units, the lousy PS2 port sold over 3,4 million units. The Wii edition on the other hand has sold almost 2 million units. The reason why we'll never have a unique and great Resident Evil game again is because Resi 5 has sold 4 million on units on PS3 alone and 3 million on Xbox 360.
Resident Evil games are hardcore games for people who buy hardcore consoles.

On an interview a RE4 developer said that it is a lot harder to develop games for PS2 than GC so that might be why it was first on GC and not PS2...

I say the age of proper RE games for Nintendo consoles are over and buried. What remains is only the disgusting rot whom they call the RE Darkside/Umbrella Chronicles.



darklinkinfinite said:

@Altrix To be fair, the Gamecube had a tiny fraction of the market compared to the PS2. In addition, they announced the PS2 version and the fact that it would have a ton of bonus content before the Gamecube version was released. And really, the game was already 3 years old when it was re-released for the Wii so selling 2 million copies seems more like an accomplishment than a failure.

In addition, I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers from since Capcom's internal figures as of June 30th, 2011 ( show the GCN version selling 1.6 Million and the PS2 version selling 2.2 milliion worldwide, a far narrower gap made all the more impressive by the immense difference in install bases of both consoles. And finally it shows the Wii version at 1.9 million copies worldwide, which puts it within a stone's throw of the PS2 version's massive sales, despite it being released three years later.

In addition, The Playsation/Playstation 2/Playstation 3 have altogether 9 Resident Evil games on Capcom's Million sellers list, while Nintendo systems (Gamecube and Wii) have five titles on Capcom's list despite the fact that the series didn't appear on a Nintendo console until six years and five games had already been released on the Playstation with Resident Evil Zero (Resident Evil Gaiden, the handheld game did appear on the Game Boy Color the year before that). And by the way, Resident Evil 5 has only sold 5.6 million units on the PS3 and 360 combined, not the 7 million you mention.

If anything the real numbers show that Resident Evil does incredibly well on Nintendo's system. Well enough to nearly overcome incredible gaps in system install bases. There is most certainly a future for Resident games on Nintendo platforms; not just proper numbered titles but also its fantastic spin-offs like Umbrella and Darkside Chronicles.



OldBoy said:

RE4 is the only one I truly enjoyed and is definitely in my top ten games ever. The others I just could never get on with the clunky controls. I can appreciate the quality of the games and can understand why they have a huge fanbase.But they just weren't for me. Still not played RE5 ,I'll get round to it some day though!



Maggots said:

what do you mean game boy wasn't spooky? ... ever play Metroid II?... I nearly crap myself every time an alpha metroid pops up out of nowhere



darklinkinfinite said:

Except that VGChartz has long been recognized as an inaccurate source for sales figures since their numbers are based on an extrapolation of a tiny fraction of the marketplace. VGChartz bases its numbers on maybe 2-3% of the market wheras more reputable sources like NPD cover as much as 65%.

What VGChartz does and doesn't do for the industry
Why we don't reference VGChartz numbers

In addition to the numbers mentioned in the articles above, VGChartz numbers still vary greatly as can be seen in in their Best Selling games of 2010 list VGchartz 2010 Top 10 compared to NPD's NPD 2010 Top 10

Even removing the games that VGChartz Tracked that NPD didnt, like Wii Sports, and the multiplatforms, to make examination easier, VGChartz still doesn't hold up. According to VGChartz, NSMBW outsold Halo Reach, directly contradicting NPD, universally recognized as the more accurate and reputable of the two. Kinect Adventures appears on the VGChartz list but is completely absent from NPD's. Mario Galaxy 2 beats out Just Dance 2 on VGChartz list but is also absent from NPD's.

Expanding our view to some multiplatform games, Red Dead Redemption on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 ranks 5th on the NPD above Wii Fit Plus, however their combined VGChartz numbers (3,836,319 units) would put it below WiiFit Plus on VGChartz's graph. Assassin's Creed Brotherhood totalled 3,068,672 units on the PS3 and 360 combined on VGChartz list. This would put the game between Wii Fit Plus and Just Dance 2 in their top 10 however, it ranks beneath Just Dance 2 on NPD's list.

Furthermore, looking at Resident Evil 5's first month numbers, VGChartz reported 1.01 million sold on the 360 vs 938k reported by NPD. NPD reported 585k sold on the PS3 in its first month where VGChartz reported 645k.

Finally, internal figures like the ones Capcom posted tend to be very accurate, considering they're the ones producing and selling the games to retailers. Few, if any reputable news outlets report using VGChartz's figures yet they will report when Capcom announces their figures. In addition, if Capcom had sold as many copies of Resident Evil 5 as VGChartz reports, nearly 40% more copies than they've reported, don't you think Capcom would be announcing those figures instead?



madgear said:

"Resident Evil first debuted on the Sony PlayStation, and for a long time, it seemed like it would stay there."

I should probably point out it was ported to the Saturn the very next year.

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