This week we've been celebrating the Resident Evil franchise, a series of games that has set the benchmark for survival horror and is perfect for this spookiest of months. Before we move onto our next Halloween horrors, some of the Nintendo Life team have cast their minds back to their experiences with Resident Evil titles and what's made them memorable.
Reminiscing on moments of gaming terror may not be good for us, but these games are worth it.
Philip J Reed
As a born and raised Nintendo fan, I missed out on a lot of great games on other consoles. Very rarely, though, was I genuinely jealous of my Sega, Xbox and PlayStation friends. That's rarely...not never. The one game that truly turned me green with envy (and terror) was the original Resident Evil.
Resident Evil's ropey dialogue, inane situations and downright terrible acting didn't detract from the experience; if anything, it made it more authentic
I remember playing it at a friend's house, and going home later still feeling shaken by its creepy bizarreness. I wanted that game, but had to wait until the GameCube edition to play it again, alone, in the dark, as it was truly meant to be experienced.
Resident Evil, when I jealously watched a friend play it, reminded me of Castlevania, Nintendo's closest classic equivalent. Castlevania was similar in many ways, such as its uncommonly grotesque enemies, its unrelentingly bleak atmosphere and, most directly, its loving homage to the horror films that have come before. But whereas Castlevania paid tribute to the 1930s and 40s Hollywood portrayals of classic monsters, Resident Evil paid tribute to the low-budget, high-bodycount gorefests of the 1970s and 80s. Castlevania was Dracula, and Resident Evil was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
And, true to its source material, Resident Evil's ropey dialogue, inane situations and downright terrible acting didn't detract from the experience; if anything, it made it more authentic. (In my opinion, the more "seriously" the series takes itself, the more difficult it is to enjoy. We don't want elaborate backstories and corporate malfeasance...we want buckets of blood pouring out of people's heads.)
Finally playing it on the GameCube so many years later, I remembered more than I expected to. The graphics and voice acting were updated, but the former was still passively chilling and the latter was still deliciously bad. The mansion was expanded, but in a very organic way that meant I didn't always know what was new to this edition. I still don't want to know; the expansion was seamless.
But one thing really stood out to me, and still haunts me to this day: Lisa Trevor.
Many of the changes to the GameCube version were good, but Lisa Trevor was tragic, brutal, and profoundly sad. Scraps of diaries fill in her backstory, and everything they communicate to the player is sad enough. But nothing can prepare you for the encounter.
Whereas many monsters are less frightening once you encounter them, Lisa Trevor escapes that trap by being more sad than scary. Hands bound together, filthy clothes, a physical form that feels pain but can never die, Lisa Trevor is a little girl turned a monster. She is something non-threatening turned into a beast. She is the ordinary turned inside out by a nightmarish, cruel, and unrelenting world of misery. She is, in a sense, horror at its most pure.
The danger she presents to you as a player is only one aspect of her as an enemy, because no matter how you may jump when she appears, or how you may struggle to get away, or how glad you may be to finally be rid of her, it will never escape your mind that she was once a child, a child without any concept of the danger around her, and is now a beast, bound and brutal, unable to make sense of her own situation, and driven mad with loneliness.
Lisa Trevor wasn't an expansion...she was a distillation of everything about the original Resident Evil that worked. She may be defeated, but she'll never be forgotten. She's just as frightening in death as she ever was in life.
And that, my friends, is how real horror works.