The Resident Evil series may be most closely associated with Sony hardware, but it's important to remember that it has been a platform agnostic franchise since the first entry, which, lest we forget, also made it onto the Sega Saturn. Since then, we've seen notable Nintendo instalments such as Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil: Deadly Silence and Resident Evil Zero, but back in 1998, the news that the Nintendo 64 was getting a port of the second game was nonetheless a groundbreaking moment.
Our friends over at Digital Foundry have investigated the story behind this remarkable feat of porting; handled by Angel Studios - which is now better known as Rockstar San Diego - the N64 version takes two CDs of data and crams them into a 64MB cartridge thanks to a series of amazing technical tricks. As detailed in the video (skip to around 15 minutes in for the good stuff), compromises had to be made; FMV is massively reduced in both detail and frame rate, backgrounds are also lower-resolution and sound samples – including the massive amount of speech – suffer. Even the famous door-opening loading screens drop from 60 fps to a much lower rate.
However, while all of these cutbacks are irksome, there are some amazing positives here. Thanks to the talents of Chris Huelsbeck of Factor 5 – who created the sound tool MusyX for the N64 – the soundtrack from the PlayStation version makes its way across practically intact, a truly stunning achievement given the cartridge-based nature of the hardware. N64 players also benefit from smoother-looking characters, an analogue control scheme and – when using the Expansion Pack – occasional 480i visuals.
While the N64 version isn't as impressive as the PlayStation original in terms of presentation, the fact that it arrived on the console at all is a truly stunning event; the game was so large it had to be put on two CDs yet Angel Studios managed to transport all that data onto a cartridge without sacrificing any of the core gameplay or content. The really amazing thing? This port was done in 12 months by a team of around 9 people.
Do you have fond memories of Resident Evil 2 on the N64? Were you aware at the time how much of a technological marvel it was? Let us know with a comment below.