Like one of its famously implacable boss creatures, the Resident Evil series keeps mutating into new shapes. It also has the uncanny habit of getting back up again when you think it's done and dusted.
Which brings us to Resident Evil Revelations Collection, a loose splicing together of two well-regarded franchise spin-offs from earlier in the decade.
Resident Evil Revelations and Resident Evil Revelations 2 are presented here on the Switch as a package - at least in North America where a physical release rolls them rather crudely together. Only the first game is on the cartridge, with a code for the sequel prompting a whopping 26GB download. They're also coming to the eShop as individual downloads at tempting prices, too, which is the only option for Europe. While they share a moniker, an episodic structure and plenty of franchise DNA, however, these are two different beasts.
Most of those differences were determined years ago by the original choice of platforms. The first Revelations was made for the Nintendo 3DS and released back in 2012, while Revelations 2 was a cross-generational console game that launched three years later. In the here and now, Revelations remains a very good handheld Resident Evil, while Revelations 2 remains a very good console Resident Evil. It's somewhat appropriate that they come together here on a machine that straddles both worlds.
If you find yourself situated in that part of the Venn diagram where Resident Evil and Nintendo crossover, you'll likely have encountered the first Resident Evil Revelations already. Not only is it one of the very best third-party Nintendo 3DS games out there, it also received an HD re-release on Wii U in 2013.
It's essentially that latter experience we're getting here. This is a honed, condensed Resident Evil experience that harks back to the claustrophobic corridors and overt lock and key puzzles of the earlier games.
Regular protagonist Jill Valentine takes point on this one as she investigates a mutant-infested cruise ship. Mixing fusty ocean liner fittings with state of the art maintenance systems and creaking metal gantries, the Queen Zenobia a worthy and refreshing fill-in for the haunted mansions that have become such a series staple. And yes, there are zombie fish.
Valentine has a non-playable partner to hand in the solidly built Parker Luciani, who provides dim observations and even less helpful combat interventions throughout the game. His main purpose seems to be to help drive the deliciously hammy story forwards and to lay out your present goal - which typically involves getting to a location and flipping a switch or finding a key to enable access to another part of the ship.
It's not all about this duo, though. Your perspective will frequently shift to a different pairing, which generally means Chris Redfield and the cringe-induicingly flirtatious Jessica. They start out investigating a different environment entirely, and their sections are generally more action-based, with plentiful ammo helping you fend off waves of mutated beasts.
The controls have a certain deliberate sluggishness that series fans will be warmly familiar with. Whoever you're controlling you're not particularly quick or agile, which adds greatly to the tension in encounters with your mutated antagonists. You're mercifully spared from the fixed perspective and vague aiming of the earliest games, however. It's possible to move and shoot simultaneously, with ZL bringing up the aiming reticule and ZR firing.
The main novelty to Revelation's control setup is the Genesis system. Holding L lets you scan your environment for points of interest - whether that's fallen enemies of hidden items. It works in a similar way to Metroid Prime's scanning system, though it's mercifully simpler to '100%' a level.
Resident Evil Revelations was built as a portable experience, and it remains a fine game to play on the Switch in handheld mode. Each episode is relatively snappy to play through, often lasting just 10 to 20 minutes, while you'll get a helpful 'Previously' cutscene at the beginning of every restart.
Meanwhile the game's graphics, while perfectly fine and sharpened up for more capable hardware, better suit being played on a smaller display where the basic textures and simple geometry are less noticeable.
Which brings us to Resident Evil Revelations 2, arguably the more interesting game of the two for Switch owners. This is the first time we've seen it on a Nintendo console, after all, with the original release making it to every console of the time except the Wii U. Beyond that, it's just a better game than Revelations. It's sharper and deeper, with a more sophisticated (and self aware) plot, richer level design and punchier combat.
As we've already mentioned, Revelations 2 emulates the first game's episodic structure, but the episodes are longer and more varied. This time Claire Redfield takes up the leading role as she finds herself imprisoned on a remote island, with help from her rookie colleague Moira Burton.
Series fans will recognise Moira's surname, and Barry Burton himself fills the second lead slot in alternating episodes as he investigates the disappearance of his estranged daughter. His own partner, and the link between these two temporally splintered storylines, is Natalia: a young girl with strange powers of perception.
Barry's story is the unexpected delight here, his world-weary but fiercely protective nature playing nicely against his vulnerable but gifted companion. Capcom isn't above referencing Burton's infamously cheesy one liners, either.
There's definitely something of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us to these Barry-Natalia sections, both in tone and gameplay, with moments of tense stealth interspersed with flashes of brutal violence in an abandoned industrial environment.
As this suggests, the second character system has evolved considerably from the first Revelations. In both Jill's and Barry's case, your partner isn't just a walking sounding board but a tool to be used, with a press of the X button switching perspective and control.
These secondary characters have completely different skill-sets. Moira is almost useless in a direct fight, but can use her torch to uncover hidden loot and blind enemies, and can crowbar open boxes and nailed-shut doors. Natalia, meanwhile, can use her powers to 'see' enemies through walls and locate hidden items, while her powers are also the key to some truly hair-raising encounters with invisible enemies. She's also small enough to squeeze through holes in walls.
Part of the appeal here is in making a mental note of level elements that you know your current pair can't access, and returning in the next episode with the characters who can. In many cases the locations have been affected by time and circumstance, and your path through them is rarely predictable.
You can even play through the entire campaign in local splitscreen multiplayer, though the second player will have to be content with clumsy melee combat and lots of running when the guts start flying. The game's murky palette means it can be pretty tough to play cooperatively on the Switch screen, too.
In general technical terms, though, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is on a much higher level than the original. The lighting effects, while hardly cutting edge, are much more effective at setting a creepy mood, while the textures are more varied and the levels stretch out more expansively.
Revelations 2 even feels a little tighter in the hands - perhaps as a result of the game being built with a traditional control setup in mind rather than for a handheld console reliant on quirky controls and an optional second Circle Pad. Simple things like selecting weapons and throwing sub-weapons simply feel more intuitive in Revelations 2.
Both games benefit from the new addition of motion controls, though. Much like the Wii remaster of Resident Evil 4, you can opt to use the right Joy-Con to aim your weapons. It takes some getting used to, and it perhaps doesn't feel quite as one-to-one responsive as that aforementioned game, but it undoubtedly helps with lining up headshots - or glowing-red-pustule shots, as the case may be. It's nice to have the option, at any rate.
It's also worth pointing out that you're getting a lot more than just a pair of Resident Evil campaigns here. Besides the extensive extra costumes, levels and other unlockables available for both games, you're also getting the complete Raid mode for both entries.
These Raid sections are generously proportioned shooting galleries, allowing you and a friend (or stranger via online matchmaking) to run through a bunch of custom levels, blasting away various zombie enemies. Whether you take to this mode or not depends on your view of Resident Evil's particular brand of gunplay, but it potentially adds a vast amount of content to two already eminently replayable campaigns.
Resident Evil Revelations Collection isn't really a collection, as such. There's no significant connective tissue between these two distinct games beyond a few common elements and a shared fictional history. It would have been nice to see some kind of effort put into presenting a unified front, with a common UI and a synced up approach to controls.
A certain sense of porting laziness aside, though, these are two fine entries that stand proud in a storied franchise. The original Resident Evil Revelations was a great 3DS game at the time, and it remains a surprisingly solid, refreshingly breezy experience here on Switch.
Revelations 2 is where it's really at, though. This is a full fat Resident Evil experience with a neat partner system and some terrifyingly tense set pieces. There's a strong case to be made that you should ignore the original (especially if you've played it already) and simply purchase this prime slab of survival horror, but completionists won't be disappointed either way.