Capping off the trio of games from Capcom's survival horror series to drop simultaneously on the eShop, Resident Evil 0 is a prequel to the seminal original and something of a black sheep in the family. First developed for Nintendo 64 before shifting to GameCube, it launched in 2002 just after REmake and, standing in direct comparison, it is clearly the weaker game. However, in the context of the wider series, and especially considering how Resident Evil 4 moved away from the gameplay of the previous entries, its reputation as an also-ran requires reassessment. Resident Evil 0 is an attractive, nail-biting romp in the classic mould that tries some different ideas and remains interesting even when it’s not quite hitting the high notes of its predecessor(s).
With a story that fills gaps that never really needed filling, it provides fans with plenty of connective tissue to enjoy, although there’s no reason to get hung up on the story if you’re not an aficionado. While this probably isn’t the best entry for non-fans to start with, in some ways Resident Evil 0 provides a gentler ‘onboarding’ to the series than the original game by virtue of its initial setting. Simply put, it’s tough to get lost on a train. Switching out a labyrinthine mansion for the 3:10 to Umbrella Corp. lets you find your feet with combat and inventory management before you’re set loose in the mansion. No, not that one, another one. Site B, if you will.
The game follows the template of the original REmake very closely in both form and function, including its dual 'tank' and analogue controls. Widescreen is achieved in the same way – the original 4:3 frame loses a strip at the top and bottom and the game scrolls vertically as it tracks the characters. It’s presented very cleanly and actually looks sharper than its sister game in the Resident Evil Origins Collection, boasting improved fire effects and other visual enhancements. The motion of the train causes objects to roll in some carriages – a small detail, but one that stands out after the usual static environments of the series.
Escaped convict Billy Coen and rookie S.T.A.R.S. member Rebecca Chambers are decent enough company for the ride as they team up to fight through a variety of undead enemies – some familiar, some new, some undeniably silly. The game was sold on its co-op mechanic, but in practice, it isn’t as revolutionary as you might think. The second character often functions purely as another facet of your inventory to manage, and switching between characters isn’t radically different from using just one, especially when one is simply following the other. It makes a change to have some company and enables different types of puzzles, but it doesn’t represent a huge shift in focus from the original game.
Hitting ‘X’ switches between characters with a dream-like wavy screen transition and ‘-‘ toggles between solo and team mode. If your AI partner is in immediate danger you can use the right stick to move them and they can be instructed to attack enemies or leave the shootin' up to you.
There aren’t any trunks to stash your gear this time around, although items can be dropped where you stand and picked up later. You’ll spend a lot of time in the menu screen managing your resources – exchanging, dropping and combining items. As with Resident Evil, there’s no touchscreen support on Switch to help you in handheld mode, a missed quality-of-life enhancement that you might have expected given the high price point of these re-releases.
Puzzles are suitably nonsensical; the series is built on 'B-movie' sensibilities and has never been overly concerned with things like ‘logic’. Logically, there’s no reason why a set of scales couldn’t be balanced using any old object, but you’ll have to assemble a pair of statuettes representing good and evil by tracking down parts because… well, because it’s Resident Evil. Criticising it for being silly is missing the point, but you should be aware that Resident Evil 0 is a deep dive into the series' particular brand of nonsense.
Following the tight train-based opening, things can get a little monotonous in the following areas. They offer solid on-brand gameplay, though, and for players who maybe skipped this entry, there’s plenty of traditional puzzling and combat to enjoy, provided you're down with its old-school mechanics.
From a gameplay perspective, Resident Evil 0 is just as dated as the original and, similarly, the core experience isn’t easily altered. You may look back on it fondly and delight in a wave of nostalgia as you rediscover its cumbersome systems, but new players should take that into account before stepping aboard; Resident Evil 0's fundamental mechanics will feel distinctly ‘old’ if you've never experienced them before. Finicky item detection gets irritating, too – you can be standing right next to an object and repeatedly fail to pick it up.
Ultimately, Resident Evil 0 is a less successful take on the template, despite having some interesting ideas and fun moments. It might just surprise series fans who skipped it, though. The Biohazard franchise can be split quite cleanly into two categories – ‘before' and 'after' Resident Evil 4 – and if you fall into the camp that prefers the earlier style, this is a solid ‘one of those’ and worth (re)investigating. There’s plenty of meat here to sink your teeth into, especially if you’re invested in the lore, and the Leech Hunter and Wesker Modes which open up upon completion offer a fun respite after the toil of the main campaign. The latter replaces Billy with series stalwart Albert Wesker who boasts some 'enhancements' of the type Resident Evil 5 players will be familiar. Silly, but fun.
Various factors accumulate to take the shine off Resident Evil 0 in comparison to the original game, but the Switch version showcases it at its best, and even though it doesn’t reach the heights of 1 or 2, it provides a shot of old-school Resident Evil for those who like that sort of thing. It looks great on Switch and the ability to play on-the-go helps alleviate some of the frustrations inherent to its old-fashioned systems. Overall, it’s very much more of the same, but if that’s what you’re after, Resident Evil 0 ticks the requisite boxes nicely.