Thursday, January 14, 2016

Examination of Horror Video Games – Case #1: Resident Evil (1996)

I have already written a review of Resident Evil in a previous post.
In that post, I reviewed the entire game.
This time, I'm
analyzing Resident Evil as a horror game.
The main aspect of Resident Evil's horror is commonly known as survival horror.

It emphasizes surviving with limitations on the supply of ammunition, health items, saving the game, and inventory management.
Other aspects of Resident Evil's horror consist of jump scares, blood & gore, opening scenes, music, save rooms, loading screens, no indication of Chris' game being more difficult than Jill's game, and tank controls.
Like many fans of the series, Resident Evil was my introduction to horror video games.

I was probably around 10 years old when I first saw Resident Evil, and I was at a friend's house with a few other friends watching him play his PlayStation.
The rest of us were still playing our Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles.
One of the games he showed off was Resident Evil, and I was fascinated and terrified by it.
Later on, I received a PlayStation as a Christmas gift, and the first game I borrowed from my friend was Resident Evil.
I couldn't get very far.
Partly due to the confusing control scheme.
I had never played a control setup like that before, and it wasn't easy to get used to quickly.
I also had a hard time braving the horror of surviving against zombies and other virus infected monstrosities.
I soon gave up, and returned the game to my friend.
I didn't get to play it again until a few years later when I finally owned a copy myself.
I finished the game, and fell in love with the series.

Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan) was originally released on the PlayStation console in 1996.
It was re-released for the PC, Sega Saturn, Nintendo DS as well as a Director's Cut and a Dual Shock version for the PlayStation.
It was not the first horror video game.
It certainly popularized horror video games though, and gave the survival horror genre its name.

The story takes place in July 1998 in a fictional American town called Raccoon City.
Strange murders of victims being eaten have been occurring, and S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team was sent to investigate.
Contact with them is lost, and S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team go on a mission to find their teammates.
Alpha Team, which includes main playable characters Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, soon find out that they will have to fight to survive.

Survival is a huge part of the horror in Resident Evil.
Everything you need to survive: ammunition, herbs/first aid sprays, ink ribbons, and inventory space is limited.
You're constantly worried about whether or not you can make it to the end.
Ammunition for firearms is the player's only defense against zombies and other virus infected creatures.
The knife can be used as a melee alternative if the player has no ammo, but it would be better just to run away because the knife is useless.
It'll just bring a "you died" screen.

Since ammunition is limited and scattered throughout the game, it's best for players to pick their shots.
One must strategically know when it's best shoot zombies/creatures.
The best strategy is usually to shoot the monsters in areas that will be visited many times, and avoid monsters/save ammo in areas that will be explored once and never again.
In the beginner mode of the Director's Cut and Dual Shock versions, it's easier to kill many monsters since ammo is doubled.
In the standard game and advanced mode (Director's Cut and Dual Shock versions) players are more likely to be hemorrhaging for ammo.

In fighting monsters, there's a good chance that Chris or Jill (main playable characters in the game) will get hurt, and they must heal themselves with herbs or first aid sprays.
Not only does it always seem like a player can never have enough healing items, but it's also good to know which healing items to use at the best time.
The game doesn't outright tell players if and when to use a certain health item or which herbs to combine for the right recovery needed.

There is only an article towards the beginning of the game giving players a hint on combining green, red, and blue herbs.
Both Chris and Jill have a first aid spray at the game's start, and it's obvious what it's for.
The game manual only explains that when the character's health is below fine status the player must find a healing item.

One must use tactics to prevent health damage, and use a healing item when the character does take damage.
Players, however, find out the hard way which herbs to combine for particular healing effects as well as when to conserve healing items.
For example, I save first aid sprays for boss fights late in the game since 3 green herbs or a green and red herb can fully recover Chris and Jill from danger (the lowest) health status.
Part of the horror of surviving is forcing players how to figure out for themselves how to make it to the end, and only provide hints to lead them in the right direction.
If a player runs out of healing items or doesn't heal in time before Chris or Jill dies, that's where saving the game comes in handy.

Saving the game is critical to make it to the end because there's a good chance Chris or Jill will die at least once.
But, once again, there are restrictions to saving progress.
There's no autosaving, and no freedom to save anywhere at anytime.
Players can only save at typewriters, which are located in specific areas in the game.
Rooms with typewriters are usually safe rooms from the monsters.
I'll talk more about the safe rooms later in the post.

In order to use a typewriter, the player must have an ink ribbon, and ink ribbons are limited in quantity and scattered throughout the game just like ammo and healing items.
Players must find out when is the best time to save.
I usually save before boss fights, and other monsters like hunters that are difficult to fight.
One can't save too often for it will lead to low ink ribbons later in the game when saving is needed most.
On the other hand, if a player doesn't save his/her progress enough then he/she is taking a chance of dying, and having to repeat hours of gameplay.
Anytime Chris or Jill dies, the game goes back to the main menu, and the last save game must be loaded to try again.
Whether the last save was 2 minutes or 2 hours before dying, that is where the player must start again.
If there is no saved game then the game must be restarted from the beginning.

Restricting when and where the game can be saved creates more anxiety in players about death within the game.
Players are already worried about having enough ammo and healing items in fighting enemies.
Not being able to save one's progress wherever or whenever makes surviving more difficult and more nerve wrecking.
To top off the limitations of survival, Chris and Jill need to be able to carry ink ribbons and other items with them, but they have little inventory space to have these items with them at all times.

Jill has eight inventory slots while Chris has six inventory slots.
They can only carry the number of items that their inventories allow, and it's usually best to leave 3-4 spaces open for picking up more items during explorations.
The good news is that there are item boxes (usually in the same room as typewriters/save points) to store extra items.
The bad news is there is a lot of backtracking to item boxes especially with Chris.
Item management is a great way to make players think about what they need for survival.
It also makes them worry about whether or not they chose the right items to take with them, and if they have enough to get them through.
The main theme of survival horror is restrictions, however, there are other aspects to the horror of Resident Evil such as jump scares, blood and gore, and other small elements that contribute.

Resident Evil is also known for its jump scares.
The game is very good at giving players near heart attacks typically by monsters coming out of nowhere.
The only issue is that sometimes too many jump scares can become predictable and ineffective.
I know some people can be scared many times by jump scares.
Personally I can jump once or twice from scares.
After that it's not very effective on me especially if I figure out the method the game is using to make me jump.
Then I can predict them.
Resident Evil does have some good scares, but later in the game they seem overused.

Another horror element of Resident Evil is blood and gore.
This is a game about zombies and mutated creatures killing and eating people.
It's not a surprise that there are graphic scenes of Chris or Jill and other characters getting killed in horrible ways, or characters found dead in a gruesome manner.
Of course, blood is shown when killing enemies as well.

The opening full motion video scenes are actually more graphic in the Japanese release, but they were censored in North America and PAL versions.
Even though the graphic scenes of cannibalized bodies in the introduction scenes were deleted in my country, I still found Chris' narration of victims of cannibalization along with the creepy music to be terrifying.
It was especially terrifying when I first saw the game as a kid.

Music is a very important component in promoting a certain kind of fear in players.
From unsettling music in hallways and rooms to more intense music notes on boss fights to the soothing score in save rooms.
The music sets the mood of the game, and the mood can change in various parts.
The unsettling music can make players fear something may attack them around the corner.
Boss fights can make one feel like he/she has to survive against great odds with heavier music.
The relaxing tone of save rooms feel more like safe rooms.

Believe it or not, save rooms are a part of Resident Evil's horror.
Save rooms are not only locations to save progress and store away extra items in item boxes, but also give players a safe haven from the monsters.
It gives players a temporary feeling of security as long as they're in the save room.
Feeling secure in a save room can make players debate if they want to go back out the door to continue the horror of surviving.

Opening doors and ascending/descending stairs or ladders serve as loading screens.
Instead of being a typical dull loading screen, it shows a door surrounded in darkness slowly opening.
The same goes with going up or down a staircase or ladder.
It may not seem like much in this description, but while experiencing it in the game it always made me fear what could be on the other side.
What will I see when I go through the door, or on the other side of the stairs?
It's the fear of the unknown.

Something else that is unknown to players the first time they play Resident Evil is that Chris' game is more difficult than Jill's game.
Chris has less inventory space than Jill (aka more backtracking to item boxes), Jill gets the bazooka while Chris doesn't, and on and on.
Except for the Nintendo DS, one can only find out by playing the game, or from people who've already played the game that one character's game is easier than the other.
It makes the player find out the hard way that Jill is the better character to play first when learning how to survive Resident Evil.
When choosing between Jill or Chris, players are choosing between normal or hard respectively without realizing it until it's too late.
It's not until players progress in Chris' game that they find out that in many ways they are more screwed in his game especially if they have already played Jill.

The Director's Cut and Dual Shock versions on PlayStation have three difficulty level choices added before choosing to play Chris or Jill.
Even then Chris' game is still more difficult.
Those two PlayStation releases actually have six difficulty levels.

One final comment before concluding.
Many people don't care for the tank controls and switching camera angles.
Tank controls is a common term for the control scheme where the up button on the d-pad or analog stick always makes the character walk forward, down button has the character walk backwards, etc. no matter the camera angle.
It does take time to get used to when it's one's first time playing.
I like the cinematic feel of the different camera angles, and tank controls work best with the switching camera angles.

What does switching angles and tank controls have to do with survival horror?
If a person isn't used to tank controls, it makes the game much more frightening because the chances of dying are much higher when one doesn't know what to do.
Plus, it can be difficult to see enemies at certain camera angles, which means players need to be cautious as they walk around the corner or towards an enemy they can hear but not see.

I recommend Resident Evil to anyone.
Any survival horror fan will say that Resident Evil is among the best PlayStation games and best horror games they've ever played.
It does have cheesy voice acting, and a difficult control scheme to get accustomed to.
The bad voice acting can be enjoyable, and the tank controls just take time to get used to.

As for finding a copy of the game, the Director's Cut and Dual Shock versions for PlayStation are probably the easiest to find as far as physical releases.
They can range from $10-15 (US dollars).
The Dual Shock version was released digitally on the PlayStation Store on PlayStation 3 for $5.99.
The Nintendo DS release known as Resident Evil: Deadly Silence shouldn't be difficult to come by either, it can be as low as $10 for a used copy.
The original 1996 PlayStation and Saturn versions are probably harder to find, and can be around $25-30 and higher.
The PC release is close to the same value as its Saturn and original PlayStation counterparts, but it's not an easy one to come by.

Picking the right edition of Resident Evil will depend not only on what system you want to play it on and how much it costs.
It will also depend on which features you want.
To my knowledge the original 1996 PlayStation release has the least amount of content.
The Director's Cut added training (easy) mode as well as an advanced (hard) mode.
Besides stronger, faster, and higher number of enemies, advanced mode contains new camera angles, and rearranged item and enemy placements.
The Dual Shock version is mostly the same as the Director's Cut along with support for the PlayStation dual shock controller and new music.
The Saturn release has a battle minigame, a new monster, and new outfits for Jill and Chris.
Supposedly the uncensored introduction scenes are in the PC version.
The PC version also included new outfits and Jill and Chris each get an exclusive weapon.
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence adds a rebirth mode and LAN multilayer modes.

It's evident why Resident Evil was so successful that it led to many sequels, and many video games attempted to follow in its footsteps.
It is still loved by many fans today.
I have played it so many times, and I still find so much fun to play.
It may not scare me like it used to, but I still have concerns with having enough supplies to make it to the end.

Final decision: Resident Evil is a great horror game that keeps you on edge, and may give you nightmares.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Shade's Review of Resident Evil 2

When a video game is a success, there is usually a need for a sequel that improves on the original and adds to the storyline.
That's exactly what Resident Evil 2 accomplishes.
Biohazard 2/Resident Evil 2 began development soon after the release of the first game with Shinji Mikami as producer, Hideki Kamiya as director, and the story written by Noboru Sugimura.
The game that the team started making was quite different from the final product released with Elza Walker as a playable character instead of Claire Redfield, Leon and Elza never crossed paths, the police station was created to look more like real life police stations, and many more differences.
This version, commonly known as Biohazard 1.5/Resident Evil 1.5, was discarded more than half-way through development in favor of creating the released game fans know and love.
Resident Evil 2 was released on the PlayStation in North America on January 21, 1998, and on May 8, 1998 in the PAL regions.
The Japanese version titled Biohazard 2 was available on January 29, 1998.
The Dual Shock version for the PlayStation came out in North America and Japan later that year, and re-released on the PlayStation Network years later.
It was also ported to the in 1998.
In 1999-2000, the game was ported to Windows 95/98, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast.
A GameCube version was released in 2003, and Japan got a release for Windows XP in 2006.
Like its predecessor, every version has its differences.
A minigame called Extreme Battle Mode appears on the PlayStation Dual Shock, Dreamcast, GameCube, and PC.
A rookie mode was added on top of easy and normal difficulty levels to the PlayStation Dual Shock, Dreamcast, GameCube, and PC giving players the rocket launcher, gatling gun, and machine gun in the item box at the beginning of the game.
Moreover, the PC edition has a hard mode.
All releases are on two discs (disc one for Leon's game and disc two for Claire's game) with the exception of the game on N64 and GameCube.
The N64 version is on one cartridge along with the GameCube release being on one disc, and you choose to play Leon or Claire in the main menu.
The Dreamcast version uses the console's VMU (Visual Memory Unit) to show health status and ammo count.
The game has the most extras on the N64, and the most differences on
For the N64 version, players can choose to randomize items, blood color, and violent control.
There are also more memos in the N64 release that can be found throughout the game known as ex-files.
Only Leon's A scenario is available for the edition, and the graphics are in black and white and in 2.5D.

Unlike Resident Evil 1, I don't remember seeing Resident Evil 2 around the time it was released.
I didn't see RE2 until I played it myself a few years after it came out.
I don't know why because I experienced Resident Evil 3 as a demo before I got to play the entire game a couple years later.
I guess I just never saw any of my childhood friends play it.

Resident Evil 2 is set in September 1998 in Raccoon City, two months after the first Resident Evil.
Leon S. Kennedy is heading to the Raccoon Police Department for his first day of his job as a cop, and Claire Redfield rides into town looking for her brother Chris who was one of the playable characters in Resident Evil 1.
They unknowingly enter the town during a viral outbreak, and encounter the townspeople as zombies.
Leon and Claire cross paths during this time, and head for the RPD thinking it'll be safer.
On the way, they get separated, and must take their own paths to survive.

One improvement players will quickly notice in Resident Evil 2 is the voice acting.
The voice acting in Resident Evil 1 is pretty cheesy, which can either be seen as fun or bad depending on the person.
RE2 has a couple cheesy lines, but the character performances are definitely better than RE1.
Every Resident Evil sequel has at least one cheesy line, but they have pretty good voice acting.
Like Resident Evil 1, Leon and Claire each have their own attributes that make their games a little different.
Both get a handgun at the start of the game, but other weapons are specific to them.
Leon gets a shotgun and magnum.
Claire gets a bolt gun and grenade launcher.
Both have special items at the start of the game.
Leon has a lighter, and Claire has a lockpick.
Leon has to get small keys to unlock doors and drawers Claire can unlock with the lockpick.
Claire must find a lighter in a room in the police station.
Leon's secondary character is Ada Wong, a woman looking for her boyfriend John.
Claire's secondary character is a twelve year old girl named Sherry Birkin.
What Resident Evil 2 does differently than the first game is have A and B scenarios for both characters.
The A and B scenarios parallel each other, and there are two paths to choose: Leon A - Claire B or Claire A - Leon B.
How it works is that you play one character first which will be his or her A game.
Once that A game is completed, the B game for the opposite character must be saved when prompted, and the B game save file can be loaded when you're ready to play it.
You have to play the A game with one character in order to play the B game with the other character.
Since the A and B scenarios happen at the same time, there are some differences between the scenarios and the paths you take.
First off, the enemy Mr. X only appears in the B scenario with both Leon or Claire making the game a little more nerve-wrecking and more difficult.
Several months ago, I played Claire B after not playing the B scenario in years.
There is a part in the police station where you must do a puzzle to get a cogwheel.
In the A scenario, you do the puzzle, get the cogwheel, and be on your way.
In the B scenario, you do the puzzle, and Mr. X bursts through the wall.
It had been so long since I had played the B scenario that I had forgotten about it, and it almost gave me a heart attack.
Second, Leon and Claire have specific aspects that always occur in their game no matter which scenario you play them in.
Leon and Claire always get their specific weapons.
Ada is always Leon's secondary character, and Sherry is always Claire's secondary character.
Leon always meets Ben the reporter, and Claire always meets the chief of police Brian Irons.
Third, the two paths also offer something a little different.
In the Claire A - Leon B path, Sherry will need to be saved.
Claire needs to make a vaccine to cure her while Leon has to make his way to Sherry's location, and take her to the escape route.
This does not happen in the Leon A - Claire B path.

The addition of the A and B scenarios is a good example of Resident Evil 2 adding onto what RE1 did.
Resident Evil 1 has two characters, Chris and Jill to choose to play.
Chris' game and Jill's game have nothing to do with each other.
You play the same game with both characters, but each character has his or her own attributes that changes the gameplay in some ways.
Resident Evil 2 once again has two characters to choose, Leon and Claire, but their games have everything to do with each other.
When you play one character's game, the other character's game is happening at the same time.
This time players are also choosing two paths: Leon A - Claire B and Claire A - Leon B.
As to which character is easier to play is for the player to decide.
In RE1, it's almost universally agreed upon by fans that Jill's game is easier than Chris' game due to Jill having two more inventory slots, she gets the lockpick and the bazooka, etc.
It's not so straightforward in RE2.
I've heard some fans say that Leon is easier to play, and others say that Claire is easier to play.
I prefer to play Leon because I like his weapons better.
Plus, you have to make sure that Sherry keeps up with when she is with her.
If Claire runs too far ahead, Sherry will stay where she is and crouch down.
Then you have to go back for her.
I understand that Sherry is a young girl, and it may be difficult for her to keep up with Claire, a grown adult.
It's still annoying, however, that you have to make sure she keeps up or you'll have to go back for her.
Some fans think that Leon can take more damage than Claire.
I never really noticed.
It's easy to notice, however, that both characters have the same amount of inventory space, each get their own special item, and have their own weapons.
It just depends on what you prefer between the two.
What is obvious is that the A scenario is easier than the B scenario no matter which character you play.
I would recommend playing the A scenario with each character then play the B scenario with each character.
If you do decide to play in that order, be sure to save Leon's game and Claire's game on different slots.

The gameplay and controls are pretty much the same as RE1.
Both games involve solving puzzles, collecting items, and surviving against zombies and virus mutated creatures.
One aspect about survival that RE2 adds is Leon/Claire acting a certain way depending on their health status.
Like RE1, there are five health states: green fine, yellow caution, orange caution, red danger, and purple poison.
When Leon or Claire is fine, they act normal.
In caution or if they're poisoned, they hold their stomachs.
If they're health is in danger then they limp.
It's a good way to visually show the player that the character is hurt without constantly checking the inventory screen.

I'm very happy with how Resident Evil 2 turned out, and many fans agree.
At the same time, it would be great to be able to play Resident Evil 1.5. 
I know there is at least one playable version being made by some fans, but I don't know if it's available to download yet.
I searched for it, but I haven't found it.
It would be great to get an official release of Resident Evil 1.5, although I doubt Capcom would be willing to put in the time and effort for it.
As good as Resident Evil 2 is, it would still be neat to have the chance to play the original version.

Resident Evil 2 has great replayability.
The choice of playing Leon or Claire as well as the A and B scenarios will have players complete the game at least four times.
All versions have the two minigames: The 4th Survivor and The Tofu Survivor.
The 4th Survivor is available after getting an A ranking for both A and B scenarios on normal difficulty.
The Tofu Survivor is unlocked after achieving A rankings six times in a row playing both A and B scenarios for both characters on normal difficulty.
Extreme Battle mode on the PlayStation Dual Shock edition and Dreamcast is opened the same way the 4th Survivor is unlocked.
The PC version has Extreme Battle mode as well, but it's available from the start.
There are also unlockable costumes in all releases.
You must play the A scenario with either character, do not pick up any items on the way to the police station, and when you reach the entrance of the RPD then a zombified Brad Vickers (helicopter pilot for S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team) will appear.
You find out how he gets infected in Resident Evil 3.
When he is killed, you get a special key from him to use on a locker for extra costumes.
Another way of making the N64 release replayable is the item randomizer, which rearranges healing items and ammo.

Resident Evil 2 is a great game, and an excellent sequel to an awesome game.
It continues the story of the first Resident Evil, and builds and improves on everything the original game did.
That's exactly what a sequel should do.
As with RE1, I recommend Resident Evil 2 to anyone.
The original and dual shock editions on PlayStation can be found for $10-15.
It will probably be closer to $20 for only the N64 cartridge.
The Dreamcast, GameCube, and PC versions will be a little higher around $20-35.
If you have a PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, or PlayStation Vita, you can buy it on the PlayStation Store for $5.99.
As for the version, you can get it on eBay for $10 or less, however I would only recommend it to people who collect for the or Resident Evil fans who really want to play every Resident Evil game ever released.
Now onto Resident Evil 3.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Shade's Review of Resident Evil (1998 Dual Shock edition)

How can I have a blog primarily about survival horror, and not talk about Resident Evil?
The series that popularized horror games, and gave the genre its name.
It was originally released on the PlayStation on March 22, 1996 in Japan as Biohazard, and as Resident Evil for North America (March 30, 1996) and the PAL regions (August 1, 1996).
Sega Saturn and PC versions were released in 1997.
PlayStation owners got the Director's Cut that same year, and a Dual Shock edition in 1998.
It was later ported to the Nintendo DS in 2006 with the title Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (Biohazard: Deadly Silence in Japan).
A remake with the same title was also developed for the GameCube that came out in 2002, and it recently got a HD re-release for current consoles and PC.
Each version is distinct from the others.
Firstly, the graphic scenes and Chris lighting a cigarette in the beginning of the game are censored in North America and PAL regions, but they're uncensored in Japan.
The Director's Cut was suppose to restore the uncensored scenes.
Instead the scenes were still censored, though it had new features such as a beginner difficulty mode and an advanced mode.
The beginner mode has double the ammunition and ink ribbons.
Advanced mode is a harder difficulty with different camera angles than the original game in addition to items and enemies being rearranged in different locations.
Resident Evil on PC did have the uncensored scenes along with Chris and Jill each getting a new unlockable weapon and more unlockable costumes than the console versions.
The PlayStation Dual Shock version is like the Director's Cut except it has new music as well as support for analog controls and controller vibration.
The Saturn release replaces an enemy in other versions called the hunter with a new monster known as the tick, you have to fight a second tyrant in the laboratory, and there is also a battle minigame.
Deadly Silence on Nintendo DS features touch screen support, and two modes to play: classic and rebirth.
The classic mode is the original game, and the rebirth mode has more enemies and new puzzles.
The 2002 remake is the game completely recreated from scratch with enhanced graphics, improved voice acting, story additions, changes in puzzles, and much more.
I currently only own the Dual Shock version and the remake.
Along with this post about Resident Evil 1, I'll be writing about Resident Evil 2, 3, Code Veronica, Zero, REmake, 4, 5, 6, and Revelations.
That's a lot of Resident Evil.
There are also many spin-offs such as light guns shooters like Resident Evil: Survivor and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, the online games called Resident Evil: Outbreak, and several others.
Right now, I'm focusing on the core series.
As I write this, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is being released in four episodes with one episode per week on PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.
I'll get the retail release sometime in the near future.

Capcom was the publisher of Biohazard/Resident Evil, and a team within Capcom developed the game.
The development team included Shinji Mikami as director, Kenichi Iwao and Yasuyuki Saga as the story writers, and Masayuki Akahori and Tokuro Fujiwara as producers.
Keiji Inafune (known for his role in the Mega Man series) was a producer for the Dual Shock version.
During the game's development, the team was influenced by earlier horror games like Sweet Home on the NES (another Capcom title) and Alone in the Dark (1992).

I first saw Resident Evil at a friend's house when I was around eight or nine years old.
He had a new PlayStation, and a couple other friends and I went to his house to watch him play it because we were still playing our Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles.
He decided to play Resident Evil, and I was so amazed by it.
It was the first time I saw 3D environments in a game.
It was also the first horror game I ever saw especially with a story presentation through dialogue using voice actors and memos.
The item collecting and limited inventory intrigued me as well.
In fact, I think it was the first time I had ever heard of flesh eating monsters known as zombies.
Keep in mind that I was a kid, and I had never seen any films or other media with zombies at that age.

I later got a PlayStation as a Christmas gift, and my friend let me borrow his copy.
I had a hard time figuring out what to do in the game because I had never played anything like it before, and my family didn't have internet yet.
I couldn't look up an online guide like nowadays.
One problem is that my friend gave me the game disc in a case without the manual, and it was hard for me to figure out the controls without it.
Unfortunately, my parents saw me playing it, and they thought it was too violent for me.
Thankfully, they didn't force me to stop playing.
They just wouldn't buy it for me until I was a few years older.
By then I had a PlayStation 2 on which I would play Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and Code Veronica for the first time.
I've been a fan of the series ever since.

The story takes place in July 1998 in a fictional American town called Raccoon City.
The Raccoon Police Department have been finding murder victims who looked to be cannibalized by a group of people.
There are also reports of people who have disappeared, and monsters that look like dogs.
The RPD charges their special unit Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) to investigate these reports in Raccoon Forest.
S.T.A.R.S. is split into two teams: Alpha and Bravo.
Bravo Team is sent to investigate first, but contact with them is lost.
Alpha Team goes to the forest to search for their teammates, and it doesn't take long for them to find out why Bravo Team went missing.
The story, characters, and music of Resident Evil are often considered to be similar to B-movie horror.
I think the original soundtrack is very enjoyable.
Some people find the music to be a little creepy, and the save room music is relaxing.
The new music in the Dual Shock edition is not quite as good.
Resident Evil is about a viral outbreak from a corporation's screwed up experiments a long with characters like Jill, Chris, Barry, Rebecca, and Wesker.
What's not to love?
Resident Evil characters are very memorable and loved by fans.

When starting a new game, you'll choose between two characters: Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield who are members of Alpha Team.
You basically play the same game with each character, but each one has their own attributes that changes certain aspects of gameplay.
For one, Jill has eight inventory slots, and Chris has six slots making item management a little more challenging with him.
Jill can lockpick doors with simple locks whereas Chris must collect extra keys to unlock those same doors.
Both characters get a handgun, shotgun, and magnum revolver at various parts of the game.
Jill gets a bazooka when you find it.
Chris, on the other hand, never gets the bazooka nor does he ever get any other weapon besides the three firearms.
They both get a knife that can be used for combat too, but it's pretty much useless against enemies.
Sometimes Chris' game has a few more enemies than Jill's game.
Later in the game, Chris has to use a flamethrower to unlock a couple doors while Jill never needs a flamethrower or anything else to unlock them.
Chris does seem to be able to take on a little more damage from enemies than Jill.
Despite his health advantage, I would suggest playing Jill first since her game is a little easier than Chris' game with having the lockpick, bazooka, extra inventory space, etc.

Jill and Chris appear in each other's games as well.
Whichever character you choose, the character you didn't pick disappears at the beginning somehow and reappears later.
One character that appears in both games is Albert Wesker, the captain of S.T.A.R.S. and leader of Alpha Team.
Chris and Jill each have their own secondary character, which also creates more differences between their games.
Jill has Barry Burton, another member of Alpha Team.
Chris has Rebecca Chambers, a new member of the Bravo Team.
Barry never appears in Chris' game, and Rebecca never appears in Jill's game.

The secondary character helps the main character in some way.
One example with Chris' game is that there is a puzzle that involves a piano.
Unlike Jill, Chris doesn't know how to play the piano, and Rebecca must help him to complete the puzzle.
An instance where Barry must help Jill is where the player gets a shotgun from a gun rack that serves as a mechanism to spring a trap in the next area when the shotgun is taken.
If Jill gets the shotgun early in the game then Barry will save her from the trap, and you'll already have the shotgun without the hassle of getting the broken shotgun to trade with the functional one.
You'll have no choice but to find the broken shotgun with Chris.
Barry saving Jill also shows a scene where Barry says the funniest and probably most famous line of the entire series, "You were almost a Jill sandwich."

The voice acting in Resident Evil 1 is legendary for how bad it is.
Some people hate it, and complain about it.
Others like me really enjoy it.
Not only can the bad acting give you good laughs, but it also has its own charm.
You have to remember that this was the mid-90's, which was before the video game business was the big industry that it is today.
Today, there are celebrity voice actors like Nolan North and Troy Baker that perform their voice work and sometimes motion capture for many video games.
When Resident Evil 1 was made, most video game publishers didn't have the money to hire talented voice actors.

Something else that some people are not too fond of is the tank controls, and switching camera angles or fixed camera angles as many people call it.
They're called tank controls because no matter the camera angle, pressing up moves the character forward, down makes the character walk backwards, and so on.
It can be difficult to get used to particularly if you don't play games with tank controls very often.
I had no problems getting accustomed to them by the time I played all the RE games as a teenager because I had already played the first couple Silent Hill games (which also have tank controls).
I've always liked fixed camera angles because they make the game look more cinematic.
The issue that camera angles sometimes pose in Resident Evil is if you're fighting enemies.
Sometimes you have to walk closer to an enemy to change the camera angle in order to see it, and you end up getting attacked.
If you walk backwards to make more space between you and the enemy, the camera angle will change and you can't see it.
The good thing is that most versions of RE1 have auto-aiming, which helps when you can't see exactly where the enemies are at certain camera angles.
Since this game has been released on so many different systems, I will not list the button layout.
I will just say that you have a button that performs all actions such as opening doors and picking up items.
Other buttons are used for running, bringing up the inventory screen, and drawing the equipped weapon (usually a shoulder button).
The action button fires the equipped firearm while the button to draw the weapon is held.
Objects are pushed by facing the object and the direction you want it to go.
Then walk towards the object, and Jill/Chris will automatically push it as long as you hold the up button.

Of course, there are many enemies to fight in the game, but there are other gameplay elements as well.
You collect many items including keys, ammunition, healing items, and other various objects.
You'll be able to access every room in the game.
Several doors have to be unlocked usually with a key.
Sometimes they have to be unlocked in another way.
There is a lot of puzzle solving to yield important items.
The puzzles are not mind bending, but it will take some effort to solve them if you don't know the solutions.
One key to beating this game is being able to survive all the way through.
It is survival horror after all.
A tip for new players is to not worry about killing every single enemy.
Sometimes it's best to avoid them the best you can notably if it's a room or a hallway that you'll be in only once.
You'll definitely want to take out enemies in hallways you'll be running through often.
As for weapons, it's best to use the handgun against zombies and cerberi (virus infected dogs), which will be the first half of the game.
It's a good idea to save the shotgun for boss fights, and use it in the latter half of the game when you'll have more encounters with stronger enemies like hunters (or ticks in the Saturn version).
With Jill, you can use the bazooka in boss battles.
Definitely, save the magnum revolver until the last one or two bosses.

Healing Jill and Chris will also be a concern when they take damage.
The inventory screen has their health status.
They have five health states: green fine, yellow caution, orange caution, red danger, and purple poison.
You can heal them with one green herb, which heals a little health.
Mixing two or three green herbs will recovers more health.
The mixture of a green and red herb or using a first aid spray is best when their health status is in danger because they fully recovers health.
The blue herb neutralizes poison.
The save system and item managing are also factors for survival.
You can only save at typewriters, which are located at specific ares in the game usually in the same rooms with item boxes.
You have to have an ink ribbon to save at the typewriter.
You can collect ink ribbons throughout the game, and one ink ribbon is used each time you save.
Item boxes are used for storing items that you don't need since you have limited inventory slots.
You have to figure out which few items you really need as well as leave open a couple slots for more items you need to pick up.
It seems like most survival horror games in recent years have been doing away with limited manual saving (with no checkpoints) and item management.
I think it's a shame because without limited saving and item management it can make players less worried about their survival in survival horror games.
At least it does for me.

Now onto replayability.
The game has good replayability, and you can unlock at least a couple extras on each version.
In all versions, players can unlock new costumes for Chris and Jill by achieving the best ending for each one, which is saving both characters in the game (Barry and Chris for Jill's game, Rebecca and Jill for Chris' game).
Upon getting the best ending for one character, you'll get a special key that unlocks a room of new costumes for that character on your next playthrough as along as you save for the next game when prompted.
In Resident Evil: Deadly Silence, you must get the best ending in rebirth mode to unlock costumes.
When playing advanced mode in the PlayStation Director's Cut, new costumes are already unlocked, and you can access the closet with other costumes using the armor key.
All versions also have the infinite rocket launcher to unlock.
In the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo DS versions, you must complete the game in under three hours to unlock it for the next playthrough.
The rocket launcher in the PC release is available after completing the game without saving.
Like the costumes, you'll have to beat the game in under three hours with Jill to get the rocket launcher for her, and that same goes for getting it with Chris.
When it comes to unlocking costumes and weapons for Jill and Chris, you must complete the specific goals with that character to make it available for him or her.

Each version also has their own extras.
The PlayStation Director's Cut has three difficulty options: training, standard, and advanced.
The Dual Shock edition lists them as beginner, original, and arrange.
They're the same difficulty modes, but the Dual Shock version renames them.
There are no difficulty options in any other releases.
Instead, you choose how difficult the game will be by choosing which character to play with Jill having the easier game, and Chris having the harder game.
After completing advanced mode in the Director's Cut (or arrange mode in Dual Shock), the unlimited colt python (magnum revolver) will be available in the next game.
The battle mode minigame in the Saturn release is unlocked after beating the game once.
Since the rocket launcher is obtained after beating the game without saving in the PC version, beating the game in under three hours unlocks a new exclusive weapon.
Achieving this with Chris makes the Minimi available for his game, and Jill gets the INGRAM Pistol if you accomplish it with her.
Both have infinite ammo.
Beating the game once in the rebirth mode of Deadly Silence opens the minigame Master of Knifing.
Deadly Silence has a multiplayer feature as well, and each character including Barry, Rebecca, Wesker, etc. can be unlocked by accomplishing a different goal for each.

Resident Evil is a wonderful game.
I still love playing it, and it brings a smile to my face every time I do.
It's so much fun playing the old Resident Evil games.
I definitely recommend it to anyone.
If you're a survival horror fan and/or a retro gamer and you've never played the original Resident Evil, you are really missing out.
As for price value, that depends on what system you want it for.
If you have a PlayStation 3, you can get it from the PlayStation Store for $9.99.
Beware that it's the Dual Shock edition despite having the regular Director's Cut cover picture, and some people don't care for it since it has new music.
Some fans prefer the original music.
The PlayStation Director's Cut and the Dual Shock physical release can be found around $10-15.
The original PlayStation version in the jewel case may be closer to $20.
The long box Resident Evil on PlayStation is more expensive.
Maybe $30 on a good day.
The Saturn and PC releases are harder to find unfortunately.
You may be able to find only the disc for the Saturn for $20-30.
I've seen it complete with the original case and manual from $40-80.
The PC version is the most difficult to find, and, if you do find it, it may be $30-40.
A copy of Deadly Silence is currently $15 or less.
There are so many options in buying Resident Evil.
I highly recommend buying it for whatever system you want to play it on.
It was a good start of a great series that's still going today nearly 20 years later.
It was an influence for many video games, and it's one of the games that made me a huge fan of the survival horror genre.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Shade's Review of Prince of Persia (2008)

Prince of Persia was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in December 2008, and later on PC and Mac.
It was Ubisoft's second reboot of the series after the conclusion of the Sands of Time trilogy.
The Sands of Time trilogy was Ubisoft's first reboot of the original Prince of Persia trilogy created by Jordan Mechner.
The 2008 Prince of Persia sold ok, but it wasn't a big success like Assassin's Creed (another one of Ubisoft's franchises).
There has yet to be a sequel for this Prince of Persia game, and, after more than six years since it's release, it seems unlikely that there will be one.
Does that mean it's a bad game?
I don't think so.
The game has a new story and different characters from the Sands of Time trilogy.
It takes place somewhere within the Persian empire, though it's never specifically stated.
The main character is an adventurer who is never named in the game.
He doesn't have connections to royalty, but the manual and websites refer to him as the Prince.
The Prince is voiced by Nolan North who is well known for voicing other video game characters such as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series and Desmond Miles in the Assassin's Creed series.
He crosses paths with a princess named Elika while he is looking for his donkey.
Her father was the king of the Ahura who are followers of Ormazd (the god of light), and they protected the tree where Ahriman (the god of darkness) was imprisoned.
Ahriman has been freed, and she partners with him throughout the game to heal the city corrupted by the dark god and his minions.
The gameplay is focused on platforming and dueling.
The left stick moves the Prince, and the right stick moves the camera.
He will jump or wall run with X/A (PS3/Xbox 360 buttons).
The square/X button is for sword attacks.
Grabbing a ring during wall running or grabbing an enemy happens when circle/B button is pressed.
R2/R trigger makes him drop down or grip-fall during platforming, and block during a battle.
Elika's magic is mapped to triangle/Y.
While free-running, her magic can be used to show the direction you must go after selecting the goal destination on the map.
She can also assist the Prince with gaps that are too wide for him to make the jump on his own.
He will begin the jump with X/A, the environment will lose its color to show players that he can't make it prompting them to press triangle/Y, and she will use her magic to help him make it to the other side.
During combat, she can use her magic to attack enemies.
The L2/L trigger can be pressed for the Prince's comments, and for him to engage in a conversation with her.
Elika always saves the Prince before he can die so there is no game over.
If he falls while platforming, she will catch him, and she will save him during battle before the enemy can fatally wound him.
It does make the game a little too easy, and there is no difficulty selection.
This will turn off some people who prefer challenging games.
The positive side is that if you just want to relax, and enjoy a game without much frustration then this is a good one for that.

Elika is a great companion though.
In many games where you have a companion or have to escort a character, it can be a real pain.
There are so many times when the NPC (non-playable character) following the main character gets in your way, or lets themselves get hurt by enemies.
Sometimes they can't keep up with you, and you have to go back for them.
Half of the time, they can't do anything for themselves, and scream for help.
Elika is none of those things.
She never gets in your way.
She always keeps up.
She is helpful not helpless.
Like the Prince, she can't die.
She can be struck by enemies, but this only happens if you use her magic at the wrong time in battle.
She is a great partner.
Any developer making a video game where the main character has a companion, they should look to Elika as a great example.

Unlike the Sands of Time trilogy (which focused on combating multiple enemies at once), this Prince of Persia's combat is one-on-one.
The enemies you duel are Ahriman's followers, which at times you can prevent from spawning.
There are also five main enemies known as the Corrupted that you'll fight throughout the game, and each one occupies a certain part of the land.
The Hunter in the Citadel, the Alchemist in the Vale, the Concubine at the Royal Palace, the Warrior in the City of Light, and the King at the Temple.
Some people don't like the dueling in this game.
I kind of like it.
I thought the dueling was something a little different since many games have you take on many enemies at once.

The entire game is a 3D platformer like the previous trilogy.
The platforming consists of jumping, wall running, grip-falling, climbing on vines, sliding down slopes, and using power plates to transport to different areas.
Platforming is a big focus in this game, which is one of the reasons why I like it.
Many recent adventure games like the Uncharted series only have platforming in certain sections.
Of course, there are many indie titles that are platformers, but Prince of Persia is one of a small number of physically released video games where platforming is a main focus.

The characters and environments have a watercolor presentation similar to the 2006 video game Okami.
The game looks like you're interacting with a live painting.
It may not be the first video game to use these type of graphics, but it's very neat nonetheless.
I also really like the music.
It can make players feel like they're on an epic adventure.

One aspect about this Prince of Persia that is not well-liked is that it's repetitive.
All of the city starts out corrupted by Ahriman with the environments dark and infested with black blobs as well as enemies to battle.
You have to make your way to a particular fertile ground, and fight the main enemy of that part of the land such as the Hunter in the Citadel.
Once the enemy is defeated in that battle, Elika must use the fertile ground to heal that part of the land.
Healing the land clears the corruption, and the environment becomes bright and colorful without any enemies.
Then you must collect light seeds in the newly healed land.
After a certain amount of light seeds are collected, you return to the temple to unlock one of four power plates.
The four power plates are the Step of Ormazd (red), Hand of Ormazd (blue), Wings of Ormazd (yellow), and Breath of Ormazd (green).
Each power plate opens certain parts of the land to be healed.
You do this until all power plates are unlocked, all parts of the land are healed, and you have several confrontations with each of the Corrupted.
I still really enjoyed the game despite its repetitiveness.
I like the platforming, the dueling, both characters, the watercolor graphics, and the music.
I played it several times in the months after it was released.
Some people don't like repetitive games, however.
If it had a sequel, maybe Ubisoft Montreal (developer) could have improved on making it not as repetitive.
That's another issue.
It has yet to have a sequel (which seems unlikely to happen), and the game ends on a cliffhanger.
It did get an epilogue as DLC on PSN and Xbox Live, which gives an hour or two more gameplay.
It also explains the main game's ending, but it too ends on a cliffhanger.
I wish video game companies would not end games wide open for a sequel because if the sequel never comes to fruition then players are left hanging forever.
The best thing to do is to have a resolution at the end, but leave a couple areas of the storyline open to explore in a possible sequel similar to films like Alien and Terminator.
That way if it isn't a success then the audience is not left wondering how the story ends.

Additionally, this game has low replayability.
There two reasons why someone would play it more than once.
Either they just really enjoyed the game, and want to experience it again.
Or, to get the trophies/achievements.
The lack of replayability is sadly another con for this game.

The 2008 Prince of Persia is a good game with a few flaws.
What video game doesn't have flaws?
If you like platformers and can look past the flaws of repetitiveness, the cliffhanger ending, low replayability, and easy difficulty then I would recommend this game.
Some fans of the Sands of Time trilogy did not care for this game because this one is so different from it.
I like the Sands of Time trilogy, but I can't compare those three games to this one because it's been a long time since I've played them.
Currently, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are available to rent at GameFly if you want to try it out.
You can also find used copies of this game for around $5.
Steam and GOG currently have it for PC for $9.99.
The Mac version seems to be harder to find.
As of now, there are only a couple listings on eBay for the physical copies of the Mac version, and the only digital distributor that I found that has it is GamersGate for $9.95.
The good news is that the PC and Mac versions have no DRM protection.
The bad news is that Ubisoft decided not to release the epilogue for PC or Mac.
Of course, that depends if the epilogue add-on is even worth it to you.
It's $9.99 on PSN and Xbox Live.
I think that's too much especially now if you buy the main game for $5, and then you have to pay double that just to have an hour or two more gameplay only to be led to another cliffhanger ending.
Either way, this Prince of Persia is a good game that should be given a chance.
If you're a Prince of Persia fan that hasn't played this installment, just keep in mind that this one is very different from the previous games.