PSU continues to re-publish our History of Resident Evil feature as the franchise celebrates its 20th anniversary in March 2016.
In The History of Resident Evil, we take a look back at the legendary franchise from its inception in 1996 through to present day, offering our readers a comprehensive look at each major canonical entry in the series, along with delving into some of the projects that never saw the light of day. If you missed the first installment, check it out here. With that said, strap on your Shotgun, bag a fresh pack of underwear and fork out a First-Aid Spray as we delve into the Second Coming of Resident Evil.
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Resident Evil: Director’s Cut (a.k.a. Biohazard: Director’s Cut)
Release Date: September 25, 1997 (Japan), September 30, 1997 (North America), October 12, 1997 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: 1,130,000
With a full blown sequel over six months away and Capcom intent on getting a Resident Evil title in the shops for Christmas 1997, the company decided to repackage the original survival horror classic under the Director’s Cut moniker as well as offer a 20-minute playable demo of Resident Evil 2 to give players a hands-on sneak peak at the eagerly anticipated follow-up.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut offers three flavors in which to plow through the inaugural horror romp, namely Standard, Training and Advanced. While the former two are merely standard ports of the title (with ammo quantity and enemy resilience tweaked for beginner mode), Advanced offers some noticeable differences when compared to the original outing, chiefly alternate camera angels and new costumes for Rebecca Chambers, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine.
The classic S.T.A.R.S. Beretta M92F was also modified to pack considerably more punch than its former incarnation, splattering zombie brain matter across the décor and stopping fast moving enemies in their tracks. Advanced mode also includes one new enemy, coming in the form of deceased Bravo Team member, Forest Speyer, who joins the ranks of the undead when you encounter his crow-pecked corpse on a wind-swept balcony. Furthermore, items are scattered in different locations while certain puzzles have been tweaked slightly, though the plot remains identical to its 1996 counterpart. Nonetheless, Director’s Cut proved popular among consumers, acting as an ideal bridge between the first game and its sequel, prompting Capcom to release a DualShock compatible version the following summer.
Resident Evil 2 (a.k.a. Biohazard 2)
Release Date: January 29, 1998 (Japan), January 21, 1998 (North America), May 8, 1998 (Europe)
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Global Sales: 4,960,000
After a turbulent development process, Capcom finally unleashed the sequel to its widely acclaimed horror outing in Japan and the U.S. in January 1998, with the European conversion shipping in all its uncut glory a few months later. Arriving on the scene amidst a wave of fan hysteria and lofty ambitious, Resident Evil 2 ultimately went on to become Capcom’s second best selling title of all time, shifting copies by the bucket load across the globe and delivering on seemingly insurmountable expectations.
The story picks up a few months after the events of the original game, taking place in the mid-western town of Raccoon City in September of 1998. Opening with a fully rendered introduction sequence, we’re quickly acquainted with the game’s two main protagonists: Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop arriving in town on his first day with the R.P.D.; and Claire Redfield, a university student who arrives in Raccoon investigating the sudden disappearance of her brother, Chris (star of the original Resident Evil). After rolling into town in separate locations, the pair is attacked by zombies and bump into one another before hot-wiring a police vehicle and heading for the Raccoon Police Department. Circumstances soon take a turn for the worse and they become separated prior to reaching their destination – thus begins the second chapter in the saga.
Juxtaposed with the original horror classic, it’s not hard to understand why Resident Evil 2 is such a significant leap over its predecessor. Despite offering only incremental upgrades to the basic formula, RE2 upped the game in just about every conceivable aspect, from the scope of the locations, the number of enemies on screen to the quality of the production values and ambitious plot line. The disparity between the environments compared to the original game are strikingly evident, with the dusty halls of the remote Spencer mansion giving way to the decaying, post-apocalyptic remains of a once bustling urban locale.
Combat introduced a fresh batch of new creatures, such as the skinless, humanoid BOWs known as Lickers, the hulking, relentless Mr. X and the sewer dwelling mutated crocodile. Meanwhile, Zombies primarily shuffled in ammo-depleting groups of up to half a dozen or more, often neglected to packing out tight corridors and trashed offices resulting in some decidedly tense encounters. Appropriately enough, the game boasts a heap of new weapons, including the sub machine gun and bow gun, along with the ability to upgrade existing firearms by obtaining custom parts. What’s more, each character has their own personal item, such as Kennedy’s zippo lighter or Redfield’s lockpick, with the pair also able to upgrade inventory capacity by equipping a sidepack. Unsurprisingly, many of these features would act as a template for future installments. Supporting characters Ada Wong and Sherry Birkin are also playable for a brief period during Kennedy and Redfield’s scenario, respectively.
Elsewhere, RE2’s ‘zapping’ system – allowing you to unlock two scenarios for each character – greatly expanded the game’s longevity beyond that of the original title, offering tweaked item/enemy placements, new cut scenes, additional boss fights and an expanded ending sequence. A grading system was also introduced, which scored your efforts based on completion time, special weapons used, number of saves and healing items consumed. Upon further dissection of the zombie sequel players can also discover a boatload of unlockable content, including hidden costumes, as well the introduction of mini games in the form of The Fourth Survivor (this also featured a comical take on the game in the form of Tofu, a sprite used for collision detection during development who comes equipped with only a combat knife for defense). RE2 also featured a special promotional effort in Japan in the form a live action commercial directed by legendary zombie film maker, George A. Romero, featuring Adrienne Frants and the late Brad Renfro as Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, respectively.