On March 22, 1996, Capcom released a game known as Biohazard, marketing it as a “survival horror” game. This game with pre-rendered backgrounds, fixed camera angles, live-action cutscenes, and genre-defining horror-action would be known outside Japan as none other than Resident Evil. Today, it still remains one of the biggest video game franchises of all time, with an entire movie series, merchandise, and a staple of great sequels and remakes. After 25 years, Resident Evil is still bringing fear to fans new and old and preparing to bring you back into its clutches with the upcoming Resident Evil 8. Today we reminisce about the one that started it all, Resident Evil 1.
I was only four when RE1 dropped, my first introduction to the series was actually with the fourth installation of the game, RE4 on the GameCube, and Resident Evil 4 is considered one of the greatest games of all time. This game had me hooked. From there, I worked backward, looking to play the predecessors, and looking to see where it all began. I was in for a surprise when I finally got my hands on a copy of the first game. I was expecting to have an easy time, as I had already felt like a master of RE4, but what I didn’t realize is that in comparison, Resident Evil 4 was easier. No attaché case, no quick swapping weapons, no over-the-shoulder view with laser sights. The game is older, the controls are clunky. I nearly died in my first zombie encounter because I was confident I could handle it.
Seeing your health dip from Fine to Danger puts you in a panic. Jill starts walking slower. You’re already confused and lost within the confines of the Spencer mansion. The mansion is more than just a setting. You become extremely familiar with the mansion, its a character all on its own. The puzzles in the game really are fetch quests, backtracking through the many mansion doors, with emblems and keys unlocking near doors with unknown terrors behind them. You search through the tombs, sewers, secret laboratories, trying to find your way through. The loading door scenes were tense; you never knew what monsters lurked behind them. You pray you find a safe room. That comfortable melody was the only sanctuary you’d have.
Honestly, I was quite surprised with the variety of enemies you encounter aside from zombies; Giant Spiders, Zombie Dogs, Mutant Bees, Man-Eating Crows, even Sharks. However, one enemy filled me with dread, that was the Hunter. The Hunter gets its own cinematic scene as we watch it literally search for you from its perspective. Opening doors, racing down hallways, and then we realize it’s coming for us. As soon as we are back in control, it comes racing down the hallway you just came from blindsiding you. It’s instant death if you’re not fast enough to react. Two hits, and you’re dead. The realization that your progress was destroyed in mere seconds is so frightening. There are no quicksaves, no checkpoints. You need to use your ink ribbons sparingly, another resource, to save at typewriters in every save room. You had to determine when it was worth it to save. Save too much, and you might be screwed during a long stretch without any ribbons. You risk so much progress. Hold on to your ribbons too tightly, and you could lose it all just the same.
Resident Evil doesn’t teach you. It beats into you the golden rules of survival horror. To survive, you must choose your battles. You’re not invincible. Save your ammo, run away, live to fight again. Don’t use your green herbs until you have no choice but to heal. Don’t bring too much. If you don’t have enough inventory space, you can’t grab that key item you just found. The game is tough but making it to the end is its biggest reward—the final countdown, the battle with the biggest monster yet, the Tyrant. You had better hope you prepared yourself. You better have saved your ammo; you’ll need it all for this final encounter. After it’s all said and done, and you find yourself in the credits, you can’t help but want to experience it again, this time, you’d know what’s coming, but that doesn’t stop it from being another amazing experience. Resident Evil is the king of survival horror, and after 25 years, it’s still making it known.
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