Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil (Wii) Review

by July 12, 2009

It really is easy to understand why some people consider Capcom to be one of the worst culprits for beating a dead horse or milking the cash cow. Take the original Resident Evil, for example. Back in 1996, the game was released on the Sony Playstation, and then released on the SEGA Saturn and the PC. Then, there were two updated releases, the Dual Shock version and the Director’s Cut. Fast forward six years – a bunch of sequels and spin-offs later – and the original game is remade for the Nintendo Gamecube. You’d think that was it, but four years later, yet another iteration is released on the Nintendo DS in Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. Finally, today, we see yet another release of the original Resident Evil. This time it is a port of the remade Gamecube version, released as Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil, making it the eighth retail release of the original Resident Evil title. So, after more than 10 years and eight releases, how does it all hold up?

For those not in the know, the Resident Evil series begins in and around Raccoon City, a fictional American city that is home to Umbrella Inc, one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world. This particular game takes place on the outskirts of Raccoon City, in the Spencer Estate – a mansion built for one of Umbrella’s key employees, Oswell Spencer, by George Trevor, a famous architect. Strange murders have been occurring in the mountains surrounding the mansion, and the Raccoon City Police Department have sent their elite squad, the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team, to investigate. However, contact is lost with Bravo Team, and the authorities are starting to grow worried. Enter Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, two key members of S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team who, along with Barry Burton and Albert Wesker, have been sent to discover what happened to Bravo Team. Little do they know that they are in for one hell of a nightmare, as there is more to the area around the Spencer Estate, and the estate itself, than they realise.

Being part of the original Resident Evil series, the game is played from a third person perspective with fixed camera angles. Because of this, the game’s backgrounds are pre-rendered and the character models themselves are rendered in real time. This has left the developers with a lot of space to really increase the detail in their character models – something they have obviously taken advantage of. When it was originally released, Resident Evil featured some of the best graphics on the Gamecube and, embarrassingly, still features some of the best for the Nintendo Wii. The backgrounds are amazingly detailed, with the floors of the mansion polished and reflective, flames of candles burning dimly and shadows being cast from outside the horrific mansion onto its desolate and discoloured carpets. The visuals are astounding and really add to the atmosphere, especially the lighting. Similarly, the character models are extremely well crafted. The visual presentation is just astounding, with fine details like the visible threads on Jill’s undershirt making things all the more realistic. That being said, there are a few jagged edges on the models when they are viewed up close, but that’s quite natural for a game that’s bordering on six years old now.

Resident Evil Archives has all the gameplay you’d expect from a Playstation-generation survival horror game. Some frustratingly clunky controls that contribute to the game’s tense environment, a claustrophobic setting designed to heighten fear, and shambling, slow moving creatures out to halt your progress. Players can choose between Chris Redfield or his partner, Jill Valentine. The character you choose during the game affects the difficulty and the path you take – Chris will battle different monsters, obtain different weapons and interact with different characters compared to Jill. This essentially gives the game a dual storyline, with more dedicated players probably wanting to finish it at least twice to see everything the package has to offer.

Following Alpha team being chased into the mansion by vicious dogs, players must choose to begin their journey either as Chris or Jill. From there, players search the mansion for clues about what is going on, as well as ways to get out and rendezvous with their missing members. In an almost Metroid-like fashion, Jill and Chris will come across a lot of locked doors in the early stages of their journey that will need to be unlocked by keys that are picked up in later stages. This leads to a lot of backtracking and requires players to remember where specific doors are and the general structure of the mansion. Between these locked doors are several traditional puzzles that must be solved in order to procure new weapons, new items and the aforementioned keys. Naturally, there is a multitude of enemies roaming the corridors of the Spencer Estate and they can either be defeated or ignored, depending on your play style. In addition, players can store their items in boxes which magically can be retrieved from other boxes in the area – probably as a bid to lower the game’s difficulty.

While the gameplay is something that Resident Evil fans should be well acquainted with, there is a certain element in this classic formula that a lot of gamers will probably not like – the game is very slow and spends a lot of time creating suspense by lulling the player into a false sense of security. While as a fan, I do not see this as a bad thing, a lot of players may get frustrated after searching the mansion for long periods of time and not seeing any notable rewards for their efforts. In addition, ammunition is very scarce and the game encourages players to survive by saving their ammunition for moments when they really need it. (The battle with a giant snake is a good example of a spot where you really need your ammunition).

While it’s all great to talk about Resident Evil and what it does right, there’s no way to ignore the fact that it’s essentially a port of a remade Playstation-era game, and it’s released in an almost identical fashion on the Nintendo Gamecube. So, what’s the point of even looking at Resident Evil Archives? Well, there’s a few minor differences. The first is that the background and the game’s engine has been specifically retooled to display in full 480p, creating a sharper picture without any distortion. Secondly, the game is no longer spread across two discs – players can enjoy the whole journey of both Chris and Jill without ever having to get up to change discs. Finally, there are several different control schemes available too – one of which is naturally, the Gamecube controller. In addition, players can also use the Classic Controller, their Wii Remote + Nunchuck or even their Wii Remote by itself sideways. The Classic Controller scheme is fairly straight-forward, as is the Wii Remote scheme (although it can get painful for bigger handed players). The Wii Remote + Nunchuck scheme features a nifty little feature though. Players can raise their Wii Remote and point at their television in order to get their character to raise their gun, and pull the trigger on the Wii Remote to fire. It’s a small thing, I know, but it gives you a little bit more of a sense of immersion to see your character raise your gun when you raise your Wii Remote. That being said, it is hard to make sure your Wii Remote isn’t pointing anywhere near your TV to prevent Chris and Jill from aiming at nothing erratically.

The soundtrack has remained untouched and it remains one of the most haunting scores created for a video game. There are a lot of scenarios in the game where there is no music, with ambient noises like a fireplace crackling, a grandfather clock ticking and the occasional lightning strike. In addition, there are scenarios, usually with conflict, in which fast paced and tense music serves to add another layer of horror to the offering. Similarly, each save room, which cannot be entered by any monsters, provides a much more laid back and mellow tune to relax to. The music and sound effects all combine with stunning visuals to provide the perfect atmosphere for a horror based game. And while there is a very strong atmosphere, it’s a shame that some of the awkward voice work can sometimes break through it – however, it’s a trademark of the genre.

The package features quite a few modes to get through. The first and most obvious is to replay the game with the second character that you didn’t choose at the beginning of the game. There are a few other interesting modes too. Invisible Enemy Mode, in which all enemies are invisible, Real Survival Mode, in which the item boxes are not linked together and One Dangerous Zombie Mode, in which players must avoid a certain zombie at random times during gameplay (as killing him will result in game over). There are also some powerful new weapons to unlock, too. There is a lot of extra content here for players to get through, though it may not appeal to everyone.

Resident Evil Archives is still one of the best looking games on a Nintendo system and still holds up surprisingly well, even after the release of Resident Evil 4. While some fans will be looking forward to revisiting the mansion one more time, others will probably be sceptical as to why they should pick up what is essentially a port or a remade game. On the other hand, those new to the series wishing to explore the roots of the Resident Evil story after the completion of Resident Evil 4 will find what is most definitely the best introduction to the series, regardless of the clumsy control schemes. If you can’t find a copy of the Gamecube version for cheap, I’d definitely recommend Resident Evil Archives. If you can, you can probably pass on this one.

Its hard to recommend Resident Evil to players who have already played it and own it on the Gamecube, as this is essentially the same game. That being said, if you need an excuse to run through the game with some new and interesting control schemes, this is probably it. Those who arent fans of the series but are looking for an introductory level title will probably find what theyre looking for here, but be warned it can be rather difficult. To this day one of Capcoms greatest masterpieces, and it thankfully still remains something that only Nintendo fans can sample (and deserve).

Graphics 8.0

While the graphics may be largely pre-rendered, the settings for Resident Evil are displayed beautifully. Character models are very well detailed although there are some little niggles that players may notice on higher end television sets.

Gameplay 6.5

The gameplay does follow the traditional, pre-Resident Evil 4 style, but still involves an interesting mix of environments, puzzles and character interaction that no other survival horror game has done better. Those wishing to extend themselves can easily go through the files throughout the game to flesh out the games backstory.

Sound 6.5

The soundtrack in Resident Evil isnt entirely composed of music, but still manages to convey a perfect sense of isolation, hopelessness and safety in the right places. Its just a shame that the voice work brings down the quality of the overall project by a significant magnitude.

Tilt 7.0

Multiple post-game unlockables, including very different modes and new weapons based on specific criteria really extend the Resident Evil experience. In addition, the dual storyline mechanics essentially requires two playthroughs of the game to fully understand the story.

Value 9.0

Being an immense fan of Resident Evil, I enjoyed revisiting the original game and found this version to be the best. The game still performs much better than others in its field and features some of the best graphics on the Nintendo Wii. A brilliant game filled with a nicely constructed atmosphere.

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About The Author
James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.

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