Resident Evil (Switch) Review
Resident Evil has been on a long path to its current place on Switch. Originally on PlayStation in 1996, it was later remade from the ground up for GameCube in 2002 with entirely new visuals and gameplay tweaks to both modernize and refresh the game for new and veteran players. This is the version that was later re-worked for the current generation of consoles and eventually squeezed into the Switch version we have today. Few concessions have been made to bring the game to life on the handheld machine, to the point where you’re playing every bit the same game on Switch as you might be on any other modern platform.
Taking elements of older adventure/puzzle style games and melding them with schlocky horror tropes proved a masterful decision for Capcom with the original Resident Evil. Just as in the original, this Resident Evil charges you with exploring a sprawling mansion and it surrounds – scrounging whatever you can to help you survive a horde of varied and dangerous creatures all while trying to solve item-based puzzles and traps.
To someone unfamiliar with Resident Evil of old there might be some surprise at the degree of action involved here. Unlike more recent Resident Evil games, combat is far less central to gameplay and progression. You will absolutely need to learn skills and techniques for best-avoiding damage and taking down the undead, however the main challenge comes from exploring the mansion. It’s a place you’ll become intimately familiar with thanks to it’s twisting paths which often double back on each other to give you convenient new shortcuts between major locations. When you pick up a new key, for example, your memory of the mansion layout will come in handy in remembering any doors you couldn’t open previously that might now be accessible. There is a map of course – but over time you’ll find yourself needing it less and less since the mansion has a real sense of place.
Resident Evil holds on to the many elements from it’s 1996 original release – though this remake sought to modernize parts where it could without changing the game too much. Things like limited inventory space management and a finite amount of save opportunities (you need to use ink ribbons to save, and they’re good for a single use) may prove unusual or challenging for players unfamiliar with the original game’s structure. I feel though that they add to the designed tension of the game. Finite saves along with limited ammunition and health restoration items creates an entirely raised sense of anxiety and dread – an intentional risk of actual loss rarely seen in games especially today. If this kind of stress isn’t your cup of tea for whatever reason you are given a thinly disguised difficulty selection when you begin the game which will affect things like the amount of consumable items you find and the strength of enemies so you can experience the story at whatever stress level you choose. Note that this can’t be changed after starting a file, however.
The biggest changes in the HD release we have today are visual. The development team must have faced a challenge in how they could adjust the presentation for Resident Evil on high definition displays. The original version (of the remake, to be clear) used 3D character models on a detailed 2D image that served as the environment. Each was rendered to a resolution appropriate to standard definition TVs of the time in both resolution and size. It appears the developers have done some upscaling to the original images to make them appear more palatable on an HD screen – and the new backgrounds to me don’t look at all out of place on a new television. 3D models render in high definition, and so the only issue some might find is that the models look too clean compared to the upscaled backgrounds, but I feel this is a nitpick at best. There has been a new 16:9 option added as well, which zooms the view on these original backgrounds to fill a widescreen, and pans the view vertically as your character moves. Personally, I preferred to stick with the original 4:3 ratio and deal with black bars on the sides of the screen, but this option is pretty great if you just can’t bear some of your TV not being used.
The other major addition is a new (again, optional) control scheme. The original control scheme is often referred to as ‘tank controls’, up moves your character forward in whichever way they are facing while left and right turn them in place. Combined with static camera angles this can foster some tense moments caused by relatively rigid movement and a limited view of your surroundings. Not everyone enjoys this control, however, and for these people, there is a new Alternate control scheme. This control mode gives you more direct control of the character – logically moving them in the direction you move the stick, rather than treating the character as a point of reference. While this new control scheme might seem more natural to some, I personally found that when combined with regularly changing static perspectives things can get a little confusing – moving in one direction on one screen might not logically flow when you move to another screen with a different camera angle. This option can be changed at will, and so you’re free to try it for yourself without committing – as I did before switching back to the Original mode.
So long as you go into Resident Evil knowing what it is, and what it isn’t. It isn’t a game that will give you many of the concessions we’ve come to expect from modern games like checkpoints or free-roaming character movement. Everything about the game’s environment, encounters and layout is deliberately designed to invoke a particular mood and provide a sense of dread as a backdrop to exploration, puzzles and combat. The Switch version is every bit as good to play as the other HD ports, and being able to play it portably is great. It’s not really designed for quick pick up & play sessions, but I loved being able to play somewhere comfortable with the lights out, headphones in, ready for spooks.
If you’re a fan of horror, willing to accept some gameplay elements left behind by modern games and somehow haven’t played any of the previous versions of Resident Evil, you really owe it to yourself to give this a try.
- Tense atmosphere
- Great exploration
- Limited modernisations
- Clunky combat