Capcom Entertainment
N64
Available Now
11/18/1999
 
 
 
 
Resident Evil 2


From the moment they first saw the demo, Capcom had to know they were on to something good with the Resident Evil series. Horror games were few and far between, and most of them failed because they never really scared you. Blood is one thing, a monster jumping through a window at the height of a musical crescendo is another. And that’s where RE games succeed, not just in the bloodshed department, but in delivering some genuine things-that-go-bump-in-the-night creeps.

Arriving two weeks after Halloween does nothing to diminish the fear factor in what is arguably the best version of the second installment in Capcom’s flagship horror series, Resident Evil. Now, RE2 is a port, and by definition alone, most Nintendo 64 owners will groan at the thought of getting shoddy PlayStation hand-me-downs. Guess what, though? This time, thanks to a the fantastic team at Angel Studios, we’re getting the real deal. Everything from the original PlayStation version is here, including the FMV sequences (which they said could never be done), and what’s more, it’s a much better package.

With the extra boost of the 4MB Expansion Pak, RE2 runs in a delicious high-resolution mode, banishing the nasty sharp, jagged edges of the previous PlayStation models. Texture compression was obviously employed to squeeze this sucker onto a cart, but you wouldn’t know it by looking. All of the detail of the PS version is here, just incredibly sharper. Most notable, though, is the amazing amount of color. For a kill-‘em-all zombie game, this is a fairly bright endeavor. The bright neon signs, the graffiti that covers back alleys, and especially the gorgeous fire textures, all liven up what could have been almost too gloomy.

As for those FMV sequences, well, nobody can use the excuse that the Nintendo 64 can’t handle them anymore because they’re right here – all of them. Now, do they look as good as those streaming off of a CD? Of course not, but they are good enough to make you want to give Angel Studios a big pat on the back for cramming them in there. The compression routine does show through here, especially in the sound department (a little too tinny), but just the fact that you’re watching them instead of lame freeze frames is a definite accomplishment.

Now, the Nintendo 64 has always been at a disadvantage in the sound department, since CDs obviously sound better than silicon. It's a simple fact, and we’ve had three years to get over it. However, horror movies use sound to enhance the scares and MIDI beeps and boops only make me cringe in disappointment, not fear. Again, Angel delivers. The sound is crystal clear and extremely effective. The mood is augmented by awesome music cues, such as creepy intonations that let you know something wicked is coming your way. When that music cuts out and you’re left in silence, you know any moment something is going to leap out at you and you’re going to jump straight up and grab your ankles. To sweeten the deal, the sound is presented in full surround, which makes it an infinitely better experience than the PS or PC versions that have come before.

Most people by now should be familiar with the game play associated with the Resident Evil series. You are plunked down in the middle of a city infested with shambling zombies with a taste for blood. Now, while most people would curl up into a fetal position and start their prayers, you'll have to live long enough to solve the mystery and discover why the townsfolk have suddenly started looking like Keith Richards.

RE2 is a clever hybrid of action and puzzle, emphasis on the action. After selecting either Claire or Leon, you must explore the city in search of objects or anybody still alive that could help you on your journey. When you’re not trying to figure out which key goes to what door or where you should push a statue, you’re blasting zombies... lots of them. Most scenes turn into a ballet of gore, but sometimes you have to know when to run. The key is to survive (hence the term "survival horror"), not go down in a blaze of glory. However, never let your guard down because chances are good that something is right around the corner or outside the window, waiting for you to make a misstep. When you do, it will pounce. And you will crap your britches.

You control Claire and Leon with the analog stick, but its nothing like guiding Mario around the mushrooms. Rotating your character can be frustrating at times, especially when there are zombies coming from all directions; but once you get the hang of it, you should be fine. Aiming your weapon (there are quite a few of them, selectable from a menu that’s a mere button-press away) is easy, and drawing first blood is eerily enjoyable. Because the backgrounds are static renders, you need to get used to not having a camera following you around. It’s been a long time since Nintendo 64 owners have had to run off the screen, but that’s what you do here when fleeing from a zombie. Thankfully, the load time between screens is nil.

That lack of load time makes the game seem faster, which is a very good thing. I understand that it's a horror game, but if you keep the pacing too slow, players will lose interest. The pace of this version is just right, keeping the action flowing at a rate that will prevent you from putting the controller down. You know there’s another horde of the living dead three screens away and you can hardly wait to saw them in half with a few well-placed shotgun blasts.

This version also sports an impressive extra: “Ex” Files. Because we will probably never see the original RE, nor it’s sequels Nemesis or Code: Veronica on the Nintendo 64, Angel Studios has including some extra story elements that string all of the adventures together. A very nice touch, indeed.

Hands down, this is the best rendition of RE2 available. Coupled with the fact it's finally on the Nintendo 64, horror fans should be in their cars right now heading to the store. Capcom and Angel Studios have truly outdone themselves, delivering the single best horror experience on the N64 – even better than the suitably creepy Shadowman. In fact, this almost makes up for Magical Tetris Challenge starring Mickey Mouse. Almost.

- Levi Buchanan


   
 

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