Cinematech Episode 179,“Old and New”, compared classic versions of popular games to their then-recent installments.
Timecode: 0:13: Resident Evil 1, the first in Capcom's series of games that they dubbed Survival Horror. Arguably one of the Play Station's first Killer Apps, the game's mixture of polygonal 3D characters and prerendered backgrounds gripped gamers into a story of bio-organic mutants stalking the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad members in the Arklay Mountains mansion of Raccoon City.
- It was originally conceived as a first-person game, but only one piece of concept art exists showing the viewpoint, perhaps indicating that Capcom decided to make the game in third-person early on in development.
- The game seemed to take some cues from Sweet Home (NES), one of Capcom's most obscure games. Based on the Japanese horror film of the same name, it was about a group of people investigating the abandoned mansion of artist Mamiya Ichirou, and attempting to restore some of her works (hopefully doing a better job than the elderly woman in Spain who tried to restore a fresco of Jesus Christ). The game was actually a top-down, horror-themed RPG. It relates to Resident Evil in several interesting and unexpected ways. Each of the five main characters had different skills and exclusive items. One character carries a lighter, just like Chris Redfield in RE1 and several characters in later RE games, and a female character acts as The Medic with her fully stocked first aid kit, similar to Rebecca Chambers in RE1. The Ichirou mansion was also infested with zombies! Horrifying zombies, with no lower bodies. Yuck. Also, there was a note in SH that referred to the mansion as a “house of residing evil”.
- The infamous hallway in the mansion where two zombies dogs burst through the windows originally had a totally different monster: the Giant Spider. It was going to crawl along the ceiling, obscured at first by the sneaky camera angle. Brrr.
- RE1 was originally going to have an African-American character named Dewey that was going to be comic relief, but he was cut out of the game, making Kenneth the only African-American member of STARS, and he was the first character to die onscreen in RE1. It's possible that Jim from Resident Evil Outbreak (PS 2, 2004) was inspired by Dewey.
There were a lot of concepts that Capcom ditched in the making of their RE games. Resident Evil 2 had a lot of interesting ideas that were never reused, probably due to how Capcom did not complete ”RE 1.5” before evaluating the game, decided they did not like it, and started over. From RE2:
- The infamously creepy Raccoon City Police Chief Brian Irons was originally a good guy instead of an all-around Complete Monster.
- Even though he was (seemingly) killed by the Tyrant near the end of RE1, duplicitous STARS captain Albert Wesker was somehow a part of he monster that Umbrella scientist William Birkin turned into at the end of ”RE 1.5”. Oookay. This proves that Capcom wanted to bring Wesker back long before they did so officially in Resident Evil Code Veronica.
- There were some different monsters in ”RE 1.5”, such as zombie gorillas and their babies, and a human/spider hybrid counterpart to the human/insect Chimeras from the Umbrella lab at the end of the first game. As if the original Chimeras weren't scary enough. What's sort of funny is that the staggered walk and strange anatomy of the spider Chimeras is reminiscent of one of the early Necromorphs from Dead Space. There was also supposed to be baby alligators to accompany the giant alligator in the sewers. The alligator made it into the final game sans babies but the others never surfaced in any RE game, not even in Resident Evil: Outbreak File #2, which had a scenario that took place in a zoo ("Wild Things"). There were, however, killer monkeys called Eliminators in Resident Evil 0.
- Perhaps the biggest change of all is the alternate female playable character. Instead of Claire Redfield, there was originally Elza Walker, a Biker Babe college student. She was ditched in favor of Claire to give a greater connection to the original game.
- The color scheme for the game utilized more Bad Blue Lighting instead of the darker color palette of the final game.
So I've heard that the incomplete version of ”RE 1.5” was cobbled together into an ISO that you could play through a Play Station emulator. The game has become one of those urban legend RE games, like the RE1 port for the Game Boy Color, which is also available as a ROM online. ...Or So I Heard.
0:55: Resident Evil 4 (Nintendo Game Cube, 2005), a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Capcom, and a Crowning Game of Awesome for popular character Leon Scott Kennedy. In this game, Leon is a bad enough dude to rescue the President's... daughter from cultists in a Spanish village. This game was an intense Genre Shift from survival horror to third-person action. According to Wikipedia, the game received a near-perfect score from the weekly Japanese game magazine Famitsu.
Can I editorialize for a bit? I was always pissed by G4 snubbing this game for their 2005 G-Phoria awards. It got snubbed in favor of Halo2 for Game of the Year. I think it was because G-Phoria happened in the middle of summer instead of closer to the beginning or ending of the year. Possibly not-so-coincidentally, 2005 was the last year that there was an official G-Phoria show that wasn't a glorified ep of Xplay. (shudder)
On the other side of things, in December 2005, Spike did their big video game awards show (hosted by Samuel L Jackson for the very first time), and guess what their GOTY was? Yup. RE4. Triumph. That was when the Spike VGAs was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap for me. Since then, they've had many more wonderful hosts, such as Neil Patrick Harris and Zachary Levi. I wonder if they will ever have a female host, and if so, who would it be? Actress and comedienne Aisha Tyler, perhaps? Eh... maybe not. I heard that, despite her gaming cred, when she hosted one of the E3 press conferences in recent years, it was awkwaaard~
But not as awkward as the fallout from RE4. Series creator Shinji Mikami swore that he would kill himself with a sword if RE4 was ever ported to any other console, so of course the game was ported to the PS 2 before the end of 2005. Thankfully, instead of committing hara kiri, Mikami merely left Capcom and joined Platinum Games.
I played both the original Game Cube and PS 2 versions of RE4, and the most disappointing difference was the sound quality. In the original Game Cube version, the sound effects in gameplay were crystal-clear and made the game more atmospheric. But in the PS 2 version, the sound FX were obviously painfully compressed and grainy. It was far from a Porting Disaster, but still inferior to the Game Cube version. The new campaign for Ada Wong, “Separate Ways”, was nice, though.
I still don't know why Leon pronounced Luis' name as “Lewis”.
1:43: Ninja Gaiden, one of the most badass platformers for the NES. It was a fun game and revolutionary for its introduction of cinematic story scenes in between levels. The first game is on the Nintendo eShop and the second game was recently made available on the eShop as well.
2:25: The Xbox Ninja Gaiden from Team Ninja, creators of Dead or Alive. This NG was a hardcore third-person action game with graphics that were amazingly smooth and gorgeous for the time.
The newest NG game is Ninja Gaiden Z, created in part by Keiji Inafune, another Capcom refugee who also created, oh, just about all of your favorite Capcom games (Mega Man, Dead Rising, Onimusha). In this game, you play as one of the countless enemy ninjas that series hero Ryu Hayabusa has slain who has come back to life as a cyborg by an enigmatic organization. You're pissed and want revenge, but first, you have to kill zombies for the organization in order to get the power to defeat Hayabusa, and you have a hip-hop soundtrack backing you up in this debut trailer. It looks awesome and stylish in a way that NG never has before.
7:20: Rygar (1987), another side-scrolling NES platformer from Tecmo. This game had a unique Greco-Roman setting and cool music, but was hard as heck and had a wonky translation typical for the time. “YOU NEED THE GRAPPLING.”
7:57: The intro to Rygar: The Legendary Adventure (PS 2, 2002), mistakenly referred to as ”The Legendary Adventurer” in this ep. This was a much more ambitious Rygar game with a full-fledged story mode, multiple Diskarmors, abilities, items, and spells for Rygar to use, and some gorgeous artwork and music.
Unfortunately, the only Rygar game made since was an utterly ill-conceived port of TLA for the Nintendo Wii that basically drained the original game of all of its appeal and storyline. They actually excised the original story from the Wii port.
Some of the crazier Diskarmors that you could unlock in TLA included the Pizzarmor and Guitarmor. You have to love video games.
10:46: Hark, it's the original Castlevania on the NES! Gamers who are more accustomed to the later games in the series would be in for quite a shock with the earlier games, since the controls are not as responsive. Simon's jumps are very awkward, and the game is Nintendo Hard and unforgiving.
11:38: Ugh, it's one of the queasy 3D CV games: Castlevania Lament Of Innocence (PS 2, 2003). I was pretty disappointed in this game. It just felt bland compared to the other games. The graphics and some of the music were pretty good, though.
To be brutally honest, things haven't gotten much better for CV in 3D in the years since.
14:32: Hide your children, it's the original Mortal Kombat! It seems so... quaint now. Hard to believe that those senators smugly got their panties all wadded up about it.
MK saw many ups and downs in the years since its first game. No one at Midway probably foresaw just how huge the game would get. It became a multimedia phenomenon and “inspired” legions of wannabe games. MK had one really good movie and one movie so bad it's hard to believe it wasn't made that way intentionally, a cartoon series with a straight-to-VHS pilot that was arguably So Bad, It's Good, and a forgettable live action TV series.
The quality of the games themselves waxed and waned over the years. It arguably peaked with Mortal Kombat II. Mortal Kombat 3 introduced some unpopular changes and new characters. It finally transitioned into 3D with Mortal Kombat 4, but the game couldn't compare to the likes of Tekken or Soul Edge/Blade (MK4 let the characters use weapons like SE, but was still primarily a melee fighter). It did, however, give us some very hilariously bad cutscenes and voice acting. In the sixth generation of video games, MK tried to come back with games like Deadly Alliance (multiplatform, 2002), Deception (multiplatform, 2004), and Armageddon (multiplatform, 2006), but the reception remained mixed. After a very strange, T-rated excursion in Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe (Xbox 360, PS 3, 2008), MK finally came roaring back in 2011 with the ninth game, simply called Mortal Kombat to emphasize the game's role as Reset Button for the series.
One of the things I like about MK is how most of the guys that started out working on the games are still working on them. But after his NetherRealm Studios released another DC Comics based fighter (Injustice: Gods Among Us) in 2013, MK co-creator Ed Boon left the studio and franchise that outlived Midway. It's almost a Tear Jerker.
16:13: Narc, a fun, high-octane action game from Midway where you played as one or two drug enforcement agents. The game used digitized graphics before MK did. Despite the anti-drug theme, the game is pretty violent; however, you do have the option of arresting perps instead of wasting them. The game had a very surreal end boss: drug kingpin Mr. Big himself... who was inexplicably a giant head on a motorized platform who spat tongues out as a weapon. What.
17:53: The original Tekken! It seems so quaint now. The characters look fairly odd compared to how the characters got smoothed over in subsequent sequels. Tekken 1 was also known as Rave War. One interesting feature of this early Tekken game was how the name of the stage was listed in the lower-right corner of the screen throughout the matches.
18:28: The intro to Tekken 5, the last of the three Tekken games on the PS 2 (the others being Tekken Tag Tournament and Tekken 4). The storyline of T5 picks up with father-son rivals Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima fighting off the Jack-series robot assassins. Eventually, though, Kazuya betrays his estranged father and seemingly leaves him to die in a pile of self-destructing Jacks. As the shrine explodes, a ninja codenamed Raven watches and reports that Heihachi Mishima... is dead.
Which turned out to be a Harsher in Hindsight moment because Heihachi's Japanese voice actor, Daisuke Gouri, committed suicide in 2010 because he had a health problem that was interfering with his eyesight: diabetes mellitus. The incredibly deeply-voiced actor ended his life instead of retiring from voice acting. It was pretty sad. I didn't learn this until I read about it on TV Tropes years after T5 first came out.
A side note about SH: The game's ending was determined by how many members of the Five-Man Band were left alive at the end of the game. Theoretically, the Golden Ending is the one where Everyone Lives. Theoretically.
What is the biggest award snub in gaming history?