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When Resident Evil 1 came out, it was the dawn of the Survival Horror genre. But, much like how Silent Hill 2 was responsibly for truly putting Silent Hill on the map, it was the 1998 sequel that truly cemented Capcom's new franchise.
Younger players coming into RE2 from more recent generations may have problems looking past its pre-millenium polygonal graphics, and the Narm Charm of its dialogue - it is better than the original RE1, but that's not exactly a high hurdle to clear. Those who can do so, will discover why this game burned Resident Evil into the minds of a generation.
RE2 has many strengths to its name. Its protagonists - Leon Kennedy, the good-hearted but overwhelmed rookie cop; Claire Redfield, the tough but motherly college girl; Ada Wong, the enigmatic Femme Fatale; and Sherry Birkin, the lost and helpless waif - are all capable of making players fall in love with them. Whilst it bears only two new enemies, the Licker and Ivy, and its boss variety is less than that of the original RE1, they're so memorable and terrifying that nobody even notices.
Where it shines the most, though, are in two distinct areas.
The first is Atmosphere. RE2 was the original Actionized Sequel in the franchise... but it bears no stigma for that fact, unlike later games. Once you get past the bottleneck of the streets, ammunition is plentiful, especially when you discover the bullets hidden in room corners, under corpses and behind desks. But despite the ability to gun down literally everything in your way, the intense atmosphere of isolation, fear and dread never wavers. The player is powerful, but doesn't feel it, and that's due to the atmosphere, which is built up by scenery, lore files, cut scenes and background music.
The second is Continuity. RE1 had distinct stories for each protagonist, but didn't really make any efforts to explain how they fitted together. RE2 not only had two completely separate storylines, based on which combination of A and B scenarios were used, but took great pains to tell a coherent narrative within each story. Cutscenes and distinctive puzzles and boss-fights all made it really feel like you were playing two sides of the same story. Even the zapping system, as minor as its actual effects in-game were (access to a specific goody in the underground armory and to a bonus room in the lab), contributed to making the linked scenarios feel interconnected.
In short? Give the classic RE2 a try, whether you've played the Resident Evil 2 Remake or not. You might just be surprised.
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