I’m spending the afternoon at my in-laws creaky house on a windy day, so it seemed like a good day to watch a speedrun of the original Resident Evil on the PSX. Resident Evil was the progenitor of the survival horror genre, so there’s no better way to spend the day when the gutters are insistently banging against the side of the house.
First, you should watch the opening video if you haven’t before. To this day, it is the best opening cinematic ever created for a video game. It sets a tone for the game, and the game sticks to it come hell or high water.
The tone that is set, of course, is one of b-list hilarity. The awful writing/voice acting combo might be the best part about Resident Evil now that the clunky polygonal models aren’t so scary. If you scroll to any location in this transcript of the script, you’ll find some gold. While I was watching, I wondered if the script was as bad as it is before it was translated to English from it’s original Japanese. I know that the Japanese voice acting was so bad that there was only English voice acting in the Japanese version, but I can’t imagine that the writing was this bad in it’s original Japanese. “It’s a weapon; it’s really powerful, especially against living things,” makes so little sense that it’s hard to imagine a professional being paid to have written it.
Aside from that, I think the game seems like it’s held up pretty well. The enemy variety is impressive, especially for a game from this era, with almost 20 different enemy types in the original game. The first few games were not so much about weird tentacle monsters as they are now, either. The developers just used things like a big snake or a big spider, and that’s enough to be scary with the tight environments and clunky controls. I appreciate that simplicity and it makes me wish the newer games would go back to this design philosophy. I still strongly dislike those gaddang spiders.
It made me feel panicky watching zombies almost grab the player, and that’s really the essence of the original Resident Evil experience. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the modern video game player is patient enough to play a game like this unless they are being pushed forward by nostalgia, so we probably won’t see a game like this one again. Surviving by the skin of your teeth in terms of maneuvering the character and ammo and health consumption is where the horror in these games come from, and these are not elements that exist in video games anymore. The modern Resident Evil games speak to this. Since Capcom created the over the shoulder camera perspective and inserted an overabundance of pistol ammo in Resident Evil 4, the rest of the series seem set to be action games rather than horror.