It’s that spooooky time of year again and The Evil Within, the new game from the creator of survival horror, Shinji Mikami, just hit shelves, so now seems like a very fitting time to roll the clock back to 1996 and look at a few interesting facts about Resident Evil. The original Resident Evil may not have been the first horror game, but it certainly popularized the genre, and still stands as one of the most effective scary games of all time.
So, steel yourself and don’t walk to close to any windows, because here are 10 things you might not know about Resident Evil…
10) Resident Evil started as a remake of an NES RPG. Yes, Resident Evil, your quintessential Playstation M-rated game, was originally supposed to be a remake of a game that came out on the Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES) back in 1989.
I would have rented the hell out of a game with this box art had it come out in North America.
Sweet Home was a licensed game based on a now-forgotten horror movie of the same name – the story was about a group of people being stranded in a creepy monster-filled house in the woods. Sound familiar? Sweet Home was an RPG complete with turn-based battles, but it also contained a ton of Resident Evil-esque features. Items are very limited, characters can only carry a small number of things and death is permanent so, much like Resident Evil, there’s a heavy emphasis on resource management and surviving by the skin of your teeth. There’s also puzzle solving, scattered notes to read and, yes, door opening animations between every room.
The game never came to North America since its surprisingly grisly content would never have passed Nintendo of America’s censors, but it was an under-the-radar favorite in Japan – enough so that Capcom felt the series was ripe for revival seven years later (man, can you believe the NES and Playstation eras were only, like, six years apart?) The project was given to a young game designer named Shinji Mikami, who had previously worked on Capcom’s licensed Disney games, and the rest was horror history.
Welcome to the mansion…
9) The game almost went with ghosts instead of zombies. The living dead owe Resident Evil a lot. Before RE came shambling onto the scene, the zombie genre was, well, even deader than usual, but Capcom’s smash hit revived interest in the moldering monsters. Interestingly, the zombie revival almost didn’t happen — originally Resident Evil was aiming for more of a haunted house vibe and was going to feature ghosts instead of zombies. Ultimately Mikami decided that his gritty, survival based game needed to be more grounded, so he started looking into other horror movies that take place in old, isolated houses, eventually landing on George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead.
8) Resident Evil was supposed to be a first-person shooter. Shortly after Mikami and his team settled on zombies as the baddies for Resident Evil, they decided the game should be a Doom-like first-person shooter – FPSes were still somewhat of a novelty on consoles at the time, and it would be a great showcase for the power of the Playstation. The idea would eventually be dropped because, well, Resident Evil just wasn’t any fun as a shooter. Sadly Capcom never really took that lesson to heart as evidenced by the company’s numerous attempts to transform Resident Evil into an on-rails shooter or Gears of War over the years.
Concept art for the FPS version of Resident Evil.
7) Jill and Chris almost co-starred with a cyborg and an Eddie Murphy impersonator. Jill, Chris, Barry and Rebecca – few games can boast heroes as memorable or lasting as Resident Evil’s main four. Well, initially the line-up was going to be a little more wacky. A little more, uh, Japanese.
Instead of fan-favorite Barry, the game was going to feature Gelzer, a hulking cyborg who kind of looked like Birdie from Street Fighter Alpha. Instead of Rebecca we would have got Dewey, a sassy black comic-relief character based on Eddie Murphy. So yeah, as you may be picking up, the original tone of the game was going to be pretty goofy/tongue in cheek — more Dead Rising than the straight-faced Resident Evil style.
Yikes, Dewey’s looking…a bit problematic.
6) The Resident Evil series was supposed to include co-op right from the beginning. A lot of old-time Resident Evil fans like to bellyache about the Resident Evil’s recent co-op focus. Well, it may interest you old cranks to know that the original Resident Evil featured co-op in its early stages of development. Co-op was also considered for a number of other RE games over the years, so really, Resident Evil 5 was just Capcom finally realizing a long-held ambition.
5) The composer of Resident Evil’s soundtrack was a fraud. There were a number of re-releases of Resident Evil – the second of which, known as the Dual Shock Version, featured a full orchestral soundtrack. This soundtrack was credited to Mamoru Samuragochi who, in a bit of egregiously excessive praise, has been referred to as the Beethoven of Japan, mostly due to the fact that he composed music despite, supposedly, being deaf.
I say supposedly because it came out earlier this year that Samuragochi wasn’t deaf at all, and in fact all his work was ghostwritten by a man named Takashi Niigaki. Samuragochi even walked everywhere with a cane he didn’t need in order to bolster his mystique. What a butthole – next time you’re playing RE imagine one of the zombies is Samuragochi and headshot him good.
Pictured: A guy who’s not deaf.
4) The game’s creepy messages were meant to be written on the walls in blood. One of the hallmarks Resident Evil is exploring the game’s world though notes and scraps of paper rummaged out of various desks and drawers. Well, originally this back story was going to be delivered in a more gruesome way – Capcom’s first idea was to have all the messages written on the walls in blood. This information delivery method was probably dropped because the PlayStation’s textures weren’t sharp enough to make the messages easily readable. That said, at least one of these messages survives – it can be found on the second floor of the main hall.
3) A Game Boy Color version of Resident Evil was in the works. That’s right, Capcom’s greed-addled brains once drove them to develop a port of Resident Evil for the Game Boy Color. The game got dangerously close to being released, but at the last minute the higher-ups decided to cancel the project because, well, it was Resident Evil for the friggin’ Game Boy. Putting the project down was the only humane thing to do.
2) The game’s intro was censored in America. Resident Evil may have been one of the first M-rated games, but that didn’t mean it could get away with whatever it wanted. The original Japanese intro in particular was edited pretty extensively for the American release. Several gory shots of your pilot being attacked by zombie dogs, images of mutilated bodies and, gasp, a shot of Chris smoking were all removed. Here’s the cinematic in all it’s terrible, uncensored glory…
Capcom would later release Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, which promised right on the box that it was uncut and uncensored, but the game contained the exact same chopped up intro movie. Capcom claimed this wasn’t intentional and actually a localization mistake, which strains believability. Maybe Capcom just realized making the opening cinematic as short as possible was to the game’s benefit, speaking of which…
1) We finally know the identities of Resident Evil’s live-action actors. The quality of acting in the original Resident Evil is, to put it gently, gobsmackingly abysmal. Unfortunately those looking to lay blame for the opening cinematic or lines like “You were almost a Jill sandwich!” have had nowhere to turn – for obvious reasons all of Resident Evil’s actors went under generic pseudonyms like “Charlie” and “Inezh”. For years it seemed like these actors’ epic badness would never be properly appreciated.
Well, years later diligent fans have finally managed to track down nearly all the original Resident Evil players. For the record, it’s believed that most of the actors who played the characters in the opening cinematic also voiced the characters during the rest of the game.
Jill was played by Una Kavanagh, an Irish actress who’s been getting steady work on British TV ever since her master of unlocking days.
I recalled the Jill actress being pretty cute. Turned out I was right!
Chris was played by Scott McCulloch who has done a ton of video game voice work for everything from Castlevania to Street Fighter to Shenmue.
Barry was portrayed by Barry Gjerde, a Norwegian who’s done his own share of video game voice acting (he was still regularly working as of just a few years ago).
Finally, Rebecca was probably Lynn Harris, who has done quite a bit of anime and video game voice work since.
So really, they seem like a nice, professional bunch of folks. It’s likely their terrible performances can be blamed on the fact that Capcom just grabbed whatever English speakers they could find living in Japan, threw them in a booth and recorded their lines as quickly as possible. But wait, why did Japanese company Capcom only record English dialog? Well, apparently they originally also did a Japanese voice track, but they threw it out because it was even worse than the English stuff. Jesus.
So there you have it, a few factoids about the game that spawned survival horror. Got any good stories about Resident Evil traumatizing you as a kid? Know any interesting stuff I missed? Hit the comments and share.
If you want more Fascinating Facts type articles, you can read a bunch right here.