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.