As “Resident Evil” turns 25, Capcom, Netflix and Hollywood are all betting big on the franchise’s future
By the mid-90s, the world of video games seemed dominated by characters like children, including Nintendo’s Mario and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog. But soon, new characters and ideas would emerge on the scene. One of the most notable of this era was explorer and action hero Lara Croft, who would debut in the first Grave robber game released in October 1996.
But an even more seismic change occurred when, in March, Japanese video game maker Capcom released a unique “survival horror” game in an abandoned mansion called resident Evil. First released on PlayStation, the game follows Special Tactics And Rescue Service (STARS) rookies Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, depending on who you choose to play, as they navigate the terrifying Spencer Mansion riddled with zombies and beasts created by the evil Umbrella Company. But this is only the first adventure, with shootouts and untold scares to come.
Now that it’s the 25th anniversary of the franchise, resident Evil is perhaps as tall, if not taller, than it ever was. And as a huge fan of the video game series, I couldn’t be more ecstatic! A new live-action reboot film, titled Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, is set to debut this winter and promises to be a closer adaptation to the games’ real-life plot than the six-part live-action film series starring Milla Jovovich, which ran from 2002 to 2016. Meanwhile, Capcom has turned the video game series around to the point that it has garnered attention and praise after a multi-year creative slump. And even Netflix has apparently entered the zombie-infested world of resident Evil, creating a new CGI-animated miniseries for its endless library of original content.
My first exposure to the series was the highly acclaimed Resident Evil 4, first released in 2005, which I still rank as my all-time favorite console game. The game follows Leon S. Kennedy through rural Spain as he tries to save the president’s daughter, Ashley Graham, from a variety of villains in the Los Illuminados cult. The cult members are under the influence of Las Plagas, a parasite that turns some into zombies and others into powerful monsters.
The images from the game are always with me, they do an incredible job of creating an immersive and confusing atmosphere. I was a kid who loved his GameCube and watched the now defunct G4 network devoted to video games and gaming culture. Resident Evil 4 was the title people on the network liked X-Play hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb kept talking. Besides being one of my first experiences with an M rated mature game, it was like my first real adult video game. I also see it as a major step in my own evolution as a horror fan, it was the first thing in horror that was not a movie that I not only liked, but could also legitimately be called scary.
Finally, I caught up with the first installments of the series. I played a version of the first resident Evil, which was remade for the GameCube and released in 2002. I remember it was a surprisingly difficult experience, this game is as hard as it is terrifying. I have positive memories of playing this game, but it is definitely not my favorite resident Evil to live.
If anything, I had a much better time playing a prequel game titled Resident Evil 0, also released in 2002. It focuses on the character of Rebecca Chambers and explains how she got to the mansion the first is set in, putting her in touch with convict Billy Coen after they both escape a train accident. The player can then use Billy to accomplish different tasks.
Apart from the fourth part, my favorite is easily Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, first released in 1999, which again follows the protagonist of the first game, Jill Valentine, as she tries to escape the zombie-infested town of Raccoon before it is destroyed. Meanwhile, Jill is hunted down by the deadly Nemesis, a new monster created by Umbrella who appears to have a personal vendetta against her.
I have also played a few other games with names as varied as Resident Evil – Code: Veronica and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. And while I haven’t been keeping up with the series long after my late teens, I’ll probably be upgrading my console shortly just so I can play the remakes of Resident Evil 2 (2019) and Resident Evil 3 (2020), of which I hear only good. In addition, the recent and highly acclaimed Resident Evil Village apparently breathed new life into the video game series, which had suffered a creative crisis in the past two installments.
If I had to say what sets the franchise apart, it would be the vibe. From the haunted mansion of the first game to the zombie infested streets of Raccoon City, and especially in the rural forests, castles and spooky villages of Spain, as pictured in Resident Evil 4, I think it was the atmosphere that made the difference between the games and made them such a success. For example, most games give you the chance to explore and interact with the environment, inspect documents, solve puzzles, and find alcoves and secret rooms. It’s a level of detail that few other games would present, yet the resident Evil games know how to pull it out and make it work. So much about gaming, especially the typewriters that a player uses to save their spot, feels distinctly old school, only adding to its overall aesthetic.
There was a CGI animated film, Resident Evil: Degeneration, released in 2008, was one of my last engagements with the franchise. It was like a beautiful epilogue to Resident Evil 4, especially because it brought the protagonist of this game, Leon S. Kennedy, back into the fold. I had never seen the two sequels of the film: 2012 Resident Evil: Damnation and 2017 Resident Evil: Vendetta. So I decided to discover them in preparation for the new animated series from Netflix, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, which is in the same canon as this animated trilogy of films.
The first one that I looked at and Degenerationthe direct result of was Resident Evil: Damnation. This time it follows the exploits of Leon (voiced by Matthew Mercer) in the fictional East Slavic Republic. He gets involved with a group of freedom fighters who know some of the same plagues and zombie monsters he’s encountered in other games and movies. Leon’s love affair with assassin Ada Wong (voiced by Courtenay Taylor) is rekindled as she shows up for the ride. Leon must then escape the state of failure before the terrible monsters reach him or a joint invasion of the country begins.
Then there was the most recent animated episode, Resident Evil: Vendetta. Rebecca Chambers (voiced by Erin Cahill) and Chris Redfield (voiced by Kevin Dorman) are brought in to join Leon (Mercer) on this adventure, and it’s nice to see so many protagonists from different installments in the time-sharing video game series. screen together. Rebecca and Chris recruit a now alcoholic Leon, struggling with PTSD over a failed mission, to help them stop a threatening new virus. It all culminates in a finale that involves New York being gassed, turning its citizens into zombies. It’s up to the trio to undo the chaos and destroy the new threat posed by Glenn Arias (voiced by John DeMita).
As impressive as these two movies can be at times, they look like extended cut scenes for video games that I wish I could play. With that in mind, it was finally time to move on to the four parts Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness miniseries, which debuted on Netflix this summer. The miniseries bills itself as a “Netflix Original Animated Series” despite being entirely CGI. However, the previous films and the increased budget alone made me think we had another exciting episode in the franchise. Not only does it again feature Leon S. Kennedy, this time voiced by Nick Apostolides, but it’s sort of a prequel to the current sequel that takes place immediately after My Beloved. Resident Evil 4.
The first episode kicks off by taking the show’s zombie and horror footage from a mansion and putting it squarely in the country’s most famous house – the White House. “I am indebted to you for getting my daughter Ashley back,” the president (voiced by Joe J. Thomas) told Leon at one point. “Besides, with you here, we might just survive this.” I never thought what happened in Raccoon City would happen here, ”he adds.
Leon conveniently meets his partner from Resident Evil 2, Claire Redfield (voiced by Stephanie Panisello), sister of Chris, at the White House. She shows him pictures that a young boy from the fictional nation of Panemstan drew of an event that resembles the zombie hordes Leon and Claire encountered in Raccoon City. It all ends more or less as you’d expect: conspiracies to use biological weapons are unraveled, followed by a typically grand and bombastic climax where our heroes face off against a new character named Jason (voiced by Ray Chase ) who became a mutated giant monster.
The Netflix miniseries does a lot to capture the sense of claustrophobia that has made the video game series so legendary, and this is most evident in the second episode, where Leon must fight a horde of zombie rats, among other things, on a narrow and confined submarine. . But overall, he’s more or less in the same league as his two movie predecessors. Especially for a franchise that thrives on atmosphere, with a few exceptions, which is mostly replaced by fast-paced action and spectacle. Hardcore fans like me can at least get something out of it, but I imagine that would be quite alienating for someone who hasn’t been steeped in the franchise lore yet.
Whether in the form of animated films and TV series, blockbuster video games and blockbuster movies, what was once a humble horror title from Japan is now known around the world, which includes a quarter century of video games and related media. that inspired a generation of horror enthusiasts. While the franchise itself may have been inspired by George Romero’s zombie films, it is among the most influential zombie portrayals of the 21st century, alongside Max Brooks’ novel. World War Z and The walking dead in its iterations of comics or television.
It is arguably the best known and most acclaimed horror video game series of all time. Especially now that the spooky season is upon us, it’s a great time to revisit some of those classic titles, as well as research new additions to the mythology like I did. Thank you for a remarkable run so far, resident Evil! Happy birthday and I can’t wait to see the shocks, surprises and scares you have in store for us.
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