I might compare art to beautiful prostitutes; lovely, inspiring, everyone has seen them, and people everywhere feel an instinctual need to do them both, but no one wants to get caught giving them money. Sadly, despite all our magnanimous feelings toward art, if it doesn’t turn a profit at the end of the day, it doesn’t happen, and as the $400 average price for a current generation system will attest, video games, while creative and artistic endeavors, still need to turn tricks to keep afloat. If you’ve read my recent entries, you’ve heard me rant about Nintendo’s efforts to package the portability of Game Boy games over any actual quality of games. Their breakthrough efforts with the DS gave us an onslaught of games, and statistically speaking we could expect many good ones in the pile of broken coding. However, that didn’t stop them from porting the 1996 classic, Resident Evil to yet another system to make a quick buck on making it portable.
To Capcom’s credit, they try to make this game more interesting every time they expect us to shell out more cash for their new edition. The major feature of Deadly Silence builds off the DS (I see what you did there!) hardware. Although cheap and gimmicky in places, I can’t really lament REDS the way I would other game ports. The game practically invented modern survival horror, and as such it works because it embraces horror elements such as fear and surprise. While essentially the same as the original PS1 version, I have to begrudgingly admit that they’ve altered it enough so as to keep it fresh and startling. Since the game actually features two modes–classic and rebirth–and since they didn’t really do anything but a straight-up port for classic, I’ll concentrate on rebirth mode here.
Immediately I noticed they fixed the knife mechanics. I really enjoyed the knife in RE4, and found it quite satisfying to take down monsters by a quick jab to the knee caps and repeatedly plunging the blade into their parasite-ridden flesh like Dexter, reveling in the squishy noises until that last groan tells me to to look for a new victim. Unfortunately, the knives in earlier games don’t provide such a cathartic experience, and serve only to sacrifice the number of useful items you can carry in exchange for the ability to play “here comes the airplane” with zombies, thrusting what can only look like a juicy piece of meat directly into their all-too-willing jaws. Instead of offering yourself up as bait, the knife remains equipped like it does in RE4, under control of the left shoulder button, and it actually damages the zombies enough to make it a worthwhile weapon. And I know that people say it’s always worked against the spider, but do you know what works better? A fricken flame thrower.
As another nice feature, which completes my list of any actual differences between the original and the remake/port, the top screen of the DS displays both a map of the mansion and the player’s current health status. While the flashing colors to display injuries doesn’t make it less cryptic, still leading to the inevitable question of whether or not it hurts enough to only take a few aspirin or to inject that case full of morphine directly into your brain, it at least removes the need to open a menu and give the character time to reflect on the nature of wounds and come to grips with their inevitable mortality.
Some of the puzzles have different mechanisms for solving: use the microphone to blow out a candle, use the stylus to draw in wires or jiggle a sword out of a door. These really add nothing to the game other than the altered layout of items forces you to take a new route, which causes you to backtrack through areas that may or may not have new challenges. Keepin’ it fresh, eh, Capcom? The real addition involves a mini-game sequence activated semi-randomly as you enter a room. The player shifts to a first-person perspective and requires use of the stylus to hack and slash a rush of monsters. Specific attacks can stun monsters, otherwise they plow through to your tasty brains, oblivious to the holes opening up in their torsos. I enjoyed this, more or less, but during the more frustrating onslaughts I couldn’t help but ask, “If Jill had a fully loaded shotgun as she walked through that door, why did she feel the need to combat this 15-meter, venomous snake like a boyscout whittling a marshmallow-roasting stick?”
Beating the game once unlocks a more developed version of this, called “Master of Knifing,” which also suggests that Capcom decided to embrace, rather than repair, acting so bad that the actors refuse to list their full names on IMDB. Yes, we all know about the “Master of Unlocking” and the “Jill Sandwich” lines, but seriously, the actors read every line like a mommy reading to an infant that doesn’t speak English yet. And the mommy has never heard anyone speak English or use inflections or tone of voice. They had the decency to rethink the puzzles and the layout and to fix the knife and all that; did it never occur to them to wander over to the nearest high school, pull a handful of the extras out of an Our Town rehearsal and spend ten minutes with them to get a performance far superior to the original cast? Did that take bit of energy cross the line, or did they just really enjoy a performance stitched together from the discarded audio of 1980s cleaning supply infomercials? Just because the game sold well and people had a good laugh at the lousy actors doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Resident Evil built its fame on setting tone and using creepy sounds to scare the shit out of both ends of the player; the acting not only breaks that tone, but reverses its effect. Humor relieves stress, and in a game designed for tension, they can’t really relent on stress. Just pack up the original recording as an unlockable feature if you love it so much.
Mostly though, I can’t complain. The puzzle redesign puts certain items in places where the unaltered story may not send you–but hey, I’ll tell you right now that you find the wolf medal in the guard house, but be prepared to knife the giant snake for it. Otherwise, well, the game won’t surprise you too much. Same thing, but different. But mostly the same.
Even though I thought I’d disappear for a while, I’ve managed to update weekly. This week should challenge me, though, as right now I have about 30% of Assassin’s Creed II and maybe 40% of Final Fantasy VII done. I generally don’t like playing two games at once, but Anne’s never seen FFVII, and I need something to do when she goes to work. So look for reviews of those two games in the near future. Maybe I’ll throw in an Atari, arcade, or NES game just to have something quick to play and easy to write about.
As usual, thanks for reading!