The Legacy of Resident Evil - ArticleEvan Norris , posted on 22 March 2016 / 4,886 Views
Twenty years ago today Capcom released the seminal horror game Biohazard in Japan. A week later, a reworked and renamed version would arrive on North American shores under the title Resident Evil. The short and long-term effects of Resident Evil are easily underestimated but they shouldn't be because they really are quite remarkable.
Firstly, the game helped propel Sony's first game console, the PlayStation, into the stratosphere, beating out industry stalwarts Sega and Nintendo. The original Resident Evil, according to Capcom, sold over five million copies. Its subsequent re-releases on PlayStation sold another four million copies.
Secondly, it ushered in a golden age of so-called survival horror. In fact, one of the game's most important contributions to the lexicon of survival horror is the term itself, coined by Capcom to advertise the game. Not only did Resident Evil spawn several video game sequels and remakes, it also inspired games like Clock Tower, Silent Hill, and Capcom's own Dino Crisis.
Thirdly, it birthed a media franchise that includes toys, novels, comic books, animated sequels to Resident Evil games, and five live-action movies (with a sixth due out next year).
Lastly, it codified the rules and mechanics of horror video games for a generation. Drawing inspiration from Infograme's Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami embraced puzzle-solving, static pre-rendered camera views, "tank controls," and a focus on evasion rather than direct conflict with enemies. He contributed to that formula more weapons and a scarcity of much-needed resources and items.
This recipe would continue for roughly a decade until, paradoxically, the Resident Evil franchise re-invented the rules of engagement it had previously established in 1996. The sea change was Resident Evil 4, which redefined survival horror to focus on visceral action gameplay. Direct combat and precision aiming took priority over evasion and restricted fighting abilities. Wide open maps replaced claustrophobic rooms. Ammunition, once scarce, became more plentiful.
Still, the foundation established by the original Resident Evil in 1996 lives on. Just last year, a remastered version of the GameCube remake of Resident Evil arrived on home consoles and PC. A year earlier, in 2014, Shinji Mikami, who helped father Resident Evil, released The Evil Within, arguing that "there aren't any real survival horror games in the world right now."