[The Lost Resident Evil is a new series of texts by me in which I tell you about the Resident Evil titles that never came to be. I hope you'll enjoy reading it and I hope I can keep focus long enough to keep writing it.]
This is the first blog in a series of blogs about Resident Evil 4's many prototypes. I decided to split them up into parts due to the interesting developments that occurred throughout the 7 year dev-history of Resident Evil 4. This series of blogs will also use a different layout, I hope you don't mind this change.
Resident Evil 4: Devil May Cry
It's 1998, Resident Evil 2 is released. Everyone is happy at great reviews and decent sales. But what was next? At this point there are two Resident Evil games worth mentioning in development, Resident Evil: Last Escape, a spin-off game shedding some light on what happened in Raccoon City starring Jill Valentine that later became Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil CODE: Veronica, originally meant to be Resident Evil 3 but due to delays had the number removed and placed on Last Escape.
Certain that more Resident Evil will equal more success, Capcom issued out the newly formed "Team Little Devil" to work on the next big instalment, Resident Evil 4. The team did a R&D trip to Spain to look at architecture and get inspiration for the title at hand. What struck the team as most exciting were the Spanish Castles, something that remained throughout all versions of RE4. Heading back to begin work, the console in focus was the upcoming PlayStation 2.
As to why Capcom already was abandoning the Sega Dreamcast which had just come out and had a pretty good start is unknown, especially since the main-series game released before RE4 were to be released exclusively on the Dreamcast. However, with the PS2 game being prepared, fans of Resident Evil might already know a future issue with this title. Around 2000, when Resident Evil Zero 64 was about to get cancelled, Capcom signed a deal with Nintendo that future main series Resident Evil games would be exclusive to their Gamecube system.
But let's put that aside for a second, because around the same time the plot for the game started to take form. Resident Evil 4 starred Tony, a man who had somehow become invulnerable and had aquired heightened senses to that of a super-human through biotechnology. There was a heavy back-story about Tony's mother and father that were to be revealed throughout the game as well. How this connected to Resident Evil we do not know.
The fixed-camera angles were dropped as Hideki Kamiya, the director, felt that a fixed camera made it hard to give players control over a "cool" character with the advanced move-set that Tony was to have, so Little Devil created a new dynamic-camera system. In a move that sounds like something Suda51 would put his name on in modern day, Kamiya's Resident Evil 4 was a "Cool and Stylized Action Game" with a rocking soundtrack and a Gothic look to it all.
However, that's not to say all of the Resident Evil tropes were gone. Another thing heightened by bio-mechanics was Tony's intellect, opting for a good excuse to put in puzzles to break from the action. There was also the classic spider-boss and various other enemies largely inspired by the previous Resident Evil titles, but even Kamiya noticed that the survival-horror aspect was largely starting to fade away from the game he was designing.
This is where a big change in development came, Kamiya was test-playing the game Onimusha: Warlords at Capcom's headquarters and discovered a bug he found interesting, if he kept hitting an enemy that was falling or mid-air, the enemy would stop and stay in place allowing for more hits. Immediately this was something he wanted to make a main feature in the title, and the pieces started falling into their places.
The game was now set to be designed around acrobatic and fast action, the free-roam was dropped for a mission-based approach and the survival part of the game was limited down to simply the game being very very hard. This is when Kamiya decided to talk to everyone at Little Devil, asking their thoughts and opinions and raising a very important point that he himself had in mind since early on. Should we drop the Resident Evil name? The team decided this was best.
Tony was renamed Dante, the world was now demon-infested with bio-mechanics and parents being removed, according to interviews other parts of the story remained intact and the gameplay was barely changed after this point. Resident Evil 4 was officially not in development any more and the game was retitled Devil May Cry, releasing the same year in November on the PlayStation 2, a console which suddenly wasn't an issue due to the game dropping the Resident Evil franchise.
However, this meant 3 years had gone without any development actually made on Resident Evil 4. Not only that, but Code: Veronica and RE3 suggested the franchise did not sell well any more and that it might be time to let the series die. Series creator Shinji Mikami once again formed a team setting out to create the last Resident Evil game...
To Be Continued Next Weekend.
Earliest Trailer for Devil May Cry (E3 2000) from Unseen64
Thanks for reading, I'd suggest following me on Twitter at @SirTobbii to get more direct updates on future entries in The Lost Resident Evil, I do my best to keep it weekly however. Next week, the last Resident Evil game...