"We constantly have to revisit 'Why would Donkey Kong do this?' or 'Why would this environment be like this?' And then we start thinking: 'We're making a game about a gorilla wearing a tie.'"
-Michael Kelbaugh of Retro Studios on Donkey Kong Country Returns
"I have to say it's kinda scary how much you know about this game."
-Nicolau Chaud creator of Marvel Brothel
This post is for the Cursed Mountain contest. If you haven't entered yet you should. It has a lot of cool prizes.
There was a time when we couldn't rely on the internet for the latest codes and strategies for games. It was a primitive time when a book much larger and thinner than a normal novel was dominant. It contained pretty pictures and many writers each telling a story only to those who truly were interested in its content. Information contained inside could never qualify as news, yet it captivated its targeted audience none the less. It was the time of magazines where books titled EGM and Gamepro thrived. This is a tale of an 11 year old magazine and how it defined a boy's perception of survival horror.
11 years and still in one piece
My first real foray into the survival horror genre came almost exclusively because of Tips & Tricks magazine. Specifically the March 1998 issue covering Resident Evil 2. I am particularly enamored with this issue since it contains a walkthrough of my favorite game Final Fantasy Tactics following 9 pages after the RE2 walkthrough. Since I replay that game annually, this book has seen a lot more reading time than any of my 10 years worth of Gamepro mangazine subscriptions ever did.
At this point in my life I was probably the most focused in terms of gaming. I had plenty of free time and a Blockbuster down the street to rent some games. So if there was any point in which a marketing team could brainwash me into buying or renting a game, this would be it. It didn't help that I was always being shipped around between my parents when I was younger and all I really had to do on trips were play games (and that was back when the Gameboy barely had any battery life) and read my magazines. Over the years I read this magazine front to back. I learned from this one magazine all about anime (Pocket Monsters Cartoon Causes Seizures), imports (Xenogears is a Super Import), toys (SD Virtua On toy just looks so amazing) and even Piracy (V.R. Fighter (aka Virtua Figther 2) vs Taken 2 (aka Tekken 2) which came out before any Marvel vs Capcom game). It was a great time to be a kid into video games.
See that Mega Man X balloon on the bottom left, I'll get to that in a minute
Why I went into all that is because this issue was decked out in RE 2 features. It has Leon standing in a pool of blood facing a G-Virus infected on the cover with the tag line "HOPE THIS IS NOT CHRIS' BLOOD!" (which so happens to be my first name, and you can't understand how creepy that is every time you stare at it). It has a contest to win the game, some captivating yet grotesque artwork, a t-shirt and some toys (which I entered and am still waiting on my confirmation that I won). Part 1 of a two part strategy guide by Antole Brown detailing everything from the streets up to the Tyrant. Even the back cover features that creepy zombie/licker ad proclaiming (through a GameFan quote) that Resident Evil 2 is "The gaming event of 1998. Nothing else even comes close." So I'm pretty hyped by this game to say the least. Tie together my love affair with Final Fantasy Tactics (ZOMG you can recruit Cloud into your party! Thanks Tips & Tricks), this Resident Evil 2 marketing push would sit on my lap and scream "Resident Evil 2 has risen" each time I started up my Playstation.
The big prize
I've talked all about this great magazine that I had and how it led me to play Resident Evil 2. In hindsight I really should have had it with me on my first playthrough. Like I said I was shipped around and picking up new magazines was a staple before my trip. Thus I was almost completely unprepared for my first horror title (I still had some knowledge of the game and its mechanics and I couldn't wait to kill that Crocodile). I finally went to my local Blockbuster and rented Resident Evil 2 at the tender age of 12. At this point in time I will say that I think Resident Evil 2 is the greatest survival horror game to date. The only reason I say this is because I've probably played only 2. The other one was Silent Hill a year later. So on a lonely Saturday night at my father's house in a city 5 hours away from my home (and friends) I played Resident Evil 2 at about 8 or so at night . Okay so I don't really know exact times, since it was 11 years ago. All I know is it was dark and I was playing it.
So I'm sitting there without the thing that sold me on the game, watching as a zombie infected tanker truck careens into my squad car separating my partner and I. As soon as the loading screen pushes through I'm faced with a couple of zombies and only a pistol. So I do what comes naturally. Spin around like I'm a tank and start firing at anything that comes close. In retrospect it was a pretty bad idea, but I didn't have my walkthrough to tell me in its first few words "try not to waste ammo at the start."
Once I'm calm enough and pretty low on ammo, I run down a back alley with some more zombies and a gun shop. I have a gun and it needs ammo so this is the safest place I can be. I meet the gun owner and think that its finally time to get some ammo. Once again I am mistaken as he is eaten and I'm left running around grabbing whatever I can to shoot the zombies. Fortunately the gun shop owner had a shotgun which means I have an even better weapon to run around with frantically killing zombies. Or as my strategy guide would say "don't use your new weapons until you're in the R.P.D. building." Leaving the building half dead by now, I run out and see the zombies stuck behind a gate to my characters right and run as fast as I can only to have that door swing open and force me to waste the rest of the my ammo. I climb the dumpster and get as far away from the next zombie to run past 4 gluttonous zombies eating a cop and run onto a bus.
Hooray! The bus has some ammo. It also has two zombies. One that pops out at you as the camera changes and one off screen to do the exact same thing later. I'm stuck, on a bus with two zombies and half my health, but I'm getting the hang of this whole run like a tank thing. Its kinda like Tomb Raider without the jumping. I quickly waste half my ammo trying to take these creatures down and am starting to feel a bit confident about it. They still scared the crap out of me, but I could handle two zombies with all the ammo I have. If only I knew that I had to make my way through six zombies outside the bus. I manage to take my mastery of tank maneuvering and almost kill myself trying to get through to this small battalion of monsters, and finally with no health I run into the zombie free Raccoon City Police Department.
I can finally breathe as this big empty building with horribly creepy music playing seems devoid of anything terrifying. I run into the police officer in the only room I can enter and then I get my ink ribbon, my ammo (thank god!) and save my game. I've made it through the tough stuff. So there isn't anything that I should be concerned about. And then I enter a hallway with a headless corpse (oh great another zombie). I walk slowly just waiting for yet another of the zombies to come slowly out of some crevice and try to attack me. That's when I'm greeted with a full motion video of the reason why I should have saved my shotgun for something else. The Licker crawls down with his creepy tongue and exposed body and its game over.
What my entire first experience should have looked like. Notice the lack of terror filled screams.
I let that game over screen boot up and I ran and turned the lights on and popped open my Playstation and had enough. When I got home, I was fortunate to have a book that cataloged every mistake I made and shamed me with by revealing how far I actually got in the game. Out of an 8 page strategy guide (10 if you count the map pages), I got through 4/5 of the first page. Almost taunting me is the strategy guide that lies between my failure in survival horror and my favorite game of all time. Yoshi's Story for the Nintendo 64. Perhaps the easiest game that came out during this generation of gaming.
Because of this strategy guide, I know almost everything there is to know about Resident Evil 2 that I couldn't experience for myself. I get to see alternate clothes and flaming zombies, but sadly never really experienced it for myself. I tried the genre once again a year later with Silent Hill with similar results. As I've matured I can look back at this as childish, the terrors are pre-scripted to coincide the horrible camera and the horrible movement. Some people fault the game for this in future iterations, but I've always believed that the early Resident Evil's were perhaps brilliant in manipulating this system in this way. If it weren't for the fact that we've all evolved past this gameplay style, it would still stand as a truly frightening experience.
As it stands though I've yet to ever play a survival horror game since. I've run past used copies of Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space in game stores and wanted to take them home to see what the hype is all about. But sadly I'm still a bit timid towards the genre that I never truly got to play through. I said a few paragraphs up that Resident Evil 2 was perhaps my favorite survival horror game of all time. That's mostly true as its the only one I've really had experience with and the only one that I truly learned the most about.
To win the Tips & Tricks "Don't Get MAD, Get EVIL" contest the following had to be answered on a post card: 1: Chris Redfield has a sister who is one of the main characters in Resident Evil 2. What is her name? 2: What is the name of the pilot from Resident Evil who is also able to appear as a zombie in Resident Evil 2? 3: What does S.T.A.R.S. stand for?
I had to have played this within the month that the magazine came out since nowhere in the magazine was question 3 answered (which drove me practically insane) and I know I found the answer out somehow.
Every boy robot has some skeleton in their closet they don't want to talk about