The month of April promises to be, for the videogame world, a journey into the most significant memories of the fifth generation of consoles, recalling in a modern key some of those experiences that were then only the first steps in the 3D world.
With the remakes now upon us, we want to look back and relive the classic versions remembering why and how Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Final Fantasy VII have remained in the hearts of the players, their history and their legacy in what has been a era of steps forward and revolutions for the videogame world.

The closure of a trilogy

Just as today it is impossible to talk about Resident Evil 3 Remake without looking at its predecessor, even 21 years ago the link between Resident Evil 2 and its sequel was solid, thanks to the parallel narrative and their release, just as it happens today, a little over a year later and which highlights both the strong similarities and the marked differences between the two titles.

Among the many minds of Capcom Production Studio 4, responsible for the realization of this iconic title of the franchise, the key figures of its development and success are attributable to the producer Shinji Mikami, the screenwriter Yasuhisa Kawamura and the director Kazuhiro Aoyama.

It was Mikami who conceived the series as we know it today, following the creative soul of the 1989 horror JRPG "Sweet Home" published by Capcom on NES, creating a haunted house structured as a great puzzle game, an escape room experience in which both the enigmas and the mysteries of the setting, Villa Spencer as well as the management of the limited inventory are the piece of an elaborate puzzle in which the player is constantly under pressure from an atmospheric tension and heaviness that pervades every moment of the misfortune of the STARS team at inside the mansion.

Mikami's intention to focus on the environment rather than on history was the keystone of the Resident Evil gameplay loop, which requires the answer to unknown dangers with limited resources within the resolution of the mystery that surrounds the villa. margins of Raccoon City.

The resulting pattern inevitably emphasizes survival in extreme situations, leading Capcom to coin the term "Survival horror" as part of promoting their new IP, consolidating Resident Evil as the origin of a well-known and widespread label and genre.

However, it was the extraordinary success of Resident Evil 2 that convinced Capcom to recognize the potential of the series and expand its development, leading to the emergence of numerous different development teams working on multiple parallel projects: among these we find the first titles destined for the sixth generation, Resident Evil: Zero and Resident Evil - Code: Veronica, in addition to the actual Resident Evil 3, entrusted to the direction of Masaaki Yamada and a spin-off title linked to Resident Evil 2 registered within the production as Resident Evil 1.9 directed by Kazuhiro Aoyama.

Just the latter would end up becoming the third chapter we know today.

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Troubled development

Aoyama was certainly not the latest arrival, having held key roles in the development of Resident Evil since its first iteration, however already in the early stages of development the difficulties were evident: the 1.9 project, as a spin-off, should have been a reduced title, with a smaller budget available and Aoyama should have firmly held the reins of the development and made it as smooth as possible without Mikami's close supervision, cornered by the numerous projects under production under his responsibility making a secondary project like 1.9 the last of his priorities.

To overcome the difficulties of the reduced resources Aoyama decided to coordinate the game structure around a high replayability, rather than the longevity of the experience, so as to keep the project under control without sacrificing its substance.

This will significantly influenced the entire game design, including unique elements of the resulting title: the puzzles, which in the previous chapters had always been static, with unique and memorable solutions, were inserted with multiple alternative versions that were included and vary each game by varying the experience.

Similarly, multiple variables were set in the spawn of enemies, objects, and even weapons, introducing relatively random factors in the gameplay that maintained a certain level of novelty even by replaying the title several times.

This type of variability, which we would almost take for granted today, was a significant design innovation for the time that went well with the horror spirit of the series, where unpredictability is a significant part of the experience.

However, perhaps the most innovative element for a game like Resident Evil, now very common, was the inclusion of the "live selection" mechanic, a series of crossroads presented to the player at key points in the narrative in which to quickly choose whether to fight or flee. , hide in one point rather than another, or manage a situation of immediate danger in a different way.

These decisions often have long-term consequences, to the point of modifying the player's path or equipment, but also make it known to a first approach that there is a certain degree of replayability in the title, since it is not possible to realize the variable placement of enemies and objects in a first game: thanks to the live selections the player will find himself from the beginning to wonder what would have happened if he had decided otherwise, prompting him to retrace the experience several times to check the different paths offered by the game.

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In the wake of the change

As previously mentioned, the first Resident Evil shares the spirit behind the escape rooms, offering an escape experience from unknown forces whose mystery is gradually unfolding.

Already from the second chapter, the structure of the game emphasizes different elements by putting the protagonists Leon and Claire to face enemies so unknown, but in situations whose priority is survival rather than solving a basic mystery.

Of course, the enigmatic elements that had characterized the first chapter make their return, but what Resident Evil 2 expands most is the confrontation with the threats that infest the police department of Raccoon City: therefore the combat becomes faster, the enemies more numerous both in quantity and variety and the monstrosities faced become more aggressive and tenacious.

This also means, contrary to the first chapter, that the emphasis here is on managing available resources rather than optimizing a barely sufficient inventory, which remains but is less invasive than its predecessor.
Given the legacy of Resident Evil 2 it may seem strange today to think about it, but this inevitably led some fans of the first chapter to turn up their noses at the more action drift that the series had already undertaken in its second chapter.

With 1.9 Aoyama chose to bring one of the protagonists of the first chapter, Jill Valentine, to the center of the experience, struggling with the escape of a Raccoon City completely devastated by the T-Virus that made most of the cannibal population without intellect.

For Jill the threat faced is not new, it has previous experiences with the abominations created by the bioterroristic experiments of the pharmaceutical company Umbrella: in the wake of the direction taken by Resident Evil 2, therefore, the combat options are further expanded through two main novelties: the possibility to manufacture ammunition using the powders scattered throughout Raccoon City and the ability to turn 180 degrees quickly, an element that has become an integral part of the franchise as a form of mechanical control over the movements of the character, necessary to keep distances from increasingly rapid, increasingly numerous enemies and increasingly difficult to eliminate.
Jill's adventure also includes two specific features of this title: one dodged by the rudimentary but useful implementation once mastered and a series of destructible environmental elements that allow you to better manage the enemies on the screen such as explosive barrels, conductors of unstable electricity and so on.

For the first time, moreover, it is possible to move along the stairs as an integral element of the screens (which previously required an action prompt), being able to even change direction and turn quickly on them. If this makes navigation faster, however, it also means that enemies can walk the stairs, previously inaccessible to them, making Jill's positioning more complicated in some sections and enemies much more dangerous.

Last but not least is the iconic and perhaps most recognizable element of the game, which will give title to the final game in the West (in fact in Japan the game's title is Biohazard 3: The Last Escape): the biological weapon called Nemesis-T Type.

A tenacious persecutor

Resident Evil 2 had tried to experiment with the insertion of a boss whose presence was perceived several times during the events through the Tyrant T-103, commonly known as Mr. X.

The monstrous humanoid, however, turned out to be an occasional obstacle rather than a real constant threat.

Sensing that the more action-packed tone of the second chapter had disappointed some of the fans in the series, Mikami expressed a willingness to create a genuinely frightening new element for 1.9.

Shortly after the western release of the game it was Mikami himself who declared in an interview with PlayStation Official Magazine - UK: “I wanted to introduce a new type of fear into the game, a persistent sense of paranoia. Nemesis brings all this into abundance. When he disappears after the first confrontation, the player lives in constant terror of the next attack. The idea is to make him feel persecuted. "

These were the intentions behind the inclusion of Nemesis, a creature who is both spiritually and biologically a successor to the Tyrant and who makes it clear from the outset what his intentions are by pronouncing the only word that his limited intellect grants him: " STARS ".

A guttural sound which, accompanied by a distinct and recognizable music and by the unmistakable steps of the monumental creature, will eventually become a continuous source of tension and pressure for the player.

Nemesis's sense of oppression does not derive solely from the numerous confrontations that Jill will face with him throughout the game: many of the live selections revolve around his appearance, requiring a quick response from the player in the face of menacing horror.
In these cases the player can choose whether to fight or flee, a dilemma that is easy to solve for a new player, but which becomes a thoughtful choice for those who have more practicality with the systems of the title: unlike Mr. X, in fact, Nemesis rewards in each of its key appearances the player if temporarily defeated, which requires a considerable number of resources but which promises to expand the girl's arsenal with objects otherwise impossible to obtain.

In the same way, escaping may not necessarily be a wise answer: unlike any enemy of Resident Evil that has ever appeared so far, in fact, Nemesis is able to change the screen, open the doors and continue to follow Jill for a long time, making itself a threat lethal and relentless to the point of becoming the real main attraction of the game.

Route change

The development of Resident Evil 1.9 was already at a rather advanced point when the internal dynamics of the Capcom studios and their plans for the franchise began to move quite suddenly.

The first critical event was the cancellation of Yamada's Resident Evil 3, which preliminary designs seemed rather ineffective leading the third installment of the franchise to a redesign led by Hideki Kamiya.

With the PlayStation 2 at the door, however, the producer Yoshiki Okamoto thought it appropriate to allocate the Kamiya team to the new console with the first draft of Resident Evil 4, destined to change to become the first Devil May Cry and starting the path of Clover Studios first and then Platinum Games.

This was the most incisive change for the Aoyama team, who found themselves in the hands of a spin-off project that suddenly became the next main chapter of the series.

If on the one hand this brought lifeblood to the project by reinforcing the team and the resources available, the game was now at too advanced a stage of production to be able to be changed significantly, thus remaining tied to the design trajectory initially conceived by Aoyama.

The greater weight of responsibility of this choice fell on the shoulders of Yasuhisa Kawamura, responsible for the script of the title, who overnight found himself working on a secondary spin-off to a main and final title in a series. of a trilogy and an entire generation of consoles.

Furthermore, until his entry into the project, Kawamura had no experience in game development, having worked mainly on writing in prose and manga (in particular as an assistant to Yukito Kishiro in the creation of Alita - Angel of the Battle).

The poor writer suddenly found himself having to know the key points of the narrative of the whole franchise in order to build a story that could stand up to the appreciated narrative of the two predecessors, elaborate it to work in harmony with the live selection crossroads and do it so that it fits in with the narrative canon hitherto established.

Fortunately, Kawamura proved to be the right man for Capcom, managing to produce a narrative capable of making use of all the game elements, fitting perfectly with the events of Resident Evil 2, which takes place simultaneously with a portion of its sequel.

Although the designs of the project were left mostly intact, the transition from spin-off to main title had its effects on some changes: many areas of the last half of the game were expanded considerably and the inclusion of the Mercenaries mode was destined to become a favorite item by fans.

The legacy of Nemesis

Resident Evil 3 failed to reach the nearly 5 million copies sold of its predecessor, placing a little more than 3,5 million. The title, released between September and November 1999 for Japan and the United States and in early 2000 for Europe, was well received and quickly became appreciated by many fans, even today.

Despite an extremely difficult path in a period in which the videogame development methods and modalities had not yet been perfected, the Aoyama team managed to commendably transform a small secondary project into what is one of the most memorable and iconic titles of an important and pioneering Capcom franchise.

Undeniably, Resident Evil 3 has brought an experience worthy of its name to the gaming platforms, leaving an indelible mark on the future of the franchise: Nemesis is one of the most iconic and recognizable creatures of the videogame panorama, also appearing in secondary titles, cross over and future spin-offs from Capcom, the Mercenari mode was received so positively that it became a title in its own right in 2011 and many of the unique mechanics introduced in Resident Evil 3 became an integral part of the identity of the franchise with the 180 degree turn to master and manufacture ammunition put back into play by Resident Evil 7 and the remake of Resident Evil 2.

From the remake, also by virtue of what has already been seen, we can expect a similar progression: certainly the mechanical component will have more action elements than Resident Evil 2 Remake, with Jill's dodging at the center of the gameplay novelties and the elements of interaction environmental among the combat options.
At the center of the spotlight, however, Nemesis will surely be on everything: the one who made the original iconic carries a certain weight on his shoulders and will undergo a direct comparison with what, in fact, defined the whole game in which he appeared.
Overcoming this challenge will probably be the most difficult task for the team led by Masachika Kawata and Peter Fabiano and we will find out in a few weeks, on April 3rd, if he was up to this difficult task.