Plenty of games have been touched up and altered as the years went on, but few games have seen as many changes as the original Resident Evil.
This piece originally appeared 1/19/15.
Ports of old games are common, but what’s interesting about Resident Evil is how often Capcom has actually censored, changed, modified, and added new material across its various iterations.
Thanks to Project Umbrella and the Resident Evil wiki for helping to fill in my memory gaps!
Our story begins with the English version of Resident Evil, aka Biohazard in Japan.
Resident Evil (PS1 — 1996)
Not only one of the best horror games ever made, Resident Evil is an all-time great video game.
For what’s widely considered one of the scariest games ever made, especially for its time, Resident Evil opened with a super cheesy FMV sequence. The scene was considered too violent for American players, however, resulting in content changes (newspaper clippings instead of dead bodies, removing scenes with disembodied hands) and making it black-and-white:
The violence wasn’t the only issue with the opening, either. In the Japanese version, Chris Redfield is briefly seen smoking. This was ultimately removed from the American version.
The game’s first big scare also found itself on the chopping block. When players come across their first zombie, the game cuts to a CG bit where the creature’s eating their colleague, Kenneth. In the Japanese version, the zombie drops the person’s head. This was edited out.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut (PS1 — 1997)
The popularity of Resident Evil prompted Capcom to quickly issue an altered version of the original game, while it worked on a sequel. In Director’s Cut, Capcom was supposed to restore the “uncensored” for players outside of Japan. Due to a “localization error,” it somehow shipped with the censoring. This was before the days of patching, forcing Capcom to live with the mistake, but it eventually made the original FMV available as a download on its website.
Capcom even had to change the box art. Originally, it was this:
Then, Capcom removed the “uncensored” bit.
As for the game itself, Capcom introduced a “Beginner Mode” and “Arrange Mode.” The former was to give players an easier time with the game, while the latter remixed enemy and item placement for players to have a new experience while replaying the game. The game also introduced new outfits for the playable characters, an updated Beretta weapon capable of randomly killing an enemy with one shot, an auto-aim mechanic, and a new new enemies.
Perhaps most importantly, it also included a demo of eventual classic Resident Evil 2.
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut: Dual Shock (PS1 — 1997)
This was a quick re-release (the same year!), which introduced rumble support for Resident Evil. However, it also featured a new soundtrack from composer Mamoru Samuragouchi. You might remember Samuragouchi as the deaf composer who apparently wasn’t actually deaf.
In Japan, this version came with a bonus disc featuring some brief footage of Resident Evil 1.5, an abandoned and never released version of Resident Evil 2 set in a police station. Fans have been trying to reconstruct Resident Evil 1.5 as part of a community restoration project.
Resident Evil (Windows — 1997)
Resident Evil was released during an era in which 3D accelerator cards were becoming the norm on home PCs. This allowed for a slightly better looking version of the game, but it wasn’t a huge leap. The game also sported a few new weapons and costumes for Chris and Jill.
The PC version was also uncensored.
Resident Evil (Saturn — 1997)
It’s hard to imagine, but it wasn’t until Resident Evil 5 that Resident Evil became a multi-platform series. Resident Evil was a PlayStation-friendly franchise until Nintendo briefly snatched it up for Resident Evil 4. The Saturn version of Resident Evil came a full year later.
The Saturn version actually looked a bit different, too, as pointed out by Game Rave:
To placate Saturn owners, this version came with a combat-focused mode called Battle Game, in which players were forced to quickly move from room-to-room and defeat hordes of enemies. Besides new costumes and a couple of exclusive enemies, it was otherwise more Resident Evil.
Resident Evil REmake (GameCube — 2003)
Capcom left Resident Evil dormant for several years before committing to a full-on remake. This extensive update served as the foundation for the update that’s arriving tomorrow, as well.
Besides overhauling and modernizing the game’s pre-rendered backgrounds, Capcom ditched the FMV intro for CG, added new areas (some cut from the original game), developed new gameplay mechanics (i.e. defensive weapons, such as daggers and grenades), and more.
For my money, the most memorable addition was the crimson zombies. In every other Resident Evil, when an enemy was pumped full of bullets, they stayed dead. Not anymore. If you didn’t burn or decapitate a zombie, it could possibly reanimate as a faster, more powerful version of themselves. In a game full of backtracking, it made returning to previous areas scary as hell.
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (DS — 2006)
A decade after Resident Evil was first released, a bad trip to Raccoon City went portable. Despite the remake being released a few years earlier, this was based on the original game. This version was so true to the original, in fact, it kept the censored FMV opening. Hooray!
Technically, Capcom tried to port Resident Evil to the Game Boy Color back in 1999, though it was never officially released. An unfinished but incredibly impressive ROM was later leaked.
Deadly Silence had three main modes: classic, rebirth, and multiplayer. Classic was the original game with some second screen options, while rebirth introduced DS-specific puzzles and more enemies to contend with. Multiplayer involved up to four players either working together to escape or competing with one another to kill the most enemies.
Since every DS game had to use the touch screen somehow, Deadly Silence did this:
The second screen made a map available at all times or real-time inventory management. Given how much time you spend navigating menus in Resident Evil, it was a welcomed addition. The DS version also incorporated the 180-degree turnaround move from later Resident Evil games.
Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil (Wii — 2009)
A no-frills port of REmake to the Wii.
Resident Evil (Xbox One, PS4, PC — 2015)
Welcome to the present. Capcom is building upon its previous work for this update, and it holds up pretty well! The visuals haven’t been completely redone a second time, but the resolution upgrade brings out some new details, there are a few new post-processing effects, and there’s an option to play in widescreen. However, since the backgrounds haven’t been re-rendered, this results in cropping. When the player moves around the various rooms, it’s possible to see the rest of the screen. Players have the option to switch back to the game’s 4:3 sizing at any time.
What might prove most controversial with Resident Evil fans is the ability to ditch the game’s tank controls. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the game was designed and balanced for a slow-moving character. In Resident Evil, you had to rotate the character left or right to move them in a new direction. The game didn’t have camera-relative controls, either, which always proved a bit confusing when running down a hallway and having to hold “up” on the d-pad or analog stick.
This becomes optional now. In the hour or so I’ve spent with the game, it was...well, really odd. It feels strange to have so much direct control over a character in the original Resident Evil. I haven’t yet settled on whether it’s an improvement, but I suspect newcomers will prefer it.
I’ll have more to say on Resident Evil tomorrow, but in terms of Resident Evil re-releases, we’ve finally caught up. Will this be the last time Capcom returns to the franchise’s roots? Probably not, but it’d be nice if the company showed as much love to the game’s excellent sequel, too.