One of my favorite parts of gaming is learning the ins and outs of development, and most especially the plot points that may have been changed before launch. “The Tragedy of Ethan Winters,” an extensive digital art book included with the collector’s edition of Resident Evil Village, provides a ton of these juicy details, including the appearance of franchise anti-hero Ada Wong in an early version of the story and unused concepts for the game’s villains.
Ada Wong is one of the most enigmatic figures in Resident Evil lore. She has frequently appeared throughout the series, helping the protagonists for as long as she deems necessary before eventually double-crossing them in pursuit of her own goals. According to the developers, there were early plans to include Ada in Resident Evil Village as a “mysterious masked person” that saves Ethan during his first encounter with the Four Lords. She was going to be conducting her own investigation into the village, but was eventually cut from the game due to “a number of conflicting scenarios.”
In official artwork, Ada is depicted as a rogue-like figure wearing a plague doctor mask and wielding a crossbow.
This design can also be seen in early storyboards that show Ada coming to Ethan’s aid and allowing him to escape from the Four Lords. She served a similar role in Resident Evil 4, saving Leon Kennedy from early-game antagonist Bitores Mendez.
Lady Dimitrescu cuts a striking figure, but she wasn’t always the stylish giantess we know and love in Resident Evil Village. An early design had the “bewitching vampire” brandishing giant garden clippers in pursuit of Ethan through her castle, perhaps as an homage to Scissorman from the Clock Tower franchise.
The rest of the game’s baddies went through similar changes. Donna Beneviento was originally an entire ghost family, with “rake-thin parents” and “children wearing strange masks.” Moreau was always a “disgusting merman,” but early sketches showed him with a parasite on his back that used to be a girl he loved. And Heisenberg, rather than a solitary figure in his factory, was concepted as twins who experimented on their elderly mother.
Before Capcom settled on Mother Miranda as the matriarch of the titular settlement, Resident Evil Village had a few vastly different big bads waiting at the end of its adventure. The first was an unnamed leader of the area’s religion, who would transform into a dragon-type creature that was eventually used for Lady Dimitrescu’s boss fight. The second was Heisenberg’s biological father, whose mechanical mutation was similarly used for the boss fight with Heisenberg in the final release.
Much like the Resident Evil 4 merchant he references, The Duke is perhaps the most mysterious part of Resident Evil Village. In the final game, he’s just a big dude who follows Ethan around, buying treasures and cooking up delicious meals, but early drafts had him down as the village’s fifth Lord. In any case, The Duke was always planned to be a chunky dude in a decided effort by Capcom to allow its artists to get more creative with designs.
Resident Evil Village’s art book is full to bursting with neat little tidbits like this. Lightning round! There were plans to have the story switch between modern day and medieval times. Early safe room designs used a camera, rather than a typewriter, as save points. The old lady version of Mother Miranda was originally the one the Four Lords followed. Miranda was just a lowly researcher at one point in development. Early concept art of lycan “birth” shows them being encased in the Mold and emerging like a bite-y butterfly. And there was once a large lycan that controlled two of Village’s wolf-like vârcolac enemies.
Whew! Now that I’ve taken a breath, do yourself a favor and check out “The Tragedy of Ethan Winters” for yourself if you happened to grab the collector’s edition. It’s a wonderful look back at the development of this fascinating game. And I haven’t even touched on all the Resident Evil 7 concept art, which provides a similarly deep dive into that game’s creation. Here’s hoping Capcom puts out a physical edition at some point, because I’ll be the first in the line.
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)