Back in 1996, Capcom undertook the task of reviving the survival horror genre which was populated by titles such as Alone in the Dark, Sweet Home and Clock Tower. Telling the story of a police unit forced to survive in an isolated mansion, the first Resident Evil title marked the beginning of a gaming franchise that would change the face of gaming, and Resident Evil 2 popularized what the original title started.
The original Resident Evil introduced a formula that emphasized the survival aspect of survival horror. Featuring limited ammo, a restricted inventory system and static camera angles, players had to implement strategies in order to contend with the horrors of the Arklay mansion. Resident Evil 2 built upon this formula, but the protagonists are no longer restricted to the mansion.
Resident Evil 2 follows the intersecting stories of Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy. Claire ventures to the doomed Raccoon City in search of her brother Chris, who is the same Chris who made his way through the mansion about 2 months prior. Meanwhile, Leon is a young rookie police officer who is about to begin his first day on the force when he stumbles upon some of the undead citizens of Raccoon.
Claire and Leon become separated soon after meeting up and must traverse through the streets of Raccoon City. Both must rely on their wits and their inherent survival skills in order to make their way to the Raccoon City police station, where the majority of the game takes place. Each eventually meets up with another character; Claire encounters a young girl named Sherry Birkin who is there thanks to her mother’s instructions. We soon learn that Sherry is a lot closer to the events surrounding the game than is first apparent. Meanwhile, Leon runs into a mysterious woman named Ada Wong.
A marked difference between the first and second Resident Evil games is the step down in difficulty thanks to the addition of an auto-aim system which allows players to target enemies, though it is important to note that the Director’s Cut version of the first Resident Evil game was the first in the series to introduce this mechanic. Resident Evil 2 also seems more forgiving in terms of the amount of ammo and healing items the player can access. Also, though this may be considered a small detail, the placement of the ink ribbons (which are required to save the game at a typewriter) in the second game is a bit more intuitive as they are typically found next to the very typewriters for which they are required whereas you generally have to hunt for ribbons in the original title.
In the first title, you could choose to either play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, and both of their scenarios are largely the same except for the support characters they encounter as well as a few differences in their inventories. In the second game, though the choice still exists, players ultimately had the ability to see the same story through the eyes of both Claire and Leon thanks to the addition of two distinct scenarios.
There was a substantial improvement in the graphics department even between the first and second games, and thankfully Capcom made the decision to do away with the live action intro of the original game that has since become infamous. The voice acting also saw a marked improvement, although the series wouldn’t see a significant improvement in that department until much later.
How much of an impact has the second title had on the gaming community? Despite the fact that the game was released over 15 years ago, it still has a large following, and many of those fans have signed a petition asking Capcom to remake the game.
Though Resident Evil 2 is loved by its fans, it is interesting to note that the final product was vastly different than the original version of the title which was ultimately scrapped. In the original version, players would have been able to follow the journeys of Leon Kennedy and Elza Walker, and unlike the final version, Leon and Elza’s stories would have remained largely isolated from each other. Lovingly dubbed ‘Resident Evil 1.5,’ a fan of the series has recently undertaken the project of creating a final version of the game.
Experiencing a bit of nostalgia when discussing or even playing Resident Evil 2 is inevitable. This game has several iconic moments, from the first time a player ventures into the safety to the save room, where he or she is greeted by a soothing piano melody, to the realization that you had to fight a horrendous abomination known as a licker. Overall, Resident Evil 2 marks a moment in gaming history where a slew of revolutionary games were being released, particularly for the Playstation and the Nintendo 64. That fans are still clamoring for remakes of many games released in this era is no surprise.