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A Critical Look at ‘Resident Evil 3’ and its Design

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Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Level Design

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is the final numbered game of the Resident Evil PlayStation trilogy. The game originally started out as Biohazard Gaiden, and its development was in the hands of the newly formed Capcom Production Studio 4 (who also made Resident Evil 4, the Dino Crisis games, the original Ace Attorney trilogy, and Devil May Cry). The game was tossed around in development hell for a while until Capcom needed to fulfill the end of an agreement with Sony that required three numbered Resident Evil entries on their PlayStation console. This actually ended up pushing Resident Evil: Code Veronica, the game that was originally intended to be the third main entry, further back into development and out of numbered status. Biohazard Gaiden was then renamed to Biohazard 3: Last Escape (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, overseas) and launched on September 22, 1999, in Japan, with a release in America and Europe a few months later.

Resident Evil 3 follows Jill Valentine, one of the protagonists from the original Resident Evil, and her escape from Raccoon City during the viral outbreak that happened before the events of Resident Evil 2. The story is unique in that it takes place both before and after the events of Resident Evil 2. The first half of the game takes place during the outbreak, while the second half takes place roughly a day later. The story itself is much more simplistic than that of Resident Evil 2; there are very few twists or mysteries to uncover about what’s happening in Raccoon City, as those things were all answered in the previous game. Instead, Capcom dialed back on the plot in favor of presenting a simplistic story with a definitive conclusion. Loose ends are rare in Resident Evil 3, and there are no shadowy figures throwing rocket launchers or inconclusive documents about characters missing.

Aesthetically, Resident Evil 3 is easily the best looking of the PlayStation trilogy. Models in cutscenes are much smoother and lack the sharp polygons from Resident Evil 2. The colors are brighter, complimenting the non-natural lighting scheme Capcom went with, and the game has aged a lot better than one would expect. The in-game graphics use a similar technique in certain areas, but many of the backgrounds still make use of the dramatic lighting used in Resident Evil 2.

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The voice work for Resident Evil 3 is about on par with Resident Evil 2; it’s a definitive step in the right direction and proves that Capcom sought to turn the franchise into something respectable. As mentioned earlier, the script and writing is simplistic. Scenes move rather quickly and are there to set up where the player needs to navigate to next.

Resident Evil 3‘s biggest contribution to the series is through its gameplay. It turned much of the franchise’s formula on its head, and it honestly creates one of the most unique and entertaining experiences within the series. The easiest way to break all these changes down is to just start at the beginning.

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If I ever had to list some of the best “first levels,” this would definitely be up there.

The introductory sections for a Resident Evil title can speak volumes about its direction. In the original, the player is put into a big empty room to get used to the odd movement style of the game. In 2 they are thrown right into the action and are expected to already be familiar with how the game works. Resident Evil 3‘s introductory section is a mix of these two. When the player gains control of Jill they have to make their way past a single zombie in their way before they get placed in a large empty space to play around in. Inside that single space the player is introduced to just about all of the game’s mechanics. The stairs near the entrance show that you no longer have to hit an action command to make use of them, the ammunition-making tool and a few sets of gunpowder are left lying around to show how that system works, and there’s even a puzzle that shows how keys can be discarded when no longer needed. The starting area for Resident Evil 3 is one of the best within the Resident Evil series for teaching the player all of the important non-combat related mechanics of the game in a matter of minutes.

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The layout for Raccoon City has very few dead ends and choke points.

The level design within 3 is also vastly different from the first two games – or at least its first half is. Capcom took a very open approach to the layout of Raccoon City and constructed it in a similar way. There are less small corridors and mazes, navigation is broken down to the player optimizing their route from one location to the next rather than backtracking through areas that might have enemies in them, and the city can actually be broken down into two parts – pre and post-trolley puzzle. The ultimate goal of the Raccoon City half of the game is for Jill to escape downtown with a group of mercenaries by repairing a trolley car. The entirety of the game up to this point is very linear, and introduces the various sections of the city to the player while they make their way to the car. The post-trolley part is about returning to places in the city to gather the parts needed to repair the car and leave. While an inexperienced player will spend a lot of time bouncing around gathering parts one at a time, the game rewards those that can manage their inventory by putting item boxes in specific places. This style of level design was fresh for Resident Evil, and shows what a team uninfluenced by past games can create when given the reins to a bigger project.

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Jill’s run through Raccoon City is not without obstacles though, and the titular “Nemesis” is a constant roadblock for her. An evolution in both story and design of Mr.X from Resident Evil 2, the Nemesis is Tyrant-class Bio-Weapon that’s seeking to eliminate members of the S.T.A.R.S. branch of Raccoon’s police department. Unfortunately for Jill, she’s the only remaining member in the city. Nemesis spawns at set points around Raccoon City and will quickly close in on Jill. The creature will also follow Jill through multiple areas, making it hard to avoid him and impossible to de-spawn him from an area by simply leaving and coming back. Nemesis is easily one of the scariest elements added to any survival horror title, as it’s an overbearing boss creature that follows and tracks the player down. He’s faster, stronger, and beefier than Jill, while also being able to hurt her during other creatures’ attacks (something that the other zombies in Resident Evil have never been too good about abusing). He’s not unbeatable though, and if a player really wishes to fight Nemesis this early in the game, they can (though its overbearing raw power is supposed to act a deterrent to fighting it). Nemesis drops various high-tier rewards for the player, including large amounts of healing items or weapon upgrades when defeated, but it will always get back up and jump the player later at another spawn point.

Reaction commands give the game a new layer of depth.

Reaction commands give the game a new layer of depth.

Jill is not left without options to combat Nemesis, however. Reaction commands are a gimmick introduced in Resident Evil 3, and it’s the only game to really make use of them. By readying her gun and hitting the fire button with frame-perfect reaction, Jill can either dodge an attack or quickly force an enemy off of her. Most of the game designed around this; for instance, hallways are larger, and as such there are more enemies to deal with. The simplest and most effective way to get around hordes of zombies is obviously to shoot them, but learning reaction command timing can help the player not end up stuck in a corner. The timing needed to successfully pull a dodge off lends to the adrenaline-fueled, terror-inducing gameplay, since missing a dodge means taking a hit. To compensate for this there are a lot more healing items, but using a lot of heals tanks the player’s end-game score, which can affect unlockables for subsequent playthroughs.

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It’s in the game’s second half where Resident Evil 3 begins to mirror its predecessors a bit. Raccoon City is effectively behind the player, or at least the open-world part of it is, and so the latter half of the game focuses on the same small hallways and linear design that Resident Evil 2 uses. This isn’t a bad thing, but it certainly feels weaker than the game’s first half. Nemesis also stops chasing the player around by this point and only shows up for a few jump scares and a couple of boss battles. Overall, the second half of Resident Evil 3 does not match it’s first in quality, but it does present several interesting and fun boss fights.

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Oddly enough, this is the only time the mode is aptly named.

Upon completing the game, an extra game mode called “The Mercenaries” is unlocked. It’s a survival-style time attack game where the player has to navigate from the trolley on one end of the city to the starting point at the other. The playable cast includes the mercenaries that Jill meets in the game, and is why the mode is titled the way it is. It’s possible to unlock special weapons and other items in The Mercenaries that can then be carried over to the main game for subsequent playthroughs. Resident Evil 3‘s replayability does not just end with The Mercenaries, however. Much of the game’s puzzle elements are randomized, so you can go to different areas of the game in a different order each time to see different scenes play out. On one hand, it’s annoying to have the game flip around simple puzzles, but on the other, it’s a quick and effective way to keep the player engaged when they go into new game plus.

For the average gamer, Resident Evil 3‘s contributions to the series are dwarfed by the narrative focus of 2. Rather than concentrating on continuing to clean up story and prose, Resident Evil 3 took an approach to gameplay that makes it stand out as one of the most well-designed titles in the franchise. Its action-oriented approach was one of the most effective ways out of the poorly-aged design of the original Resident Evil, and also shows how even slightly breaking away from the mold, or letting a new developer give something a fresh perspective, can result in great strides in game design.

Taylor is a writer from Atlanta, GA. His passion for games extends across genres and generations. When not playing or writing about games, he's probably reading science fiction.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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