Format reviewed: NES/Famicom
Submitted by: Craig Hawkins
The origins of Resident Evil course through the varicose veins of this horror RPG from Capcom.
A news team enters a supposedly deserted mansion to plunder its precious frescoes. We see the gang of five approaching Mamiya manor from a bird's-eye view before the camera cuts to a close-up of the mansion's front door slowly creaking open. Once inside, and back to the overhead view, the team becomes trapped, forced to solve a series of puzzles in the hope of escaping the mansion's heinous inhabitants.
The group comprises Kazuo, the team leader and producer, equipped with a lighter; Taro, a cameraman whose item is, yep, a camera; Akiko, a nurse with a medical kit; Emi, a master locksmith with a skeleton key; and Asuka, a maid with a vacuum cleaner. Well, you wouldn‘t want to leave the place untidy, now would you?
These items are integral to solving the puzzles and progressing. The team splits itself into groups of two and three but each can call on the other division for help. Clues are scattered around the rooms in the forms of notes of those who previously entered and perished.
The malevolent spirit of Lady Mamiya is the villain of the piece. Demented by guilt over the death of her daughter, she now murders other children for her offspring to play with in the afterlife. The mansion's vermin-infested hallways are furnished with blood, puss, pits of rotting corpses and a barrage of evil forces intent on ripping the flesh from your bones. You encounter schizoid dolls once belonging to Mamiya’s daughter. Zombies, naturally, are out to eat your brains.
Now-primitive 8-bit Famicom graphics are somehow more unsettling than the gratuitous HD gore that modern gamers are accustomed to. Battle screens load as a riff on the Jaws theme cranks up the tension; the battle menu forebodingly gives you the option of praying. If group members die, they cannot be resurrected. The game has different endings depending on how many survive.
A game as artful as the frescoes it centres on. Resident Evil is child's play in comparison.