Earlier this week, after more than a handful of updated re-releases, Capcom finally presented the public with an HD remaster of their franchise creating hit Resident Evil. It’s getting some very positive reviews across the board, and that isn’t surprising when you consider it’s a better looking version of an already incredible game. Capcom knew it was going to be a hit which is why they finally put the time into making it a reality. Perhaps it’s a little surprising it took this long. HD games are hardly a new concept, and the fact that this game is also on last-gen is proof that it could have been done a little sooner. Yet that’s neither here or now. Resident Evil HD is available and people are quite happy with it.
Normally this would be the ultimate springboard for me to talk about how defining Resident Evil was for an entire genre. An HD remaster is the exact reason why I did a post on Final Fantasy X, for example. Yet unfortunately I already did this back when World War Z came out. Was the connection between the two convoluted at best? You can say that, but it was a stretch I was willing to make to produce content. Now I’m eating those words a bit because Resident Evil is all over the news and there’s no way I want this perfect opportunity to go by. All week I was trying to figure out how to use this to my advantage. Then it hit me: don’t focus on what we already have, focus on what we may have later. So instead of re-treading the past and outlining why Resident Evil was groundbreaking, I’m going to detail why its equally popular sequel Resident Evil 2 deserves this attention as well.
Following a huge success like Resident Evil was obviously not an easy task. It’s one thing to create a hit game that many people love. It’s much harder making another entry to ensure that the new property has legitimate franchise potential. Yet that’s exactly what Resident Evil 2 did. Set two months after previous protagonists Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine destroyed Spencer Mansion, a new outbreak of the T-virus has decimated nearby Raccoon City. Caught up in the chaos is rookie police officer Leon Kennedy, who has what is easily the worst first day ever, and a college student named Claire Redfield, Chris’s sister. Claire comes to Raccoon City to find her brother, but misses him when he goes on a mission to Europe and is subsequently caught up in the insanity. As the city devolves into nightmarish chaos, Leon and Claire team up to fight countless horrors, encounter a mysterious spy named Ada Wong, and destroy a growing monster embryo within a girl named Sherry Birkin. This is all while they attempt to escape the city with their lives, and sanity, still intact.
Resident Evil 2, which featured very similar gameplay to its predecessor, played an integral role is making the franchise what it is today. The first game may have started the whole thing, but it was this sequel that gave Resident Evil a much bigger life. By taking you out of the expansive yet still limited Spencer Mansion and putting you in the adjacent Raccoon City, Capcom put the chaotic tale on a grander scale. The T-virus was no longer confined to a forested mansion. It was out in the open and wreaking havoc on society as a whole. Most importantly, this meant that issues like this couldn’t go unnoticed by everyone else. This mere idea would dictate the futures of every character, especially Leon, Chris, Jill, and Claire. The opened setting changed how the games were designed as well. Resident Evil was very much an enclosed adventure, but from Resident Evil 2 onward, outside environments received greater attention, though indoor events were never far off.
You also have to give Resident Evil 2 credit for introducing two of the most important and grounded characters: Leon and Claire. What makes these two more relatable than Chris and Jill is how they’re as average as they can possibly be in this world. They’re not special agents sent to investigate a mysterious mansion. Leon’s a new police officer and Claire’s a college student, and they’re goal is simply to survive. The fact that they get roped into a nightmarish battle against Umbrella Corp, the creators of the many viruses, is simply a side effect of them trying to get out. Once they do actually escape, they use this experience to lead the fight against Umbrella on separate fronts. Ada and Sherry, though not as focused on, are very necessary to the overall Resident Evil lore as well.
Because I was a late fan to the Resident Evil series, I have yet to experience Resident Evil 2 in all of its critically acclaimed glory. I know, the game has been re-released several times just like the original, but other games kept my interest elsewhere. The game is definitely on my list though. Not playing it didn’t stop me from enjoying Resident Evil 4, which is a continuation of Leon’s story where he became a US Special Agent. Resident Evil 4 is easily the most acclaimed game of the entire lineup, but it’s obvious through research that Resident Evil 2 laid its groundwork for success. I have no doubt that I will love this game when I finally get around to actually playing it in some form or another.
The question obviously isn’t if Capcom will produce an HD remaster of Resident Evil 2. It’s when. Capcom is notorious for hitting the same veins for profit and Resident Evil HD is honestly the latest example. They have a lot of major games in their library but instead choose to revisit a 1996 classic to put content out there. This is by far not the first time they’ve done this as well (though not in HD). So yes, based on history it’s easy to theorize that Resident Evil 2 HD is coming in the near future. It may even come as early as next year or at least get some announcement. For all I know, Capcom is planning to use Resident Evil HD’s recent popularity as reasoning for why they should continue this trend. Resident Evil 2 was a massive hit on the PlayStation back in 1998 too so you know people will be all over it. It really would be a quick way to make some money. Who knows, I may even get Resident Evil 2 HD myself when it inevitably comes.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.