Capcom's Classic Survival-Horror Formula Should Make A Comeback
Reinventing a popular video game series is a risky venture. A series could lose all of its momentum if it isn't successful, and just mentioning something is going to be different could worry fans who want things to stay the same.
When we debuted Resident Evil 4 on Game Informer’s March 2004 cover, I remember reading angry comments from fans who thought Capcom was ruining the series by moving the camera from a stationary angle to over the protagonist's shoulder. I’ll never forget one email that said something to the effect of, “So it’s like a shooter now. Just what I didn’t want.” Those worried voices that barked “Foul!” at the first details for the game suddenly went silent when the game hit store shelves. I’m guessing many of them realized Capcom made the right call. Resident Evil 4 was a risk that paid off handsomely.
Capcom successfully changed the script for Resident Evil again by making Resident Evil 7 a first-person experience, and if that worried fan is still out there, no it isn't a shooter. Bringing the player into the eyes of the protagonist delivered unnerving intimacy in a house filled with horrors. Capcom made Resident Evil feel fresh again, all while holding true to key elements from the series.
I often hear developers say their first game is proof of concept and the second game is where they can really show off what their vision is capable of. If Capcom returns with Resident Evil 8, which seems like a no-brainer to me, I hope it picks up where Resident Evil 7 left off, not from a narrative standpoint, per se, but from that first-person viewpoint. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Capcom does with the Resident Evil 2 remake, which releases later this month. All signs point to it getting a similar gameplay treatment to Resident Evil 4, which I'm perfectly okay with.
Innovation is a driving force in games, and I love that developers continue to wow us in ways we wouldn’t expect, but we don’t always have to leave the past behind. Some games age poorly, but most of the “classics” hold up well today. Resident Evil is one of them. Sure, the texture work on PlayStation is dreadful, and I can’t believe I actually found those games to be scary, but they remain a lot of fun to play. I would love for Capcom to surprise us all by making a new Resident Evil using that classic mold – a total return to yesteryear. It doesn’t even have to be a numbered entry. It can just be an oddball side chapter. Heck, it could even be a new IP but just uses that setup.
When I say “classic mold,” I’m mostly referencing the set camera angles. Also, those awkward moments where you press forward and your character goes in a different direction than you expected, and lots of strange puzzles involving statues and keys. Now picture that experience would be like with the latest breakthroughs in graphics, gameplay, and puzzle design. Basically what Capcom did with the Resident Evil Remake on GameCube. Do exactly that again.
This thought came to me last night when I was looking for a new game to play on my Xbox One. I ventured into Xbox’s “coming soon” section, and saw a listing for Onimusha: Warlords. Just reading the name reminded me of how great Capcom’s classic survival-horror games were. Onimusha is designed similarly to Resident Evil in that it had tank controls, set cameras, and plenty of puzzles, but was radically different in story and gameplay execution. Rather than taking on zombies with guns, the player slays demons with sharp, pointy things like swords. Onimusha is set in Japan’s Sengoku period, but is purely a fantasy that sees Nobunaga Oda as a demonic being hellbent on destroying everything. His foil is Samanosuke, a brave villager, who is slain protecting his people, yet awakens with a strange gauntlet on his arm. The gauntlet appears to be devouring the souls of slain demons.
Onimusha isn't new, but right now I'll take it. I hunger for this type of experience again, and I remember loving this game. Capcom remastered this version to include widescreen support, high-resolution graphics, and oddly, a new soundtrack. You can also use the analog stick to control Samanosuke, which might help, but I suspect you'll still head in the wrong direction frequently when entering new areas.
Cutting down villains and sucking up their souls sounds like a great way to kick off my 2019 in gaming. Here's hoping Capcom is also thinking of bringing back Dino Crisis in some capacity!