Review: Resident Evil 2

Back in November I reviewed the original Resident Evil game. Today, I’m going to take a look at the sequel. As most gamers are aware, the first Resident Evil proved to be an extremely successful game.  It spawned a slew of sequels, remakes, and even films. The original game has gone down in history as a classic. So, you might wonder how the successor of such an iconic game might stand up…  let’s find out.

First, let’s discuss the version of the game I played for this review. For this playthrough, I used Resident Evil 2 (Dualshock Version). This is the only edition of the game available on the US Playstation Store. It features the original release with added rumble controller support.  This version also includes two additional unlockable modes of play. The Dualshock Version is widely considered to be the definitive version of the game.  Is important to note that there was a Nintendo 64 port of the game. The N64 version did include some interesting additions such as alternate costumes, etc. But excludes some of the features from the Dualshock Version.  Finally, there was a release for the Gamecube as well. However, this version is nothing more than a direct port of Dualshock edition on a Gamecube disc.

This game takes place about two months after the end of the first title. (If you’ve not played the first game, it’s highly recommend that you do before jumping into Resident Evil 2 – the game will make little sense if you don’t.) By this time, the T-Virus has spread like wildfire and Raccoon City is teeming with zombies.  The game follows the stories of two individuals; Claire Redfield  (sister of Chris Redfield from the original game) and a Raccoon City police officer – Leon Kennedy.  Claire has come to Raccoon City in hopes of finding her brother, unaware of the virus and the current state of affairs. It doesn’t take her long to realize that something is terribly wrong. After a nearly fatal encounter with a zombie, she is rescued by Leon. Together the two of them head towards the police station hoping to find both shelter and answers. However, a tragic accident causes the two to become separated.  Split up and alone, Claire and Leon must explore the seemingly abandoned police station in search of answers. Assuming of course, they can manage to survive…

In many ways, Resident Evil 2 is very similar to the original game. The controls, the graphics, and the overall presentation are nearly identical. Like the first game, players can choose between three difficulty levels. There’s also an arranged (Rookie) version of the game as well.  Also, like the first game, players can choose which character to play (Leon or Claire). The main difference here is that the experience for one character can change slightly depending on choices made when playing the other character. For example, if you choose to play as Leon, you can either take of leave some items that you come across during your playthrough. If you decide to leave them, then once you complete the game – you can play again from Claire’s perspective. During this second playthrough, the item that Leon left behind will be available for Claire to find and use.  To get the full experience of Resident Evil 2, you will want to play through the game with each character.

The game originally came on two different discs. A Leon disc and a Claire disc. When starting the game for the first time, you can choose to start with either character. So, this really gives you a total of four different scenarios in which to enjoy the game;  Leon’s story followed by Claire’s, or Claire’s Story followed by Leon’s.  The gameplay does changes slightly depending on which order you decide to go with. – Completing all four will unlock a little mini game-mode called “Extreme Battle”.

From a lore perspective, Resident Evil 2 does a fantastic job of taking the storyline from the original game and expanding on it. In the first game, the backstory was interesting, but seemed a bit shallow at times.  In Resident Evil 2, more behind the scenes info is revealed. Suddenly, I found myself hooked on the lore behind the game.  The storytelling is told through a combination of exposition, cutscenes, and in-game breadcrumbs. So, the more you explore, the more easter eggs and details you can manage to discover. It’s all masterfully done.

Just like the original, Resident Evil 2 does a good job of building tension in attempts to scare the crap out of players. The spooky environments, ambient noises and jump scares are all very well done. In some ways, even more so than in the original. The voice acting in this title also seems to be a tad better than that of the original game, but… not by much.

My biggest fault with the title is again, the clumsy controls. This game works just like it’s predecessor. Again, are stuck with a stiff, tank-style movement scheme. Which, at the time, was pretty standard. But these days, the playcontrol is cumbersome and archaic. Despite this issue, I found the game to very enjoyable. The good certainly outweighs the bad.

Difficulty: Variable –  The Dualshock version features three levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal and Arranged. Just like with the original game, the easy option reduces the difficulty of the game considerably. Monsters are weaker, and ammunition is more plentiful than in Normal mode. The Arranged version here is different than “the arranged version” found in the first game. Here, “Arranged” (AKA: Rookie Mode) starts you off with access to some very powerful weapons and infinite ammo.  – Regardless of which version you play, I found the game only gets easier as it goes along. The first few moments of the game can be very intense and you’re often being swarmed. But as you play and manage to secure areas and increase your arsenal – things get a lot easier.

Story: This came continues the story laid out in the original game. More details are provided that help to clarify some of the more mundane aspects and to really flesh things out. Despite introducing us to some new characters, the connections to the first game are clear and very well done.

Originality: In many ways, there’s a lot about this game is very familiar to the first title. But, Capcom managed to keep things feeling fresh with a change of scenery and a few new enhancements. Having multiple/concurrent character scenarios is quite an original idea that really sets this game apart as well. While Resident Evil 2 is very much a sequel to the original, it manages to stand on it’s own.

Soundtrack: Just like with the first game, the soundtrack is very minimal. The music is sparse and often used as a tool to build tension. But, when there is music to hear, I found it to be an improvement over that found in the original game. RE2 also uses ambient sounds to help set a spooky tone. All of it is very well done. The only complaint I have here are some minor gripes with the voice acting. But to be honest, I’ve heard worse.

Fun: Resident Evil 2 is a fun, entertaining successor to the first title. Again, it would be the perfect game to play on a dreary stormy afternoon or late in the evening with all the lights off.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Just like with Resident Evil, RE2 still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to unnerve it’s fans. 

Playcontrol:  Again, this is one the weakest point of the game for me. The characters in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable with a little practice.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I have to give this game a four star review, but for slightly different reasons than the original. Whereas the first game scored some major points with atmosphere, this game beats it on storyline. Plus, being able to experience it from multiple scenarios and actually have them inter-lap to some extend is brilliant. At the time, it was a brand new experience.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps

Review: Blood Omen – Legacy of Kain

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“VAE VICITS!” –   That is the battle-cry of Kain, the lead character of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Anyone who plays this game for more than five minutes will certainly be familiar with the phrase. It is repeated at random, frequent intervals as you play through this title. In fact it is repeated so often, that on more than one occasion I felt the need to mute my volume. But before we go down that rathole, let’s discuss the basics.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain is a title that I had no experience with whatsoever prior to playing through it for this review. It is a title that I’d seen pop up from time to time on lists of “The Greatest Playstation Games of All Time”. So, when I compiled my own personal backlog of PS1 games, I made sure to include it.

Blood Omen, is a gothic, action/adventure game. In this title you play as Kain, a murdered noble from the land of Nosgoth who is resurrected from death by a powerful necromancer. In return for a life of undeath, Kain is tasked with hunting down the members of a mysterious order. As you play through the game, the secrets surrounding your mission become clear, and Kain must ultimately determine if he will follow the path of good, or evil.

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Sounds cool right? Well, in many ways it is, but for each good quality the game also has an equal number of drawbacks. First, let’s discuss the gameplay itself.  Blood Omen is basically a birds-eye view adventure game. Not unlike the original Legend of Zelda. In fact, in many ways it’s quite similar. There’s an open world to explore that’s filled with nooks and crannies which contain power-ups, abilities, weapons, armor, etc. You start the game in a pretty vulnerable state, but as you progress and increase in strength, you soon become a force to be reckoned with. Kain can take damage through combat, via traps and even by certain weather conditions (rain, snow —  he is a vampire after all). Luckily, Kain can recover his energy by feeding on the living. This includes various NPCs in the game and even enemies who may be on the brink of death. Typically, as you progress through the game and defeat bosses, Kain will unlock new powers and gear that both increase his strength, but also give him the ability to explore previous inaccessible areas.

All of the above sound like the set up for what should be an amazing game. So what’s the problem? Well, to put it gently, this game has issues. Issues so severe that it does impact player enjoyment. To start with, Blood Omen has HORRENDOUS loading times. Now, I’m not talking about Saving/Loading player data. I’m talking about nearly anything. Press start to bring up the inventory – you will encounter a 2-3 second load time, same with bringing up the map, or entering a building. Even non-loading functions within the game such as transforming from human-form to that of a wolf, you will experience a 2-3 second transition time. What makes this worse, is the fact that I played the digital-download version from PSN. I can only imagine how much longer these load times might have been when playing from the actual disc.

But the issues don’t stop there. The playcontrol is not at all intuitive. The default button controls don’t feel natural and all-to-often are not responsive at all. While the game features some very impressive voice acting, Kain’s battlecry is repeated so often it becomes annoying almost instantly.

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So, all this considered, what’s the verdict here. Well, despite it’s many flaws, I can certainly see what made Blood Omen interesting at the time. The game is very mature and appealed to an audience that had not been really catered to thus far. Horror-themed games were few and far between around the time this came out. Plus, compared to other titles of the time, the graphics and voice acting were considered top of the line. So I can see how many players may have been enthralled with the title. But sadly, at least in my opinion, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain does not stand up to the test of time. This is a game that might be a prime candidate for a remake. Also, the game did spawn a number of sequels which are also highly regarded in their own right. So, perhaps I might enjoy those a little better.

Difficulty: Medium –  This is one of those games that starts off fairly tough, but softens up over time. As Kain grows in strength, the overall difficulty tends to lessen a bit. The biggest difficulty for me, was getting my head around the way the game worked and learning it’s quirks.  Reading the actual game manual is a must to overcoming this.

Story: Here we have one of the best things about this title. The tale of Kain and even the lore behind the land of Nosgoth itself is very well done. Fans of gothic/Eastern-European horror would really find something of value in the story told over the course of this game.

Originality: Blood Omen is a mixed bag when it comes to originality. The overall game design presented here is certainly nothing new, but I feel that developers really put a lot of effort into being revolutionary by appealing to an adult audience.

Soundtrack: The background music for the seems largely atmospheric. It’s certainly not catchy or all that interesting in itself. But, it serves the game well. The real shining star here is the voice acting. The lead character has personality and flair. The acting is not cheesy and phony like so many titles of the era.

Fun: Generally speaking, I did not find this game to be very enjoyable. I did find it to be very interesting in many regards, but to be completely honest. I was glad to see my time with the game come to an end. That’s never a good sign.

Graphics: Mixed here as well. The cutscenes are dated and pixelated. But for the time, they were top of the line. The game itself is overall very attractive. Especially when zoomed into the action. But if you pull the camera out, things tend to get messy quick. 

Playcontrol: I encountered major issues with the playcontrol for this title. Granted, I played this PS1 title on the PS3, but typically that poses no issue. To be sure, however, I also downloaded the game to my PSP – only to find the experience worsened. So far, I’m only talking about the actual controls. The long loading times and overall “sludgeiness” of the title was a real downer for me.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: Violence, Language, Occult References

Value:  These days, Blood Omen can be found for around $5.00 on the PSN store. Which, to be fair, is a very good price even with all the flaws I mentioned above. So, if you’re curious, you won’t be out much even if you end up not digging the game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – For me, this game was largely a stinker. But, it does have several qualities that a certain niche of players would find enjoyable. If you’re one of those types, then by all means, this might be the game for you. But for a casual player looking for the best of the what the PS1 had to offer, you may fare better by looking elsewhere.

Available on: PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain   –  Soul Reaver  – Soul Reaver 2 –  Blood Omen 2 – Defiance

Review: The Legend of Dragoon

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When I announced last month that I was going to resume my PS1 playthrough reviews, I knew I had a number of options to choose from. There are so many classic games for ps1 that I never played when I was younger. I didn’t know where to start. So, I asked a friend for some suggestions. The first thing out of his mouth was “Legend of Dragoon”. This was a game I’d heard of in passing, but didn’t really know that much about. So I was excited to see what was in store for me.

To start this review, let me say that I really had no idea what I was expecting. I knew this game was going to be an RPG of sorts, but the fine details were completely unknown to me. To start, the first thing I noticed about Legend of Dragoon were the similarities to Final Fantasy VII. The pre-rendered backgrounds looked like something ripped directly from FFVII. The battle screen also, is very reminiscent to PS1 era Final Fantasy titles. But that’s where the similarities stop. Before getting much more into the technical details of the game, let’s talk a bit about the story.

The Legend of Dragoon is a fantasy RPG from Sony. It is set in the world called Endiness. The hero of the game, is a young named named Dart. At the beginning of the game, Dart is finally returning home from a five-year search for a terrible monster that destroyed his childhood home town.  As he approaches the outskirts of his homeland, Dart is attacked by a giant green Dragon. He is nearly killed, but saved by a mysterious armored woman who vanishes just as quickly as she appears. Upon arrival in his hometown, Dart learns that the night before his arrival, the town was ransacked by a neighboring Empire and his childhood friend Shanna was taken captive. Dart decides to sneak into the Empire’s prison to rescue his friend. This is the set up for a long and epic adventure.

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Naturally, as the game progresses the the details around the events at the beginning of the title begin to fall into place. And what we’re left with is a storyline that certainly rivals any other RPG you can throw at it. This is a thankful fact, because aside from the flawless plot, this game has some massive shortcomings. So much so, that I daresay if it wasn’t for the in-game story, I may not have finished this title.

 To start, let’s talk about the combat system. On the surface, the combat in this game appears to be similar to other Final Fantasy style RPGs. However, Sony included a new mechanic that at first, seems very refreshing, but quickly becomes cumbersome and annoying. The feature in question involves a moving on-screen graphic. Specifically, a little rotating hitbox. The point is to smash a button on the controller precisely as the ghost image, lines up with the static hit box. Doing so one, or sometimes multiple times will increase your damage output and cause a combo chain type of effect. Seems good right? Well, for different special moves, the speed and timing of each button push is different. For this reason, combat requires your absolute attention in order to be effective. I suppose, that is, after all, the idea. But the flaw here is that combat in this game simply takes too long. Between the fade in and fade out, and all the various combat animations,  the typical battle will last several minutes. Boss fights, can sometimes last 20-30 minutes. Now, that’s to be expected for major or final bosses, but while playing this game, it seemed like every single boss battle took about half an hour. To me, that’s just too long. Plus, random encounters seemed to occur a little too frequently. This combined with the length of the fights themselves, annoyed me greatly.

Another aspect of the combat system is the ability to transform in Dragoon mode. This, in theory, gives your character stronger attack power and access to magic abilities. The magic system is fairly straightforward, but melee attacks as a Dragoon, once again involve a twitch-timer/hotbox type system. Also, spell animations in Dragoon mode seem to be unnecessarily long. (This can be adjusted in the game’s settings, but even so, they still feel longer than they should).

This animation delay, doesn’t just extend to battles. But loading times overall for this game seemed much longer than they should be, and I was actually playing a downloaded PSN copy. I can only imagine how long they must have been on an actual disc.

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Another complaint, is the terrible translation this game has been given. Sony certainly seemed to opt for cost-cutting here. The quality of the translation is on par with the NES version of Metal Gear. But, admittedly, the poor translation does actually manage to give some of the characters a unique sense of personality.

When it comes to sound, LotD is a bit of a mixed bag. The musical score is very well done, and some of the songs are absolutely amazing. But others (like the main combat theme) seem to feel a bit out of place.  There are minor bits of voice acting in cutscenes and during combat, the quality of the voice acting is less than desireable. But again, somehow seems to add to the charm of the game.

Overall, I have a hard time recommending this title to casual gamers, but hardcore RPG fans will find a lot to enjoy here.

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Difficulty: Hard –  Understanding the core concepts of the game itself is easy. The difficulty here lies mainly due to the cumbersome combat system, the frequency of random encounters and the lack of available save points. Taking time to grind levels certainly makes this game a lot easier.

Story: The story here is really the game’s saving grace in my opinion. The tale starts off basic, but over time becomes more and more complex. Yet, somehow never really runs the risk of being too complicated to follow. Very high marks here.

Originality: A lot of things in this game will seem familiar to fans of the JRPG genre. Credit to Sony for trying to introduce new concepts and elements even if they fall flat more often than not.

Soundtrack: The quality of the in-game soundtrack is superb, even if some of the track seem out of place. There are some real gems here.

Fun: For me, the game starting of very well, but by the midpoint I realized that I was forcing myself to play it only to see the finale of the storyline. Plus, the game is looooooong. My playthrough was in excess of sixty hours. This blunted the fun factor for me greatly.

Graphics: For a late-system PS1 title, the graphics are acceptable, but I really feel they could have been better. Character sprites are jaggy and there not much attention to detail. Yes, this was a complaint of FF7 as well, but SE really seemed to be able to overcome this, improving the graphics presentation with each new entry. LotD seems to go the other way. That being said, the pre-rendered backgrounds and FMV cutscenes are very nice.

Playcontrol: Poor. The hitbox/twitch combat feels flawed to me. Yes, I was able to figure it out and get the hang of it, but- I’m still not sure how I did… The animation on the screen doesn’t seem to match the in-game tutorial. Aside from that, the overall controls seem loose and sloppy. I would often have trouble lining up with ladders or navigating around object in the pre-rendered environments.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: None.

Value:  Despite all the bad things I have to say about this game, for the prince it’s going for on PSN, in comparison with the vast amount of content the game has to offer, there’s quite a bit of a deal to be had here.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This game does have some good qualities. But the overall experience can be summed up as frustrating and unpolished. I can only recommend Legend of the Dragoon for the most hardcore RPG gamers out there. And even then, chances are there’s a better example of the genre available to play. This is a game that I would actually love to see remade and refined. There’s some GREAT ideas here, but to me, they are poorly executed.

Available on: PSN