Tag Archives: video games

Horror Video Games Part 3: Resident Evil

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Resident Evil is one of my all time favorite video games series. I love abandoned places and zombies, puzzles and experiments gone terribly wrong. And the first several games in the series combine those elements well. There are a LOT of RE games and spin-offs/side games in the series, some of which I haven’t played or have even heard of before doing a little research for this post. So I’ll only talk about the first game since I could easily go on for hours.

Resident Evil/Resident Evil: Director’s Cut/ Resident Evil Archives

The first game of the series was released in 1996, but was rereleased as a director’s cut and later remade. Resident Evil Archives contains the same plot of the original but with added rooms and areas, the introduction of several new (non-playable) characters, one of whom is Lisa. Her story is a heartbreaking thread woven into the plot but she is also very, very scary.

There was an incident involving a series of cannibalistic murders in the area surrounding Raccoon City and the S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactical And Rescue Team) Bravo team is sent in to investigate. After contact is lost with Bravo, the Alpha team is sent in. Set down, the team becomes separated as a pack of very strange dogs appear (if you’ve seen the movie, they look like those) and start chasing them. A handful of the members manage to make it to a mansion located nearby. Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Barry Burton and Albert Wesker.

 

You can play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine. Both have their own special tool that is unique to them, although (if memory serves me right) either one of them can also pick up the other’s item but it takes up space in the item carrier. And believe you me that space is at a premium. Excess items can be stored in item boxes (they look like large, wooden trunks) scattered throughout the area. Any room with an item box is a safe room. You cannot and will not be attacked there. It’s a good place to heal; exchange items and save, using a typewriter.

 

 

The objective is to the explore the mansion and the surrounding grounds, gleaning information about what has happened on memos, reading journal entries and reports. One of my favorite entries to read is the groundskeeper’s journal (again if I remember correctly). The last page reads simply: “Itchy. Tasty.”

 

 

Foes range from zombies, which are encountered almost from the first to a giant, poisonous snake that you have to fight twice. Genetically engineered creatures also appear. The Hunters are large, almost gorilla-like animals that have a very annoying and startling screech. The first time I played this game, my brother was watching me play and we experienced the first encounter with a Hunter at the same time. There was a lot of screaming involved. They remain my least favorite foe. Sharks (Project Neptune, and thank you Umbrella for giving me another reason besides Jaws to be afraid to go into the water), crows, dogs, snakes (little ones), and large spiders also make an appearance because zombies just weren’t enough to scare you out of your pants, I guess.

 

 

As you explore, you move further and further into Umbrella’s secret facility. The mansion is only a front; the out buildings housed a laboratory, Project Neptune and a mutated plant. Beneath the courtyard, a series of tunnels lead to an underground facility. It’s here that all the pieces of the puzzle regarding the nature of Umbrella’s experiments come together to form a whole, and disturbing picture. It’s also where Tyrant is housed, and he’s the game’s last boss. Tyrant stands about seven or eight feet tall (my estimate) and is muscular. He is a single-minded, hunting/killing machine, and nerve-wracking to fight.

 

 

Resident Evil is the only game in the series to have multiple endings. They depend on decisions made at certain moments. The endings and the fact that you get a closet key make the game playable several times and always fun to return to.

Horror Video Games Part 2: Dino Crisis

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Jurassic Park meets Resident Evil? There is probably a much better way of describing this game but this one works for me, since I love both RE and Jurassic Park. 😀

Made by Capcom and produced/directed by RE’s creator Shinji Mikami, Dino Crisis has a distinct Resident Evil aura. Both games have an almost claustrophobic feel to some of their environments (i.e. narrow hallways) and dark atmosphere, they also have puzzle solving elements, which I love in a game. Plus there is  science gone wrong.

Regina is the main character. She’s one member of a special forces team sent to a secret government facility to find Dr. Edward Kirk, who was thought to be dead. He was discovered during a recon mission by another SORT (Secret Operation Raid Team) member, Tom. Dr. Kirk was the head of a secret weapons team, creating something called Third Energy which ripped a hole in the fabric of time. Hence the dinosaurs and all the survival, run-for-your-life fun.

Regina and her fellow SORT team members (Cooper, Gail and Rick) parachute onto the island. During the decent, Cooper goes off course and becomes a T-Rex snack. His whereabouts remain a mystery to the others. Exploring the facility, several mangled and chewed bodies are discovered and the SORT agents are clueless as to what happened to the scientists until Regina encounters a dinosaur.

From that moment on, the game is all about surviving as you try to find a way off the island. Dinosaurs are everywhere, velociraptors roaming the hallways and a T-Rex that stalks you along outside passages and bursts through windows. Ammo and health items are key (as they are in RE), you run out of either and it could be the last mistake you make.

Four possible endings can be played out, depending on what is chosen at specific times. Each ending unlocks a new outfit for Regina, one of them a very cute, almost Pebbles Flintstone type dress complete with a bone gun. If you complete the game in under five hours, a mini game is unlocked (American version, only, I think) called Operation: Wipeout. This is a game with limited ammo in which the point is to bag a certain amount of dinosaurs during an allotted time.

Though short, Dino Crisis has just enough material to provide re-playability and has very tense moments. But it also has lighter moments, which gives it an excellent balance in my opinion. The characters are well done, each having their own personality. Gail is no nonsense, and tough as nails, Rick is more laid back and the team’s comedian while Regina is in the middle, sharing the best qualities of her teammates.

I think Dino Crisis might be a good game to start with if you’re interested in trying a survival horror game. It’s a little more panic inducing than outright scary but still an entertaining member of the genre.

 

Horror Video Games Part 1: Castlevania N64

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I am a gamer, have been since first playing games on the Atari system when I was a kid. My first horror game was Friday the 13th on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and I remember playing it with my heart in my throat. Jason, in all his pixelated glory, was a near unbeatable foe. I never could survive an encounter with him. But, I think it was Castlevania for the N64 that woke a deep love for horror games in me.

Castlevania

The opening of this game still excites me, a sweeping view of a grand castle and the strains of a haunting and melancholy tune played on a violin by Malus. There are two playable characters: Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez. Each have their own special weapons. Reinhardt has a whip and a dagger, while Carrie has magic orbs that home in on targets and a set of rings.

They share the same adventure, trekking through the Forest of Silence, the Castle Wall and then the Villa but then diverges to separate levels unique to one character. Some levels can only be accessed through Carrie (i.e. the Underground Waterway) or Reinhardt (i.e. the Tunnels). Others are shared. There are also several different endings that can be unlocked. That makes this game have a great re-playability.

I love the atmosphere. Dark, tense and horrifying. Time slips from day to night, which is important to some aspects of the game. There is blood and implements of torture, supernatural foes and some very disturbing bosses. But there is also beauty to be found in Castlevania. One of my favorite levels is the Villa.

The Villa is reached after completing the Castle Wall area and fighting several Cerberuses. A timeworn cemetery greets you as you pass through the Villa gates, some of the tombstones still retain their epitaphs and are readable. Entering the Villa, you find yourself in a large foyer with a staircase. Exploring the house, a small indoor garden can be found. Red roses encircle the room. If the time is right, you’ll meet Rosa. She is the garden’s caretaker, responsible for the white roses. What white roses? There aren’t any but as the scene progresses, we learn the reason why. Rosa waters them with blood.

A maze lies behinds the Villa and it’s here that you meet Malus, a frightened boy that has lost his family. This part never fails to make my heart race. In order to help Malus, you must follow him through the maze while being chased by a large creature reminiscent of Frankenstein’s creature wielding a chainsaw and two hellhounds. I can still hear Malus’s scared “Help me!” and the revving of the chainsaw in my head.

As Reinhardt, one of the most memorable moments is entering the Tunnels, a labyrinth of seemingly endless pathways. Shortly after discovering a poisonous river, a scantily clad woman emerges from the murky depths, her arms chastely covering her chest. Walking toward Reinhardt, more of her is seen. Below her waist is the body of a spider. These spider women are the dominate foes of the level, gliding down from the Tunnel ceilings, skittering toward you from the shadows and spewing poison whenever they get the chance.

The Castle Center provides a harrowing challenge. To release the seal and fight the boss, two ingredients are needed. One is mandrake, the other magical nitro and it’s with the nitro that comes all the fun. One jump, one slip from an edge or a hit from the traps or enemies and you explode. Playing through this, my hands shake every time. Once the seal is broken, a massive bull awakens. As you battle him, his flesh falls from his body, leaving only a gigantic skeleton until you defeat him.

Castlevania has left a lasting impression on me. From entering the Forest of Silence to fighting the incarnations of Dracula, it has held endless fascination and frustration. At times creepy and beautiful to downright scary (there’s a statue in the Castle Center that weeps blood which then becomes a monster), it is a game I return to again and again.