as a quick reminder here is the definition of Survival Horror, as per the Wikipedia article on it:
Survival horror refers to a subgenre of action-adventure video games. The player character is vulnerable and under-armed, which puts emphasis on puzzle-solving and evasion, rather than the player taking an offensive strategy. Games commonly challenge the player to manage their inventory and ration scarce resources such as ammunition. Another major theme throughout the genre is that of isolation. Typically, these games contain relatively few non-player characters and, as a result, frequently tell much of their story second-hand through the usage of journals, texts, or audio logs.
While many action games feature lone protagonists versus swarms of enemies in a suspenseful environment, survival horror games are distinct from otherwise horror-themed action games. They tend to de-emphasize combat in favor of challenges such as hiding or running from enemies and solving puzzles. Still, it is not unusual for survival horror games to draw upon elements from first-person shooters, action-adventure games, or even role-playing games. According to IGN, “Survival horror is different from typical game genres in that it is not defined strictly by specific mechanics, but subject matter, tone, pacing, and design philosophy.”
It’s all about extracting stuff from other stuff and creating yet other stuff
Like many survival horror games, this one is very heavily influenced by Sweet Home - which is something we’ll come back to a few times, as the episode goes along. But unlike Sweet Home, this game relied on the fact that the characters are all high school/college students, so you have to literally go look up the answers to them in textbooks.
Whereas my first honourable mention is Resident Evil. That’s right, the B-movie, shlocky dialogue filled, zombie infested Sweet Home knock-off
there it is again
Did you know that the live action actors where different to the voice actors? Like, to a point where YouTube personality Justin Wang has been trying to track each of the actors (both voice and … er… physical?) down for a while now.
During my description of the OG Ressy game, I mention a great podcast called Desert Island Discworld. If you’re into the Discworld novels, this is totally worth a listen
I also mention the uncensored version of the first zombie encounter in the game. Here’s the uncensored version:
and here is the censored version:
Literally the only difference is the campy drop of the partially munched head of Kenneth.
Squidge continues the Resident Evil-a-Thon by talking to us about Resident Evil 0 - specifically the version released on the GameCube.
Rezzy Zero was one of the first original Survival Horror games on the Nintendo GameCube, and without it there may not have been a remake of the original - meaning that there might not have been a remake of Resident Evil 2, or 3 for that matter.
I then bring up the Survival Horror progenitor, as it were: Sweet Home.
Without this game - which is based on a movie of the same name - we wouldn’t have the survival horror genre as we know it. Everything that you think of as being part of the survival horror genre:
story elements provided by journals written in the 2nd person
a spooky mansion
real time events
insane puzzles lateral thinking exercises
are all present in Sweet Home. With the “added bonus”
if you're into this kind of thing
of being a line-dancing JRPG.
In fact, the first Resident Evil game started life as a direct homage, if not remake of Sweet Home:
Shinji Mikami: The meeting that got the ball rolling on Resident Evil was in 1993. We were in Capcom’s Osaka development studio and my current boss, Tokuro Fujiwara, called me in to talk to him. He said that he wanted us to make a horror game using systems from Sweet Home, which was a horror game for the Famicom that he had directed. I was actually a big fan of Sweet Home, and he was someone that I really respected, so I was excited about the project from the beginning. But I was a little worried about how well a horror game would really sell. I think that feeling had some influence on RE’s development
Scott Butterworth: So it’s true that Resident Evil was originally conceived as an adventure game inspired by Capcom’s Sweet Home?
Yasuhiro Ampo: The item management aspect of survival horror is very much similar to how Sweet Home handles it, and I definitely remember being told, “Play Sweet Home!” when I first joined the team.
Not bad for a game which was created as a tie-in for a … not so great horror movie from 1989. Although, you really can’t tell that from this short featurette (labelled as the trailer on YouTube)
warning: some disturbing images
Then again, the advert for the game has more information on the movie than the above trailer does:
The first time that I watched Sweet Home (the movie), I didn’t think much of it. It’s standard fare for a 1980’s Japanese movie, but subsequent viewings grew on me. If you like 1980s special effects driven horror movies, then check it out.
Since the movie was never released outside of Japan, the NES game was never officially released outside of Japan. But there’s a fan-translation out there on the interwebs, if you’re willing to fall into the grey area of emulating a fan-translation of a game that you can’t own. It’s also worth pointing out that, where possible, the plot, scenes and dialogue in the game are lifted directly from the movie - making it one of the only video games based on a movie which is entirely faithful to the original content.
it turns out that I have a lot to say about this game
Squidge then comes in with the N64 version of Resident Evil 2
Talking about this game reveals a number of interesting things:
it’s a near perfect port of the game
there were added costumes
there was a battle mode
both discs (i.e. ~1.5 GB of data) was dumped onto one 64 MB cartridge
I've managed to get Vagrant Story down to around 20MB, but that's impressive
There’s an amazing retrospective on how Angel Studios - the company who were in charge of porting the game to the N64 over on GamaStutra
a website specifically for folks in the video game industry
written by on of the FIVE people who ported the game, which you can read here
it get's really technical in places
Seriously, this port is a real work of genius and it makes me incredibly jealous that they got to work on this project - for those who don’t know, I’m a developer.
I loved the first game in the series, and totally missed the point of the second game - but the folks over at the Dreamcast Years Podcast cleared up why in an episode
definitely check out their podcast, by the way. Would recommend
This game was a really strange, psychological trip through la-la-land
not THAT La La Land
whilst controlling Harry Mason - a real example of an every man.
Squidge started to bend the rules with his final two honourable mentions, and depending on how you feel Heart of Darkness might not even be worth talking about. But we talked about it, because that’s what we do.
To be fair, it was quite a difficult platform game, and has some pretty dark moments. The intro presented it as what we might see as a low budget, family friendly, CGI movie these days.
I then talk about Square’s epic RPG which released towards the end of the 90s… that’s right. It’s Parasite Eve.
Parasite Eve was an action JRPG, with a fight system similar to Fallout 3’s VATS system
My final honourable mention is a real trip down the psychological horror genre.
This game is one of the darkest, creepiest, psychological horror games I’ve ever played. I wouldn’t recommend it for folks of a nervous disposition, but would totally recommend it for folks who love to be scared spoop-less.