In case the recent coverage hasn’t clued you in, today marks 20 years since Resident Evil 2 lurched onto the PlayStation. And in a rare case of a sequel improving upon the original, RE2 surpassed the original game in almost every aspect. In fact, before Capcom reinvented the series with Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 2 was the highest-selling entry in the series (over six million copies on the PS1 alone). Of course, longtime fans of the series know that RE2 originally started out much differently.
Now before you jump on me and say that we’ve done this article before regarding Resident Evil 1.5 (which we have), consider this next bit an addendum. And who doesn’t love more Resident Evil 2 talk?
Fans probably know the story by now: After the success of Resident Evil, Capcom decided to immediately begin work on a sequel a month after the first game’s release in 1996. Director Hideki Kamiya and producer Shinji Mikami were back to helm the game, but soon found themselves at odds with what the sequel was going to be like. Mikami wanted to end the series at two games, whereas Kamiya was, well, Kamiya (anyone who follows his Twitter knows he’ll block users for asking repeat or “stupid” questions).
Around 80% of this version of RE2 was completed before a new writer came in, and the entire project was scrapped. Many of the assets and features had to also be scrapped. Among them, the feature of having visible damage appearing on your character from attacks (which would have been revolutionary at the time), as well as a much different layout of the RPD building. As a way of compensating fans, Capcom released an enhanced version of the original game called Resident Evil: Director’s Cut in September 1997, which was also initially bundled with a playable demo of RE2.
Once RE2 was released, it was a massive hit. Backed by a $5 million advertising campaign, upon its release, the game sold 380,000 copies and grossed US$19 million. It actually generated more revenue than all but one film that weekend (James Cameron’s Titanic), and broke sales records held by Final Fantasy VII and Super Mario 64. Subsequent re-releases and ports followed, including a DualShock version for the PS1 to take advantage of the then-new DualShock analog controllers.
Possibly the most unique feature of the game is the “Zapping System”, where depending on which scenario you play and complete first, unlocks the other character’s second scenario, in which the events of the game are depicted from the other character’s perspective. For example, if you complete Leon’s first scenario (Leon A) and save that data, you unlock Claire’s second scenario (Claire B). Items taken or left in either Claire A or Leon A will affect the other character’s B scenario.
One huge improvement over the original RE is the graphics. No longer do we have the same-looking zombies patrolling a mansion. We now have zombies of all sorts (including some naked ones), and the number of zombies onscreen was upped to seven. To offset the inevitable shock value of the zombies, fans were introduced to The Licker (in a memorable way to boot), which is still terrifying even now. Instead of the visible wounds feature, Claire and Leon were made to limp slowly upon receiving heavy damage.
Music was also boosted. No longer did we have the pithy MIDI sounds of the original. Now the soundtrack was helmed by Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama and Syun Nishigaki. The trio worked on conveying “desperation” as the underlying theme, and it definitely reflected it. If you have a chance, track down “Bio Hazard Orchestra Album”, which has notable tracks (including the save room music) being performed by the New Japan Philharmonic.
Of course, being that it’s the 20th anniversary, the talk of that announced remake back in 2015 remains high. Capcom has been teasing something over the past week, whether it’s just the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil 2, or it’s the impending reveal of the actual remake. No one’s said anything directly as of yet, but regardless, there’s something on the way.