We dig deep into Capcom’s ‘Dino Crisis’ and explore where the series could next find success
We’ve spent a lot of time on Resident Evil this week—and rightfully so—but one of the more interesting developments to arise from the games’ success was another series entirely. In 199X, Resident Evil’s director, Shinji Mikami decided to extend his good will at Capcom by creating another survival horror series for the PlayStation, Dino Crisis. The title would mimic much of Resident Evil’s trademark aesthetic while swapping out the series’ iconic zombies with ravenous dinosaurs. It was a shift for survival horror that honestly made a lot of sense. Resident Evil was just about to see the release of Nemesis at this point, and even then fatigue towards zombies was beginning to be felt. Dinosaurs are arguably more frightening and calculated than zombies, making them a wonderful enemy. Yet in spite of these things, Dino Crisis would go on to be the Futurama to Resident Evil’s The Simpsons, living a brief, uneven console life.
Shinji Mikami, the integral voice in shaping the genre of survival horror, became inspired with the idea for Dino Crisis by The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Aliens. It’s easy to see these influences in the material, with the title having more of an onslaught feeling evocative of Cameron’s film than the original Resident Evil does. Due to the constant, quicker, more intelligent threat that dinosaurs provided, the game was even billed as “panic horror” as opposed to “survival horror.” Mikami even wanted to go further with the AI of his dinosaurs, resembling something closer to the Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation, appropriately enough, but the goal fell short due to hardware limitations.
Mikami described both of his series and how they differ in a pretty astute way. If Resident Evil is “horror in a funhouse” then he compared Dino Crisis to the “horror on a rollercoaster,” and that’s a perfect way of putting it. The title still carries a lot of Resident Evil staples, like your limited inventory and ammo, unlocking and backtracking through rooms, the classic transitory loading screens between areas, or Resident Evil’s B-movie script work, like a run in with a Tyrannosaurus where you utter, “Oh man, this is just what I don’t need!” In spite of dinosaurs sometimes lending themselves to a large open world, Dino Crisis retained Resident Evil’s claustrophobic, indoor setup. Interestingly enough, Dino Crisis did really well! This doesn’t start off as some story of it being a neglected, misunderstood gem. Critics and audiences alike loved Dino Crisis’ insanity with the game garnering a 9.2 from IGN and it selling over 2.4 million copies (it’s also the 18th best selling game in Capcom’s library). Not only that, but a lot of people were praising the game for revamping the survival horror genre in a genuinely exciting way.
Another thing that the Dino Crisis games do really well in a way that feels different than Resident Evil is the scope of these boss fights. No question, Resident Evil has some very grandiose battles, but these games (particularly Dino Crisis 2) have you taking things on like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, an inspired underwater battle with a Plesiosaurus, or the humongous “Gigantosaurus” that caps off the sequel (and involves the help of a freaking satellite to help take down). The games excel at making you genuinely worried when you face up against these guys, bewildered at how you’re supposed to win.
This universal acclaim unsurprising led to the title seeing a sequel in 2000 with Dino Crisis 2, with Shu Takumi, Dino Crisis’ main planner picking up the directing torch from Mikami.. But before looking at the series’ sequel, Capcom embraced Mikami’s new world in a number of ways. For instance, their light gun side series, Gun Survivor has focused on Resident Evil for its first two entries, but the third one was an encouraging Dino Crisis spinoff that would pull from its first two titles. Dinosaurs are a natural fit for light gun craziness and Dino Stalker was a gesture of good faith towards the series at least, even if it largely might go unrecognized. Beyond that, with the release of Sega Dreamcast’s, it was big news that the next Resident Evil title, Code: Veronica would be exclusively appearing on the console. To prepare for this Capcom ported all of the Resident Evil titles over to the system, but they also ported Dino Crisis along with it. While the Dreamcast version might be a hard relic to track down, it potentially could have helped the franchise if the title had been a best seller. And seriously, can you imagine some Code: Veronica-esque Dino Crisis game on the Dreamcast? I’d have lost my mind.
Dino Crisis 2 also went on to impress critics and audiences alike, being cited as an even more innovative title to the genre than its predecessor. Dino Crisis 2 does take things outside, but also injects a heavy dose of adrenaline into the series by heavily amping up the action-adventure factor (which honestly makes sense with dinosaurs). There’s even a point system in place for flashy kills. This too would be a move that Resident Evil would resort to, but it’d take them until Resident Evil 4 to realize the transition. Dino Crisis was mixing things up right out of the gate. The game went on to sell 1.19 million copies and receive a 9.3 from IGN, and while it didn’t see the rampant success of the first game, it was still undeniably a triumph. That’s why it’s so puzzling that after the release of Dino Stalker, the series largely lied as dead as the dinosaurs themselves. Resident Evil games kept happening and yet there was no Dino Crisis 3 when there was every reason to be.
In a supremely puzzling move, Dino Crisis did end up seeing its third game, albeit three years later and on the XBOX. Disappointingly, Dino Crisis 3 was rebooted as a third-person shooter, and one that is set in space, no less (a decision that the XBOX would also do with Turok, strangely enough). The title was unsurprisingly without any of the original creative teams, and largely removed what people loved about the games in the first place (although I can dig the two-headed Gigantosaurus). This was just loudly killing dinosaurs without any of the charm and depth of the previous titles. People didn’t just want to kill dinosaurs, they wanted another Dino Crisis. It’s a shame that this pale imitation ended up landing on a lot of “Worst Sequel” lists of the year, too. The XBOX was relatively barren in the area of survival horror at the time, and this could have been a great opportunity in the area rather than just adding to the wealth of shooters that cluttered the system.
Even in other areas Dino Crisis has remained suspiciously absent. Crossover fighting games like the Marvel Vs Capcom and Project X Zone have made some reasonably deep cut inclusions, yet there have been barely any reminders of Regina, Dylan, or anyone from the Dino Crisis world. The only outside inclusion is when Regina appeared in the RPG, Namco X Capcom, but so do the protagonists from Resident Evil: Dead Aim, which hardly makes it feel as special. Something like this could at least get the games back on people’s radars before trying to initiate a bigger move, or maybe they’d learn that these characters thrive in a fighting game environment.
It’s easy to chalk up Dino Crisis disappearing from Capcom’s slate due to the failure that Dino Crisis 3 saw, but that doesn’t mean that people are through with the series or that they’ve found the right vehicle for the franchise. The original Dino Crisis games have sold well on the PlayStation Store, which certainly attests to interest being out there, too. Perhaps taking the series online like Resident Evil did with Outbreak and is soon to do with Umbrella Corps would be a better fit for the franchise. At least give it a shot. Capcom seems to be all about putting out interest polls and weighing support from the crowd, so why not test the waters again?
Along those lines, why not even follow up with an HD re-release of the original. Such an approach could kill, and it was such a huge success when Resident Evil re-released their original title on the Gamecube. At this point Capcom is running out of RE games to give an HD makeover, so why not shift their focus towards Dino Crisis? This could do even better than REmake did, and picture some crimson head equivalent to a raptor chasing you down!
Dino Crisis might have lost its place in the survival horror pantheon, but if given the opportunity, who knows what they could achieve in the current gaming climate. The series claw was forced in a direction that it really didn’t want to go in, and if they let the series really embrace its roots they would no doubt have a hit on their hands. If Jurassic World can come out over fifteen years after Jurassic Park 3 and set box office world records in the process, then there’s still plenty of hope for the crazy folks within Dino Crisis.