Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Resident Evil 2‘s release. Twenty years ago RE2 came out and cemented Capcom’s survival horror series as a premier video game franchise. When the original Resident Evil released in 1996, it made waves, but it was the second game that perfected the formula that would serve the series almost ten years until Resident Evil 4 revamped the playstyle.
While the game hasn’t aged well, especially the controls, Resident Evil 2 still gives me chills playing it. When it released on January 21, 1998, I was nine-years-old, and my mom bought it for me the day it came out. I hadn’t played the first game at that point and picked it out from what I saw from previews in GamePro and EGM, and TV commercials.
None of that could prepare my tiny kid mind for how blown it was going to be by RE2. When I was that age Final Fantasy 7 was the darkest game I’d played thus far, and the claustrophobia of the RPD and Umbrella labs and the bloodshed and carnage freaked me out like none other. I spent more than one sleepless night startled by every creak and crack the house made. I had the Prima Unauthorized Strategy guide, and I still remember the Van Gogh-esque, melancholy zombie on the front of it, and how I opened it from the back because that image scared the crap out of me.
Resident Evil 2 was the first genuinely frightening experience I had with a video game, and it’s evident that Producer Shinji Mikami, Director Hideki Kamiya, and the rest of the development team did what they set out to do. From the blood-splattered pre-rendered backgrounds that showed the destroyed Raccoon City in visual fidelity that the polygons of the time couldn’t, to the haunting soundtrack, RE2’s various elements come together to give the game an incredible weight. Even now, 20 years after I first played it, the game gives me a tight feeling in my chest, and I still play with the lights on.
With the way RE5 and RE6 completely departed from survival horror into an increasingly goofy action game, I thought the series was doomed to fizzle out, a husk of its former greatness. However, last year’s Resident Evil 7: Biohazard brought back that old feeling in spades. The series seems like it’s back on track again with survival horror gameplay instead of gunplay and over-the-top action.
With how successful RE7 was it’s great to see Capcom is planning a remake of RE2. Out of all the adventures in the Resident Evil universe, Leon and Claire’s haunting escape from Raccoon City is still my favorite, and I can’t wait to travel the dark streets leading up to the false salvation of the RPD again. With a recent hint from Capcom R&D Dev 1 concerning Resident Evil, it looks like we might get some news about the much-anticipated remake soon, so hopefully, we’ll get to re-enter the world of survival horror that continues to haunt and terrify 20 years after release.