It's no secret that I'm a really big fan of the Resident Evil franchise. I have been since that first game dropped on PS1 back in the day and blew my little teenage mind. I've been fairly obsessed with the series ever since. Sure, the main series is huge. And I love 1 and 4 so, so much like everyone else. But I'm also a big fan of the oddball side games. For instance Code Veronica and the Revelations games. Heck, I've even been known to praise the PT Anderson movies. Seriously.
Back in my really hardcore GB collection days, I also highly praised Resident Evil Gaiden - a GBC color game that nobody really had much to say about at the time. The story goes that Capcom wanted to actually port the original RE to GBC and it wasn't working out, so they instead hired an outside developer to do so. Apparently, (and according to Unseen64), M4 was working on a Dino Crisis game at the time, and Capcom had them shift the project over to be a new RE game.
The resulting, Resident Evil Gaiden has gone on to gain a bit of a reputation as a bad RE game. And even Capcom themselves have called it non-canon, which - why? I mean, even as a huge fan, who can really keep track of the canon stuff? And how important is the story REALLY? I say this as a guy who bought Umbrella Corps day one, too.
If you're not aware, RE Gaiden is a very, very different RE experience. You walk in an overhead perspective, sort of like classic Metal Gear (the NES game). And when you confront zombies, you switch to a first person perspective where attacks are based on a timed gauge not unlike your average retro golf game. It's... unique. To say the least.
That said, I just dumped two hours into it again after more than a decade, and I'm pleased to say that my memory isn't completely rose tinted. Gamers tend to crap on this one, but honestly, I think it's pretty cool.
First of all, you're playing as Barry. Cool. Second of all, it takes entirely on a boat. Also a cool setting. Third of all, feeling akin to Metal Gear is fine with me. Now, in fairness, evading zombies - which I think is the goal - doesn't work all that well. And frankly, it's hard to know if it really IS the best route anyway, since sometimes they drop important items like keys you need to progress.
The battle system is... not perfect. I'll admit that. But it works. It adds a bit of tension anyway.
But there's cool stuff here. You have three characters to play as (eventually). And the visuals are solid for a GBC game. Truthfully, I find myself leaning into GBC more than ever lately. GB games are great - no doubt. But also very basic visually, which can hurt when I'm playing on my Retron 5. GBA games are also great, as they feel like an extension of the SNES, but - I don't know. GBC games feel like souped up NES games that were still getting released into the year 2000.
Like, in some ways, RE Gaiden feels like a NES Resident Evil game. It's far from perfect, but it's interesting. If anything, this game is the closest the RE series ever got to playing proper tribute to Sweet Home.
Also, the cut scenes are fantastic. Not the dialogue, mind. But the visuals are great. The weird biological zombie mutant weapon thing you're hunting? He's got this crazy Lovecraft thing going on, and it's all presented in glorious NES inspired cut scenes. I like it.
Currently, I've gained Lucia as a second character, and I'm trying to find Leon. And I'm having a good time. So I still stand by recommendation that this is a slept on RE game. Not perfect, but slept on.
In that way, it reminds me a lot of the Revelations games. Not AS GOOD - so don't misquote me. But I do feel like the two Revelations were released with little fanfare and kind of slid under the radar, even though they were excellent games. Also, the first Revelations takes place on a boat, which makes it feel like a throwback to this one.
After putting in another hour or so, I've made more progress here. I have Leon in my party, which is cool since, y'know, he's the dude actually on the box art.
But here's the tricky part - this is an old school RE game in heart. Meaning, while it is certainly more linear that your early numbered RE's, it is still very limited on both ammo and healing items. This can be a real problem given that it seems like zombies keep regenerating, and they're tough to avoid often.
So now I've put myself in a tough spot. Or, I've put my save in a tough spot. I've picked up some decent weapons and all, but I'm just straight up outnumbered. It's hard to get to where I need to go next while avoiding confrontation. "Running" away from a battle is also achieved via the rhythm mini game thing as shooting is, only it seems harder to pull off. And no matter what doors I peer through, I seem to find that I've already picked up the ammo/herbs in each room, though there ARE more zombies to attack me.
I still hold by all my defenses of this game. I think it's unfairly maligned. Or at least I think it's way better and more intersting than it's given credit for. That said, I think it also kind of needs to be played with a walkthrough so you at least know which rooms can be avoided because there's nothing worth finding in them, thus, the zombie attack inside isn't worth it.