One of the many things I found myself jabbering about during my Resident Evil 2 Revisit stream event … alpha dash plus special champion edition X… last week was the mythical original version of Resident Evil 2; known in the Resi-community (Resiumity?) as “Resident Evil 1.5”.
I also rambled about many other things and I’m likely to further unpack the four hour streaming experience in my February editorial – but overall it was super positive!
Having reflected on the whole experience I keep coming back to my thoughts about RE1.5 and more generally how the ‘Resident Evil’ universe (Resiverse?) seems to be littered with unfinished games. It’s not unusual for a game to be quite different upon release to versions shown in expos or early trailers; there’s often content cut or concepts significantly revised, but Resident Evil has a history of entirely scrapping versions of games to either be abandoned forever or for designers to pick over as they scavenge for usable morsels of content. I guess, given the sheer volume of work under the Resident Evil banner, it’s not too surprising and I think many fans of the series would argue that some of the titles that were released should have by rights also ended up on the cutting room floor (I’m looking at you Umbrella Corps).
In honour of these lost games, I’ve decided to run down five of them that I would love to have had the chance to see, either finished or even in their primitive states, and for those who are interested there is a pretty comprehensive list of these unfinished titles over on the Resident Evil Wiki which is where I’ve picked up a good chunk of the information about these games.
5. Devil May Cry
Erm… yeah, so, I know what you’re thinking; Devil May Cry was released and it is not a Resident Evil game. That’s true, but quite famously it did begin its development life as Resident Evil 4. The fourth iteration of the series had a distinctly bumpy development cycle with at least three abandoned versions that fans know about not including Devil May Cry or the version that was finally released. It seems as though Capcom’s transition to a more action heavy Resi-title wasn’t smooth, but given that number 4 is where many fans joined the series and is often hailed as a classic, it seems as though in the long term it was worth the effort.
Very little has ever been said about how far along the development track Capcom were with RE4 before it morphed in to the then new IP Devil May Cry. I suspect that it all happened early in at the concept stage and that it wasn’t so much of a transition as realising that the style just wasn’t right for a RE game, but that it could form the basis of its own new franchise. I guess my curiosity lies in knowing what the overall vision for the game was? Were the S.T.A.R.S. members going to engaged in aerial acrobatics? Were they all going to be kitted out with broadswords? I guess the most logical answer was that there was the idea of an improved melee system for the games given how redundant the knife was in the original trilogy and that this somehow morphed in to a fast paced 3D brawler. The final release of Devil May Cry has very few telltale indicators that it was ever considered as a Resident Evil game; arguably the only hint is the use of panning and tracking semi-fixed cameras that are very similar to those in ‘Resident Evil Code Veronica’ and the slight nod in the violence warning of the opening screens.
4. Resident Evil 1.5
I guess given its infamy you might have expected this to be in the top spot, but it’s not necessarily a game I think Capcom should release despite personally being quite curious about it.
You don’t have to look too far online to find well documented accounts of how 1.5 differed from the eventual incarnation of Resident Evil 2; and that was before an early build ROM of the game was leaked online some years ago. Amongst Resi-fans there was a campaign for Capcom to release the game and even a strong fanmade attempt to re-assemble the mostly broken ROM into something playable (ie. get items to work properly and put locations together in a sensible order) before that too fell apart due to infighting within the team.
Rumoured to be up to 80% complete before development was eventually halted forcing designers went back to the start line, this version of Resident Evil 2 had some elements that would be shared with the final release. The male protagonist was RPD cop Leon S. Kennedy and both William & Sherry Birkin still featured. Instead of Claire Redfield players would take control of Eliza Walker; a biker clad in racing leathers.
The cited reason for it being halted at this late stage is generally given as it just not being very good. Early play-testing was pretty mediocre and presumably the developers thought that problems were so fundamental that they may as well take an axe to it and start again. The production delay reportedly forced Capcom to release the Director’s Cut version of the original game (with bundled Resident Evil 2 demo) so something good came out of the halted development. I spent many hours in the early days of the internet trawling pages and message boards for information about this mystical Resident Evil 1.5 and I guess that trickle of information coupled with game footage, having been shown at expos, turned it in to a mystery for fans to embrace. In the cold light of day however I wouldn’t trade the final release of Resident Evil 2 for anything and I guess Capcom knew that releasing it would only be a disappointment; that’s why it was axed in the first place.
3. Resident Evil for GameBoy Colour
Another relatively famous cancelled Resident Evil was this GBC version which looks both terrible and amazing. Again fairly far through development at the time it was axed, it was reportedly a complete recreation (pretty much) of the original game on the game boy colour using sprite based graphics.
.. sure, sprite based graphics that look like they were knocked up in MS Paint…
Aiming and the perception of any depth must’ve been difficult, likewise gameplay videos show it being pretty jerky especially when it comes to character turning. There also must’ve been a monumental number of sprites for each character to accommodate viewing from the different fixed camera views, at different distances, and in different orientations so despite its primitive appearance it was an ambitious title for such an early handheld.
A Resident Evil title for GBC would be released, but it was the non-canon “Resident Evil Gaiden” featuring Barry Burton. It is generally considered to be a reasonable title although it moved to a top down experience that would break for a first person QTE style screen for zombie combat. The original wouldn’t officially make it on to a Nintendo handheld until Deadly silence was released for the DS.
I know that I would love to have had a version… even a primitive weird version... of Resident Evil to play on the go.
2. Resident Evil Outbreak: File #3
After finally getting around to playing Outbreak late last year, I was drawn in by the concept (setting aside some gameplay niggles and awkward AI companions). A Set of Resident Evil shorts, mini-scenarios… Residenettas?… is a concept that resonated with the part of me that love short stories. The freedom to introduce the player to a self-contained new area of Raccoon City or even to explore some regions further that featured in the larger outings is a great idea. Being able to play through one of these scenarios in an hour with teammates only adds to the experience and it’s disappointing that the multiplayer is no longer an option.
File #3 is the name given collectively to the unused bits of Outbreak that were developed but not included in either of the released files, and it’s not too much of a stretch to believe that Capcom did have a third instalment’s worth of content ready and waiting if the first two had been big successes. After all you can only expect players to survive the 5 scenarios on each disk so many times before wanting more content. In all 18 outbreak scenarios were developed, 10 were used in the released titles leaving 8 unused settings which included a pier, motel, and high-school. Along with that there was also a handful of unused characters, enemies, and even a demo-ed 4 player split screen mode to eliminate the need for the PS2 network adaptor.
1. Resident Evil 4: Hallucination Version
So, I’m notoriously not a huge fan of Resident Evil 4 (you can read about that elsewhere) and that’s mostly because I felt it strayed too far from the series roots; the pacing, the fixed camera angles, the spooky enclosed Gothic buildings.
It’s not surprising then that I would like to have seen some of the unreleased versions of Resident Evil 4 taken to completion. Known collectively as the Castle/Fog, Hallucination, and Zombie versions, the released footage showed a much more traditional Resident Evil approach. The Fog version is arguably the most well known and very little information exists about the Zombie version, but it is the Hallucination version that captures my imagination.
Set in some kind abandoned stately home it uses similar semi-fixed cameras to Code Veronica and features Leon Kennedy in a ludicrously collared bomber jacket. The plot was reportedly that Leon had been infected with some virus and was hallucinating the enemies and demonic forces he saw around the mansion. I guess the game would have shown his descent further in to these hallucinations and I guess in a way some of these elements were reborn in aspects of Resident Evil VII. Most of the known information is based on a single gameplay demonstration, but it certainly looks scary and distinctly stylish with a graphical smoothness that I’m sceptical could’ve been achieved on the GameCube.
Thanks for Reading and have a Happy Resident Evil 2 Remake Weekend if that’s what you’re up to!
I’d like to humbly submit this to the Resident Evil Memories project over on “that Green Dude!” check it out if you haven’t already!
P.S. If you are interested in the weird and wonderful world of Resident Evil ports and bizarre titles then check out these videos by Stop Skeletons From Fighting in their Punching Weight series because they’re super interesting!