Bio Hazard 2 Value Plus (バイオハザード2 バリュープラス)

Upon hearing the news that Resident Evil 2 (or Biohazard 2 as it is known in these parts) is destined for a remake and release on modern hardware I decided to go back and replay the original title on our beloved Dreamcast. It's a title that obviously holds a significant amount of nostalgia for those who first played around but does it hold up as impressively as it did in the day?

                   Once again the Japanese artwork is quite distinctive from the Western release
          
In Biohazard 2 the zombie outbreak of the first game is no longer simply contained within a mansion on a hill. Spreading through to the main town of Raccoon City with no sign of slowing down, the remaining S.T.A.R.S. members attempt to release the secret behind the sinister Umbrella Corporation to create global awareness about the virus. In reponse the company retaliated by releasing their latest toys in an effort to silence the team and the city. Almost all of the inhabitants of the city are then infected with a "T-Virus" (I just discovered the T stands for "Tyrant", hurrah!) transforming into flesh eating zombies and it’s in this dire situation in which the game begins.

The game includes a Leon, Claire and Code Veronica disc

 The inclusion of a Code Veronica demo was used heavily in the promotion

Essentially, the plotline altered based on the character you played and each one had a unique perspective of the same scenario. The main protagonist, Leon Kennedy is a rookie to the Raccoon Police Department's new Special Forces. He's extremely green and overzealous, especially when it comes to protecting other people, but essentially the archetypal good person. It isn't until the fourth game when he dons the brooding emo loner archetype that avoids women. He's also kind of dumb, as he oversleeps his first day on the job and ends up having his first Raccoon City police shift during the night, after the virus outbreak consumes the city.

                                        Was the ever a more classic select screen? 

Yet, pop in the second GD-rom disc into your Dreamcast and you get to experience another of the character's experiences during the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. Claire Redfield's story is about an ordinary person who is put into a bizarre situation while having to act as a guardian for a defenseless child. If this feels familiar, it's because her character and personality are a homage to Ellen Ripley from Aliens. Both heroines are forced to fight for their lives while acting as a mother figure to a child. Like Jill Valentine in the previous game, she is actually a real character who helps drive the story rather than serve as the feeble woman role that is often present in Hollywood horror.
Biohazard 2 was one of the earliest games to introduce a strong story and character development. It is highly admired because it introduced us to many memorable characters such as the aforementioned Leon and Claire, along with villains like Mr. X and those bloody annoying Lickers. Most important of all is that it established the foundation for the series to grow as time passed. While the original played out like a traditional horror film, Biohazard 2 allowed the series to grow by breaking away from conventions that would have held it back.

Possibly the most annoying enemies in the series

Biohazard 2 features the same gameplay mechanics that defined the original Biohazard. Puzzle solving and exploration are the main stay here. However, you also need to avoid the zombies and occasionally you'll be forced to take them out. Ammunition is scarce, so conserving ammo remains an essential skill.  Similar to its predecessor,accessing the status screen will show you your character's current health, items, and weapon and game saving is limited so you will need ink to store those ribbons scattered throughout the game in order to save.

                               Almost as dangerous as getting on a real bus in the UK

Compared to the first game, Biohazard 2 is not particularly difficult and is a breeze compared to the later Dreamcast title, Code Veronica. With intelligent weapon use and knowing when to leave enemies alone until later, you can kill nearly every enemy in the game and have more than enough ammo left over to nuke the bosses to hell and back. My guess is that Capcom knew what they did wrong with the original title, and adjusted it accordingly.

Visually Biohazard 2 is much improved thanks to its pre-rendered backgrounds as well as the variet in level design. Character animations and models are better looking and more fluid and the eerie sound effects and music match the scary, zombie-filled atmosphere the game presents. The voice acting, which is slightly improved over the original, is still as hilarious and has dated possibly more than any other aspect of the title.

           Some of the greatest acting in videogame history. And by greatest, I mean absoloutely dire.

The game remains great fun to play, but on playthrough in 2015 due to the relatively crude graphics, the horror aspect isn't really as apparent has how I recalled. Instead, it is the “Survival” part of the “Survival Horror” tagline that really sticks out and part of that comes from the lethal enemies and manual save system. As I mentioned earlier, players must hunt down ink ribbons and use them at typewriters scattered throughout the mansion in order to save and so this unique save system creates a real omnipresent risk. The bolder and possibly more stupid players are punished for waiting too long between saves, while cowards that compulsively save could run out of ink ribbons when they truly need them. The iconic “tank controls” which came about due to the series’ unique camera angles are the part of the game that have aged the least gracefully, but the limiting controls also add an extra element of challenge to the game, handicapping players in a way that ratchets up the tension.

                              The Dreamcast version featured an additional wardrobe collection

The Dreamcast version was released in 1999 in Japan under the moniker, "Biohazard 2 Value Plus." In essence it was an upgraded port of the PlayStation Dual Shock Version and contained all the mini games and secrets from the aforementioned version, unlocked from the beginning (4th Survivor, the Tofu Survivor and the Extreme Battle). The graphics were also cleaned up slightly with the resolution of the backgrounds chiefly improved and at a much higher resolution than even the latter GameCube version. Another interesting extra is that the Dreamcast's VMU screen was utilized to provide ammo and health information without having to go into the item screen; a very useful and time saving feature. The Japanese version also contained a trial version of Biohazard CODE: Veronica as well as music tracks from prior Biohazard games. This bonus disc was not included in the North American or PAL region versions.

Obviously, visually and mechanically the years have not been kind to Biohazard 2. Yet, while it may not be exactly the game we remember at launch, it is still to this day one of the quintessential classics of horror gaming, and has the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck (especially when you have as you try to outrun an eight-foot biological weapon in a trench coat). If you've ever wondered why gamers to this day complain about the direction the series has taken then all you need to do is play this game to understand. It's a masterpiece of the survival horror genre, and the caveat is that the quintessential version of the game can is on the Dreamcast.

Comments

  1. An excellent retrospective to one of my all time favorite games in the genre. Experienced this game for first time on Playstation and it left an impression on me. But once I played it on DC many years later, I just couldn't go back to the original port or any other version for that matter. The higher res cutscenes, cleaned up character models, the vmu feature and even DC controller itself felt like an improvement to an already stellar game.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment