The Future Of Resident Evil’s Past

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Capcom seems to be pleased with the digital sales of its latest Resident Evil HD remaster which already has fans giddy. I think I want to put out what I’d like to call some realistic expectations for how Capcom might or might not build on this.

Mostly, my expectations are based on what Capcom is actually willing to do from a technology and production standpoint. It’s a little easier to see what potential re-releases might do better commercially, but it’s definitely not as easy as flipping an “HD remaster” switch on any given game, especially when you’re talking about games this old.

Let me just go ahead and start by saying I don’t think a remaster or remake of Resident Evil 2 is going to happen. I really do think that boat sailed when the 2002 Gamecube version of the original game didn’t sell enough to finance the sequel remake. I think there are other games we’ll see long before Capcom seriously talks about going back to RE2.

The new optimism is understandable. The recent remaster of that Gamecube game became the top-selling PlayStation game of January 2015 and Capcom’s fastest-selling western digital release ever. This probably will encourage Capcom to do more retro digital releases. It’s just a matter of figuring out which ones.

I was honestly surprised when Capcom announced the 2002 Resident Evil. With most 3D games you can figuratively flip a switch to turn up the internal resolution and get a free increase in image clarity. Most remasters only have to touch up the user interface and maybe some textures to complete the look. Resident Evil however is built on pre-rendered backgrounds that Capcom needed to retouch one-by-one. Reviews of the game note the results show varying degrees of success. There’s only so much you can do with what were essentially 640×480 JPGs.

The much older Resident Evil 2 faces the same problem but probably worse. I’m pretty sure all the backgrounds in 1998 were made for something like 320×240 resolution, 640×480 at most. If it’s the former, that’s about half as much detail Capcom would have to touch up and blow up to 1440×1080 (what 4:3 looks like in 1080p). Furthermore, there’s a huge quality difference between Capcom’s 1998 CG backgrounds and its 2002 CG backgrounds. An RE2 remaster simply wouldn’t look as good, not to mention what those PS1 character models would look like today. The Gamecube game is in kind of a unique position because its character models and backgrounds looked uncharacteristically good for their day and hold up remarkably well. There’s a reason almost all HD remasters start at the PS2 era and no one has remastered a game from earlier than the Dreamcast.

Basically none of RE2’s art assets are reusable at today’s resolutions, and a complete remake of the same visual fidelity as what Capcom just released would basically be an entire new game production-wise. Doing everything from the ground-up would likely warrant a full $60 price tag. People would have paid $50 for a sequel remake back in the Gamecube era but I don’t think enough people would today. I think the only way Capcom would justify the production cost would be with a complete retelling of RE2 with more modern action gameplay like Resident Evil 6 or Revelations. A Final Fantasy VII remake would encounter all the same challenges.

How do I think Capcom is more likely to respond to these sales? Resident Evil 0 and Code Veronica X. An RE0 remaster would require basically the same amount of work Capcom put into the RE1 remaster. It’s just a matter of how well they think it’ll sell compared to RE1. The easiest re-release of all would be Code Veronica X on Steam, which would probably require about the same amount of work as Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition, if that. It doesn’t use any pre-rendered backgrounds and Capcom already did the legwork in the recent PS3 and Xbox 360 remaster. I also wouldn’t be surprised if RE4UHD found its way onto the PS4 and Xbox One.

For people still hoping for RE2, at least there’s the Unreal Engine remake that cleverly uses the assets from Darkside Chronicles. I’m still wondering what happened to that Fallout 3 mod.

BULLETS:

  • I’m a bit surprised Castle in the Darkness is getting the attention it is. It’s a lot like Shovel Knight but doesn’t have a console version. Maybe actually finding a publisher had something to do with it.
  • Fairune II is coming to 3DS. http://t.co/9xgFFExDpr
  • I didn’t know Joseph Jacobs was into Pokemon remixes. https://t.co/INNhs9RQK5
  • Somebody made a fan mod sequel to the Penumbra series. http://t.co/QfGaTYcWVC
  • Remembering Dean Smith… http://t.co/SOsT5rSPev
  • Very good rant about what’s happened to the selection of games on Steam. http://t.co/OAWq6JYKO5
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