Monday, March 16, 2015

Resident Evil for PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the August 1996 issue 

of EGM 2 (no. 26).

Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

“What a horrible night to have a curse”

The first Resident Evil arrived to North America in 1996 to great acclaim and well-earned fanfare. It’s normally attributed to have created the survival horror genre in the console market. I can’t dispute that claim. It is an excellent game that featured impressive graphics for the era, a great atmospheric soundtrack and the worst spoken dialogue ever known to the gaming world.

Now if you talk about Resident Evil you’ll have to talk about Alone in the Dark (1992), the legendary PC game that established the gameplay basis and general creepy atmosphere we all learned to love from the Evil series. 

I used to play Alone in the Dark with a friend of mine on his monstrous IBM PC in mid 90s and it was by far the hardest game we had ever known. We were of course playing it the wrong way! Just as Resident Evil, the Alone in the Dark series forces you to be intelligent with your choices. You can’t expect to enter a room and blast every enemy in sight. 

You won’t make it very far with the precious little ammo and scarce healing items at your disposal. And to this day, that has been the survival horror formula, a nice combination of limited action sequences combined with some puzzle elements and, above all, superb atmospheric triggers that slowly lure you into the storyline.

Personally, I have always preferred Silent Hill over Resident Evil. The first game in Silent Hill series is vastly superior to the first Resident Evil game in almost every way. Konami’s survival horror offering, released in 1999, made a wise choice in dropping the player in a very open-ended setting right from the beginning of the game. 

It’s a stark contrast from the the first Resident Evil (and RE 2, also) where cramped corridors and brutal enemies make for high suspense. The terrible gameplay of the first RE game heightened the suspense, albeit artificially. The same can’t be said about the first SH. Controls were much, much tighter, as well as the voice acting of the cutscenes

I’m obviously in the minority here. Resident Evil was one the first big hits on the Playstation. Shinji Mikami made Capcom very happy. During the first years the system, the first RE and the Director’s Cut version had sold almost 9 million copies. A monster hit by any standard. The incredible amount of sequels and dino-spinoffs have only solidified that initial effort by Mikami and his team.

And following the overall quality of the first RE game, the printed ad you see here strafes accordingly to the game original box-art (below). The advertisement leaves the game with a curious sense of ambiguity. A blurry eye is the only thing that focuses the players attention. There are some screen shots at the bottom of the page, but they reveal little of the product. Maybe someone who had played the original Alone in Dark could have seen some resemblance to that game, but that’s highly improbable. No. This is more dramatic, more attention-grabbing. Just like the game itself.

Another printed ad for the game appeared the same year as the original, just after the first reviews of the game and just in time for the Christmas holiday season. This a horizontal two-page spread with great placement of the scary elements you encounter in the game. The copy is minimal and the really scary stuff is correctly placed at in the right-hand, where your eyes will naturally gravitate because of the white light source behind the creepy dude coming towards you. This is high quality marketing. Superb design. The complete atmosphere of the game is transmitted through the ad.

Yet another ad of the game was first featured in the May 1996 issues of various video game magazines. The copy stated "Answers are found in darkest corners of the estate cemetery, crumbling guest houses, and a mysterious tower".  Avid gamers noticed that none of these locations appeared in the final version of the game. 

According to the January 1997 issue of GamePro, this was a marketing faux pas: "Those locations are mentioned on the game box, too, not just in the ad. Actually, you have seen them in the game, though they're not exactly as described. A curstomer-service rep at Capcom told us that the company that created the ad wrote the ad copy about two months before the game was finished in order to meet magazine deadlines. Unfortunately, Residente Evil went through a lot of changes in the last month  before it was released on March 29, 1996, and among those sites changed were the cemetery, guest house, and tower. According to the rep, the game has no formal cemetery, but there is a single grave; the 'crumbling guest house' is the guard's house; and the tower mentioned in the ad became the lab. Capcom doesn't consider the ad a misrepresentation of Resident Evil because the sites mentioned in the ad do appear, just with different names, and the programmers were only making these last-minute changes in order to perfect the game." 

I suppose Capcom changed their ads after their own game designers noticed the changes. Countries like the USA institute harsh penalties against companies for false or misrepresented products through ads. So the ad change, although a footnote in video game history, most probably saved Capcom a fortune in lawsuits. 

Resident Evil for PlayStation print ad copy (vertical)

If the suspense doesn’t kill you, something else will.

From hyper-realistic 3D lighting to an ominous CD quality soundtrack, this twisted blood-bath’s terror and suspense builds with every new room you explore.

Resident Evil


Resident Evil for PlayStation print ad copy (horizontal)

If these walls could talk, they'd scream.

  • Are you ready for a nightmare? Resident Evil brings and entirely new style of game where intrigue and fright plague the player from start to finish. It is a must have.- EGM
  • (Five Stars) Revolutionary. With liberal amounts of action, challenging gameplay smooth control, and plenty of gaming scores, this is one game nobody should be without.- NEXT Generation
  • This terrifying tale leaves you quaking in your shoes, and its breathtaking graphics and riveting gameplay will lure you back time after time.- GamePro

Resident Evil

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