Announced after months of rumors, Resident Evil Zero is an N64-specific prequel to Capcom's survival-horror series, developed by Yoshiki Okamoto's Flagship group.
The story takes place shortly before the events in the first Resident Evil. You take the role of Rebecca Chambers, the rookie member of the S.T.A.R.S. special police unit, who was seen in the original RE. You will also be able to take the role of another character - Billy Cohen. A former Navy Seal, he was accused of mass murder and managed to escape while being transported to prison. Players will be able to switch between Rebecca and Billy anytime during gameplay.
Notably, in Resident Evil Zero, there won't be item boxes for storing your items, but you'll be able to exchange items between the two playable characters. In RE Zero, you'll pick up an item and leave behind another from your inventory if you can't carry all of them.
The game begins and spends a majority of the story inside a railroad train. Yoshiki Okamoto had commented that this will be the most difficult Resident Evil of the series, and has been quoted as saying, "I wanted to unravel some of the unsolved mysteries, such as the existence of Umbrella, how the Bravo team was wiped out, and a couple of more others that weren't resolved."
Resident Evil Zero for the Nintendo 64 is coming soon to Japan, but release date, pricing, and US availability are not yet known.
Jeff Gerstmann's impressions:
While screenshots of the latest N64-only Resident Evil game have been making the rounds recently, Biohazard Zero made its official, playable debut at the Tokyo Game Show. While the game is currently listed as 20 percent complete, it already looks as if it contains the same spooky survival-horror action that has made the series so popular. In the version shown on the show floor, you play as S.T.A.R.S. member Rebecca, who is stuck on a train full of - you guessed it - flesh-eating zombies and oh-so-evil dogs. Luckily, Rebecca is strapped with her standard-issue pistol. And as if the threat of undead beasts weren't bad enough, Rebecca will also have to worry about an escaped criminal, who just so happens to be on the train that makes up the bulk of the version shown here at TGS.
When dealing with as many static images as the RE series has to deal with, the cartridge format used by the N64 is a possible issue. But so far, the backgrounds, consisting mostly of train cars, look quite good. The animation is standard Resident Evil fare, as is the already-campy English dialogue.
So it looks as if Capcom isn't planning to stray far from the gameplay and graphical style of the other Resident Evil games with Biohazard 0. But will fans of the series find enough to like, or will the game simply feel like more of the same? We'll have to wait and see.
Mark MacDonald's impressions:
A prequel to the Resident Evil series, Biohazard (Resident Evil) Zero takes place the day before the original Resident Evil and centers around Rebecca Chambers (a side character in RE1) and Billy Coen, a military officer who was court-martialed and sentenced to death for killing two officers. Although the demo only let us play as Rebecca, in the final game you will be able to control both characters, trading items and switching between them on the fly.
The 20-percent-complete version at the show took place entirely on a train and featured the standard RE elements: plenty of zombies, green herbs, keys, and ammo boxes scattered about, with prerendered backgrounds and real-time characters and cutscenes. There was one new feature RE fans will find worth noting: You can drop items! Finally!
Visually, the game looked on par with the N64 version of RE2, but with a few sore points, namely some stiff animation and slowdown at one point when two zombie dogs attacked Rebecca. However, we played an early version, and there's no reason to believe the game won't be up to the level of the RE2 cart by the time it's finished. There is no release date yet for Biohazard Zero.
[Editor's note: These impressions are based on the N64 version of the game shown at Spring TGS 2000. Resident Evil Zero is now confirmed for release on Nintendo's GameCube.]