Dino Crisis fails to take advantage of the Dreamcast hardware, resulting in a game that is structurally sound but visually average by Dreamcast standards.
While the upcoming sequel to Dino Crisis is its own beast entirely, the original is so similar in theme and execution to Capcom's Resident Evil series that it seems more like a side story to Resident Evil than a new game altogether. Replace the zombies and lickers with raptors and tyrannosuars, and you have the general idea. With Capcom remaining one of the Dreamcast's most staunch supporters since the system's launch, it comes as little surprise that the original title has made the transition from the PlayStation to the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, Dino Crisis is an example of what can go wrong while porting a game from an underpowered system to a next-generation system.
Dino Crisis takes place on a secluded island where energy experiments have gone awry. You play as Regina, a member of a governmental special forces squad. You've been called in to take care of the situation and rescue any survivors, including the scientist behind the experiments, Dr. Kirk. As you proceed through the game, interaction with other teammates is plentiful. Many times your directives include a rendezvous with fellow team members or acquiring specific technologies. But for the most part, it's the same old survival-horror staples - finding keys, solving simple puzzles, pushing statues, and shooting enemies - that drive the game forward.
Throughout the game, you are confronted with branching paths that lead to different areas. While taking one path doesn't necessarily mean that you won't later stumble onto the other path, it does create a sense of freedom that most survival-horror titles do not bring to the table. It also results in a great deal of backtracking, which can become cumbersome once the levels have been cleared of dinos. Depending upon the quality of your performance, there are three separate endings and extra costumes that boost the replay value slightly. Dino Crisis' FMV sequences are excellent, as the T-rex is introduced from the very beginning, which causes an overlying tension throughout.
From the start it becomes clear that Dino Crisis for the Dreamcast is nearly identical to the PlayStation version. Considering the PlayStation version was generally well received, this may not immediately seem like such a bad thing. That is, until you realize that almost nothing at all has changed. Even the level design is identical to the PS version; there are no added rooms or improved environments of any sort. The only real changes in this port are graphical, and when compared with other Dreamcast software, Dino Crisis' visuals leave a great deal to be desired. The same low-poly character models have returned, along with their stiff movements and atrocious voice acting. This is especially painful while watching the real-time cinemas that appear frequently in the game. After having played through Capcom's excellent Dreamcast effort Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Dino Crisis is all the more disappointing. While the textures are clearer than before, the level of detail throughout the game has not been bumped up. There are no small nuances like insects crawling on the walls, and rounded, believable characters with improved textures are but a pipe dream. That's not to say that the graphics aren't improved, because they are. The texture warping that plagued the PS version is now a distant memory, and everything is much less pixelated and jagged looking.
The control is exactly what you'd expect from a Capcom survival-horror title in that the analog stick is completely forsaken in favor of the D-pad. This is mainly because of Dino Crisis' fixed camera angles. You cannot control the camera, and Regina, the game's protagonist, follows the same control scheme of pushing up on the D-pad to walk forward. The fixed camera angles help to build suspense by intentionally not showing you what is directly in front of Regina. While some of the control aspects were new to the survival-horror genre when the PlayStation version was released last year, the Dreamcast version's controls are identical to those of Code Veronica. You now have the spin-around move to allow your character to get moving in the other direction much more quickly, and you may walk with your weapon drawn. Luckily, the sound has remained untouched, as the moody soundtrack perfectly sets the tone, and the screams of the raptors get your heart pounding.
Dino Crisis fails to take advantage of the Dreamcast hardware, resulting in a game that is structurally sound but visually average by Dreamcast standards. There are some nail-biting moments and a few nice plot twists to enjoy, but overall Dino Crisis comes off as exactly what it is - a port from a lesser-powered console. While a little extra work on character models, lighting, and level detail could have made Dino Crisis a contender, as it stands, you're much better off buying Resident Evil: Code Veronica for your Dreamcast survival-horror fix. However, given Dino Crisis' value-minded price, those of you who haven't seen the PlayStation version yet would do well to check the Dreamcast version out.