Resident Evil Archives Hands On

The title that launched a thousand zombie games is heading to the Wii with all-new controls.

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It's sometimes hard to believe that the game that kicked off the whole franchise is 13 years old and yet Resident Evil is still finding new consoles to call a home, including yet another Nintendo platform. The Wii has already welcomed several Resident Evil titles to its stable, including the definitive version of Resident Evil 4 in addition to the decent Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and the upcoming Darkside Chronicles on-rails shooter.

Resident Evil is as scary as ever.
Resident Evil is as scary as ever.

In 2002 Capcom released a Resident Evil remake for the Nintendo GameCube, complete with a huge graphics overhaul, new controls, and new content in the way of added rooms, areas, items, defensive weapons, and creatures that weren't in the original. It's this version that will be ported to the Wii later in June, and it will be on a disc rather than available through the console's Virtual Console digital distribution channel. Given that the GameCube version was received as a brilliant re-creation of the original, fans of the series and those who never played the original may find that the Wii edition is the perfect excuse to give it a go.

In case you're unfamiliar with the original storyline, Resident Evil puts you in the shoes of two of the franchise's best-known characters, STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) agents Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (both recently seen in Resident Evil 5). The game's story takes place shortly after the first T-Virus outbreak in Raccoon City in 1998 at a presumably abandoned mansion outside the city. Playing as either Chris or Jill, you'll uncover the plot that the nefarious Umbrella Corporation has set in motion.

The game was originally planned only as a Japanese release, but Capcom is bringing its Wii port of Resident Evil to Western markets, complete with Wii-specific controls. The setup allows you to use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk or a Wii Remote by itself, and there's added support for the GameCube and Classic controllers. For better or worse, the remake has remained faithful to the original, and movement is mapped to forward/backward and turning, rather than simply moving in whichever direction you point in. You have to turn using the left or right buttons on the D pad and then walk forward or backward along your current axis using up or down, which definitely now feels clunky and counterintuitive. If you use the remote and nunchuk together, the A button is used to attack or examine, B readies your weapon, and C adjusts your weapon sight or uses your defensive weapon--an addition for the GameCube remake. Jill gets a taser while Chris has grenades he can stuff into a zombie's mouth and shoot. Additionally, hitting down on the analog stick with Z executes a quick 180-degree turn, which is handy when you're snuck up on.

Welcome to the freak show!
Welcome to the freak show!

The graphics in Resident Evil Archive remain largely unchanged, and the dark, eerie mansion has as much atmosphere as it always did. Detailed paintings, chandeliers, busts, and statues stand out against the dank old household and the miserable weather outside. Character models and animations look solid, and there are some cool effects in there despite this being a game that's seven years old. The underworldly setting is accented by the moody background music, and those familiar with the series will be familiar with the solid voice acting. Resident Evil Archives is set for a June release in Europe and the US.

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