The highly-anticipated Resident Evil 2 remake's is finally out and it's fantastic. I'm a huge fan of the 1998 original--alongside many lovely coworkers at GameSpot--and have countless fond memories playing it during my formative years. But amidst these memories were hours spent speculating upon the validity of a popular gaming hoax; the ability to play as Akuma in Resident Evil 2. That's right, the Akuma (or Gouki, if you're a Capcom purist)--the infamous top knotted practitioner of the Ansatsuken fighting style and well-known beaded necklace aficionado from Street Fighter. Though it began as a joke back in 1998, I'm crossing my fingers that Capcom puts Akuma in the remake. It's a longshot, but the iconic fighter's addition could prove a humorous and unexpected way to experience the horrors of Raccoon City.
The popular Akuma hoax was birthed into the Resident Evil 2 community thanks to the work of the now defunct Electronic Gaming Monthly spin-off magazine, EGM2. The publication's April issue "Trick of the Month" column stated that Akuma could be unlocked by typing "AKUMA" instead of "GUEST" on a laboratory computer located at the end of the game, allowing a new save file to be made where you could play him. However, to actually get this to work, EGM2 claimed you needed to first beat both Resident Evil 2 scenarios six times in a row with an A-rank, and do it only using the handgun combat knife. Akuma could then be unlocked on the seventh run after inputting the login name across both scenarios. This was clearly an April Fool’s joke, but readers quickly spread word of the false unlockable. None of this was unfeasible, as both The 4th Survivor and Tofu modes demanded similar unlock requirements.
Looking back at the low-resolution screenshots from EGM2, it's not surprising that many were fooled by this joke. A polygonal Akuma exploring RPD and launching Shakunetsu Hadokens at zombies looked as authentic any other screenshots in the magazine. As a child, I only heard about this myth via word-of-mouth during a vague encounter that only seems to escape my memory the more I think about it. Regardless, the myth worked its way into the community to the point where many were convinced of its existence. Though, I do admit that by the time I built up the courage to play Resident Evil 2, the hoax had already been debunked. However, an uncertainty around the myth remained--if anything a nostalgic yearning for it to somehow be true.
This wasn't the first time EGM fooled people, either. In fact, the magazine did something similar in a previous April Fool's joke with Street Fighter II with the infamous Sheng Long hoax. Many were lead to believe that the game had an unlockable character named Sheng Long, who was framed as the martial arts master of Ryu and Ken. The joke's status grew over the years, gaining international fame. Capcom acknowledged its existence several times and eventually added the character to Street Fighter IV in the form of Gouken as a response to fans.
Like EGM's Sheng Long, the Akuma hoax is a peculiar piece of gaming history that continues to captivate in its execution and overall endurance. Its alluring promise is a fantasy that I hold steadfast in wanting to come true in the Resident Evil 2 remake. Imagine being able to send enemies across a room with a well-placed fierce punch or performing a Raging Demon on a Licker. Of course, let's not forget about spamming Hadokens at the undead. And if we're remaining faithful to EGM2's vision, you'll have free rein to be merry and explore environments without worrying about locked doors. You might call it a pipedream, but given Capcom's track record with previous Resident Evils, I could easily see a playable Akuma becoming a reality.
Case in point: Wesker mode in Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster. This bonus mode made Rebecca's and Billy's terrifying zombie-infested journey into a silly romp, allowing you to use Wesker's super-human speed and destructive arsenal to wipe out the undead with ease. The ability to instantly overpower your enemies supplied a satisfying release, especially after spending hours desperately managing resources to survive. Akuma could easily bring all the joyous highs of Wesker mode into Resident Evil 2 remake, while also being a fun, loving nod to the hoax that captivated readers back in the day.
Capcom certainly isn't shy towards allowing Akuma to be in ridiculous situations and crossovers. He recently jumped franchises by appearing in Tekken 7, somehow managing to be naturally incorporated into that franchise's lore. In addition, Akuma once appeared in Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter as Cyber-Akuma, a cyborg version of himself with a sweet robot arm that was brainwashed by X-Men baddie Apocalypse.
Despite all this talk, I admit that Capcom adding Akuma into the remake is still unrealistic. Compared to Sheng Long, the Akuma hoax had more impact in North America than in other regions, so I'm sure it would be bizarre for European and Japanese players, who would see Akuma's inclusion as a random choice. I already feel lucky that Capcom is taking a chance on a Resident Evil 2 remake in the first place. But I know that whoever Capcom chooses to be the star of the game's Wesker mode-like equivalent, if anyone at all, my heart will always be longing for Akuma and the promise EGM2 cleverly fooled me into believing all those years ago.