Remaster of Resident Evil 0 Endures

Few franchises have been as resilient as Capcom’s “Resident Evil” series. As soon as you think it’s not going to be a part of the gaming franchise even for just a few years, it resurfaces in the form or an episodic experience like “Resident Evil: Revelations,” or the just-released remaster of the controversial “Resident Evil 0.” While the world eagerly awaits news on the inevitable “Resident Evil 7,” players keep going to back to some of the most influential titles of all time.

It got me wondering why these games have persisted for so long? Why are people so entranced by them that they’ll play them again on new systems? What can a 14-year-old game like “Resident Evil 0” tell us about gaming in 2016?

First, a bit of history on “Zero.” Of course, it’s a prequel to the landmark “Resident Evil,” which changed gaming forever twenty years ago when it was released for the PlayStation (yes, the first one, before numbers). “RE” was such a smash that sequels were instantly rushed into production, resulting in “Resident Evil 2” in 1998 and “Resident Evil 3: Nemesis” in 1999 (also both for the PS1). As games often do (I’m looking at you “Final Fantasy”), numbering got weird from here. “Resident Evil Code: Veronica” is technically the fourth game, and then the series actually went Gamecube-exclusive for a few years, resulting in the release of an “RE” remake for the Nintendo console, “Resident Evil Zero” and, still the best game in the series, “Resident Evil 4.” Spin-offs like the rail shooter “Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles” and big-budget sequels would follow, but this period in the early ‘00s is really when “Resident Evil” ruled the world.

Even Hollywood took notice.

So it makes sense to look at “Zero” as the centerpiece of the “Resident Evil” legacy. It also makes sense that with the Gamecube exclusivity meaning that Capcom would remaster the first title that they would also go back and produce a prequel at the same time. How did we get here?

The game takes place in the Arklay Mountains as you control S.T.A.R.S. officer Rebecca Chambers and tough guy Billy Coen. It was the first game to allow players to switch between the characters instead of choosing one at the beginning. Chambers and Coen start the game on a train that’s been infested with zombies, but it’s not long before the nefarious Umbrella Corporation gets involved, as well as the notorious Albert Wesker.

“Resident Evil Zero” very intentionally deepened the history of the “Resident Evil” universe, trying to make the series about much more than just good guys fighting zombies. It feels like it owes more of a legacy to the Univeral monster movies—look at the opening image of a “Dracula”-like figure on a mountain—than horror movies of the ‘00s. And fans love that “legacy” aspect of “RE.” It’s a rich, detailed universe, filled with conspiracies and monsters that H.P. Lovecraft could have dreamed up. Playing it now, “Zero” can sometimes feel clunky—it took me forever to find a control scheme I liked—but the game still looks good and it reminds of that era when the “RE” games could still be more creepy than action-packed. With the fifth and sixth games, “Resident Evil” felt like it was inching more towards “Transformers”-style action than survival horror.

Hopefully, as Capcom and the team works on “Resident Evil 7,” they’ll look at what still works about this prequel a generation after it was released and use it for inspiration.