Resident Evil Gaiden (Gameboy Color) - Ramblin' Review
Resident Evil Gaiden has an interesting history. Capcom and Nintendo came to an agreement to bring Resident Evil to the Gameboy, and after a lot of frustrating attempts to down-port the first game as closely as possible, they basically said it wasn't good enough, cancelled it, and decided to make this non- canon spin-off instead.
In this game, you begin with a mission briefing informing you that there is an organization of STARS and former Umbrella employees that have formed to take down Umbrella, and to keep them under wraps in the meantime. Leon S Kennedy had gone to a cruise ship in the Atlantic to investigate shut down an experiment gone wrong. Shortly after landing on the boat, communication was lost with Leon, and now you, as Barry Burton, have been sent to the ship to recover Leon and shut down Umbrella's latest atrocity.
A big thing that sets this game apart from other resident evil games, is how they handle combat. While there is the ability to hold down your weapon button and use the dpad to get a zombie in your cross hairs, it is very clunky, very limited, and only acts as an entrance to the combat screen. It is the preferred method of initiating combat, however, as it creates an advantage over allowing the zombie to grab you.
Once in the combat screen, you will be shown zombies at variously points on the screen, each of which has a hitbox associated with it, and a sliding reticule that indicates where you are aiming. Press "A" to fire, and if you shoot within the blue sliver, you get a critical head shot that makes the zombies go down quicker.
Zombies can approach while you're fighting other zombies, and you have the ability to run away, but risk taking more damage if the zombies hit you, which they probably will.
Combat is best to avoid when you can, as there are limited herbs and ammo, as per usual, and very few save points.
Confounding this problem, a little, is that sometimes the key card you need to advance is on the corpse of a specific zombie.
So, I've talked a bit about the combat, and a little about the controls, but how well do thru capture the creepy atmosphere of the series on home consoles? Surprisingly well, actually. The Sprite work is pretty good for the standards of the system, and the overhead view gives a nice feeling of depth to the large, 2d characters. Seeing zombies on the field well in advance makes them mess scary, but they do still manage to get a couple of jump scare locations here and there. Combat gives a good sense of how NES when you're low on health and another zombie strolls into the viewfinder. Plus, the ever present lack of ammo leaves you running past a lot of zombies looking for the next hidden cache of bullets.
The biggest drawback here is the music. While it is a nice throwback to horror movies from the seventies and eighties, Halloween in particular, it isn't a long enough composition, and offers very little in the way of variety. So, like a lot of Gameboy games, it suffers from droning, repetitive music that gets annoying fast. Oddly enough, horror games are actually the best games to not have music, or to use it sparingly. Wish they had gone that path here.
There are a great boss fights in the game, but they're little more than tougher versions of the zombies you have already faced. While the combat system works for the Gameboy's limited control scheme, it definitely limits you from having any kind of strategy other than getting good at timing your button presses.
Overall, the game is an impressive effort for the developers, but does suffer from a lack of puzzles, which I feel they should have emphasized over the frequent zombie encounters.
Remember to check back tomorrow.