By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the original Resident Evil (March 23rd in Japan, March 30th in the U.S.) I’ve decided to share my favorite games from RE mastermind Shinji Mikami.
While I obviously had to be a little loose with what I considered a “Shinji Mikami game” since he has served as at least a producer on a huge number of Capcom games over the last twenty plus years–many of them no doubt a more business-like advisory role–I tried to stick with games that, by most accounts, he had a pretty significant hand in from a creative standpoint.
5. Killer 7 (2005, Gamecube)
I know, I know–Killer 7 is basically Suda 51’s baby. But Mikami oversaw the development of all the games in the “Capcom Five,” intent on bringing new IP to not just the industry in general but Capcom’s own portfolio. And with Killer 7, he actually contributed to the game’s writing, something he didn’t even do on most of the Resident Evil games. All that being said, his creative stamp on Killer 7 is hard to dispute. Few other titles have had a bigger mix of reactions from players, and a larger range of review scores from critics–91 on the high end, and literally 0 on the low. Trying to describe the game doesn’t do justice to playing it for yourself, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway: You play as Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound man who has a multiple personality disorder that allows him to turn into seven distinct people (the titular Killer 7)–all of whom can miraculously walk somehow. But they aren’t just personalities–they are actually the souls of dead assassins who were absorbed…you know what, never mind. The plot makes no sense even if you play through the game yourself ten times, and it’s not really even all that important. It’s the kind of story you “experience” more so than actually understand. What is important is that the game is completely insane but also extremely compelling if you can get past the nonsensical plot, the whacked out characters, and the strange control scheme (pressing A is how you walk? Sure, why not). If nothing else, at least watch a Let’s Play of it–it is a game that you owe it to yourself to experience in some fashion, if only for a few minutes.
4. God Hand (2006, PlayStation 2)
This is Mikami at his most unhinged and unfiltered. You get the sense that he always wanted to make a game like this, but had to put in 15 years at Capcom before he had the creative freedom to do so. God Hand is essentially a third person beat-em-up cranked up to 11, wherein you dole out beatings with your fists and feet going at Benny Hill speed, often focused directly on a bad guy’s crotch. Enemies are constantly flying across the room, or literally up into the stratosphere–complete with satisfying twinkle and ding sound as they hit the sky. Or you can just spank them, also at lightning speed. Are you getting a feel for just how bonkers this game is? No? How about the cast of characters that include Elvis, a large Latino man in an ill-fitting white jumpsuit and Akuma beads? Critics and gamers alike didn’t quite know what to make of God Hand when it was first released, receiving a mostly lukewarm at best reception from both. However, the game has since gone on to become a huge cult hit and is a favorite among many gamers and frequently makes lists of both games people have missed and should check out–and just straight up best-of PS2 lists. To illustrate just how far opinion has swung on the game, IGN famously gave the game a 3 out of 10 upon release but it later made their list of the 100 best PS2 games. It also has the distinction of being featured in the book “1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die” which I wholeheartedly agree with. And now that it’s on PSN for only $9.99, you have no excuse not to.
3. Dino Crisis 2 (2000, PlayStation)
While the first Dino Crisis title was basically just old-school, slow paced Resident Evil with dinosaurs, its sequel completely eschewed survival horror in favor of being an action-packed shooter that was more about kill combos than puzzle solving. Truth be told, in an era when the Contra series was embarrassing itself with awful 3D installments and even games that started out as solid shooters–like One and Apocalypse–would typically lose their way with awkward platforming sections and too many unnecessary “slow down” levels, Dino Crisis 2 was actually one of the best action games on the PlayStation. While there were scant traces of a story and the occasional “objective,” the game consisted almost entirely of killing dinosaurs, chaining kills together to earn points, using those points to unlock better weapons, and then using those weapons to kill more dinosaurs. The roots of games like Devil May Cry and Bayonetta were planted right here. It’s unfortunate that Dino Crisis 3 opted to revert back to the style of DC1 by being more survival horror instead of sticking with all-out action, as it could’ve given Capcom a separate “horror” series to be more action-oriented and let Resident Evil continue to be more survival horror-based. Think of how much cooler the co-op gameplay of RE5 would’ve been with dinosaurs instead of plodding zombies.
2. Resident Evil (Remake) (2002, Gamecube)
Complete overhaul remakes generally tend to divide gamers and critics, as there often seems to be just as many controversial changes as legitimate improvements–see Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, and the 2010 Goldeneye as examples of this. But once in awhile, there is a remake that is universally considered to be superior to the original and the definitive version, and “REmake” is one such game. Taking everything that made the 1996 original a classic but making it look and play as good as a modern horror title–without the detours made by the series in part 2, Nemesis, and Code Veronica that were met with mixed reactions from fans–REmake is essentially the perfect “classic” Resident Evil game before the series started to swing more heavily toward action beginning with RE4. It also remains such a shining example of how to do a remake right that it was even remade itself–and it might be the only remake ever made that could actually get away that.
1. Resident Evil 4 (2005, Gamecube/PlayStation 2)
There isn’t much to say about this game that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. It is one of the best horror games ever made, arguably the best RE ever made, one of the best games overall for both the PS2 and Gamecube, and it remains the 12th best-reviewed game of all time according to Gamerankings. It also completely changed the way third person action games have been designed since, and is said to be one of the reasons why Gears of War was a third-person game at all. Just about any game you’ve played since where you shoot at people from a perspective that’s locked in just over your character’s shoulder, you can thank RE4 for that. At only 50, Mikami still potentially has a long career and more great games ahead of him, but I would venture to say that Resident Evil 4 will always be his “masterpiece.” And when you’re talking about a game like RE4, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.