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Comments Off RE5 > RE4

How to revitalize a genre? When Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was released in 1987, Konami thought they were answering that question, although the industry and the audience weren’t mature enough to consider it. Some anger was to be expected, but no one imagined that its design would only be accepted ten years later with Symphony of the Night. In the space between both titles, Castlevania became a game aimed at a market; after Koji Igarashi took on the mantle of series producer, little or nothing changed. Eventually someone – maybe Igarashi himself – decided to look at the audience with newfound respect. Order of Ecclesia gave back friction to the combat, showed that “challenge” could once again be more than cublicles infested with repeating sprites, and that it had more to offer than bishōnen and spasmodic role-play. It only took eleven years since Symphony, and the result is closer to Rondo of Blood – the last “traditional” Castlevania with brains and brawn.

Part insurrection, part teenage whimsy, Resident Evil 5 was another victim of the same kind of public opinion although the erratic reception it got from critics and players had other reasons. Critics fired off the “racism” shots in the hopes of bringing maturity to videogame discussion; players pointed their fingers at Jun Takeuchi, the game’s producer, in the vain hope of electing him as sole responsible for a “terrible” change; Capcom, haunted by the same specter that ensnared Konami, stated that Resident Evil 6 would be a reboot of the series – even before RE5 was published. As if apologizing for the game.

Like other studios, Capcom has shown that even understanding the base design of their own  games, they can apply the formula both spectacularly well and terribly wrong. But this wasn’t the case, and only critics desperately looking to remain relevant and a change fearing audience could have scared Capcom like that. In spite of the similarities that it shares with Resident Evil 4, the differences are where it goes beyond the sequel. It took a pretty slick format, only reconfiguring the necessary elements to create something recognizable (and still entirely worth of the Resident Evil name) but superior to what came before.

Yes, I am saying that Resident Evil 5 is better than Resident Evil 4.

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8 Through the Looking Glass

September ’09

Isn’t That Spatial? Every video game has certain benefits and constraints in the way it represents space. Interaction fiction, arcade titles, 2D side-scrollers, isometric RPGs, and first person shooters all have advantages and disadvantages to how they deal with space–some technical in nature, some design-based. This month’s topic invites you to explore the ways games have represented the spatial nature of their storyworlds and what this does for the audience experience. Is it possible to ignore the constancy of spatial relationships in a graphical game? What would such a game look like? Are there ways of representing spatial relationships that we haven’t explored? Do you have ideas for games that could intentionally twist the player’s perception of space, or do you want to write about a game that already has?

I had a good intro lined up but Lose/Lose ate it. In lieu of that, I’ll just say that my plan is to follow up on Corvus’ topic for this month’s Blogs of the Round Table and discuss how the choice of perspective has helped certain games’ themes or genres by framing, limiting or exploring spatial awareness and their relationships with players in several ways.

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