Revelations has a lot to live up to. It’s the first full Resident Evil game for a Nintendo handheld (barring remakes and mini-games) since Resident Evil Gaiden on the Gameboy Color.
It’s also the most impressive looking bit of software to date, and the first title to utilize the new Circle Pad Pro addition, launching the same day as the game itself. So is Revelations a system seller?
Read on to find out.
Right off the bat Revelations impresses with it’s new MT Framework engine – words really can’t describe how great it looks, and how the 3D effect adds to the presentation. Capcom really did an amazing job here, and for the first time, it really feels like Nintendo has provided us with hardware that can come close to a true console experience — if other developers can harness the power of the 3DS, it’ll really give the Vita a run for it’s money in 2012.
I won’t go into an in-depth review of the Circle Pad Pro (that’s worth a second article), but suffice to say it does it job in terms of offering an additional control scheme to Revelations. Adding the Circle Pad into the mix is extremely easy: you just attach it, and the game automatically calibrates it and switches to that scheme.
The Circle Pad brings two new mechanics to the standard setup: it adds an additional control stick, and it adds extra shoulder buttons that allow you to switch weapons and items easier. It’s by no means required, as the game controls just fine without it via the d-pad and touch screen, but it adds a little bit to the experience: if you’re so inclined to spend the extra $20 (note that a handful of other future games are already confirmed to have Circle Pad Pro support).
You can also walk and shoot, which I’m mostly indifferent to (although that function is not new to the series; a few games have allowed you to do so, such as Outbreak File#2). By holding the L button, you can either walk forwards or backwards while aiming/shooting, or strafe from side to side. Although it makes some combat against slower moving enemies a bit easier by backpedaling, you could simply opt to not do it as a personal handicap, so it’s not that big of a deal.
So what’s Revelations really like once you’re accustomed to the controls, and done ogling at the visuals? Well, at first, the game starts off in an abandoned, eerie cruise-ship that evokes more images of the Spencer Mansion than any other Resident Evil game since Code Veronica. The dark, tight spaces and creepy enemies that are part humanoid but definitely not human create a pretty tense atmosphere. So far so good, right? Unfortunately, Revelations gets increasingly more action oriented as it progresses — to a fault.
While you’ll quickly become enamored at the tight-knit style of the game, before you know it, you’re trekking across open mountain-tops and office buildings shooting wolves and hunters with shotguns and machine-guns. Because of the way the Chapters are split up, you’ll be constantly switching from the Cruise Ship to other areas of the world, in order to piece together the story. The problem is, pretty much every Chapter not set on the ship is uninteresting; as are the characters that are featured outside of series favorites Chris and Jill.
Mechanics wise, the game also makes an increasing effort to hold your hand throughout your time with it. Ammo at first seems dire, but eventually you’ll find so much that you’ll literally have to ditch a bunch of it. You’ll also find a number of weapons and weapon upgrades, and you’ll never be too far from an upgrade/weapon switch station, that will allow you to easily switch weapons and upgrade them to your heart’s content.
Items are also extremely easy to store, eliminating the tactical item management system that’s a staple of the series. While this may seem like a positive thing at first, you’ll quickly realize that the game is very, very easy since it allows you to pick up tons of ammo, plentiful herbs, 5 grenades, 5 distraction explosives, 5 depth charges, and so on, to carry around all at once — this is all addition into carrying around 3 guns at all times. You can pretty much pick up anything whenever you please, and you’re never really without — in fact there was only one time in the entire game where I ran low on ammo, and the room I was in had plenty of explosive canisters and health items to help me clear it.
In addition to your weaponry, you have access to a cumbersome “scanning” gun stolen directly out of Metroid Prime: the Genesis. You can use this scanner to find hidden items (which are mostly inconsequential) and scan enemies. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much never worth using, as the only reward you get for scanning enemies about to claw your face off is an extra health herb.
It feels really pointless to go through all of that effort for one herb, because of the sheer amount of them scattered across the game (like everything else). It would have added a lot more depth to Revelations, if, similar to Bioshock, pictures unlocked additional bonuses; or maybe even concept art. As it stands, scanning is kind of a vanilla mechanic.
In addition to ramping up the action in a jarring manner, Revelations also adds another odd design choice — a forced AI partner for the vast majority of the game. Now, unlike Resident Evil 5, which had an AI partner that could both die and steal your items, Relevation’s AI is invincible — but it feels like Capcom went overboard here.
If your AI partner is invincible, barely has any effect on actual combat, doesn’t have very interesting dialogue, and doesn’t really do any damage; why is he there? It’s almost as if Capcom wanted to apologize to the community for a forced AI partner in Resident Evil 5, so they just stuck it in arbitrarily as a compromise.
Personally, I think the game would have been much more effective if it was just Jill for 90% of the story, with a nostalgic meetup with Chris for the other 10% — as it stands, two’s a crowd. The odd decision to have a partner for most of the game considerably cuts down on the tension; especially when you’re partnered up with the extremely boring new characters.
That’s right, Revelations features side missions with characters who have personalities that are about as interesting as they look; which is to say, abysmal. For instance, there’s a tandem that actually go by the codenames “Jackass” and “Grinder”. One is a lonely computer nerd, and the other one is a smooth ladies man that isn’t afraid to knock on “geeks”.
If you think this sounds like the sitcom from hell — it is — and every session with these two is extremely unfun to play. In fact, a few of these missions are literally “walk down this hall; listen to this story element; kill this new enemy type; cut back to Jill”. Given how interesting the demo was, it almost feels like a bait and switch of Raiden esque proportions — except Raiden was actually an interesting addition to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and I doubt “Jackass” will be making a memorable appearance anytime soon. It’s a shame, because Revelations looks and controls quite well, and for the most part, Jill’s sections are pretty enjoyable.
Thankfully, once a certain amount of chapters are complete (it took me around 9 hours to beat the game), you can unlock “Raid Mode”, which isn’t quite as expansive as the new staple Mercenaries mode, and feels more like Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3′s extra “rush” modes. Here, you’re tasked with defeating enemies from start to finish in one of forty levels — and you can even do it with one other player, both locally and online.
While it’s not as robust as a full Mercenaries Mode, it should still keep you entertained for quite a bit, as there’s a number of different upgrades and weapons that you can buy through beating stages and earning “BP” — you can even level up your characters the more you play them. I actually enjoyed this more than the real game, as it has some pretty interesting mechanics to it like special status effects for different monsters, such as “tough skinned”, and “quick” modifiers. Enemies also have a health bar on top of them, which adds an extra arcade-y feel.
Additionally, Revelations has it’s own achievement system that unlocks new items and costumes as you complete them, which is a really nice touch. For instance, dodging a certain number of attacks, or completing certain chapters will unlock different rewards, and as you complete the requirements, new ones will unlock. You can even earn new missions through Streetpass with other 3DS owners — and thankfully there’s a New Game+ mode with a higher difficulty.
As a core game, Revelations proves that the 3DS can not only display amazing console quality graphics, but control just fine as a handheld; with or without the optional circle pad add-on. Revelations comes up short in many respects, but ultimately it may be enough to scratch that Resident itch until Raccoon City and RE6 hit later this year.
This review is based on a retail copy of the 3DS game Resident Evil Revelations.