Wednesday, August 28, 2013

VGR Darkside Chronicles

Chris and Jill thought they had taken care of the virus a long time ago...

But Leon and Claire are in for a surprise in this new CHRONICLES installment!

VGR: Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles also known as Biohazard: The Darkside Chronicles
From Cavia/Capcom
Played on Wii
Also available on PS3

Type Rail shooter
Year 2009

This is the second Resident Evil episode in the "Chronicles" series, following 2007's Umbrella Chronicles.

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is basically its direct sequel.

It's an on-rails shooter recapping previous events in the RE series while tieing-in the latest Resident Evil release at the time.

This time the events of the game are told through the perspective of series regular Leon S. Kennedy.
While in a mission in South America, Leon reflects on the times he and Claire Redfield took on Umbrella Corporation and their deadly Bio-Organic Weapons...

This time the game only contains three chapters.

Retelling the events of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica alongside a whole new campaign titled Operation Javier.

The game starts with Operation Javier and you will get back to it from time to time before ending up finishing the Darkside Chronicles in that episode.

Operation Javier takes place in 2002, in South America.

Leon and his partner Jack Krauser (a villain from Resident Evil 4) are searching for a drug lord, Javier Hidalgo, who apparently approached Umbrella Inc. In a village they find his daughter Manuela and end facing several BOWs in all shapes and size...

It's mostly a way to both tie-in with Resident Evil 5 (similar location and the appearance of similar new "zombies") and also emulate its graphics without having to actually do that.

Then the flashback begins. During the events of Raccoon City you will see how Leon and Claire first met the T-Virus and how they had to protect the little Sherry Birkin during the zombie outbreak. And the first appearance of Ada Wong and the newly improved G-Virus as well.

After that is Claire's on-going story on Rockfort Island as she tagged with prisoner Steve Burnside and later her brother Chris Redfield. And their confrontation with the crazy Alfred Ashford and his sister (?) Alexia.

The game is only really missing Resident Evil 4, but Capcom had just briefly re-released an update of RE4 for the Wii in 2007 so they probably preferred to omit it. But I really think at least a chapter from 4 would have better tied the entire story...

The game controls pretty much how you'd expect from a modern on-rails shooter on the Wii.

You can aim directly on the screen and do some precise headshots. But since it's not an arcade game everything takes a lot more hits than you expect including the most common generic zombies.

Cavia developed this sequel with the problems they had on Umbrella Chronicles in mind. And tried to iron things out for the best.

The result is a game that tries to be a lot more action oriented - emphasis on the horror and creatures, a lot more camera shakes (you can't turn off) and a lot of impressive huge boss fights with lots of QTEs* - but sadly missing a lot of the charm that made Umbrella Chronicles stand out from usual rail shooters.

You can't slighlty move the screen/camera by yourself to check details around. There aren't as many original decisions you can't make ("taking a left turn here/going to the right"), the stages aren't as destructible so that also means less hidden ammo/secrets.

On the other hand they did a fantastic job, this is as close to HD graphics you can possibly get on the Wii, minus the higher resolution. The game looks great when you revisit previous Resident Evil locations such as the Police Department or the Ashford Mansion. Less so on the South America episode, but it really depends on the lightning.

Open areas in the middle of the day look pretty bad and bland, but later scenes with the sunset look incredible.

You can still collect all the usual files and character bios.

The weapon customize system is back. More in-depth with a whole leveling/grade system yet simpler to use at the same time.

Darkside Chronicles contains also great cutscenes that give a new look at classic scenes from the RE series.

The game seem a bit simpler and shorter than Umbrella Chronicles did, but I blame this on the 3 sole chapters and the fact they tried streamlining the stories & the gameplay.

But at least the game also contains an unlockable "Darkness Falls" hidden story. Which is basically two stages from Operation Javier told from Krauser's perspective, showing his interest in the T-Veronica virus and why he would seek Wesker sealing his fate later in RE4...

Darkside Chronicles is essentially more of the same Umbrella Chronicles offered but somehow everything appears "worse" than it was.

The game looks simpler, either they rushed it in production or didn't care much.

The controls lost a bit of the punch, the guns seem to have less impact, you can't strike back your "character's attack" as often.

And the game also feels shorter and easier.

But my main complaint is with the camera. Capcom tried to make the experience too much "cinematographic" and apparently thought going for a Michael Bay look was a good idea. There's way too much movements and it simply come off unnatural and off putting. And it gets really annoying really fast.

The fact that we're missing Resident Evil 4 (or even 5 for that matter, but that one is to be expected) despite it closing off the entire narration is a real missed opportunity.

And the graphics needed to be made cleaner and more clear.. Like I said it really depends on the stage, but why does it seem Umbrella look better? (and the fact the entire game takes mostly place at night didn't help..)

The Darkside Chronicles seemed like a great circumstance to explore the entire mythos behind the series but the story is way too erratic.

At least it offers a great entry point to the series to newcomers, even if it is a pretty destabilizing introduction. You might need to be a bit familiar with Resident Evil to follow it.

Finally the Tofu Survivor mode makes a little cameo as a small Arcade Stage once the game beaten (using Resident Evil 2 stages as backdrop).

The music was this time composed by Capcom veterans Shusaku Uchiyama and Takeshi Miura, back from RE2 and Code Veronica. Their new orchestral rearrangements is both familiar and a pretty good atmosphere for the game.

Overall, it's a pretty decent rail shooter, but far from the best.

Mostly recommended to fans, since it's lacking the "punch" and speed that usually make games on-rails "fun".

It's only really missing RE4 and a faster more arcade gameplay.

Here's some trivia for those who want some: In Europe the game was bundled with Wii Zapper. I didn't got mine and I would probably end up playing with the Wii Remote only. So I can't really comment on that...

This game alongside its predecessor was re-released for the PS3 later on as part of the Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection. It's basically the same game, with some minor HD cosmetic changes, cleaner textures, etc. Same game overall although it adds gameplay on a regular pad - which you should avoid! - but you can use Sony's Move controller to recreate a fairly decent Wiimote experience.

Don't misunderstand me, it's a great game all in all, but with its fair share of problems as well.

I give it:
2 / 3 Pacmans!

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