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Resident Evil Archives: Zero Review

Dusting off another horror classic

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." How many times has that been used as an excuse to shovel out the same thing over and over again? Film franchise producers use it all the time. So do football managers. The thing is, and this is often forgotten, the 'it' in question has to not be broken so as not to need fixing. The thing with Resident Evil Zero and all Resi games prior to the outstanding Resident Evil 4 is that there's plenty worth fixing - especially if you're going to re-release one of those games seven years after it was first launched.

Hopes were high that the Resident Evil Archives series would adopt a similar approach to Nintendo's smart New Play Control! releases, which enhance classic games with better controls, buffed up visuals and better sound, giving gamers the chance to enjoy a great title in its best possible guise. But no, as Resident Evil Archives proved, it turns out that we're getting the original Resident Evil games released on Wii discs, with the option to use the Wii Remote but with no real need to.

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Pointing at the screen doesn't do anything, so you might as well plug in the Classic Controller and be done with it. There are no motion controls either. The only shaking happens when a face-eating mutant bursts onto the screen, scaring you witless.

Frozen In Time

Essentially this is exactly the same as the GameCube's Zero, right down to the 4:3 screen ration and stereo sound. It's sort of like Peter André. He disappeared in the early '90s - weird rubber hair, corrugated belly, rubbish songs and all - only to resurface years later looking exactly the same. Do Peter André and Resident Evil share the same cryogenic storage facility? They both have a creepy ability to survive unchanged for several years. Perhaps some of Peter Andre's DNA leaked into Resident Evil during the thawing out process too. You only have to look at Zero's Hunter monster for evidence of that.

Once you get over the thumping shock of Zero's antiquated features (like the notorious tank-like controls), there is an awful lot to like. Here Zero and that tenuous Peter Andre analogy go their separate ways, for unlike the Mysterious Girl-stalker, Zero is still hugely enjoyable all these years on. It's worth pointing out to those who recently boarded the good ship Evil in the wake of Resident Evil 4 that this is a much denser brand of survival horror, heavier on desperate self-preservation and lighter on all guns blazing action. It's more claustrophobic, with fixed camera angles limiting your view and raising tension. Even the levels themselves are more restrictive, the first section for instance being set in the cramped corridors of a train.

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S.T.A.R.S. And Strife

Zero is a prequel to the events depicted in Resident Evil. After a series of bizarre grisly murders in Raccoon City, the S.T.A.R.S team are sent in to investigate, but after a spot of engine bother they have to ditch their chopper in marshland. Fresh-faced Rebecca Chambers (at 18 surely too young to be a zombie killing S.T.A.R.S. agent?) happens upon a seemingly deserted train and at once the familiar blend of crafty trickery, detailed environments (though not as impressive as they once were) and deep sense of ominous gloom kicks in. In time you forget you're playing a seven-year-old game.

The key feature of Resident Evil Zero is its 'partner zapping', which allows you to flit between Rebecca and former marine Billy at will. You can explore as team, having one back up the other, or you can separate. Some sections force you apart, adding a problem solving element as you look to find objects which help the other out.

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