It’s a compelling question, especially when discussing Resident Evil. What if the original Resident Evil ends up as a remake of Sweet Home. What if Capcom never reboots Resident Evil 2? And in the case of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, what if we ended up with Hunk on a cruise fighting plant monsters?
Kazuhiro Aoyama mentioned in an interview that he and other developers are gun-shy about sharing the anecdotes that lead to these what-if scenarios. I understand his hesitation. Peering through unfinished work, even its creator is daunting.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how a small game, never intended to be a mainline Resident Evil title, became the third entry into the series. Welcome to Aracadology, Resident Evil 3.
After Resident Evil 2
After Capcom released Resident Evil 2 in January of 1998, General Manager Yoshiki Okamoto greenlit several projects in the proceeding months. Resident Evil 3 for the Playstation, Resident Evil: Code Veronica for the Sega Dreamcast, as well as Resident Evil 0 for the Nintendo 64.
“The idea was to keep numbered games on Sony, and use different names for games made for Sega and Nintendo” -Yoshiki Okamoto, “An Itchy, Tasty History of Resident Evil.”
Masaaki Yamada was named the director of Resident Evil 3. Yamada was a system planner on Resident Evil 2. He had also worked on the first Resident Evil, and the Director’s Cut as an Event Designer.
Yamada worked with RE2 director Hideki Kamiya to rough out a story. Capcom canceled the project, but the idea was to set it on a cruise ship with Resident Evil 2 mini-game hero Hunk as a potential protagonist, fighting his way through plant monsters. This concept art has been circulating for several years, sketched by concept artist Satoshi Nakai.
Yamada ceded the role of director role to Kamiya, and they threw out the cruise ship scenario. Yamada would stay on the project, however, as a systems planner.
While this was happening, Okamoto had greenlit a smaller Resident Evil project intended for the Playstation. He intended this little project to be a Gaiden, or side story, from the Resident Evil franchise. Shinji Mikami, the head of Studio 4, assigned Kazuhiro Aoyama as director, and Yasuhisa Kawamura as the scenario writer.
Kazuhiro Aoyama Background
Before his time at Capcom, Kazuhiro Aoyama was considering going into Professional Wrestling. Unfortunately, an injury he suffered meant he had to give that up, and instead studied acting at university.
After graduation, he took a job at Capcom. There he worked as a system planner on both Resident Evil 1 and 2. His role on the sequel was to ensure that the gameplay was balanced. He also designed the sewer levels and the mini-game, which featured Hunk, titled the 4th survivor.
Before Capcom, Yasuhisa Kawamura was working for Yukito Kishiro, in the development of the manga series Battle Angel Alita, and would eventually go on to write the novel version of the manga. He took a job at Capcom when they were looking for writers, despite thinking he failed the interview by being too passionate.
When Mikami assigned Kawamura to the Resident Evil Gaiden project, he did not have much experience as a game writer. His only previous role at Capcom was working with Shinji Mikami to tighten up parts of Dino Crisis. Most of the FLAGSHIP staff, the subsidiary which employed Capcom’s scenario writers, were tied up, including Noboru Sugimura, the writer of Resident Evil 2, who was deep into the scripting for Code Veronica.
As Aoyama and Kawamura began to hash out the project, they were assigned a development team of mostly rookie developers. Management had split up most of the Resident Evil veterans amongst Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil Code Veronica, and Resident Evil 0.
The game’s working title was Resident Evil 1.9. The story they had come up with was set immediately before the events of Resident Evil 2. The story featured three umbrella mercenaries, trying to escape Raccoon City. To simplify development, Resident Evil 3 would use the same engine as Resident Evil 2, as well as some of the same assets.
There were a few changes made to the engine to give the game more action. They tweaked the zombies to move faster and in larger groups. Gunpowder combos were able to make different types of ammo.
They added an automatic 180-degree turn feature as well as a dodge mechanic. The player’s running speed was increased. There were a few additional items that were discussed but never added to the engine, including the ability to attack while moving, and barring doors.
One of the main hooks of the game was an antagonist that would pursue the player through the course of the game. The creature known as Nemesis did not start development as a hulking brute. Instead, the early concept for it was a slime monster, similar to The Blob.
It was a hideous creature that could squeeze through any opening and kill with an acid touch. However, it became apparent to Aoyama that the creature’s appearance had no distinguishing features. He decided this made it nearly impossible for the player to grasp that they were fighting the same monster throughout the game and not just fighting different incarnations of the same type of monster.
They ended up switching from a blob-like monster to something more along the lines of the Tyrant or Mr. X. from Resident Evil 2. Aoyama has mentioned that part of his inspiration for the Nemesis creature was the scenes in Day of the Dead, where researchers are trying to train zombies.
Throughout the game, players are offered decisions as to how to deal with Nemesis. Aoyama’s team designed it this way to enhance the replayability of the game.
No matter what the player chose, it would advance the plot. However, making a choice, or not making one at all, usually dictated whether the player had to faceoff against Nemesis. In some instances, it led the player to areas that would have been not able to be reached otherwise. In others, the choice would simply dictate which entrance the player took to access a new location.
Partway through the production of Resident Evil 1.9, things were shifting on the Code Veronica project that would have a significant impact. Let’s rewind a bit. During the voice recordings for Resident Evil 2, Hideki Kamiya asked the voice actress for Claire to record an additional line that was not in the original script. The line was, “Chris, I have to find you.”
Noboru Sugimura, the writer for both Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica, called call Kamiya, angry. It meant that the story-line for Jill Valentine he had in Code Veronica should now be re-written to include Claire instead. This plot change left Jill being unused in any of the games that were in development. Management informed Aoyama, and the team got to work on folding Jill Valentine in as the main character while adjusting the mercenaries’ role in the game.
As Kawamura fleshed out the game, the name Resident Evil 1.9 became a bit of a misnomer. He developed some additional plot that would take place after Resident Evil 2, and so internal production used the title Resident Evil 1.9+2.1. This Kingdom Hearts-like title, though, would be removed in favor of the subtitle, Last Escape in Japan, and Nemesis in North America and Europe.
In March of 1999, Sony officially announced the Playstation 2. Hideki Kamiya, who Capcom had given great authority over his Resident Evil 3 project, was determined to produce the game for the new console.
“I think Resident Evil 2 represents everything I would be able to achieve for a Survival Horror game on PlayStation. My vision for the next game was to make something brand new and more provoking. As a result, I decided to make ‘Resident Evil 3’ for PlayStation 2.” -Hideki Kamiya
Kawamura has stated that Sony’s announcement of the Playstation 2 caused Kamiya to scrap his project and refocus it in favor of developing for the new system. This shift, in Kawamura’s estimation, is what caused Capcom to elevate Resident Evil 1.9. Aoyama recounted the events in a different context. He stated that he believed it was not only the initial announcement of the PS2 but the PS2’s delay from December 1999 to March of 2000 (as well as much later in North America).
“If I remember correctly, Capcom wanted to become a publicly listed company during the fiscal year 1999. Capcom needed a hit title to gain investor confidence. They thought that a new, numbered Resident Evil game could help achieve them achieve their goal easier.” –Aoyama
Either way, Aoyama was called into a meeting with Shinji Mikami and Okamoto to discuss this change in plans. Capcom decided to retitle Kamiya’s game to be Resident Evil 4, and to move Resident Evil 1.9 to be Resident Evil 3.
Nailing down the timeline of these decisions has been difficult. However, the game was branded Resident Evil 3 on tape shown at the Tokyo Game Show, which took place from March 19-21 of 1999. If Kamiya decided to switch his game to the Playstation 2 after the official announcement on March 1, this means the decision to promote 1.9 to a mainline title happened in the intervening weeks. Aoyama and the team would now be on the hook for additional content.
“This game was supposed to be a spinoff, so I stuck to that framework during development. I was not expecting it to become Resident Evil 3 at all.” -Kazuhiro Aoyama
The game needed to have its playtime extended. Originally it was meant to end after the encounter in at the clocktower. Additional content included the Raccoon City Park, as well as the Dead Factory. The team added extra rooms to existing areas.
By Aoyama’s estimation, the additional content lengthened the playtime by about 30. As with Resident Evil 2, the developers added a mini-game as a bonus. This one was titled Mercenaries and designed by Kawamura.
Capcom released Resident Evil 3 on September 22, 1999, in Japan, and November 11, 1999, in North America. The game was a tremendous financial success for Capcom. Not only was it one of the best selling Resident Evil titles, but the profit on the game was also substantially higher than usual. This was due to the smaller team and shorter production cycle it took to create it.
The other games mentioned all deserve videos of their own. But as a coda, I’ll state that Resident Evil: Code Veronica was released only a few months later, in February of 2000, for the Sega Dreamcast.
Resident Evil 4, famously strayed so far from the Resident Evil formula that it became a completely different game, Devil May Cry. Capcom released it ultimately in August of 2001. Resident Evil 0 had its development halted for the Nintendo 64, and moved to the Nintendo Gamecube, eventually releasing in November of 2002.
As for Resident Evil 3, it had tremendous impact making Jill a fan favorite and also introducing Nemesis, one of the most notorious enemies the franchise has ever seen. Capcom released a remake of the game in March of 2020. If you’d like to see a video on the production of the remake, let me know down in the comments below.
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Anyway, that’s all I have for you today. My name is Kevin, and you’ve been watching Arcadology.