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The Foundation: Resident Evil and Sweet Home

Sweet home is a very scary game. Famicom fans in America, however, never got the chance to experience its' gruesome story and frightening atmosphere because of a halted release. Mostly due to Censorship issues with the story line and what was considered really graphic gore for Famicom titles around 1989. Luckily today, fan translated roms are floating around the interwebs and give us an opportunity to experience what is considered by many as the first Survival Horror game. More importantly, door for door, Sweet Home inspired Shinki Mikami's ideas of what Resident Evil should be.

And that is the subject of this Cblog. My attempt is to draw a direct line between the roots of a much loved game and its' probably lesser known influences. By comparing inspiration to popular franchises, we can gain a better understanding of how things have evolved from their storyline, gameplay, and more. Over the weeks, I'll go in-detail about the 'games before the blockbusters' with the likes of Fallout, Diablo, The Elder Scrolls, and on. So welcome to 'The Foundation: Examining the Roots of Todays' Popular Franchises.'

The largest comparison to be made between Sweet Home and Resident Evil is the setting of each title. Both largely take place inside a mansion littered with monsters and puzzles to challenge our attempts at escape. Outside the walls of the veritable death traps seem unimportant while being inside the mansion, and surviving are main objectives. Shinki Mikami, in an interview about Resident Evil, said his idea was not to focus on story, or to even have a story, but to focus on conveying fear effectively. Sweet Home can be looked at as the epitome of style over story. You have very little background, initially. The team of 5 enters the mansion of a deceased painter to find a particular piece of art. The mission turns to survival once the ceiling collapses around the front door and the ghost of the painter claims 'Fools! Those who defile my home will feel my wrath!' Other information is scattered about by notes, much like the notes of the infected Professor in RE. These notes as story telling mechanics have, over time, become great additions to the main plot and don't disengage the player from the gameplay any more, making them choose to ignore the side story over the main. Examples being the audio logs of Bioshock and Dead Space.

The opening door animations in Resident Evil have been borrowed directly from Sweet Home, to fill the otherwise black loading screen between levels. Shinki Mikami liked the idea because he said it created tension. Sweet Home did a lot of things differently for the time it was released. For one, you start with a party of 5 members, and if one of them dies, they are gone for the rest of the game. This lead to a possibility of 4 different endings, one for however many members survived till the end. The endings vary depending on how many of your teammates you rescue in RE as well. Each of the 5 characters only had 2 inventory slots, a mechanic now looked at as a staple for defining what a Survival Horror game is. You would find yourself constantly backtracking to pick up items you didn't think you would need for puzzles later on. Resident Evil remedied this with the weapons Cache at each of the Save Rooms where you could store weapons, keys, and puzzle items. The puzzles in Resident Evil are clearly connected by it's predecessor, let's just say you will be pushing things around. A lot. As games evolve, developer-made obstacles and how they are overcome evolve as well, but at times, still fall back on collecting an item in one place and using it somewhere else.

For a game with 8-bit graphics, based on a movie, Sweet Home conveys fear with a technique that holds up to modern games. You won't find dogs jumping through windows for cheap scare, but the presentation in design and from orchestration is very ambient and tense. Particular cut scenes are genuinely creepy, I won't go into those because I would rather you play the game through and experience them yourselves. Watch the video below only if you want to see what I think of as the most gory presentation in 8-Bits since Hitlers Exploding Head. Spoiler Alert as this scene occurs over half-way through the game.

If Sweet Home the film was never made, or was a commercial failure, or was simply never considered to be optioned into a game, the Resident Evil we know today might be a very different game than it is. So for that, Sweet Home, I salute you.

Thanks, AgentBBJ for suggesting Sweet Home, and if any of you have lesser known games that inspired today's big players, post them in this thread Thanks!
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About Choolyone of us since 8:20 PM on 02.16.2008

Old school member of Dtoid, professional IRC lurk, aspiring intellectual, gentleman, and a scholar.

Some of my Favorite activities are:
Making fun of things in IRC.
Failing at Blogging.
Team Fortress 2.
Examining current trends in gameplay mechanics and theorycrafting more effective methods for their conveyance.
Plants Vs. Zombies.

Hurr hurr back in my day you kid's would have run out of this site crying for your mamas its too tame around here get off my lawn god dammit.