Like the blurry days of my youth, I find myself with a Nintendo console on, aiming at the screen with the precision of a digital sharpshooter stuck in the deepest, darkest corners of Hogan’s Alley. Only this time, I’m not carefully avoiding women and children so my refractive beam won’t sear their innocence away; no, I’m shooting zombies in the face and fending off raging apes with my survival knife. It must be another trip into the world of (cue dramatic title screen voice) RESIDENT EVIL.
Umbrella Chronicles holds within its plastic wrap a concept that’s been attempted similarly with little success. Resident Evil has never quite made it big in any incarnation other than the series proper. The previous on-rails games were ugly and controlled terribly, and the online experience of Outbreak was hampered by the fact that, well, you couldn’t really talk to anyone. The developers thought that it made the experience more frightening, but they said the same thing about the dreaded tank-like controls of the first few RE games
Well, I hope you like House of the Dead, because that’s essentially what you get with this title, albeit a slower, more delicately paced version. As luck would have it, I do like Sega’s light gun series, so there’s a lot of content within Chronicles for me to enjoy. Rather than thrusting the player in an original RE story, the game sweeps you through condensed versions of the classics, up to and including Resident Evil 0. This serves as a killer refresher course in a convoluted story that many might not remember too clearly at this point.
It doesn’t just stop there, though; it digs a little bit deeper. After all, the most hardcore of Resident Evil fans isn’t just going to drop hard-earned cash on what would essentially be a clips episode or Cliffs Notes presentation of the game’s history. Completing missions in the mansion and beyond will unlock bonus episodes that have you trotting around familiar grounds as characters outside of the series mainstays, not the least of which is the notorious Albert Wesker. The only thing more fun than shooting up monsters as Wesker is listening to his curiously dry quips as he runs about narrating his own story in an awkward accent: “Oh, the electricity is out. Hmm, looks like I’ll be going to the basement!”
Although you can’t technically move your character, you can still look around with the nunchuck’s analog stick. This comes in handy the most when trying to shoot at the game’s many hidden items and ammo, because they’re pretty easy to miss if you’re just running through with tunnel vision. Depending on your level of compulsion when it comes to collecting shiny things, these secrets won’t compel you to play through levels more than once, but it’s nice that they’re scattered about for the truly obsessive.
For the most part, the aiming works fairly well. You won’t find 100% accuracy with the Wiimote, but desperate situations can be resolved by slashing at enemies with your controller, bringing the knife into play quickly and effectively. The game’s difficulty becomes a little unbalanced when some of the later bosses appear, and you might find yourself cursing some of the smaller, more elusive enemies in the game, but it never gets to the point of being unfair to the player; besides, it’s refreshing to have a bit of an occasional challenge on a system full of light-hearted mini-games and non-threatening anthropomorphic such-and-suches.
If you happened to pick up the Wii Zapper bundle, this game should be a no-brainer follow up to hours of Crossbow Training with Link. It may be a bit of a disappointment that it’s so restricted in terms of gameplay-after all, who wouldn’t want to run through Umbrella Chronicles’ faithfully recreated environments in a fully controllable first person mode-but what’s there will still entice fans of the long-running series to see it through to completion.