Resident Evil 3 and the Millennial Nostalgia Machine

Have you ever loved a piece of media so much that you consumed it over and over again? I spent many days after middle school circa the millennium playing the first three Resident Evil games over and over. After a long hiatus from playing video games in general, I decided to come back home.

The Resident Evil 3 remake has its flaws, but it feels like it was custom made for adults with busy lives who are just getting back into video gaming and have a huge soft spot for this series. So basically, it felt like it was made for me.

Resident Evil 3 follows Jill Valentine as she tries to escape a citywide zombie outbreak that has just tipped over into utter chaos. The intro for the game really nails a lot of what 2020 had in store for us. Released on April 3rd, 2020, it features live action, fictionalized sequences of CDC press releases on a growing outbreak and citywide riots. I used to think it was silly Jill was caught so off guard by how bad things had gotten outside her apartment, but after the past year I wonder this no further.

Jill is relentlessly pursued by a seemingly unstoppable monster codenamed Nemesis, who has been sent to specifically go after any remaining S.T.A.R.S. members left in the city. She is assisted by a Umbrella soldier Carlos, who she reluctantly works with despite telling him Umbrella is responsible for everything.

Unlike the previous two games where you are largely confined to one large, mysterious building as the main setting, Resident Evil 3 takes the brief journey to the police department at the beginning of the second game, and makes the chaotic streets the main playing area. Like all Resident Evil games, it is still very linear, but the rich detail of the cityscape makes for levels you want to take your time appreciating even while trying to avoid becoming a zombie snack.

The game is more action-based than the first two, while still developing an atmosphere of fear and dread. With Nemesis, sheer panic is tossed in for good measure.

Footage of my mindset playing these games

I decided to play this remake first as a warm up to attempting the Resident Evil 2 remake which looks legitimately terrifying. Especially for people like me who try to kill every zombie encountered instead of dodging. But the original Resident Evil 2 was an incredibly formative game for me, so I’m trying to put on my big girl pants.

I am not usually a fan of “Millennial Nostalgia” culture, and I often resent the plethora of remakes and reboots that have been promoted to my generation. When these remakes/reboots fail, it feels like it is our fault because, after all, we are the target audience. I don’t know many peers who are clamoring for Hocus Pocus 2, but it feels like we are to blame for its possible existence just because we loved Hocus Pocus (yes I am willing to be quoted as the voice of my generation on this topic).

However. When I approached the Raccoon City police station during Carlos’s mission, I had a lot of happy feelings. Seeing some set elements like the “Welcome Leon” sign and Carlos calling one of the special key doors “a weird fuckin’ door” were great details.

I played the game on Assisted aka baby mode where you find more ammo, more inventory, enemies are less tough, and Jill gets an assault rifle early in the game. I have no regrets playing on baby mode, and it gave me the boost I needed to get readjusted to survival horror again. It was the perfect amount of hand holding to help me avoid backtracking to clean up my inventory constantly, and give me the confidence to know I can still play these kinds of games.

I played video games pretty consistently throughout middle school and high school, but fell off drastically during college and graduate school. By the time I tried to come back to gaming around 2012, games had advanced quite a long way from the style and gameplay I was used to in 2005. It felt like games had veered into multiplayer shooters and open world concepts that left me clueless. I love great storytelling, but I use video games as a stress relieving tool. Basically, I want to run around and hit stuff and not think too hard. I don’t want to figure out puzzles or sneak around enemies or try to rapid fire shoot other players in a World War 2 setting. I just want to run around and hit stuff.

My gaming was so rusty in 2012 when I tried to return to them, I never even bothered getting a Playstation 4. But then the pandemic happened, and like many people I decided to explore new hobbies, or in my case rediscover an old one. I bought a Playstation 5, and like the parent of an eager but short-sighted child, I told myself there were conditions to justify this splurge. Namely, I had to be serious about playing games again in order to get my money’s worth from the purchase.

I began the reintroduction to games with Spider-Man: Miles Morales. It was an excellent reminder of how fun games can be. I used to really enjoy the Spider-Man games, and so I picked up the gameplay and tempo really quick. When I finished that, I checked out Resident Evil 3 from the library.

Resident Evil 3: The Good, The Bad, and the Where’s the Clock Tower?

I can completely understand why fans of the original game were frustrated by this remake. It is brief (it took me eight hours and I’m as rusty as a metal fence in Silent Hill). It completely skips iconic set pieces from the original game (*cough* Clock Tower *cough*). It forgoes the live action selections that created different storyline elements in the original Resident Evil 3. The puzzles feel like a child designed them (and therefore that a child designed the subway and hospital systems in Raccoon City). They insist that the vaccine both prevents AND CURES the T-Virus (????). It has lost a lot of the tone and atmosphere of the original Resident Evil 3, and instead feels like a Resident Evil 3 remake of the Resident Evil 2 remake.

I get all of that, and I’ll admit I’ve never been a HUGE fan of Resident Evil 3 in the same way I am of Resident Evil 2. I will probably nitpick Resident Evil 2‘s remake much more (in fact I already have pet peeves with it based on watching playthroughs because YES I’m a BABY and I’ve watched multiple playthroughs already). But I think the way this game is a modern jaunt through an old game I loved helps me love it. It feels fresh because of the graphics, gameplay, and variations on the original, without being too intricate and inaccessible to a rusty adult who is just returning to games. It feels like nostalgia done right. Just as I did in middle school, I unexpectedly spent a whole afternoon and evening beating the new Resident Evil 3 remake, and appreciating how joyous it can be to revisit an old favorite. It is the first time I felt lost in a video game in years.

And I do think it has improved upon the original in some ways. I really like this depiction of Jill and Carlos. It kept elements of their characters, and toned down some of the cheese that wouldn’t translate well to a modern retelling. I really liked that the game touched upon how traumatized Jill would still be after the mansion incident. I didn’t care for how cartoonishly evil Nicholai is in this version, but it is interesting that he keeps telling Jill to look out only for herself. In this version of the story, Jill helps get civilians out of the city on a subway car, only for Nemesis to kill them all in his pursuit of her. So she does inadvertently cause multiple deaths of people that would have otherwise escaped the city if she had died or stayed behind. A lot of the story seems to involve Jill trying to protect other people, but ultimately needing to put herself first in order to survive.

I also thought Nemesis was scarier looking when he appeared with a black garbage bag over his head. The power station was…a terrifying thing that happened. It felt like this game was so intent on upending expectations it missed the mark with some things, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a fun ride through the world of survival horror. If nothing else, these remakes have set an even higher bar for the film reboot.

Anyway. I know this is a little different than my usual posts, but I just had to gush a little bit. It has been so long since I grinned that much while being terrified. With COVID, we all just got a collective reminder that life is short, and we should just play that game or buy that candy bar in the checkout aisle when we want to. I wish all people got remakes like this – ones that honor the source material and help the person tap into why they loved the original in the first place. The closest horror film equivalent I can think of was how excited I was to see Scream 4 in theater, so much so I teared up a bit when the title card finally showed up. Not because I thought it was going to be amazing, but just because I never thought I’d get the chance to experience a new Scream movie in a theater. I won’t make posts like this a habit, but I’ll probably write up my thoughts on the Resident Evil 2 remake…if I can make it through the game.

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