Despite being a big fan of horror games, (at least good ones), I have never actually played Resident Evil 1 in any form. I have watched several Let’s Plays of it, but never dived in. With the announcement of that the remake of 1, 4, and 0 were all coming to the Switch, it was time to go straight for the Origins collection and finally play this cornerstone of horror gaming.
Instead, I had to pass over the remake for the time being due to that being digital only. While the game downloaded for several hours, I decided to play its prequel for the first time ever as well.
Resident Evil 0 tells the story of Rebecca Chambers, a young woman who is part of the S.T.A.R.S. Bravo Team, the team Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield were looking for in the first game. She finds herself climbing aboard a deserted train in a forest while searching for a missing criminal, Billy Coen. Said train is filled with zombies and Rebecca will have to team up with Billy in order to escape this nightmare alive, while also discovering the mastermind behind this outbreak.
RE0 debuted originally on the Gamecube, before being ported to the Wii, and eventually getting its HD remaster in 2016 for modern consoles and PC. The Switch release is the same HD remaster, and the crisp graphics, the character movements and models, etc, all look pretty dang good under this remaster and now on the Switch. There’s no in-game slowdown from what I noticed either, though there were two issues. The cutscenes were a bit blurry at times, looking like they didn’t get the full update. The load times as you transition from area to area are bad though, taking almost 20 seconds to load. It’s so bad that the transitional bits of doors opening or staircases being walked down will end several seconds before gameplay resumes. It leaves us with awkward, empty shots of blackness or the final step of a staircase much of the time.
Control-wise, using the regular Switch controller is fairly smooth. It’s very easy to move around, aim, and shoot random zombies, either aiming for their heads or when they’re on the ground. The changing camera angles aren’t as difficult to work with as I thought; though I do often wonder if I’m hitting enemies off-screen. I do have difficulty with turning around to aim, which I felt could have been smoother. It takes a lot of effort and time to “quick” turn from experience, finding it a lot better to just stop aiming and readjust my whole character. This has annoyingly led to me more than once getting big chunks bitten out of my shoulders.
The train portion makes for a very good opening segment of the game. It’s the perfect balance of difficulty with not too many enemies or any big challenging foes to get in the way. The puzzles are easy to solve, there’s a good amount of item management to get you used to the idea, the location isn’t too large so backtracking isn’t annoying, and there’s plenty of ammo to work with. Even the boss, a very random giant scorpion, isn’t too hard to deal with. However, the location does make avoiding enemies difficult due to how narrow things are within the train cars, so it’s not that much of a cakewalk either.
The main feature that RE0 has over almost any other game in the series is the partner mechanic. You play as both Rebecca and Billy, swapping between them on the fly and using them together or separately for puzzles. Each character has their own unique properties to differentiate them, though Billy’s better defense tends to make him more favorable than Rebecca. Also, two characters means twice the inventory space to carry more items, but that won’t really matter. There are a lot of two space items and you’ll fill up quickly, having to spend a lot of time figuring out what to hold onto or leave behind. It can get annoying, even early on.
Despite the minor annoyances, I was really getting into the game. The train segment has some great atmosphere as you explore its cars and rooms, seeing the remains of the tragedy that occurred and how lonely it felt. The grimy visuals, quiet ambiance, and low groans of the zombies make for a haunting, unnerving experience. It’s kind of a shame that the segment isn’t longer, since the area is very unique in comparison to what comes next.
Last thing to mention are the bonuses. There are in-game achievements, which pop up and block part of the screen for a decent amount of time. There’s concept art to unlock, which I’m not sure if I have gotten any. However, there are also costumes to dress everyone up in. There is a pitiful amount for Billy, but plenty for Rebecca. All of them are callbacks or costumes from the original game, some of which that are pretty nifty. Some of which are… something.
Resident Evil 0 for the Switch has been a decent experience. I’ve only just cracked the surface of what the game has to offer, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. It’s mostly held back by its load times and some design decisions that could have used some more tweaking in its original form. It still contains the creepy ambiance the original games are known for, the story is silly but enjoyable, the puzzle solving is simple but fun, and there’s more of enough of a challenge here to start newcomers off.
If you never played the game before and happen to only own a Switch, it may be worth your time to try. Or, at the very least, buy the physical release to snag a copy of RE1 remake and play this while you wait for that to download. By itself, the thirty dollar price point may be too high for its own good.