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Capcom's Kawata on bringing Resident Evil back to its roots on 3DS


When a new platform hits the market, designers inevitably start thinking about how to exploit all of the new possibilities at their disposal. For producer Masachika Kawata, it was a chance to take Resident Evil back to its roots.

"We all agreed that, this time around, we wanted to make a scary Resident Evil similar to the original," Kawata said during a GDC talk that broke down the development of the recent 3DS survival horror game.

That might bring a slightly rueful smile to the faces of longtime fans. Resident Evil 4 gets a lot of love among mainstream gamers and critics; but by admitting that he wanted to make a "scary" game, Kawata seems to be tacitly admitting what many older fans have felt for a while now -- Resident Evil had become an action series.

Kawata was joined by a large number of team members who had previously worked on Resident Evil 5, including producer Jun Takeuchi. In fact, it was Takeuchi who suggested the setting.

"[Takeuchi] came up with an interesting proposal for us. What if for this title, we set it on a boat? Putting it on a cruise ship could give us a nice scary atmosphere similar to the original game," Kawata said. "And so we thought that was an incredibly appealing idea in that a boat isn't just sitting there, it's moving around. So we could use that to affect that environment and what players do. It was thanks to that setting that we could do what we wanted to do."

They were helped along somewhat by the evolution of handheld platforms. In the 3DS, the team finally felt that they had enough power to express the sense of horror they were going for. More importantly, it represented an opportunity to expand the frontiers of the IP -- an important goal for Capcom.

Resident Evil Revelations takes advantage of many of the 3DS's features, including the gyroscope. But it also provided for hardware-based lighting calculations, which allowed for what Kawata termed "extremely rich lighting possibilities" -- a big ingredient in building tension and creating an effective horror environment.

Survival horror worked well with the 3DS in other ways as well, Kawata said. It features tight, closed-in spaces, which are better for the smaller screen of a handheld, and it moves at a more measured pace. Anyone who has tried to play an action game on a bouncing bus can understand the benefits of that last element.

"On these handheld systems, you're really able to get a sense of immersion that you can't get on consoles," Kawata explained later. "But making these kinds of games, you definitely want to do it on a platform where you can get as much power as possible.

Revelations was missing one key ingredient though -- zombies.

"We have zombies in Resident Evil 6 and Operation Raccoon City," Kawata said. "So we wanted to try something different in Revelations."

In the end, Kawata likened Resident Evil Revelations to a bento box, "There's a lot of variety in this lunch, and it's all packed into this very small space. So we tend to take pride in that we have a skill for packing a variety of elements into this small, attractive package. It's the same with the Nintendo 3DS."

Capcom has moved onto Resident Evil 6 now, but Kawata hopes that they can continue working on these sorts of spinoff games. It may spark some dismay among series loyalists that the elements that once defined Resident Evil have been relegated to "offshoot" status. But on the 3DS, at least, Resident Evil as survival horror seems to have found a good home.

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