I love the Resident Evil series, but the only game I truly hate is The Umbrella Chronicles, so when I got the sequel, I was expecting a world of pain.
Darkside Chronicles is an on rails shooter, so you point the WIImote at the screen and you make shootey noises. It is simple.
Occasionally you’ll get branching pathways, but the main thing that separates Darkside Chronicles from other light gun games is the fact that aim percentages do not matter. Want 100% accuracy? You’ll get a shit score. Darkside Chronicles doesn’t even bother to tell you your accuracy, so don’t worry. Shoot away.
Instead you’re encouraged to shoot EVERYTHING! The light in the corner? Shoot it. The lamp? Shoot it. The innocuous box? Shoot it. Secrets are scattered everywhere, and the only way you’ll find them is to try and shoot everything. It means that even during “down time” you’re looking for something to shoot.
It sounds strange to a seasoned light gun fan, but you really are rewarded for it. You’ll get cash, weapons, health, or basic unlockables from shooting random shit. Some are hidden in crappy items like the lights, but often, they are hidden in things that had things hidden in them in the original versions of the game. The shotgun hook in CV? There is a shotgun on it, the draws in Resident Evil 2’s police waiting room? Items! I don’t know them all, but chances are if you know 2 or Code: Veronica well enough, then the secret has been incorporated here, where possible.
As this is a retelling of 2 and CV there is some poetic licence taken with the story to justify the 2 players and format change. Some of this makes sense, but some of it really grates. For me, the two worst additions are:
- The weird training facility level added to Code: Veronica
- The way Alexia discards Alfred in CV scenario.
The training facility annoyed me as it felt lazy, but the worst is how the Alexia section fundamentally changed the character. Alexia and Alfred are my favourite characters in the series, and for the game to casually change the dynamic was a disservice.
Other than that, the stories remain fundamentally the same. Additionally, you get Operation Javier which attempts to explore the background of Krauser and Leon, and how they met. I don’t know is this was something fans had asked for, but to summise:
Leon and Krauser are sent to South America, to track down a drug trafficker with links to Umbrella. Obvious zombie outbreak occurs, and the game switches back and forth as Leon explains how he became involved with all of this. Since Capcom wanted to include Code Veronica, the T-Veronica virus is inserted into the story, to give the game a reason to retell the events at Rockfort Island.
The game ends with a retelling of the Operation Javier story, from Krauser’s perspective. It is a little lazy, and the reasons for Krauser turning evil boil down to “Krauser doesn’t like that Leon isn’t a rookie”. Having said that, the new story isn’t as generic as “insert generic Russian badguy” from Umbrella Chronicles.
Operation Javier works much better than the tacked on Russian section in Umbrella Chronicles, it is the driving force of the story, with sections broken down as a “this is what led us here” retelling of the previous events. It means there is a much stronger connection as to WHY you’re retelling RE2 than there was for the unconnected events of Umbrella Chronicles.
There are actually a lot of differences between this and Umbrella Chronicles, and they mostly make Darkside Chronicles a MUCH better game.
Weapon select has been streamlined, in Umbrella Chronicles it was really fiddly to change, and you’d have to cycle through weapons till you found the right one. Instead, in Darkside Chronicles, you press a direction on the pad or nunchuck. Much simpler. It does mean you can’t look around with the nunchuck, but the streamlined weapon select improves the experience immensely.
Headshots are easier to pull off, I still don’t know what qualifies as a headshot in Umbrella Chronicles. I went back and replayed it for a few hours after finishing Darkside Chronicles, in Umbrella Chronicles it was shit and horrible. In Darkside Chronicles there is a knack and a certain rhythm to headshots, that offers a nice trade off of constantly shoot everything, and taking your time to line up a shot.
Checkpoints are much less annoying. Rather than having three drawn out and boring levels per 3 sections of the scenarios like in Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles has more scenarios per chapter7-9 per story. It means levels aren’t as long, and can be done in less than 10 minutes. But as there are 2-3 checkpoints, it means a death doesn’t require a 30 minute repeat of a hard section.
Bosses more fun. Bosses in Umbrella Chronicles were one of the worst parts of the game. It still annoys me that Nemesis took 250 bullets to kill. In Darkside Chronicles, everything has a weakpoint, and bosses mostly make sense. Hell, I upgraded my shotgun, and was able to kill the 4 stages of the final boss in 10 shots (per section). It meant bosses had a natural flow, and only dragged if you were unable to hit them (the gas tank on Crocodile boss).
Weapon upgrades weren’t useless. Jesus it annoyed me when I discovered certain weapons had tiers, and that you shouldn’t waste valuable stars on upgrading shite in Umbrella Chronicles. In Darkside Chronicles you slowly get new weapons as you play the levels. But the upgrades were useful, you can make the starter pistol better than an un-upgraded magnum. It might sound obvious, but upgraded weapons were something to aim for, it encourages you to shoot EVERYTHING. In Umbrella Chronicles the star system for upgrades meant upgrading took too long, and were mostly useless since they didn’t really help you.
No instadeath QTE! Nobody likes QTEs, Darkside Chronicles doesn’t remove them, but now if you fail, you lose a little bit of health. Not get instadeath.
Darkside Chronicles made me go back and play Umbrella Chronicles to see if I was wrong about it.
After replaying them both I can confirm Umbrella Chronicles is pretty terrible, it feels broken, it is unfair, and I stand by the “this makes it half a game, and not an especially good half a game” comment.
Darkside improves on everything, and is actually a pretty good game in itself. As light gun games go, it is fairly solid, and for fans of the series I’d say it was worth your time. The reasons for Krauser becoming a bad guy are poor, and the whole Operation Javier doesn’t really add anything much, buthis is fan service and a light gun game, and they have done both of those things well.
It isn’t as good or as novel as Dead Aim, but is an improvement on the other games in the Survivor series.
Pros: Shooting everything is fun, the bosses are fun, the upgrades have a use, Wesker is limited to brief cameos. The secret mission!
Cons: It emphasises how poor Umbrella Chronicles is. The camera is REALLY shaky