I usually don't get to games late. I'm always moving on from new game to new game, with little time to dive back into my backlog. But this year, I made a New Year's resolution to not force myself to play every game that passes by. I'm pacing myself. With that new rule in place, I'm especially late in playing one big game of 2019: Resident Evil 2.
And oh, how I love it. Last weekend, I finally wrapped up my first run through of it as Leon. I light-jogged like hell away from Mr. X; I set fire to viney zombies. I had a great time doing it all too. This past week, I took a break from Resident Evil 2 before diving into what I knew was said by many to be essential: the second playthrough, now as Claire.
It's hard to make a second playthrough of a video game feel worth it. In most cases, multiple playthroughs shift the dialogue and ending, a boss or so, and not much else. They often aren't worth the time invested, especially now that you can quickly go on YouTube to catch whatever ending you missed, even if you are intrigued by the promise of a new outcome and different character interactions. Some games, memorably, use repetition as a strength in encouraging repeat playthroughs, and build upon what came before it with finesse; others spit in the face of repetition.
Visual novels do the latter the most often. I remember my time with Long Live the Queen, the Princess Maker 2 inspired visual novel-life sim, fondly. In it, you guide a young queen through her studies and political choices after the death of her mother. In most cases, your playthroughs end tragically, with her own death. Long Live the Queen is a game built to be played time and time again.
Yet, Nier: Automata is perhaps the biggest example of the opposite: a game worth playing through multiple times from alternate perspectives, unlocking a third playthrough upon the second's completion. The third playthrough is basically like a sequel to the first two parts; as you're even treated with a dramatic trailer upon finishing 9S' own route.
I won't lie, I was worried about the Resident Evil 2 remake's second route, knowing I would be trotting through the same areas over again: the police station, the sewers (ugh), and the laboratory. In the first Resident Evil, the differences between Jill and Chris are almost negligible, with weapons and story beats being different, but not much else.
But Resident Evil 2 does something rarely enacted successfully in games. Like Nier: Automata, it both masterfully utilizes repetition and twists the refreshed experience into something surprising with new weapons, different routes through areas, and so on. While the environments are familiar, there is something immediately disconcerting about it. Zombies have overrun the police station again, even now that Leon's long gone. It's terrifying from the start; as your new guns are unfamiliar and a little unwieldy. Early on, I entered a room I remember being safe in my first playthrough, only for it to no longer have a typewriter to save my progress. Resident Evil 2, the game itself knowing that you know what to expect at this point, instead does the unexpected.
You see the ghost of Leon's past journey throughout it; in the zombie bodies on the ground, in the crawling torso in the police office, in a zombified Marvin, in your good ol' pal Mr. X stomping around from the get go. (Which sucks.) It's somehow even more tense than the long stretch of Leon's playthrough where I had no ammo, due in part to being a fool and wasting it early on. My inventory was itty bitty compared to what it was by the end of my Leon run. I couldn't even pick up most of the things I come across, instead staring at my map and wondering if I would ever get back to the items knowing a sound-sensitive Licker was in my path between me and the door.
When I complained about this annoyance in a Discord server ("I honestly don't know if I can finish it," I whined like a baby), my friend and colleague Joshua Calixto shared an article he wrote for the blog Bullet Points Monthly, where he tackled this very topic. "The experience of playing as Claire derives tension from player imperfection rather than weapon weakness," he writes in the article. "If you're accurate with every shot, you're made to feel much more powerful. If you're an average player (and most of us will be), you'll find yourself in far more danger than you’ll ever see in a Leon playthrough."
That's really the source of why the B playthrough is so surprising: it imbues you with a feeling of inadequacy, as if everything I learned in Leon's campaign doesn't matter anymore. This isn't a New Game+ where I'm a master at everything; I'm like a newborn rolled into a harder introductory area of the game I played before. I'm no longer exploding heads with one precise shot with a MAG pistol, nor foolishly waving a flamethrower around. I'm slowly reloading Claire's stronger but slower pistol as I walk backwards down hallways. I'm not as reckless as I was with Leon.
And it's precisely that that makes the Claire playthrough work so well. It's a different kind of terror than what Leon experiences. These hallways may be old news for us at this point, but for Claire, it's a new kind of horror that she's never seen before.
It's the perfect way to make a second playthrough feel more worthwhile, like you're being rewarded for more than just a new side of the story. In Resident Evil 2, the moment-to-moment experience feels like you are a different character with unique skills, rather than a shell to see new cutscenes within. When I jumped into Route B, I expected the difficulty to maybe ramp up, but I didn't expect it to feel like a brand new adventure. And with weirdo acid rounds at my side, I'm excited to see Claire's experience through.
Major Game Releases This Week: April 29 to May 3
Here are the major releases for the week of April 29 to May 3. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age [April 30, Xbox One, Switch]: The modern generation remaster for Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age first released two years ago, then a PS4 exclusive. Since then, it's released on PC, and tomorrow, will finally make its way to two notable platforms: Xbox One and Switch. They're both intriguing ports in their own right, with the Xbox One version having Xbox One X enhancements of running at 60 frames per second and the Switch version being, well, a Switch version. (So now you can play Final Fantasy 12 on the go!)
Starlink: Battle for Atlas [April 30, PC]: Ubisoft's Starlink: Battle for Atlas is coming to PC this week. This is just after news that Ubisoft is discontinuing physical toys for the space-adventure game, though new content like DLC will still be made for it. From what we played back on its launch last year, its Star Fox content, exclusive to Switch, was actually pretty great.
VA-11 Hall-A [May 2, PS4, Switch]: A few years ago, Sukeban Games' VA-11 Hall-A blew me away. It bills itself as a "cyberpunk bartending action" game, but in more layman terms, it's a game about building relationships through dialogue choices and learning about the dark and seedy world you live within. It does a really excellent job with worldbuilding, and deals with uncomfortable topics with a careful eye. It's coming to PS4 and Switch this week, and its sequel N1RV Ann-A is aiming for a 2020 release too.
This Week's News and Notes
- On Friday, Sony's released its big new exclusive, Days Gone. Mike, who reviewed it for us, overall liked it, but felt it took too long to get to the good stuff. Reviews seem largely positive for the game, though nowhere near as high as Sony's recent exclusive titles.
- Also last week, BoxBoy + BoxGirl, the next game in the thought-to-be-done BoxBoy series released on Switch. It brings with it multiple campaigns and co-op puzzles, making it the biggest BoxBoy game to date. You can read my review of it here.
- Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey got their "VR" updates for Labo VR. While they're novel in their own right, they're bound to give you a hand-cramp, writes Nadia.
- Freelance contributor Aron Garst investigated the prosthetics in Devil May Cry 5 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and talked to scientists and amputees themselves about how close to real life they actually are.
- Last week, we finally found out what P5S was, and it was Persona 5 on Switch, but not in the way fans hoped. It's a Musou game, with Persona 5 style over it. I remember reading the news last week when I woke up one day and chuckling about it, to be honest. Y'all wanted Persona 5 on Switch so bad. This feels like the ultimate Atlus diss.
- The Division 2 was the top-selling game of March 2019, which is big news considering it had competition with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, MLB The Show 19, and Devil May Cry 5. The four still topped the charts though, in that order.
- We finally know what Mario says to Bowser in Super Mario 64, thanks to Mario's longtime voice actor.
- The Nintendo 3DS has gone out on a quiet note, with no first-party titles on the way for the portable platform in 2019. There's still some games to look forward to though, like Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth.
- The PS5 apparently won't be out in the next 12 months, but it's looking increasingly likely we'll see it in the back half of 2020. Here's to hoping!
- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is this year's cover star for Madden 20. The first details about its new modes, were revealed last week.
- Five years after Shovel Knight's debut release, we catch up with Yacht Club Games about what's next for the studio now that Shovel Knight is (sorta) wrapping up.
- Axe of the Blood God: From Interceptor to Boo, animal buddies have a strong history in RPGs. Kat and Nadia trace their history from the days of Dragon Quest 5 to the present day, discussing their various usages, as well as ranking their five favorites (spoiler: Dogmeat is in there, because Dogmeat is a very good boy). Plus, Kat and Nadia review SteamWorld Quest! Does Image and Form's popular indie series successfully make the transition to card-based RPG? Find out! Subscribe here!