Resident Evil 0 was a 2002 survival horror game for the Nintendo GameCube by Capcom and Tose Co., Ltd. This game came out just a few months after the Resident Evil remake. Because I had played another Resident Evil game so recently, I didn’t touch Resident Evil 0 until many years later. I ended up finding a used copy at a game store for a low price. It was a good buy because Resident Evil 0 did some new things that other games in the series had not.
Like its name indicates, Resident Evil 0 was a prequel to the first Resident Evil game. In the first game, the police department’s “Bravo” S.T.A.R.S. (SWAT) team had been sent to investigate bizarre murders in the nearby forest. After they disappeared, the police sent their second S.T.A.R.S. team called “Alpha” to find out what happened to the first team and continue the mission of investigating the area. Alpha Team discovered some of the Bravo Team members alive, but not what really happened to them. They got wrapped up in things more dangerous and important than what happened to Bravo Team. Resident Evil 0 gave players the chance to see this previously unknown story of how each Bravo Team member fared.
The biggest new mechanic was the partner system. All of the Resident Evil games had two characters to play as. The story in each game was slightly different based on the character chosen, adding some nice replay value to the games. With Resident Evil 0, they changed things up by having the two characters be partners in a shared story. Each character was controlled independently, but they each had their own special traits. Rebecca could combine ingredients to make healing herbs; Billy could move heavy objects and use his lighter to light candles or fireplaces.
The partner system greatly improved the puzzle-solving aspect of the game. Many puzzles required players to use a combination of both characters to solve them. Some rooms were only accessible with one character. Sometimes entire parts of the game only let the player use one of the characters. Most times the characters stayed together. When traveling together, one of the characters was controlled by a computer AI. They would follow the character the player was controlling and shoot at enemies along the way.
Another change the developers made in Resident Evil 0 was the item storage system. In all the previous games, items that players couldn’t fit in the characters’ inventories could only be stored in big chests found in various safe rooms. If a character’s inventory was full, the player had to go all the way back to a chest to make room. Resident Evil 0 did away with the big chests. Items could now be dropped on the ground almost anywhere. It was so nice when I ran out of space to just drop some item I didn’t need. The developers added a convenient feature to the map that listed all the items dropped in each room. This made it easy to track down any items I had dropped but later needed.
There were some downsides because of these changes. Being able to control both characters was cool, but it sometimes became tedious when I got far into exploration only to find I needed the other character. Part of the problem was that Rebecca was much weaker than Billy in combat. The most optimal way to play was to just use Billy for exploration, killing all the enemies, then come back with Rebecca to solve puzzles.
It was always annoying to have to get the other character to the right place. I wish they had a quick travel option. Do a simple fade out and the other character appears next to the one I’m controlling. That would have messed up some of the puzzles though. In some situations, a character was actually trapped and puzzle-solving had to be done to free them. A possible quick travel feature could have been turned off during those situations though.
The tediousness could get even worse with the new item system. The further I progressed in the game, the more potential places I had dropped items to make room. When I needed to go back, it could be fifteen or twenty minutes just to get the item before I could start progressing again. This might be okay one time, but by the end of the game, I had to do this several times. At a certain point, I got into the habit of shifting items from one big area to a closer big area. It didn’t solve the problem really — I just frontloaded the work instead — but it felt less annoying when I only had to go a few rooms back later.
The graphics and sound in Resident Evil 0 were really good. The game still had 2D backgrounds combined with 3D characters and monsters in the foreground, but the backgrounds were way better than the Resident Evil remake. The main reason was because they were animated really well. The backgrounds weren’t just static. The animations really made the scenes feel 3D. The music and sound was also great. I really liked the sound effects in particular. Everything just sounded real. The technical side of the game really brought the world alive.
I liked that the Resident Evil 0 developers tried out some new features. In the end, they didn’t really improve the game, but they did keep the game fresh. The series by this point had started to feel a little stale. They needed to try some new things out. Luckily, the developers learned from this because the next main game in the series, Resident Evil 4, turned out to be amazing.