Crispy Gamer

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (Wii)

I've never really understood the appeal of the light gun shooter. Sure, they're fun little diversions -- I still load up House of the Dead: Overkill on Saturday nights (welcome to my world) -- but they never seem to hold my interest for more than 15 to 20 minutes, tops.

My biggest problem is with the whole on-rails thing. I hate being led around by my nose through a game. There's no sense of discovery. There's no self-expression. You see what the developers want you to see, and that's that. That's the deal you make with the game when it starts up.

It's an antiquated conceit that really needs to evolve.

My light gun bias aside, I played through the entirety of Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Capcom's second light gun digression through the Resident Evil universe. (The first was Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.) The game revisits people and places from the Resident Evil series. Krauser, Claire Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy ("s" is for "sexy") and series second banana Steve Burnside are playable. Many of the game's environs and enemies will be familiar to anyone who has played Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Yes, you will return to the Raccoon City Police Department. Yes, you will fight a very large alligator.

Resident Evil: the Darkside Chronicles
Who peed in the pool?

Of course, this is a Resident Evil game, so the dialogue generally ranges from completely nonsensical to embarrassingly cheesy, usually in the span of the same sentence. Here's an actual exchange from the game:

Leon: [Looking at zombie] "This is like something from a horror movie!"

Claire: "Yes! Except in a horror movie, you don't have to do all of your own stunts!"

Ahem.

Moving right along.

Some of the game's subtitles also prove to be inadvertently entertaining. When Leon announces that they must travel into "the bowels" of the Umbrella Corporation's research facility to get to the bottom of things, the on-screen subtitle reads "the bow's." Naturally, each line is delivered in the self-important, huff-and-puff fashion that Resident Evil fans know and love.

But who comes to a Resident Evil game for drama, or pithy dialogue? No one, that's who. I came here to shoot zombies. Also: I came here to see if a light gun shooter could finally hold my interest beyond the typical 15- to 20-minute time limit.

Resident Evil: the Darkside Chronicles
What happened, buddy? Did this game bore you to death? Nyuk, nyuk.

Surprise: The game did get its hooks into me, but in a totally unexpected way. Weapons are woefully underpowered at the start of the game. To upgrade them, you need to shoot at random objects in the game world -- aim for that bowl of fruit! No, I am not kidding! -- and see if some gold bars pop out. Grab the gold bars -- just cursor over them and click A -- and at the end of the mission, you can use the gold bars to customize your weapons.

Fact: Gold bars are very difficult to find. And upgrading weapons is terribly expensive. To take my pistol's reload speed from a D to a mere D+ rating costs 5,000 dollars. I could purchase a 1998 Honda for that much. Solution: Replay the game's earlier levels over and over (and over) again, grinding away, and wringing as much gold as you possibly can from them.

It took several hours to get my pistol's power level to a B-, but when I did, I think I let out a short, melodious cheer. CG Pro Tip: Upgrading the pistol makes it far easier to pull off those all-important skull-razing headshots.

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Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I enjoyed this dullish digression to upgrade my pistol. But you know how it is. You get obsessed with doing something in a game, and you wind up doing something kind of boring for a night or two, just to see if you can do it. Which is what I did here.

The game looks pretty good -- all together now, class -- FOR A WII GAME. Things do get a little murky at times, forcing me to ramp up the brightness setting on my television. This is especially true once you enter the bow's of the Umbrella research facility. I couldn't see jack shit down in there. Things were out there, in the darkness, and they were hurting me. CG Pro Tip: Just keep shooting. Eventually those things will die/go away.

Zombies shamble with a great deal of zombie credibility, but the undead character models repeat a little too often for my taste. Here comes the zombie woman in the pink tank top again! Boom. And here she comes again! Hello again! How have you been? We've really got to stop meeting like this. People will talk! Ha, ha. Boom.

Resident Evil: the Darkside Chronicles
Whenever I see the woman in the pink tanktop, I hear that Bryan Adams song from the Robin Hood movie. You know the one. Don't pretend you don't.

Most levels are punctuated with a large boss of the why-won't-it-f***ing-die variety. CG Pro Tip: Each boss in the game comes back to life at least four times. Plan accordingly, people.

But in the end, after the closing credits, after I'd killed the game's final boss at least four times, I think I actually had more fun managing my ammunition than I did shooting zombies. No kidding. I enjoyed keeping a close eye on the bullet levels in my submachine gun and shotgun, trying to find the perfect on-the-fly moment to swap out one weapon for another. (Weapon swapping is handled via the analog stick on the Nunchuk.) If you think about it, that's really all there is to do in a light gun shooter: manage ammo. It's the only thing that even remotely gives your cerebral cortex a little tickle.

Do I think there are more stories worth telling in the Resident Evil universe? I do.

Do I wish that those stories made more sense? I do.

But do I think the best way to tell those stories is via an on-rails, cursor-steering pixel-hunt?

Shoot at the bowl of fruit over there, and the answer will pop out.

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.