For various reasons (mainly console availability) the first Resident Evil game I played was Resident Evil 2. I distinctly remember being dropped off in a zombie-infested Raccoon City and trying to blast my way to the police station and safety. As RE fans will be well aware that was an horrifically bad strategy. You just couldn’t play a Resident Evil game that way – there simply wasn’t enough ammo to blast away the zombie hoards, you were going to run out of bullets and the zombies were going to have a delicious snack. After figuring out how to actually proceed in the game, I was talking to a friend about it and he concurred, Resident Evil games (at least those early ones) asked that you use your ammunition wisely; they asked that you only kill when necessary. That is what made those early Resident Evil games great – the brand of survival horror that they offered required some skill and thought, not just the ability to aim and fire.
Current Resident Evil titles have been far more action oriented and far less scary affairs. While there is still the ability to run out of ammunition, it isn’t as huge a concern as it once was. The Mercenaries minigames which have popped up in the more recent titles only offer more ammunition, not less. The idea behind Mercenaries is simple – eliminate as many baddies as you can in a set amount of time. Now we have Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D which takes the minigames and tries to make a full title out of it.
Capcom has both succeeded and failed here. They have succeeded in that they have made a full game out of it, you can tell as much because they’ve packaged it and put it for sale as full title. They have failed in that it’s not a very good game; it isn’t one that will bring new players into the fold nor will it enthrall RE traditionalists. If there are areas you love from Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 you can revisit them here and they do look pretty good, but that’s about it. The goals are generally pretty simple in the title – kill baddies before they kill you, and kill enough of them so that you’re allowed to advance to the next stage.
The game does offer a dozen different stages; about 30 missions; and eight playable characters, all of whom have an alternate costume you can unlock. There are also skill slots, tons of weapons, and the ability to play online co-op which is fun until your online partner blasts you because you’re too far away for them to recognize clearly (the time limits can make this sort of thing really tough to recover from). Capcom has, it seems, tried to flesh out the minigame as much as possible, but the truth is that by its very nature there may not be much of a way to do that – Mercenaries was conceived and executed as a minigame, throwing more levels and stuff to unlock in doesn’t make it a full title, just a longer minigame at a full title price.
Okay, we’re on the 3DS here, so there are also the obvious questions about mechanics and graphics that have to be answered. The game looks good in 3D; it looks even better if you turn the 3D off, but it still looks good in 3D. The game does succeed in creating that claustrophobic early Resident Evil feel, but I think that it only does that by accident. With the small screen size, in order to have the characters appear of decent size, the view is necessarily restricted.
The controls are all relatively straightforward and work well enough. There is a button available to have you to instantly turn around, but that definitely takes some getting used to – the first dozen (or two dozen or maybe three) that you do it, it is terribly disorienting and you’ll find yourself not quite looking exactly where you want to be looking. If only a 90 degree turn is required and you have done the full 180 you’ve cost yourself time; if a 120 degree turn is required the amount of time it takes you to orient and spin back in the correct direction could be longer than simply spinning there in the first place.
As a big fan of Resident Evil and someone who believes that Nintendo’s 3D handheld system is destined for far greater things than we have yet seen from it, I was hoping that this title would be the first “must have” for the system. I was hoping that Capcom would have worked out a way to morph the Mercenaries concept into something more worthy of a standalone title while maintaining a degree of what people have come to expect from the minigames. That hasn’t happened here – there is no story, just levels, and they’re all pretty much the same. If you just have to play every Resident Evil title there is, sure, go ahead, and play this one. If you’re out to play only the best the series has to offer, you’ll probably want to skip this one and wait for Revelations.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Violence.