In order to understand the influence of RESIDENT EVIL, you have to understand how it came to be through eyes of the father of the survival horror genre, Shinji Mikami. Shinji Mikami came to work at Capcom in 1990 as a game planner. He had a dark past where he had admitted being afraid of his violent father, but despite that, Shinji still respected him for doing the best he could to support his family. Shinji heard about Capcom through a friend, who saw an advertisement for a job fair/dinner party. He attended the event for the free food, but became interested in the gaming world after hearing some of the staff’s stories about working in the industry.
Inspired by DAWN OF THE DEAD, Shinji came up with the concept of having monsters resemble humans as much as possible and named the project BIOHAZARD. BIOHAZARD became known as RESIDENT EVIL outside of Japan, and the name eventually became iconic to horror fans everywhere. Shinji believed allowing players to control the experience in games gave them the opportunity to survive the horror unlike their unfortunate counterparts in movies. In the beginning, Capcom wasn’t behind the title and wanted to cancel it.
Shinji fought for the title and convinced the company to continue with it, and with his guidance it ultimately became a worldwide sensation. It was the first game to be dubbed a “survival horror” title and ultimately lent a significant hand to the success of the PlayStation console as well. After the accomplishment of RESIDENT EVIL, Shinji Mikami became a producer at Capcom and aided in the development of the game’s many sequels, including the renowned title RESIDENT EVIL 4, all before leaving the company in 2004.
In the early days, the RESIDENT EVIL series focused on pure horror, but SHINJI decided to work more action into RESIDENT EVIL 4 due to the poor reception of the RESIDENT EVIL remake on Gamecube. In an interview with IGN in 2013, he stated: “RESIDENT EVIL 4 would have been a more scary, horror-focused game if the remake had sold well.” While RESIDENT EVIL 2 and 3 had started to include more action, it was this pivotal moment in the development of RESIDENT EVIL 4 that led the series away from its survival horror roots into a the more crowd-pleasing, action-oriented style of the third-person shooter.
Even after Shinji left Capcom, the company decided to continue the movement away from horror into more action-oriented “fun” gameplay with RESIDENT EVIL 5 and 6. Alternatively, this decision turned off long time fans of the series, making RESIDENT 5 and 6 some of the worst ranked games in the franchise.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 was recently announced and fans are hoping that the series can return to its horror roots while keeping some of the aspects that worked for RESIDENT EVIL 4. The RESIDENT EVIL series celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and Capcom has teased that it has a “full-scale offensive” to celebrate this huge milestone. Gamers will learn more about the upcoming RESIDENT EVIL 7 at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (known as E3) in Los Angeles, California.
In order for RESIDENT EVIL 7 to be successful, the new release is going to have to give today’s gamer a true AAA experience, while including aspects of the classic survival horror gameplay from RESIDENT EVIL mixed with the action-oriented experience of the popular RESIDENT EVIL 4. Fans will need to have an engaging single player campaign that manages to stay immersive whether played co-op or online. Even if Capcom manages to combine all of the right ingredients–RESIDENT EVIL 7 will still be missing the most important one of all–Shinji Mikami. Can the series ever really return to its classic horror roots without the father of survival horror? Guess we will see soon enough. Stay tuned!