In 1998, as the world neared the 21st century, video games were truly beginning to stretch their boundaries. Having only recently embraced the possibilities afforded by the use of three-dimensional polygons, companies like Nintendo, Sega, and Sony had machines on the market capable of offering incredibly expansive, immersive digital adventures. Entire new genres were even being explored; in 1996, developer Capcom unleashed Resident Evil upon the world, a key entry to established the “survival horror” category of games. But it was its sequel, Resident Evil 2, that truly cemented the place in gaming history for both the franchise and the genre it represented.
Over 1,000 players have rated the game on its GameFAQs page, with the result being an impressive average score of 8.8. The weekend of its release in North America, it set a new record for fastest-selling video game ever, beating the mark previously set by Final Fantasy VII. Many influential outlets have placed the title somewhere on their list of top 100 games of all time at some point.
Following protagonists Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, Resident Evil 2 elaborated on the horrors introduced in the original game, while greatly expanding on the themes in the larger, more diversified setting of Raccoon City. Had the sequel failed in its grand ambitions, who knows where Capcom would have gone with its gaming line-up, much less its forays into the survival horror genre.
But January 21, 1998 proved to be a day of triumph. Thanks to the success of Resident Evil 2, the future of the franchise was secured. In fact, Leon Kennedy would become a recurring protagonist, appearing as a playable main character in sequels Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 6, ascending to the heights of one of the most recognizable personalities in gaming. He may even star in future titles as well.
Whether or not Kennedy returns to further games in the series, the success of the Resident Evil canon can be traced back to that first sequel, Resident Evil 2, and its undeniable statement of placing the franchise in the hearts of many fond fans to come. For survival horror and quality gaming in general, RE2 remains a pivotal, watershed moment.
Eric Bailey blogs at NintendoLegend.com, where he is reviewing every American-released NES video game. He also serves as Editor-In-Chief of retro gaming features site 1MoreCastle.com, and can be followed on Twitter @Nintendo_Legend.