Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles is a much-anticipated sequel to Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Is it worth the wait?
Story-wise, it covers Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica, the two most popular titles in the series. It also threw in an in-between story after Code: Veronica and before Resident Evil 4 - so spunky hunky Jack Krauser became a playable character for the first time. Of course that really annoying Wesker face and his monotone voice over continued to haunt players during several parts of the game. Capcom said that The Darkside Chronicles would have stronger story telling as compared to The Umbrella Chronicles. Well the result was the continuous reeks and screams of used-to-be great characters like Claire Redfield and Steve Burnside. In the Resident Evil 2 part, Claire kept on making comments like “Ew that’s horrible”, “What are they doing?”, “I don’t want to be their food!” etc. etc. every two seconds. Meanwhile in the Code: Veronica part, it became Steve Burnside who did that with Claire and kept on saying “Be careful!”, “Watch your steps!” etc. etc. That really annoys the hell out of you. One thing about The Umbrella Chronicles that was good was that the silence kept the tension up unless it is really necessary for the characters to talk. I mean continuously asking you to be aware and be careful around the corners doesn’t really help because you are on a freaking rail shooter – that is you have minimal control over where to go!
Also the extended cut scenes in between action really drive you mad. For this, I am not saying the well-done ones that you can skip after watching it for the first time, but the in-game ones that you can’t skip and have no choice but to wait for them to finish talking for six hours (an exaggeration of course, but not by much!). This is especially true for games like this that you have to replay stages again and again to improve your weapons and ammunition. A lot of the time you just want to shoot the characters on screen (which you can) and kill them (which they won’t).
In terms of gameplay, there were a number of changes. For example, you are no longer sharing one life bar with your partner. Each character has his or her life bar and if either die, the game is over. So inventory management became more strategic with more focus on the survival element. Health does not replenish immediately if you pick up a herb, but you need to press + to use it. This also brings more strategic value to the game – this in fact made the game a lot more suitable for two players as the AI versions of your partner are usually just standing there making comments, getting attacked or just eating an ice-cream instead of helping you. Also now, you can change your equipment during the action, as there are stages that you have to have an empty equipment slot to pick up stage specific weapons to clear the stage. This also reminds players of certain Resident Evil bosses, which is a nice touch. In terms of enemies, all the enemies from Resident Evil 2 and Code: Veronica are back, and so are the bosses. However, I don’t know whether Capcom is doing this to increase sales or not, even on normal mode you can just cruise through the game very easily without much dying. Considering the game has around twenty levels to be cleared, we pretty much did it and finished it quickly on normal mode, as compared to the harder curve we experienced with The Umbrella Chronicles. It could be, that with all the extensive playing of the previous game, we honed our skills already or maybe it is just washed down in terms of difficulty. So if you are a seasoned player, I would recommend to start on hard mode, because normal mode is just not as fulfilling for experienced players. After you finished the hard mode, there will be a very hard mode for you to get professional with the game. Back to the bosses, some of them are still quite annoying with their regeneration – yes you killed them but they will come back to life fully healed (which is understandable because of their nature in the original story). But it became quite frustrating when you almost killed it but then you have to use one specific weapon with limited ammo to deal the last blow and they usually dodge it and regenerate to almost half of its life bar.
The Umbrella Chronicles commands a staggering stock of weaponry that you can play around with and upgrade them. Comparing to that the number of weapons in The Darkside Chronicles is just disappointing. Also now each of them requires lots of gold to upgrade so that you have to replay boring levels again and again to earn that money. You can shoot the environment for more gold coins hidden here and there so you will end up just shooting the environment brainlessly to get more gold and the enemies, which you are supposed to kill, became a nuisance during the process. And this became more important part of the game after you finished it for the first time because there are two extra levels you will need to massively improve strong weapons like the magnum so that you can finished the last boss quickly to unlock them for a different ending to the game. But the fact is, the levels became so boring with the endless slow walking and extended talking that you just get really sick of them very quickly.
In terms of presentation, you cannot argue that it is one of the best looking games on the Wii. Electronic Arts thought they did a good job with Dead Space: Extraction, but they still have a long way to learn from Capcom by just looking at The Umbrella Chronicles and The Darkside Chronicles. You cannot deny the fact that Capcom really knows how to get the best out of a machine – from Resident Evil Zero, 1 and 4 on the Nintendo GameCube to the Chronicles series on the Wii. Oh one nice touch to the game was the inclusion of the Tofu mode in The Darkside Chronicles to play homage to the Tofu mode in the original Resident Evil 2. But you are not playing as Tofu anymore instead fighting against hoards of Tofus, which was extremely entertaining.
The Darkside Chronicles has all the potential to become one of the best games on Wii, but then unnecessary changes to the gameplay really make it fall short of becoming a token must have game on the platform. If you like The Umbrella Chronicles, you will still play this but then go back to The Umbrella Chronicles because you do get a lot more value from that game than The Darkside Chronicles.