*Please forgive the lack of screenshots in this review, but I do not currently have a 3DS with capture capabilities and this game does not support the ability to post screenshots to Miiverse.
Revelations was released at a very interesting time in the history of the Resident Evil series. Resident Evil 5 was released back in 2009, and while it was extremely competent as a third person shooter it fell under a lot of criticism for leaving the horror elements typically associated with the series by the wayside. Though those criticisms were answered with the Lost in Nightmares DLC, it seems most had already made up their minds about the game at that point. Not long after the launch of the 3DS in 2011, we saw the release of the first original portable Resident Evil game in quite some time: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. While this game clearly showed that the 3DS was capable of powering some very nice looking games, it was ultimately just an extended Mercenaries mode made into its own packaged game. Finally later in the year we were treated to a bit of Resident Evil nostalgia with HD versions of two classics in the series: Resident Evil: Code Veronica X and Resident Evil 4. This was also a mere couple of months before the abortion that was Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and the critically panned Resident Evil 6 would not hit until the later part of the year.
Due to the general feelings on the two games that came before Revelations, Capcom was very smart to announce at the onset that Revelations would be a long desired return to the series’ horror roots. It was said to take place between parts 4 and 5 (it turns out the story sort of leads into that featured in 5’s Lost in Nightmares DLC), and was going to feature both Chris and Jill. They were saying all of the right things to make long time fans of the series happy.
And the hopes that fans pinned on this game were not misplaced. In fact it stands as one of the series’ high points, despite being a portable Resident Evil game, a creature that many think has a pointless existence (not to worry for those who do, it would later get an HD port to home consoles). Revelations does a fine job of showing that Resident Evil can be both a portable and good original game in the series, by actually designing it around the fact that it is a portable game. Its episodic structure makes for a brilliant design decision, breaking a game of decent length into smaller chunks in order to make it feel more manageable on the go, with the added benefit of making it seem more like a TV series with its “Previously on Resident Evil: Revelations…” recap sequences at the beginning of each episode.
Revelations would absolutely not have been able to come together as well as it did without its predecessors though. Director Nakanishi Koshi worked on designing Resident Evil 5, which is why Revelations has a more fluid feel to it than much older installments in the series. Yes, a return to horror does not necessarily have to mean a return to janky tank controls! Mercenaries 3D acted as a great stepping stone to Revelations since it allowed the team to hone their abilities to produce a fantastic looking and playing game on portable hardware, because Revelations looks absolutely fantastic and features some of the best use of 3D to be found on the 3DS to date. It at times very obviously pushes the 3DS hardware to its limits, visibly chugging when loading new areas (loading is cleverly disguised by waiting for doors to open, staying true to the old Resident Evil load-hiding method but in a more modern way). It also has the benefit of having been released after the Circle Pad Pro accessory (which basically was released for Capcom’s Monster Hunter 3G) late in 2011, the Frankenstein monster that attaches itself to the bottom of a 3DS and acts as a second stick via the infrared port. While it is both ugly and bulky, it really makes playing Revelations feel good and control nearly flawlessly.
I say nearly flawlessly because since the setting of this game is a cruise ship, it features many under water sequences. Despite the fact that Monster Hunter 3G managed to handle under water sequences decently enough with the help of the Circle Pad Pro, Revelations falls quite short. This is perhaps why combat is not really possible in any of these under water sequences, or it could also be that shooting guns under water doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. Though I felt frustration during the more elongated under water sections, this was ultimately quite minor. Moving and shooting is now possible, a dream held by many since Resident Evil changed its perspective back in Resident Evil 4. Apparently this feature was actually deemed undesirable for quite some time, since the staff felt it would make a Resident Evil game feel too fast for a horror game. A compromise was finally reached in Revelations by slowing down the character movement, so that backing away from a monster and shooting it will still typically result in the monster closing in on you if you’re not careful.
Though Revelations brings a newer set of controls with it, it also succeeds in bringing back a more tense, horror atmosphere. While the cruise ship setting may bring thoughts of awful horror movies like “Ghost Ship” to mind for some, the atmosphere is so well executed upon that you only stop to think “Oh yeah, I’m on a ship…” when you’re forced underwater a bit later on in the game. The areas are very dark, to the point where you probably don’t want to try to play this game in large amounts of direct sunlight. This often results in feelings of enemies coming at you out of nowhere, so sound will be a much bigger cue here than in a lot of previous RE games. I won’t attempt to explain the story, as it’s very much burdened by the various governmental factions and Resident Evil lore up to this point, and for me served mostly as a vehicle to deliver an excellent game. It does feature Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as playable characters, though Jill is ultimately the star of this show. It also features other new characters to the series Parker Luciani, Jessica Sherawat, Quint Cetcham and Keith Lumley who are playable throughout sections of a few different chapters and heavily involved in the story.
This is also the first game in the series to feature both English and Japanese voice acting options, a trend that the series would largely continue afterward. Many of the Japanese voices are done by notable voice actors as well: Jill Valentine is voiced by Yuya Atsuko (Jackie Tristan in Bleach, Miwako Sato in Detective Conan, Yukino Azusagawa in Yakitate!! Japan, etc.) and Chris Redfield is voiced by Touchi Hiroki (The Japanese voice of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, Bard in the Black Butler series, Pantherlily in Fairy Tail, Ovan in the .hack series of games and anime, Lasse Aeon in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and many more). In addition to the campaign mode, Revelations also features a Raid mode, essentially a newer (and in my opinion much better) version of the classic Mercenary mode found in many of the previous games. Here you choose from a variety of different scenarios from the campaign mode with the luxury of being able to select a character and setup your equipment (of which you acquire more of as you play more Raid mode and gain currency to purchase it). Additionally, Raid mode can also be played multi-player both locally and online for a very fun co-op experience (not something we ever really got in Mercenaries mode, prior to Mercenaries 3D). There are also unlockables for both campaign and Raid mode found through Missions, which are gained both through achieving certain tasks in campaign and Raid mode as well as through 3DS street pass functionality.
This offering in the Resident Evil series serves as both an example of how to make a great portable game, and a great direction for the series itself to go on. Like many others, I had begun to feel lukewarm toward the series in the general before Revelations came along and changed my mind. I don’t mind if Capcom decides to run the numbered games in the series into the ground, as long as the Revelations games continue to uphold this level of quality.