A failed attempt of developing a Resident Evil 2 port for the Sega Saturn ended up in the development of Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Code Veronica chronologically speaking was the true sequel to Resident Evil 2, even if Resident Evil 3: Nemesis ended up being the numbered successor to the PlayStation survival horror hit.
While Code Veronica isn’t as well remembered as other entries in the series, partially due to being released on Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast instead of on a more popular console. The game would encounter both commercial and critical success upon its release in early 2000. The original title sold 1.14 million units worldwide on the Dreamcast, and distant cry of the series sales on the PlayStation 1, but a very successful Dreamcast title nonetheless.
The game was also a massive critical hit at the time. Code Veronica holds the highest (Gamerankings 94%) aggregate scores in the series under Resident Evil 4 (MetaCritic 96%) so for a time, Dreamcast owners had the best Resident Evil available on home consoles.
Early on Capcom touted the Dreamcast’s power CPU and GPU in an interview with Sega Saturn Magazine:
“Switching to Dreamcast development will be our biggest challenge. Up to now, we have never been able to do what we really wanted to do because there’s always been some kind of hardware limitiation whether it was the CPU or the graphics chips. Both for the SFC and the PlayStation we pushed the hardware to its limit, but the Dreamcast is too powerful we will never be able to do that. Even if Sony releases the PlayStation 2 and it is more powerful than the Dreamcast it won’t make any difference. The average player won’t notice. The Sega Saturn was failure outside of Japan because the PlayStation was too good, but that will now become a problem for Sony’s PlayStation 2.” – Noritaka Funamizu General Producer of Capcom’s development division (1999)
While Funamizu’s prediction of the PS2 having “troubles” – because of what he foresaw would be a successful Dreamcast campaign – never came to pass, Code Veronica is stunning proof of the capabilities of Sega’s last console.
Resident Evil Code Veronica was an important milestone for the series, as it was the first game to focus its efforts on telling a more dramatic story, and it was the first game in the series to be a fully polygonal experience in three dimensions. While the controls remained a hindered by the approach utilized in the PlayStation entries, the new visual fidelity allowed for a more dynamic camera despite the fact the fact that Claire and Chris were still victimized by the traditional RE tank controls.
The most enduring memory of my time with the game, aside from the difficulty of the one Tyrant fight on the plane, is that the game made me proud to own a Dreamcast because of good it looked in 2000. It was truly a massive leap in quality in terms of polygon counts from anything that had been possible on the N64 or the PS1 for that matter.
As the stated before, the game’s story was more fleshed out than in previous entries, thanks to a mix of CG and in game engine scenes. Claire looked fantastic, her facial animations were staggering at the time, and the game blurred the line between CG and in game models further than any game had in 2000 (though Namco’s Soul Calibur has a good claim for being the greatest looking console game at the time). Realtime lighting, smooth movement and animations, and some of the best texture work seen up to that moment graced the Dreamcast Survival Horror title and left a lasting impression on me.
Due (Partially) to the Dreamcast’s short lifespan, Code Veronica would see life in other systems in the form of Code Veronica X in 2001 (PS2), and it would sell an extra 1.4 million units in such a form. But, perhaps by then, the game didn’t have the same visual impact that it had a year earlier on the DC, and perhaps this is why it has been one of the series less talked about titles.
The game would quickly be outshined by the Gamecube’s RE1 remake, and Resident Evil Zero. Eventually Capcom released the groundbreaking Resident Evil 4 which was truly a revolutionary leap for the series (and third person shooters in general) in terms of gameplay and visuals. Veronica while fully 3-D didn’t really change the core mechanics of the PS1 Resident Evil games. The puzzles, the controls, and the game’s progression style matched what had come before it. The game can be found in digital stores now, and there is little hope for Capcom’s “Remake” treatment at some point, as the company is rumored to have bypassed the title for a RE4 remake.
Still, Code Veronica is probably my 3rd favorite game in the series, and its most stunning looking game at the time of its release. As such, Resident Evil Code Veronica will forever live in my memories as one of my favorite gaming experiences ever.