|The Resident Evil series is branching out this year.
Resident Evil: Code Veronica will debut with the Dreamcast, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis comes
out this fall for the Playstation, and Resident Evil 2 has been ported to the N64 and the
game.com. Thinking that the only thing missing in the Resident Evil series is portability,
we got a hold of a game.com pocket pro and the RE2 cart.
The game.com pocket pro is part of the new wave of handheld systems. It accepts cartridges, has a two-player link ability, has a grayscale LCD display, and comes with a bundle of built-in applications. The game.com comes with calendar, phone book, calculator, and solitaire programs included. These are accessed using the touch-screen. The extras make it a handy unit to have around, but it would be much handier if it had a clock built in, and it would be nice to be able to schedule appointments in the calendar; as is, it's a fairly limited function.
Carts for the game.com include RE2, Metal Gear Solid, Evander Holyfield Boxing (with rumble pack), and a slew of others. The system seems to be getting great support. The game.com stores high scores, and these can be uploaded via an accessory cable to the Tiger website, where there are contests for the best scores. Users can also download cheats from the website. Future networking applications are planned for the game.com. There will be a modem available for the unit, and a cartridge will give users portable email capabilities with any ISP.
With all of these great functions, the game.com makes a strong case, especially at a retail price of $29.95. But as with any grayscale LCD system, there are visual difficulties that detract from the more graphically complicated games, and the problem is not helped by the touch-screen grid. The sound on the game.com is quite marginal as well, which doesn't do much to overcome the visuals.
RE2 on the game.com illuminates the ups and downs of the gaming system. It is a decent translation of the PSX version, and tones down surprisingly little of the play to accommodate the game.com. There is only one character, Leon, which is a break from the console version. Also, rather than finding files as you go along, you are able to access them from the outset via the File menu. The story is virtually identical to the console version, but the areas have been simplified a little. The outside areas are especially simplified, but areas such as the police station look very similar to previous versions of the game.
A mark in the game.com's favor is how well the 3D environments translated in RE2. The game successfully makes you believe you are moving in a 3D world, and it takes advantage of different camera angles. Movement is performed with the direction pad right and left spin your character, up and down move him forward and back. The unit has four buttons, so you have the standard action/shoot/push, draw weapon/fend off zombie, run, and access menu buttons. The character screen is a phenomenal translation of the PSX character screen. There are also small cinematic-type cuts that harken back to the original.
Unfortunately, the grayscale display and low resolution make it difficult to see interactive elements in the setting. This is made worse by the fact that the contrast goes to hell on the game.com when the batteries start giving out. In a game like RE2, it is imperitive to be able to spot hidden items, and too often on the game.com version I found myself wandering around until I just stumbled into something that was completely invisible.
The fact that they give you all of the files from the beginning of the game is also a difficulty for me. In the other versions, finding the files alerts you to something that needs to be done in the vicinity of the notes, or something that you may have recently gotten a clue about. In the game.com version, you are left to wonder exactly where each file belongs. Because many of the puzzles are changed, relying on memory alone cannot get you through.
I also had a problem after I had invested more than a few hours in my game. The game.com had the batteries in for approximately 8 10 hours of play when they died. A warning came up on the screen asking if I wanted to save my data. I followed the instructions that I thought would save all of my game data, and when I put in new batteries I got the "Data Found" message, and pressed the button it asked for to save the found data. But when I went to load my saved game, nothing was there. I checked my phone book, and there was nothing listed in it either, despite the fact that I had made up several friends to try it out. Neither the game.com directions, nor the RE2 directions address this problem, but I find it extremely problematic. My batteries are probably getting low again, and I dread changing them. If data storage is at all unreliable, then utilities like the phone/address book are useless.
Overall, it is impossible to expect the game.com version of RE2 to be the same kind of experience as the other versions. All things considered, it is an excellent translation of the game that will keep you busy for a long time. The frustration factor because of the display and save issues is worth considering, but if you're a fan of RE2 you should be able to get over it. If you already have a game.com, this might be an especially interesting title, but if you're looking for a game to begin your collection, go with the arcade hits.
The game.com as a unit still seems promising, but it does have some drawbacks. I look forward to seeing their re-releases of classic games that do not need to simulate such complex graphics. I also hope that in future versions of the game.com they ditch the touch-screen, or at least make it burlier. Although I've only used the game.com stylus, I already have a cloud where the Solitaire draw pile sits.