It’s a matter of public record that the Resident Evil series, and even the modern survival horror genre itself according to some, got its start on the Sony PlayStation. Pre-rendered backgrounds, clunky door-opening loading scenes, 3D tank controls, and hilarious voice acting were all staple elements of players’ first experiences as a member of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team.
But what if they weren’t? What if Resident Evil had released for a console with limited 3D capacity, no options for vocal audio, and no need for loading screens? Though the idea of Resident Evil missing those elements might seem hard to imagine today, that was apparently almost the case: speaking in an interview with Game Informer, Capcom game director Koji Oda off-handedly revealed that one of his first jobs with the developer was working on Resident Evil for the 16-bit Super NES.
“Honestly, I feel like I joined the game industry at the best time,” Oda said. “Typically, games would take half a year and no longer than a year to develop, so I feel like I was able to take part in a lot of different projects. It’s not that well known, but before Resident Evil went to the PlayStation, I was working on it for the Super NES.”
Elaborating, Oda stated that Resident Evil didn’t have any specific distinction by the time Sony’s PlayStation hardware was making a name for itself on the home console market. The system’s popularity and power meant the team could shift focus and create a game that would ultimately be quite different from what they were originally working on.
“This was back before the name Resident Evil had even been assigned to it,” Oda said. “The codename for this was literally just ‘horror game.’ On the SNES, we were working with limited hard drive space, so it’s not like we could dump a movie in there. If we had actually completed it on the SNES, I’m sure it would have been considerably different. For example, it was originally set in a place that had nothing to do with reality – more of a hellish place.”
Granted, the origins of Resident Evil aren’t too far separated from the origins of the PlayStation itself: when Nintendo surprised Sony executives at CES in 1991 by entering into a new contract with Philips, Sony began adapting their plans for the Nintendo Play Station into their own video game console, the beautiful beast that later released as the original Sony PlayStation. The system officially released in December of 1994, with Resident Evil following around 15 months later. Resident Evil was also only the third Capcom game to release for that system, preceded only by the releases of Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior’s Dreams and the Japan-exclusive title Street Fighter II Movie in December of 1995.