Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles

Thursday 20 October 2016

If you haven't had the chance to play Resident Evil 2 or Code Veronica, The Darkside Chronicles makes up for a decent substitute, given that the two of its three stories are summarised remakes of the aforementioned games. Memories of a Lost City is Resident Evil 2 revisited, while Game of Oblivion is a retelling of the events in Code Veronica. The arc story, Operation Javier, which acts like a hub of sorts, is a new chapter in Resident Evil history, albeit a flashback, which goes back to Leon Kennedy's past and his mysterious (as of in Resident Evil 4) connection with Jack Krauser.

Released exclusively for the Wii, The Darkside Chronicles is an on-rails game, meaning you play in first person and the path you are following is pre-determined, allowing you very limited initiative. This however doesn't take away the fun; as soon as you get the hang of this kind of gameplay, it's actually pretty fascinating.

Operation Javier

Leon starts narrating his past adventures in the South American jungle, offering us a truly epic intro scene where he arrives at the rendezvous point in the forest and meets Jack Krauser for the first time.

That said, I'm more and more convinced that The Darkside Chronicles was made primarily in order to give more substance and importance to the character of Jack Krauser. Come think about it, this was the first and - so far - last time that one supporting character from one game appeared in another one as a basic protagonist, alongside the main hero. We have seen - and played with - so many secondary characters in the Resident Evil games, yet at best we only got a brief backstory of them and maybe a few words about their future: Billy Coen, Sheva Alomar, Jessica Sherawat, Parker Luciani - to name but very few - all were associated to the main characters one way or another yet we forgot about them as soon as their games ended.

Jack Krauser's case is much different. He was not just one more supporting character in Resident Evil 4. From a point and on, he took over the main villain's role and stuck to it almost to the end (Saddler beat him to that). His past with Leon couldn't remain just a vague hypothesis of vengeance; it had to be shown and known to detail. Operation Javier narrates a not so known chapter in Leon's life and career, when he was sent on a mission in South America to locate Javier Hidalgo, a drug dealer who was connected to Umbrella. Due to the peculiarity of the mission, he was offered the aid of Jack Krauser, a highly trained and intelligent mercenary, whom he hadn't known before. The beginning of the story also marks the start of the legendary blooming bromance between the two guys.

As the story unfolds, we get to see how nicely Leon and Jack go along and how well they co-operate,  developing respect and liking for each other. There are instances where they tease each other humorously, making it quite obvious that if things hadn't taken the bad turn that they did, they could have been best buddies.

You have the option to play with either Leon or Jack, having the other character as partner (unless you play co-op, of course). Along the way, there are sections where you also have the drug dealer's daughter Manuela on screen, accompanying both guys in their quest. She also proves quite useful later on. The mission is split in five main chapters, that are not particularly long and introduce us to new environments and enemies. There is exploration of both exterior and interior areas, including a village with zombie residents, a huge dam and its labyrinthal corridors filled with all kinds of creepy monsters, and the hostile grounds of Javier's fortress-like mansion.

At the end of the first chapter and upon discovering Manuela, we see Krauser being particularly intrigued by his new experience with unexpected kinds of enemies in this mission. Realizing that Leon knows a lot about them, he insists that his partner tells him everything he is aware of. As they start their journey to locate Javier's hideout with Manuela's help, Leon begins narrating the events of Racoon City to Jack.

Upon the conclusion of this extended flashback, we are brought back to present day, were we are informed that Manuela is actually a carrier of the Veronica virus. This revelation brings more memories to Leon, and he goes on with his narration, describing to Jack the nightmarish adventure of Claire Redfield at the Rockfort Island.

When all narration is over, we are transported back to the South American jungle; now Leon and Jack with Manuela are closer to Javier than ever. While battling a hideous monster (who turns out to be someone Manuela knows too well), Jack gets seriously wounded. However he bravely goes on with his duties, until Javier is finally discovered. Having already exposed himself to the Veronica virus, Javier becomes a terrifying monster himself, albeit unable to handle this newly acquired power, unlike Manuela whose good heart and strong sense of conscience and responsibility help her keep her superhuman abilities under control.

The finale of this story comes with two different endings, depending on how quick you had been in defeating Javier; and in each ending, Leon comes up with a different conclusion to his narration.

Memories of a Lost City

Memories of a Lost City brings us back to Raccoon City, where we have the option to play as either Leon or Claire, while the not selected character will serve as our partner (again in co-op, you can play with another player).

The story is the same as in Resident Evil 2, minus the cazillion keys and items you had to find in the original, and although you get to visit many areas from Resident Evil 2, some memorable ones are missing - ie, the Library, the Attic, the Conference Room or the Morgue. Leon and Claire meet Ada together at the parking lot of the Police Department and seem to run miles until they are able to catch up with Sherry after getting a glimpse of her in one of the corridors.

This mission spans over eight chapters, making it the longest of the game. You begin in the Raccoon City streets, where you have to go through hordes of zombies, pass from Kendo's gun shop and move on to the main street where the Police Department is. 

While in the original Resident Evil 2 you had to visit the rooms in specific order, looking for keys and solving puzzles involving gems, statues, gears and paintings, here it's a one-way street: you go where the game takes you, and there is one route you can only take (even when you are given the option to choose between paths, it's no much difference which one you choose).

Now you have the chance to battle William Birkin with your partner, as well as the fearsome Tyrant, who won't stop stalking you from the moment he sets his eyes on you. If this isn't love, I don't know what it is. The persistent 'Trenchy', as Leon tenderly nicknames him, chases him and Claire in the RPD corridors, the creepy sewers, the furnace below the lab, even the abandoned train station where they run to with Sherry, in a desperate attempt to escape. Of course defeating the Tyrant doesn't make your life any better at than point, since a bit later there is one more enemy you have to battle before all is actually over.

Game of Oblivion

Leon's narration of the Rockfort Adventure begins soon after he sees signs on Manuela that she's been injected with the Veronica virus. The flashback takes us back to the island where Claire Redfield was imprisoned after she was caught infiltrating the Umbrella Facility grounds in Paris while looking for her brother Chris. A mysterious attack caused a biohazard on the island, killing most of its inhabitants (prisoners and guards, mostly) then turning them into zombies. While trying to make her way out of this place, Claire meets Steve Burnside, obviously an ex-prisoner too, who like her is still human.

Like in the two other main missions, here too you have the option to choose between two character players and pick either Claire or Steve. Although the story remains the same with the original Code Veronica, most of the puzzles in the Mansion, the Residence and the Training Facility have been left out and replaced instead with a killing game in the Training Grounds, set up by Alfred Ashford. This section is quite intense and pretty much summarizes perfectly Alfred's twisted mind.

Equally the Antarctica Adventure part has also been summarized, but without lacking anything atmosphere-wise. Certain unforgettable trials have been omitted (ie, the gas mask sequence) and the battle with Nosferatu is more player-friendly in this version as he can't push you into the abyss anymore and you don't have the fear of getting poisoned by his claws.

While in the original you got to play half the game with Chris, in this version he only appears for the final chapter and you have the option to play with him if you want, while having Claire as partner (or vice versa). Either way we have the chance to see the Redfields together on screen and in action (although you can't literally see the character you are playing with as the game is first person), which is nearly as epic as the first time ever on-screen meeting of Leon and Chris in Resident Evil 6.

Unlike in Code Veronica, where Chris had to fight against the mutated Alexia Ashford on his own, here he has Claire to help him. We also do get Claire's heartbreaking farewell to Steve, but this time Chris is by her side all the time. Unfortunately, neither Chris or Claire bump onto Wesker in this version, so we are missing some truly legendary scenes; but it looks like Wesker took the time to leave his signature so that it would become clear to Chris that he was the one behind all this.

Darkness Falls

Darkness Falls is a bonus two-chapter story which actually consists of the two last chapters of Operation Javier but this time from Jack's point of view. Note that this is different from the main story when you play as Krauser; in that case, it's the exact same story, only the character player is different. In Darkness Falls, we play exclusively as Jack who shares his secret and dark thoughts with us, taking the narrator's role over from Leon.

Perfectly conscious that his career in the army will be over due to the extremely serious injury caused by the monster, Jack slowly starts shifting his interest towards the 'wonders' that the viruses can do.  We get to know his complicated psyche and understand (although not exactly justify) better the reasons that made him start questioning his role in the mission long before the injury that changed his life.

Jack gets extremely disappointed and frustrated after learning that Leon is not just a simple soldier like him, but rather a decorated agent on a special assignment under the direct orders of the US President. This is a career that he always wanted for himself, and this is why he starts despising Leon who got this position without really wanting it, but as a result of blackmail. By the end of the mission, he is determined to search for the man whom he sees as a key to his rebirth, and that's no other than our adorable and ever-present villain, Albert Wesker.

There is something extremely charming about the whole Darkside Chronicles game; maybe it's Leon's first-person narration, which provides a different perspective to the action, or the fact that we get to see so many familiar and favorite characters together. Maybe it's because the different stories blend together perfectly, and also because although the gameplay is rather linear and specific (you can't stray off, for example, to explore a room where you are not supposed to go), the design of the world is wonderful and makes you feel part of it as you play.

Shooting items in the environment rewards you with coins, as well as secret files which then you can access via the game's menu. These files may be cutscenes, audio files, notes and info on characters as well as certain items that come from Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica and you find them here as souvenirs.

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