A few weeks ago, I saw some gameplay of “Vaccine” on NintendoImpactGaming’s YouTube channel. Survival horror is one of my favorite genres in gaming, and seeing what was on the screen was literally blowing my mind: a PS1 style survival horror game. After finding out it was only released in Japan at the time, I did what any sane person would do: bought it from the Japanese eShop. After putting several hours into the game and becoming slightly addicted, I decided to check out review scores of the game and was honestly pretty shocked at how other critics reviewed the game on other platforms. The highest score I saw was a 6, which was rare, and most of them were 4’s or 5’s.
Honestly though, my review is the only one that matters, and to put it simply: if you grew up with the original Resident Evil games on PS1, buy this game.
Vaccine’s story is limited, which you might think is pretty odd considering I’m comparing it to the original Resident Evil games on the PS1. The game starts out pretty abrupt: after choosing between a male or female character you are put into a room where your friend is dying, who needs a vaccine. On the top of the screen is a clock with 30 minutes on it, real time. You have 30 minutes to find the vaccine and get back to your partner. As you go through the game, you can find documents that shine a bit more light on the story, what is going on, and what exactly the virus is. I’ll let you find out that information on your own however, as it’s more fun that way.
Now, I know what you are saying: “30 minutes? That’s easy, just play the game a couple times and you will have the layout memorized and can speedrun through it.” That is where you are wrong however, as Vaccine is a randomly generated rogue-like Resident Evil. So how does it work? Simply put, the first room is always the same: your friend is dying, and there’s a knife on the floor. After you pick up the knife, you exit the room, and each time the layout of the game is different. Rooms are different, enemy locations are different, and item locations are different, which means it’s like playing a new game every time you boot it up.
Throughout the game, you encounter zombies, a very Resident Evil 2-style “licker” character, and locked doors. Items are scattered throughout the rooms: keys to unlock doors, weapons like a pistol or shotgun, ammo, and more. What makes the game interesting is how your character gains XP from killing zombies. You can then level up certain aspects of your character, such as health, stamina, and more. It adds a nice layer of customization and the effects can be seen promptly.
Once you finally locate the vaccine, you are greeted to a Tyrant-like creature who wants you dead. Some smooth maneuvering or firepower (if you have any left) can take him down. Then you grab the vaccine and rush back to your partner. Depending on the layout of the randomly generated level, it could be quick or it could have been a long adventure. Regardless though, doing it once simply isn’t enough: the game requires multiple completions to get the real ending of the game. The nice part however is that your character’s leveling system is retained, so the game almost gets a bit easier after that initial playthrough.
Graphically speaking, the game literally looks like it was designed on the PS1. Characters are bulky, and filled with visual polygons. Environments are dark, camera positions are fixed like in the classic Resident Evil, and the rooms are varied enough to keep them interesting as you play. It’s not a great looking game, but I can appreciate the art direction they took with it. The audio is superb, with some really good music throughout, and solid sound effects.
Controlwise, the game retains the classic Resident Evil “tank” controls, which will be VERY off-putting to newcomers to survival horror games. As a veteran, I appreciated the throwback to the classic style, as it always made the game a bit more tense that you were a bit restricted on your movement. Younger gamers who got into Resident Evil after 4 may not quite understand the movement in the game, but it’s nothing a little time can’t overcome.
One thing that I didn’t like about the game was the fact that sometimes objects don’t “shimmer”, and it can be hard to find them. I’ve never encountered a situation where a door was locked and no key was available, but the key for some reason wouldn’t “shimmer” letting me know that it was an item I could pick up. Additionally, the first playthrough of the game can be brutally difficult, and can be very frustrating. Many times I’d play for an hour and not be able to save my partner, and I’d get angry and storm outside and have a smoke.
The whole time I was outside though, I was thinking about the game. I’d come back and fire it up and play for a couple more hours. I don’t know what it is about Vaccine that makes me such a fan of it. It’s not a good looking game, the controls are stiff and dated, and the game takes so much from Resident Evil that it at times can feel like plagiarism more-so than honoring the source material. Still though, I had a blast playing the game and got a very nostalgic feeling while playing Vaccine. It retails in the US eShop now for $9.99, and I’d say I got more than enough bang for my buck with this title. If you have no appreciation of classic survival-horror, you will hate this game. Me however? I loved it when I was a kid, so I ended up enjoying myself way more than probably anyone else will with Vaccine.