Nowadays, developers and publishers create their own games with a variety of platforms in mind but remember that things haven’t always been like this. The titles, in fact, previously, were first launched in arcade cabinets and then brought to home consoles and only after the arrival of hardware like the original PlayStation things began to change with games developed specifically around the strengths. of the console. Direct porting to other systems rarely worked due to major hardware differences and some developers preferred to create completely new games. When it comes to the Nintendo 64 port of Resident Evil 2, Angel Studios (now Rockstar San Diego) took a different approach. L’

At first glance, a Nintendo 64 conversion of Resident Evil 2 didn’t have to be a big deal. After all, basically, the action consists of simple 3D characters and objects overlaid on a series of pre-rendered 2D backgrounds. An invisible mesh creates the boundaries of three-dimensional space, ensuring that characters move correctly within the environments, while moving through the levels is achieved simply by switching from one screen to another after reaching the limit: there is no real scrolling.

What appears so simple in theory, however, becomes much more complex when implementation is considered. Resident Evil 2 for PlayStation was distributed on two CDs. It is true that there were some data in common between the two discs but the important thing is that even one of the two gave Capcom a good 700MB of space, enough space for the 2D backgrounds of the game, its 15 minutes of video in full-motion and its 200-minute sampled soundtrack. The N64 version, on the other hand, had to somehow contain all this data in a single 64MB cartridge: less than 10% of the space available on one of the two Resident Evil 2 disks. In addition to this, even if they had fixed the physical media space situation, N64 did not have any kind of video decompression at the hardware level,

Step by step, Angel Studios has faced the challenges of porting Resident Evil 2 to the N64 and the end result, while very different from the original in some respects, continues to hold up well compared to the PlayStation version. Indeed, in some respects it offers technically improved solutions that take advantage of the strengths of the N64 hardware and even includes support for the extra memory provided by Nintendo’s Expansion Pack. Some may even say it’s one of the most impressive conversions in console gaming history.

Replicating the PlayStation full-motion video was arguably the biggest challenge. Due to the lack of cartridge space and the aforementioned hardware decompression technology, the developers had to develop their own tools and methods for compressing data into an acceptable form. Video content was converted from RGB to YCbCr using chroma subsampling to reduce the color spectrum to a fraction of its totality while luminance was only halved. The bitrate was varied according to the various clips: the very animated sequences were encoded with a higher bitrate while the slower scenes could be satisfied with a reduced bitrate.

Furthermore, the frame-rate of the videos has been halved from 30fps to 15, using interpolation to make up for this difference in terms of fluidity. The resolution of the clips, on the other hand, was reduced and the N64’s CPR was used to resize the image to full screen: this also saved storage space. Additional tricks were also implemented, with Angel using the variable frame rate equivalent in today’s video encoding: still scenes relied on frame retention (why encode multiple frames with the same content?) And audio was accurately synchronized with each frame.

Every possible tweak has been made to strike the right balance and deliver acceptable results. The word “acceptable” sums up the final quality perfectly. It is evident that the video clips of the Nintendo 64 do not correspond to the original version for PlayStation: the brightness is halved, the reliance on motion interpolation reduces fluidity, the resolution is lower and the compression weaker. These are all obvious and yet, they work. Angel’s team managed to put all 15 minutes of full-motion video into the cartridge, something no other developer had been able to do before.

In addition, tailor-made solutions for the rendering of the background and objects have been implemented. This version of Resident Evil 2 is completely unique: while most of the other ports are more or less based on the PlayStation version, the one for N64 handles things differently. Take advantage, for example, of the system’s Z-buffer as part of depth calculation while characters feature entirely new textures, designed to fit the constraints of the system and complete with bilinear filters. The overall level of detail is slightly reduced compared to the PlayStation version but N64 users have gained the advantage of anti-aliasing offered by the system hardware.

Resident Evil 2 was a very different game at first, as you can see in this image. This version has been canceled in favor of a much more ambitious design.

The resolution of the wallpapers is reduced on a general level with the system basically stretching and filtering the resources to fill the screen. The curious thing, however, is that the resolution of the framebuffer varies depending on whether you are using the Expansion Pack or not. Without the expansion pack, the game’s framebuffer appears to get stuck at 320×240 during gameplay. The artwork is generally of a lower resolution and the compression elements visible as a result of its JPEG-like compression are obvious but work. However, with the Expansion Pack attached, the game varies the framebuffer resolution based on the scenes.

By varying the resolution, however, the game changes output modes constantly. Already in the first few scenes, the game goes between 240p and 480i and vice versa five or six times. All of this isn’t very visible on a CRT TV which gives the game a sharper, higher resolution look when in 480i but, when playing with today’s doublers and scalers this is a real problem as it can take some time to change resolution. Basically, this version of the game is barely playable on an OSSC and completely unplayable on a Framemeister.

But how does it visually look in comparison to PlayStation? Well, that’s impressive, but again, there are visible cuts. Additional compression artifacts are visible as a result of the conversion while details are lost in other scenes due to reduced resources. There was a rumor that the N64 version featured higher resolution wallpapers and this may be true in terms of what the framebuffer draws but the basic graphics are stripped down across the board. PlayStation simply offers more general details.

Honestly, despite this, Resident Evil 2 still looks very good on the N64, and without direct comparison, it has aged well. On the bright side, the rendering of the character models has improved slightly, at least in some respects. The N64’s anti-aliasing function, which is a hardware feature, smooths edges on character models leading to less visible shimmering.

As impressive as it was technically, the N64 version of Resident Evil 2 lacked many details compared to the PlayStation original.

Audio is perhaps the most impressive thing about this port. Resident Evil 2 uses voice acting for each of its cutscenes and offers a wide range of original music with tons of custom samples designed for PlayStation’s dedicated sound chip. The N64 lacked such a chip and, indeed, its audio libraries appear to have been quite limited. Even Angel Studios struggled to find a solution, forcing the team to partner with famed developer Factor 5, working directly with legendary composer Chris Huelsbeck and two other team members.

Huelsbeck helped develop a sound system known as MusyX for the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy. This system, based on audio samples, allowed developers to define their own unique sound samples while working in real time with a Windows application. PlayStation already had support for this style of music playback, and many games relied on samples rather than digital audio streaming. Chris Huelsbeck’s MusyX system was able to do the same thing on the Nintendo 64. It managed to slightly increase the sample quality of the original while perfectly reproducing the already popular PlayStation soundtrack. MusyX also supports Dolby Surround offering better spatial awareness in the right configuration:

Of course, while the soundtrack is completely intact, the same cannot be said for the sound effects and dialogue. Once again, this problem is due to the lack of space on the physical media: from this point of view there is not much that could be done. The voices are compressed and reproduced in a lower quality and with a more muffled result but, although the quality is reduced, the fact of having this much spoken dialogue in a Nintendo 64 title during a full-motion video is truly remarkable.

Angel also introduced a number of small changes to the game’s gameplay. The N64 version included a second control scheme, completely redesigned, which guaranteed the possibility of managing movements directly with the analog stick, unlike the classic ‘tank’ controls. It all worked too well. You could also adjust the level of violence and the color of the blood, there was a randomizer system that varied the placement of objects from game to game, and a selection of documents known as EX Files designed to tell new players what happened in the game. series while making the first hints of Resident Evil 0. That’s right, Resident Evil 0 was originally in development for the Nintendo 64 with a release date set for the year following the release of RE2 but,

This was accomplished in just 12 months by nine full-time developers working from C code that most closely resembled assembly code, while struggling with comments written in Japanese. Taking into account how many ports from this era end up being full remakes or completely different games due to hardware differences, it’s amazing to see how close the Angel Studios team has come to replicating the PlayStation experience for Nintendo 64 owners. are many other ports, of course, from PC to GameCube to Dreamcast, but all of these platforms have enough storage and processing power to make the conversion possible. But to get such a great game on the Nintendo 64, something special was needed.

So what’s the best way to play RE2 today? The PC version with Gemini Classic Rebirth mod is a viable way. Rebirth adds full support for resolutions higher than those supported by the original game and fixes Windows compatibility issues, while adding X-input support for modern gamepads and fixing some bugs in the original. Not only that, this version almost completely eliminates loading. Transitions between screens are now instant while all loading ports can be skipped – this makes the game extremely fun and simple. The only downside is the combination of super high resolution characters and original low resolution backgrounds:

Ultimately, the GameCube version is an interesting choice. It retains the same resolution disparity but the Swiss homebrew tool can force any resolution you want and, by selecting 240p, the high-resolution character models adapt better to the backgrounds giving the whole a more consistent look.

But probably the best is yet to come. Resident Evil 2 is about to receive a full remake that feels like a great mix between the classic chapter and Resident Evil 4 gameplay. It is fully 3D and appears to have expanded in all directions. A larger portion of Raccoon City can be explored seamlessly. In addition to this, the game runs at 60 frames per second and showcases Capcom’s RE Engine to the best of its ability. Rest assured that we will cover the title in depth when it launches later this month.