The combat mechanics in Resident Evil have always contributed to the tension of the gameplay. The controls are deliberately clunky and the gunplay isn’t graceful by any means. Although the series started becoming more like traditional action games with the advent of the modern classic Resident Evil 4, the game is still certainly not known as a fast action experience. Among other refinements to the series, Resident Evil 4 also introduced a “Mercenaries” mode, tasking players with doing nothing more than slaughtering waves of enemies in locales drawn from the main game. Mercenaries was a relatively casual, arcade-style minigame, complete with time limits and high score chasing.
The mode was well received, and after making an appearance in Resident Evil 5, it was announced that it would be coming as a standalone title to the 3DS. In many ways, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the perfect casual portable game. It’s fairly fast, fun, and consumable in bite-sized chunks. However, on that basis, it can be argued that it might be a better fit as an inexpensive title for mobile phones, as opposed to a full priced release for the 3DS, particularly considering that it’s essentially comprised of previously released material.
The gameplay here should be familiar to Resident Evil veterans. While for the first time in the series you can move and shoot at the same time, the game does give a slight concession to the normal controls, given that once you start moving your aiming reticule is locked. This kind of control would actually be great in a more slow-paced, core Resident Evil game, and it’d be nice to see it make its way into the forthcoming Resident Evil Revelations. But in the context of a title that’s intended to be so action-oriented, it doesn’t quite give the player the ideal amount of elegance in control. There’s also the Resident Evil version of a perk system, allowing you to equip specific attributes. It’s a relatively neat concept, and again, one that would be nice to see continued and refined as the franchise continues.
Mercenaries supports two player co-op, both locally and online. Unfortunately, the local co-op requires both players to have a copy of the cartridge. But the game is still fun to play with a friend. There’s simply not a lot of content on the cartridge, however. The replay value of the game is entirely derived by the desire to beat your own score. While this is perfectly in line with the notion of an old-school arcade game, in this day and age of full-featured, inexpensive portable titles, it’s tough to argue that Mercenaries has enough meat to be considered a full-fledged game.
The controversial save system in Mercenaries certainly warrants some discussion. There’s no way to delete the save file in Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D, restoring the cartridge to factory conditions. This means that someone can’t really start the game over from scratch, whether that person was the original owner of the title, or more likely, someone that purchased the game secondhand.
Capcom insists that the decision to implement such a system had nothing to do with discouraging trading of the game on the secondary market, and rather that it was intended to be consistent with the title’s arcade-style and high-score driven play. While that may be true, it can easily be argued that players wanting to play Mercenaries will pay for a new copy in order to have the full gameplay experience that comes with unlocking various game assets while they play.
Part of the allure of chasing high-scores in an arcade is that there are plenty of other people playing the same machine. That’s almost certainly not the case with console titles, and in any case, such functionality is easily replicated (and arguably made more interestingly) through online leaderboards. Intentionally or not, Capcom’s decision has raised the ire of gamers. UK retailer HMV announced that it will not be accepting trade-ins of the titles, based on the fear that consumers that purchased the game through them secondhand might feel as though they were being offered less than a full game experience.
The irony of all this is that, again, enjoyable though Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D can be, it’s tough to sell what amounts to a Resident Evil minigame on the home consoles as a full-priced portable title. Given that the game isn’t budget priced, it might have done very well on the secondary market. Capcom has announced that due to the backlash the save system received, they will likely not be implementing it in any upcoming games. Interestingly, however, Namco has recently announced that it will be using the same system.
While Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D‘s offerings are relatively light, what is there is undeniably fun. Franchise fans who are looking for a portable taste of the series could certainly do a lot worse. While there’s nothing on display for those looking for the camp and scares of a core Resident Evil title, high score chasers will likely enjoy trying to achieve personal bests.