It’s time to save Dino Crisis from extinction.
With Resident Evil 7’s successful reinvigoration of the horror franchise last year and the upcoming remake of Resident Evil 2 looking equally terrifying, it’s safe to say that Capcom’s premiere franchise is riding high. Now that’s all well and good, but in their efforts to repair their favored series, Capcom are missing a golden opportunity to revive a few of their extinct titles, starting with Dino Crisis.
For those too young to remember the time when dinosaurs roamed the PlayStation, Dino Crisis was a survival horror game from legendary director Shinji Mikami – one of the lead creating forces behind the Resident Evil series and, more recently, The Evil Within. Set on a remote island, Dino Crisis follows a special forces team’s attempts to capture Dr. Kirk, an archetypal mad scientist who had faked his own death and gone into hiding. Not long after landing, the team discovers that the facility has been infested by Cretaceous carnivores and has to battle their way off the island.
Dino Crisis was a critical and commercial success when it launched in 1999, even garnering an impressive 9.2 from a fresh-faced IGN. Despite this success, Dino Crisis is often thought of as nothing more than ‘Resident Evil with dinosaurs’. This description is a little reductive, but not entirely inaccurate. Much of Dino Crisis’ original DNA was lifted directly from the bones of Resident Evil, prominently featuring the iconic fixed camera angles, tense action, and obtuse puzzle solving that had propelled the survival horror series to glory.
Beyond these genetic similarities, Dino Crisis was so much more than Resident Evil in a prehistoric frock – it was an evolution of the formula. Velociraptors represented a faster, deadlier challenge than the shambling corpses inhabiting Racoon City. To combat this threat, Dino Crisis’ protagonist, Regina, could simultaneously move and aim her weapon. It seems like a quaint feature to boast about now, but at the time this was a massive deal.
There hasn’t been a great dinosaur game in well over a decade.
On the technical side of things, Dino Crisis was breaking new ground by eschewing Resident Evil’s traditional pre-rendered backgrounds in favor of and opting for a custom 3D engine. This new engine, combined with the clinical setting of the island laboratory, gave Dino Crisis a clean sci-fi aesthetic, in stark contrast to the grimy decay of Resident Evil’s Raccoon City. This futuristic vibe was carried through to its puzzles, which did away with shoving random items into statues in favor of the laboratory’s DDK lock system. It was hardly rocket science, but solving these ciphers made you feel like a hacker, which was all the rage in the ‘90s.
Throughout it all, the star of the show was undoubtedly the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who was running the whole super-persistent predator schtick long before Nemesis reared his ugly head in Resident Evil 3. After munching the squad’s Red Shirt in the opening cinematic, the T. Rex was a constant threat, smashing its head through windows and headbutting helicopters in its pursuit of a tasty, Regina-flavored snack.
Dino Crisis 2
Just a year later, Dino Crisis 2 burst back onto the gaming scene, changing up the gameplay formula completely and stepping out of the shadow of its older sibling. In the aftermath of an entire town disappearing, Regina and her cohorts were sent travelling through time to rescue any survivors. While Dino Crisis featured a few dinosaurs dotted about a modern-day laboratory, Dino Crisis 2 saw an entire town displaced and dumped unceremoniously into a Jurassic junglescape.
Dino Crisis 2 was very much the precursor to the Resident Evil series’ shift from horror to action with Resident Evil 4. Long before Leon was gunning down hordes of Ganado, Dino Crisis 2 had already abandoned the horror genre’s trademark spooky corridors in favor of bombastic action and explosive set-pieces. Featuring faster gameplay, hordes of dinosaurs, and an arsenal of weaponry that would make your average gun club blush, this high-octane sequel successfully crafted its own identity. The cast of dinosaurs was massively expanded upon too, with acid-spitting Oviraptors and ocean-dwelling Plesiosaurs joining the returning cast, including the indomitable T. Rex that once again pursued our survivors with unnatural ferocity.
Dinosaurs are cool. They just are. It’s not even up for debate.
Sadly, the series took an asteroid to the face in 2003 with the arrival of Xbox-exclusive Dino Crisis 3. Taking the action to space is rarely the fresh new direction a series needs, but Capcom made the bizarre decision anyway. Set 500 years in the future aboard a space ship infested with genetically-engineered super dinosaurs, this threequel abandoned almost everything from the series’ history. Combine the ludicrous choice of setting with a pitiful lineup of enemies and one of the worst cameras in gaming history and you get the ultimate extinction event for the Dino Crisis franchise.
Capcom Is Interested in Remakes
Dino Crisis has been buried ever since, but it’s high time that changed. Capcom has expressed interest in revisiting its old series on several occasions, notably in 2016 after the reveal of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Capcom stoked these fires again earlier this month, responding to a question about plans for remakes, stating that they planned to “explore” more remakes going forward. Today, they announced a remaster of 2001’s Onimusha: Warlords.
As to why they should revisit Dino Crisis specifically, well – because dinosaurs are cool. They just are. It’s not even up for debate. Yet despite this, there hasn’t been a great dinosaur game in well over a decade. There was 2008’s mediocre Turok reboot and, more recently, the janky survival game ARK: Survival Evolved, but nothing has scratched that Jurassic itch since the days of the original PlayStation.
Watch the trailer for the Onimusha: Warlords remaster:
The blueprints are all laid out for a reboot or remake too; the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake has paved the way for a Dino Crisis remake beautifully, blending old-school survival horror with a modernized camera perspective and control system. These changes would serve a faster menagerie of foes perfectly, and Dino Crisis has a pack of velociraptors lined up who’d very much like to audition for that role.
Meanwhile, Resident Evil 7 has shown the way for a purely horror-focused Dino Crisis should Capcom wish to take things in that direction, and they could even look to Resident Evil 6 if they wanted to make another blockbuster action title. Actually, forget that last one – don’t do that.
So, how fitting it should be that 2019 will be the 20-year anniversary of the original Dino Crisis – what better time for the return of one of gaming’s most underappreciated series? Of course, if Capcom haven’t started work on a Dino Crisis remake yet then it won’t be ready for the anniversary, but that’s fine. This is a reboot 65 million years in the making. We can wait just a little longer.
Ian Stokes is a UK-based freelance writer who loves wrestling, sci-fi and a lovely cup of tea. Follow him on Twitter at @IanVanCheese.