Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 was one of the best games of 2019, which is no easy feat for a remake that feels very familiar in many ways. But modern flourishes, such as updated visuals and shooting mechanics as well as the over-the-shoulder camera first introduced in Resident Evil 4, make the experience feel new again.
Then there’s Mr. X, the hulking Tyrant who stalks Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield throughout the game. This almost unkillable enemy drew the adoration of many fans, who within days were creating memes and mods to celebrate the character. The proliferation of creative (and hilarious) Mr. X mods was certainly one of the nicest things to come out of the gaming community in 2019.
This year’s Resident Evil 3 remake re-introduces another famous baddie from the series’ past with the potential to devastate as well as inspire players all over again. When the original game debuted in 1999 on the PlayStation, Nemesis was one of the game’s most welcome surprises. A smaller sequel in many ways, Resident Evil 3 nonetheless delivered the innovation that the survival horror series had been known for up to that point with this massive baddie, a walking bio-weapon creature created by the dastardly Umbrella Corporation to kill S.T.A.R.S. agents like protagonist Jill Valentine.
Nemesis was Capcom’s best attempt yet at designing a truly terrifying villain. Initially, it’s all about his appearance: a heavily scarred humanoid creature who swallows bullets like we ingest food, making him nearly invincible from one encounter to the next. Armed with a rocket launcher and able to run after you instead of shambling like the game’s more traditional zombies, Nemesis was the most intelligent and intimidating boss players had encountered up to this point in the series.
But the true secret to Nemesis’ success was the game direction itself. While Nemesis only appears in scripted sequences in the game, the player is made to feel like they are constantly being followed by the creature, like he could pop out at any moment, leading to some truly scary reappearances by the monster.
Nemesis encounters also brought another innovation to the series: a choice-based system in which players could decide whether to fight Nemesis when he reappeared or run to try to evade the creature. This fight-or-flight mechanic gave Nemesis a more sophisticated “choose your own adventure” quality than even Resident Evil 2‘s Zapping System had offered a year before.
These key additions anchored by the titular monster helped Resident Evil 3: Nemesis feel like a deeper sequel than perhaps it really was. After all, the project had originally been conceived as a smaller spin-off title and didn’t count on the direction of series veteran Hideki Kamiya, whose team had moved on to develop the first version of Resident Evil 4 that never saw the light of day.
As for the monster itself, Nemesis was inspired by the creepy T-1000, the villain of Terminator 2: Judgment Day who relentlessly chases John and Sarah Connor throughout the movie.
“I wanted to introduce a new kind of fear into the game, a persistent feeling of paranoia. The Nemesis brings that on in spades,” Shinji Mikami, producer of 1999’s Resident Evil 3, told Official PlayStation Magazine UK (via EGM) in 2000. “When it disappears after the first confrontation, you live in constant dread of the next attack. The idea is to make you feel like you’re being stalked.”
Just a little over 20 years since Nemesis’ debut, Capcom seeks to recapture that sense of paranoia by giving the monster a few key improvements that will hopefully make him frightening to a modern audience. Speaking to the Resident Evil 3 remake producer Peter Fabiano via email, Den of Geek got a quick rundown of what’s new about Nemesis in 2020.
“His AI and visuals have been updated from the original. Nemesis is way more nimble and agile than he was. He can use his tentacles to grab Jill and jump long distances to appear right near you,” Fabiano says of the updated design and physics.
It’s also important to Capcom that the new version of Nemesis not only honors his 1999 counterpart but that he stands apart from Mr. X, who himself feels as inescapable as Nemesis did two decades ago. Fabiano explains that Nemesis’ main form of attack naturally makes the creature feel different from Resident Evil 2‘s trenchcoat-wearing villain.
“[Nemesis] also has the ability to use weapons,” Fabiano says. “That was one of the ways that we wanted to demonstrate that he has a higher level of intelligence. Although he’s a prototype version of a bioweapon, he’s the evolution of a Tyrant.”
In comparison, Mr. X is only able to swipe at players and grab them. Nemesis’ laser-targeting rocket launcher and flamethrower make this creature a much more efficient killing machine.
As we learned while playing the remake for our review, one change to Nemesis encounters is how players choose to deal with the monster. The remake doesn’t feature the “fight-or-flight” selection screen of the original, allowing players to make a more organic choice at any given moment. Whether you choose to stand your ground or run for your life will depend on your resources and health. Of course, some scripted encounters will still force you to face the monster head-on, and they make for some of the game’s most action-packed and cinematic moments. So stock up on ammunition and First Aid Spray. (Here are some other tips and strategies for defeating this beast.)
The Resident Evil 3 remake’s presentation is at once visually arresting and nostalgic. When it came time to redesign the look of Nemesis for the remake, Capcom’s art team largely stayed true to the look of the original 1999 character model. Although way less blocky than his PlayStation counterpart, the new Nemesis also highlights elements that made the original model so scary, such as the creature’s mutated and muscular flesh and his razor-sharp teeth.
“With Nemesis, the team and the Art Director Yonghee Cho went through a number of iterations, and when he presented the version of the one you see in the game today, the game director knew right away, that was the one,” Fabiano says.
In 2020, Nemesis might find himself in a drastically changed world from the one he haunted in 1999, but Capcom also made a point of putting him back in the hands of some of the people who know the creature best. Fabiano reveals that, while much of the team that worked on the remake was made up of developers who hadn’t worked on the 1999 game, the production also counted on some familiar faces.
“It’s always important to keep to the essence of the original game, but at the same time modernize it. We were fortunate to have some of the original members that worked on the 1999 RE3: Nemesis, including the director Kiyohiko Sakata (lead programmer on the original). That really helped us to keep on the vision but make some changes that would work better for the reimagining.”
Resident Evil 3 is out now for PlayStation 4.