One of the most fascinating moments in the Resident Evil Village gameplay footage reveal happens around the 3:15 mark of this video when we are formally introduced to the game’s merchant.
Naturally, any discussion of merchants and Resident Evil is going to make fans fondly remember the merchant from Resident Evil 4 and how his cry of “got something that might interest you” preceded what could very well be the only welcome trench coat flash in human history.
In this instance, though, the mere mention of a merchant in a Resident Evil game isn’t triggering flashbacks to Resident Evil 4’s merchant for the simple sake of nostalgia. In fact, some fans suspect that the merchant in Resident Evil Village could be the same merchant featured in RE 4.
On the surface, that seems impossible. Not only is the new character specifically referred to as The Duke, but a quick glance at the two characters side by side reveals some shocking physical differences.
While the stark differences in the two character’s designs would seemingly squash any fan theories that they’re the same person, it’s important to remember that this would hardly be the first time that a modern Resident Evil game has changed the design of a major character. Just look at the difference between the Chris Redfield we saw in Resident Evil 7 and the one featured in Resident Evil Village.
Even the phrasing of the merchant’s reveal creates some room for doubt. Capcom says “the merchant makes a return” but that “this time he’s known as ‘The Duke.’” The wording of that statement could easily imply that the merchant we know and love has returned, is going by a different name, and may have used his profits to leave a life of luxury best exemplified by his generous proportions.
What about the voices, though? Well, the merchant in Resident Evil 4 certainly seems to have a deeper voice, but if you really wanted to train your ear to justify an argument for the similarities, I suppose you can hear them.
The most compelling argument for the two being the same character may just be the overall vibe of Resident Evil Village. The game’s setting, tone, and inventory system have led some to go so far as to suggest that Resident Evil Village could be a kind of soft remake/reimagining of Resident Evil 4 that may have replaced the more “formal” remake the studio was reportedly working on.
As compelling as all that evidence, though, the fact is that too many more signs strongly suggest that the two merchants are indeed different characters.
While it’s true that Capcom drastically changed Chris Redfield’s physical appearance for Resident Evil 7, they explained that the change can be attributed to their decision to render the character to more closely resemble the voice actor. Unless Capcom found a particularly large individual to portray The Duke, that same explanation wouldn’t quite justify such a drastic physical difference. Besides, the geographic location of the original merchant and his “rotting” design suggests fundamental design differences that go beyond phsyicality.
What about the fact that Capcom says “the merchant makes a return?” Well, that wording could just be meant to convey the idea that the character concept has made a return. Actually, a Resident Evil 5 artbook reveals that Capcom intended to introduce another merchant character for that game but ultimately scrapped the idea. Nevertheless, it supports the idea that there are more than one of these merchants in this universe.
So while it’s possible that Capcom will surprise us and try to argue that the two merchants are indeed the same character, most of the practical evidence available so far strongly suggests that they simply work in the same field. Of course, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that they know each other, have shared some drinks at the annual merchant convention, and perhaps even agreed to keep in touch only to find that the obligations of work and life caused them to forget about each other in a way that shouldn’t discount the beautiful social moment of two ships crossing in the night on the ocean of life.
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