Before the first Resident Evil title emerged from the shadows to scare the pants off us, another game was secretly laying the groundwork for an entire genre. The game was called Sweet Home for the Famicom and it may be the most influential single title in #horror game history.
'Sweet Home', The Game That Inspired 'Resident Evil'
Sweet Home follows the plot of the 1989 Japanese horror movie of the same name. In it, 5 intrepid and unlucky members of a film crew sneak into an old mansion owned by the mysterious artist Ichirō Mamiya. The team have heard rumors that several of the artist's precious works have been left in the house and decide to restore the pieces while they make a documentary about the artist's life.
Since this is a horror story, things obviously don't exactly go to plan. Mysterious events begin to plague the crew as they investigate the mansion and its secrets, before long, they find themselves trapped in the house by a malevolent poltergeist, who threatens to kill all of them.
The game adaptation took inspiration from the #JRPG games that were popular at the time and put players in charge of all five members of the cast as they roamed the mansion in search of an escape route.
Each character has their own unique skill that must be employed to progress in the game. Ryo, the cameraman, can reveal hidden information in the artworks of the mansion with his camera. Asuka, the art restorer, can clear obstacles with a vacuum cleaner. Emi, the youngest of the team, can open locked doors just like Jill "Master of Unlocking" Valentine.
How 'Sweet Home' Became 'Resident Evil'
Sweet Home's proto #SurvivalHorror gameplay bears all the hallmarks of the #ResidentEvil series. The inventory system is severely limited, and each character must make difficult decisions as to what they bring along. Do you take a healing item and leave behind a key you might need? Do you bring along both, only to find yourself without a desperately needed rope?
The puzzles of the game, which bar access to sections of the dilapidated and trap-filled mansion (sound familiar?) are eerily reminiscent of those in the Resident Evil series as well. There's even a projector room puzzle that reveals vital plot information, just like the image preparation room from the first Resident Evil game.
The similarities go even deeper though. Resident Evil takes inspiration from the smallest details of Sweet Home. The iconic first appearance of a #Zombie in Resident Evil is taken straight from a Sweet Home enemy, who appears to be a normal man from behind until he turns to reveal his snarling, rotted face.
The story is told primarily through notes and diary entries found around the mansion, a technique picked up by Resident Evil and used so widely in horror games it's practically a trope. Safe rooms with save points inside were lifted straight out of Sweet Home and used in dozens of horror titles, including #SilentHill. Even the iconic door opening loading animations of Resident Evil were taken from Sweet Home.
These similarities aren't just coincidence either, digging deeper reveals the secret hidden beneath the mansion of shared spooky mechanics and imagery. Resident Evil wasn't just inspired by Sweet Home, Resident Evil was Sweet Home. Yes, RE was originally intended to be a remake of the classic horror game, updated to 3D for a new generation of gamers. The director of the original game was even a producer on Resident Evil.
How 'Sweet Home' Influenced The Whole Of Horror Gaming
It's not just the Resident Evil series we have to thank Sweet Home for, it's the whole of survival horror. Without the Frankensteinian RPG/Horror mechanics of Sweet Home, the genre may never have come to exist. Sweet Home created so many of the tropes that now haunt the genre, from the aforementioned note based storytelling to the idea of multiple endings that range from tragic to bittersweet depending on your choices.
Plenty of other mechanics have made it into horror #VideoGames, sometimes years after the fact. When Heavy Rain was released, the idea that characters could be permanently killed off from the story was hailed as a revolutionary idea, but Sweet Home did the same thing decades earlier. Traps with horrific custom death animations, like those encountered in Dead Space, were all over the place in Sweet Home. Even the hazard of managing light sources in dark rooms started with this game.
So here's to the game that started it all in horror! As you're playing through Resident Evil 7 and trying not to have a heart attack, remember to raise a blood-filled goblet to Sweet Home.