There honestly isn’t a lot that I can say about Resident Evil 3: Nemesis that isn’t a rehash of my own thoughts and experiences on the first Resident Evil game. I never got into the franchise when it was new as I’ve never been very interested in zombie fiction or survival horror in general, so I didn’t play any of the Resident Evil games until very recently. I’ve actually owned a copy of RE3 for many years, and–in fact–I really don’t recall how I came across it. I certainly didn’t purchase it myself, so I likely somehow picked it up during some “mergers and acquisitions” in the mid aughts. It was only when I played through the first Resident Evil on the Playstation Classic that I got a taste for what the series is all about: it’s a classic text-based puzzle and resource-management game that just happens to take place in a pre-rendered graphics zombie apocalypse.
Resident Evil 3 is somewhat less linear and certainly more action-oriented than the original. Of course, I can’t tell for certain if this is a trend or just a difference between the two games as I have not played Resident Evil 2 yet. In RE3, you take control of Jill Valentine (from the first game) in an effort to escape the zombie-infested Raccoon City before it’s liquidated by a nuclear weapon. During the course of your escape, Jill is pursued and ambushed by a gigantic mutant known as Nemesis. There’s not much of an explanation as to who or what Nemesis is, except that he just looks like a rejected costume design from the 1994 Frankenstein movie. Unfortunately, these scenes with Nemesis are probably the most interesting parts of the game as the rest consists of tedious fetch quests, occasional jump scares, and very few actual puzzles. There are some interesting timed decision sequences where the player’s choice determines how the next part of the game plays out, but these are too few and far between to make up for the overwhelming boredom in the meantime.
Unfortunately, the difficulty curve doesn’t fare much better than the rest of the gameplay. The original Resident Evil had what felt like a nicely rising difficulty curve, but Nemesis seems to have an inverted curve where the game gets infinitely easier the closer to the end. The first major challenge in the game is the initial encounter with Nemesis where Jill is equipped with only a pistol and has to duck and dodge to avoid being grabbed (impaled by Nemesis’s tentacle arm?) and immediately killed. This title introduces a new dodge mechanic that has to be practiced to get right, but there are so few encounters before Nemesis that a player has no real opportunity than to learn during the boss fight. It’s lazy and sloppy design on Capcom’s part, causing more game overs than I care to recall. After that, though, the game is smooth sailing–especially after finding the grenade launcher.
In a lot of ways, Nemesis reminds me of the 1999 film Universal Soldier: The Return wherein Jean-Claude Van Damme is chased around the suburbs by the cartoonishly superhuman Bill Goldberg in much the same way Nemesis pursues Jill Valentine. Each encounter with Goldberg/Nemesis consists of a brief battle ending with JCVD/Valentine getting the better of their enemy through either superior firepower or–occasionally–a clever trap. Unfortunately for Capcom, I feel like Universal Soldier had the more entertaining sequel. Granted, there are a few novel components to the game–like when Jill gets poisoned and her new friend/ally/potential romantic interest Carlos has to locate an antidote–but the over-reliance on (occasionally branching) fetch quests instead of puzzle mechanics drags this game down to the bin of mediocrity. It’s an important piece of the overall Resident Evil mythology, but unless you’re a big fan of the franchise, I would stick with the original.