Every game changes at least somewhat from the idea phase to the execution. Resident Evil Village is no different. A lot of that can stem from testing, finding that certain thoughts don’t quite revel in reality quite like you’d hoped they would, or it can just be that the developer wanted to take another route.
It can, in some scenarios, boil down to time and cost. Just take a look at Skyrim with its axed arena that would’ve been nestled in the underbelly of Windhelm. Whatever the case, it always leaves an intriguing trail of what-if? A pseudo-reality of another game, familiar to the one we’ve played, but different in odd places.
It’s exciting to delve into these apparitions of another world, a side-step in reality, to look at what could’ve been, and it’s often curious to think of how that may have been received. When Half-Life 2 was leaked, there was backlash and lukewarm reception, but now, that older ‘Beta’ as it’s dubbed, has a cult following. Perhaps there’s a good reason for ideas being cut, whether to improve flow, cohesiveness, consistency, etc., so let’s have a look at the concepts and content that didn’t quite make it into the final build of Resident Evil Village. Spoilers ahead.
In the Resident Evil Village we played, the clawed matriarch turned dragon – a concept originally intended for another boss altogether, Miranda’s developmental predecessor – has three daughters. This was nearly not the case.
“There was a point in time where it wasn’t a trio of sisters,” director Morimasa Sato opens, “Originally, it was dozens upon dozens of sisters inhabiting the castle, all ready to feast on Ethan’s blood. However, after trial and error and testing the game’s tempo, the Dimitrescu family was ultimately decided to be Alcina and her three daughters.
On top of this, Dimitresscu was originally envisioned as a “bewitching vampire with giant garden clippers,” with the art that’s shown depicting a character that is the spitting double to that of her now-daughters. Ultimately, the final game saw a head honcho at the top of the food chain with three kids made up of flies that served as minibosses throughout the castle, forcing you to use the environment to your advantage to solidify them.
Something you may have noticed missing in Resident Evil Village is the item box, a key part of many of the mainline entries. It allowed you to store weapons, key items, and other assortments of goodies like healing herbs so that you didn’t flood your inventory with junk. It saved you discarding or, if it were in Village, selling your excess baggage. However, Capcom opted to take from the fourth game as 8 often did, with no item box anywhere to be seen.
However, that’s not all that nearly changed in the save rooms. Typewriters returned in glorious fashion, with a distinguished 1960s appearance as to differentiate them from Resident Evil 2 and 3. They were a return to form from the save points in Resident Evil 7 which were tape recorders, but they were nearly something else altogether – cameras. Taking a photo of a faceless man to save would’ve been a nice change of pace, but ol’ reliable won the gauntlet.
Finally, Resident Evil 4’s suitcases returned as the means of storing goods, with Ethan lugging about a sniper, shotgun, grenade launcher, magnum, pistol, and other random bits and bobs using it. It’s surely heavy, but he managed. Yet, Winters nearly had a trusty backpack overflowing at the seems with his inventory’s contents. It’s likely that the suitcase was chosen for a similar reason as to why the item box was omitted – to emulate Resident Evil 4.
Originally, Mia Winters was going to be “recovering from the incidents during Resident Evil 7” in that opening which would’ve seen her in a wheelchair, solemnly sat by the window as in this concept art. Ultimately, that was cut. It still could have worked even with Mother Miranda masquerading as Ethan Winters’ wife due to her, at some point, swapping the real artefact out for herself like a twisted version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nonetheless, the narrative ended up being that Mia was trying to move on as much as possible from the twisted shenanigans of the Baker residence that saw countless deaths and untold trauma. She was trying to forget it. Or, at least, Miranda wanted Ethan to think that.
As for Ada Wong, as if Village wasn’t too close to Resident Evil 4 as is, she originally was intended to be introduced as a “mysterious masked person that saves Ethan” from the trial with the family, the same one that, in the final cut, saw Heisenberg egg Ethan down a hatch into an elaborate series of spike-clad traps. At the time, she was investigating the village for whatever reason, donning a Bloodborne-like getup that made her appear as though she were Eileen the Crow. Given that we already had Ethan, Chris Redfield with Blue Umbrella, and the BSAA with their bioweapons all vying for the Mold and Miranda, a fourth party in the mix likely would’ve been too much. For this, it appears as though Capcom didn’t want too many cooks in the kitchen. Perhaps, though, she’ll crop up in a DLC… just like in 4.
Miranda is at the epicentre of the Village’s troubles, the Lycans, the Mold, the dysfunctional family all desperate for approval, acting out like moody teenagers, Heisenberg chief among them. However, the original plans saw her as a scientist, a “researcher” investigating the town and its lowly woes. This ultimately changed, and one of the very first villains, Spencer – the founder of Umbrella – ended up being retconned as her student.
To boot, the Factory portion of the game originally sported far more characters, with Heisenberg being a twin while his mother was a “subject for brain experiments.” His father would have been “the leader of the village,” a stoic man with a cane and long scraggly, almost Einstein-like haircut, with a black gas mask and a loose brown scarf. In the original idea for the Heisenberg part of Village, he would’ve played the role of the final boss of the Factory area as opposed to his son who took that role in the end, going as far as to call Chris Redfield a boulder-puncher. It seems his accomplishments have earned him some renown.
The Duke, on the other hand, was going to be the fifth lord, while the Benevientos were initially envisioned as a “ghost family” with ghastly pale children encompassing a sickly thin father and mother with no faces. What replaced them was the lone Donna Beneviento and her eerie dolls and Silent Hill-clad horror. Either likely would’ve had me bricking it at midnight with the curtains rolled down and the lights turned off, but dolls and giant crying fetus’ are infinitely more horrifying than anything akin to Paranormal Activity, so Capcom seems to have made a good call here.
There were a lot of other little changes such as where the Lady Dimitrescu fight originally took place, but these were some of the largest, most noteworthy alterations to Village throughout its development between the concept phase and the final execution. Had these ideas stayed, we may have faced an army of bloodsucking fly monsters, a paranormal family of undead apparitions, a twisted brotherhood of mechanical monsters manipulating their own mother, and Miranda, at the center of it all, just a researcher caught up in the thick of it, not unlike Ada Wong as she often tends to find herself.
It’s an electrifying feeling looking at what nearly was because it’s so similar yet so distantly different, but that’s how the process of development goes. These ideas don’t die off – at least, not all of them. Rather, they evolve and adapt to form what we end up seeing when the game rolls out to the stores. It’s easy to see these ideas and imagine them to be ‘cooler’ or more fun, but perhaps, it would’ve been messy, tonally inconsistent, or overstuffed, especially with so many Heisenbergs. One Nicholas Cage wannabe is enough, thank you.
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