That Tyrannosaurus scream at the startup screen, that sound right there was enough to scare the ever loving shit out of all of us as kids. We were already riding a full-fledged survival horror high thanks to the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, so naturally Dino Crisis was a most welcome addition to that horror library. Every time the commercial hit my TV set and you see Regina running for her life with the narrator saying “You don’t hunt them, they hunt you” I was wanting to throw wads of dirty money at the screen. But what sold me even more on Dino Crisis was the demo Capcom included with Resident Evil 3 Nemesis. We went from ol’ toothy-grin boy chasing down Jill Valentine in a tube top through the zombie-ridden streets of Raccoon City to Regina wanting to scream “Motherfuck!” every time she thinks she cleared an area of enemies and new raptors show up to harass the shit out of her. Now cut to us back in the day plunked down in front of a Samsung CRT with the lights off to set the horror mood just right, hoping to fuck and praying to the gaming gods that our PlayStation doesn’t freeze on the bootup screen. A messy stack of PSM magazines including the August 1999 issue of PSM where Regina is our cover lady for the month sitting off to the side. We’re then be greeted with the oh so familiar warning of “This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore” that then transitions into the Capcom logo then finally the Dino Crisis title screen, complete with a mangled as fuck raptor claw….this is it….let’s do this shit.
Title: Dino Crisis
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
Platform: Playstation 1, PC, Dreamcast, Playstation 3 & Playstation Vita (PSN)
Release Date: July 1, 1999 (PS1) Nov 14, 2000 (DC) Dec 4, 2000 (PC)
Our prehistoric survival horror adventure kicks off with an intel briefing from our buddy Tom….just Tom, no last name. Tommy ol’ boy gets our little task force up to speed on all the wacky shit happening on over on Ibis Island with Dr. Edward Kirk and how he’s leading a super secret weapons project utilizing third energy within this super secret facility, the same doctor who had apparently died three years ago.
So Regina and the rest of her comrades in S.O.R.T. hop into their mystery machine and blast off to the island to figure out exactly what the hell is going on and bring Dr. Kirk and his Meg Ryan haircut-having ass back into custody. Unfortunately for everyone once they arrive they end up dealing with a slew of time-traveling dinosaurs….which is totally fucking awesome! You know, except for the part where they’re tearing people limb from limb and we’re all running for our lives with limited supplies to combat them let alone complete our mission that’s now tumbling down a rabbit hole of crazy mysteries we have to unwind.
Let’s get one thing out of the way with the controls for Dino Crisis, if you don’t like the tank controls of Resident Evil then you’re absolutely shit out of luck here. Regina may be able to aim and walk at the same time unlike her S.T.A.R.S. counterparts back in their 32-bit heyday and she does have the handy as fuck quick-turnaround otherwise they’re quite familiar to veterans of the genre.
Me personally, I never took an issue with them, they always made sense to me with the fixed camera angles. Speaking of fixed camera angles, those found here would probably be easier to compare to the likes of the original Silent Hill since this particular horror outing is actually in full 3D. Granted in part 2 they opt for the pre-rendered backgrounds but what’s found here, especially for its time was absolutely jaw-dropping in many ways. These camera angles might not be fully controllable by the player but they pull off a lot of cinematic shots and do some awesome panning and following of the player that it maintains that sense of ambient fear we came to know and love.
Something I always liked about Dino Crisis was the option of different story paths that you could to go with the plans of Gail or Rick, each takes you to entirely different areas in the game with Rick’s portions being far more puzzle-heavy and Gail’s having a lot more action and enemies to dispose of. Your choices don’t just reflect the style of gameplay you’ll be encountering though, it’ll also determine which ending you’ll receive once the game is finished.
This mechanic always reminded me of the first Resident Evil since they also had a number of different endings that would change the course of who lived and who became a Jill Sandwich. I can say this, while dealing with entire mobs of scaly assholes from area to area might be annoying and pure hell on you ever-dwindling supply of ammo, the puzzles in this game could be just as brutal. This makes numerous playthroughs at least different enough that you won’t feel as bored slogging through the same shit time and again, plus you gotta also remember you have plenty of unlockables to look forward to so there’s at least that.
Whenever Regina gets a few too many chunks bitten out of her ass or gets clawed up by all her dinosaur friends she’ll visibly show the damage through holding her side or limping all over the place. You can also look in the menu to see what her condition is currently, as if though her leaving a nice blood trail everywhere she goes and hobbling about the facility like Quasimodo wasn’t enough of an indicator to slam dunk a few med packs and a hemostat into Regina.
Though if you happen to be playing the excellent Dreamcast port then you also can just look on the VMU screen and see what her condition is too, seriously love the shit out of that little memory card. I know most people wouldn’t think it was a big deal but having tiny little mini games or custom graphics appear on your controller depending on what you’re playing was always really neat to me.
We’ve grown accustomed to our survival horror outings supplying us with a nice little artillery to fend off whatever gaggle of assholes we have to deal with, Dino Crisis is no different though the variety of weapons is rather lacking compared to its contemporaries. Perhaps some budget cuts at S.O.R.T. ended up happening without Regina knowing?
Either way, what you do get will be familiar and more than enough to dispatch every dinosaur that comes running your way to shred you into flesh-confetti. You get a handgun, shotgun and a grenade launcher all of which can be upgraded several times and can use varying types of ammo. You get your regular run-of-the-mill bullets to send hot lead into and through anything foolish enough to come fuck with you, darts to put some of these big silly bastards down for a few rounds to nap, and incendiary bullets because if Fred Flintstone can barbecue up a few for his family, then the hell can’t we while we’re here? Seriously though a dinosaur on fire coming and running at you is fucking terrifying, you don’t need to have a degree in paleontology to know that a 6 foot angry fire lizard is not something you want to deal with.
In the Resident Evil series we were given limited space in our inventory to carry stuff around with us so we had to strategize our paths to ensure we had the right puzzle-related items or enough ammo and healing items to take down whatever shambled our way, everything else we just plopped into the item box and could retrieve from any other random item box in the game.
Capcom Production Studio 4 decided, why not have three different types of item boxes and you need a certain amount of plugs to unlock each of them to use! Oh and each colored type of emergency box can only hold certain types of items. Red will have all the reptile-ball busting ammo that we know and love and green emergency boxes will contain healing items to make sure we don’t bleed to death all over our enemies.
The yellow emergency boxes can a variety of both. Now yes, this is far more item management and can be an absolute pain in the ass compared to what we’ve grown accustomed to but one thing that’s rather nice is each box that gets unlocked from the plugs you find will always have a nice fresh stock of items to be found within it. Whether you like it or not, your survival will rely heavily upon finding these and using them to their fullest potential unless you want to end up like that one dude who got cut in half and his guts dragged down a corridor. (Still no idea where that lower torso went)
As far as the baddies lineup goes and what all you’ll be playing target practice with throughout Regina’s adventure it’s not nearly as deep of a roster compared to the sequels but I’d definitely argue they come off as far more threatening and scary here by far. First up on the list and the one you’ll be most acquainted with and absolutely fucking hate by time the credits begin to roll is the Velociraptor.
You wouldn’t think the first species of dinosaurs you encounter let alone encounter as frequently as you do could easily kill you even after you’ve padded out your available arsenal of weapons but sure enough Veliociraptors are no joke, especially in pairs. They’ll swing their big ass tails to knock you down or try to rip the weapon right from your hand which you’ll definitely want to go and retrieve. Considering their spawn rate in the game you gotta be smart about which high traffic locations you feel need thinned of their numbers and are worth expending your valuable yet limited ammo count.
The Comspgnathus are the little nuggets of the group that truthfully never really pose much of a threat and seldom show up throughout all the maps, you can easily outmaneuver them since they’re typically preoccupied with whatever corpse they’re munching on giving you even a second or two to get the hell out of there. The Pterandon are the flying fucks outside that will wanna dive bomb into you sending your red-headed ass twenty feet and face planting on the pavement. Thankfully you only end up encountering them outside and even with the few outside areas there are to explore you don’t encounter them too much, though the one “Danger” scene you have to escape when you first run into them is satisfying as all hell to watch since they can turn themselves into a chunky glass of V8.
The Therizinosaurus is by far the most anger-inducing of this lot, they are so fucking big and hard to avoid so these big beefy assholes will block most courses of escape and deal a nice bit of damage in the process. What they Hunters are to Resident Evil the Therizinosaurus are to Dino Crisis, be prepared to unload plenty of shotgun shells into their skulls. There’s also a Blue Raptor but to be honest it’s just what you dealt with before when fighting a Velociraptor except they’re going to deal more damage and have a bit more HP.
That brings us to the big bad of Dino Crisis, the mean motherfucker who’s been stalking us since the very first CG cutscene….. the Tyrannosaurus. Dino Crisis really has no actual boss battles and just gives you sneak peeks at fighting this monstrous badass. I actually like this approach since it builds up a lot of anticipation and anytime the T-Rex is on screen it’s memorable. Hell most people who play this game know, it’s one of the very first things you recount after you play through it. Both actual battles with him are truly awesome and pushed the hardware back then to limits we really didn’t see too often. Hell now that I think about it who did a Tyrannosaurus battle better, Dino Crisis or the original Tomb Raider? That’d be a hell of a debate.
We’re all used to quick time events in gaming nowadays but back in the 90’s? That shit was brand spanking new and unheard of, typically it gets associated with Shenmue for popularizing it for game development and keeping gamers on their toes in the midst of a cutscene taking place but we all forget that Dino Crisis did it months before in the same year.
That’s right, Danger QTE’s are here and I’ll be honest, in a survival horror setting, depending on when you last saved they’re worth seeing failed as well as succeeded. Yes my inner gorehound loves to splash the screen with carnage. These cutscenes work like many others out there, respond quickly to the on-screen prompt or else you’re dino food, basically just mash the ever loving fuck out of all the buttons on the controller to escape certain doom.
Sayaka Fujita was the main composer for the first two Dino Crisis games and even did some work for the Ace Attorney series and she had Makoto Tomozawa along with her who’s been attached to a lot of Capcom games he helped compose, most notably Resident Evil since we are discussing Dino Crisis and all. The music and sound within this game is something I’ve always appreciated, the ambient sound of a long corridor with the moonlight shining in through the windows and the music playing at a really low level where your footsteps echo throughout the whole area.
Then suddenly out of nowhere a raptor breaks through the door and the music kicks into this really intense battle theme as you’re frantically trying to fend off the son of a bitch and escape with your head still attached. To be fair I was always a bigger fan of the more calm tunes that play when nothing is really going on, Regina just exploring the compounding and constantly checking her map to figure out where she needs to be, but damn is that intense music effective at getting your heart racing.
Now one area where I felt Capcom Production Studio 4 succeeded was the actual quality of their voice acting, to be fair I absolutely fucking adore the cheesy dialogue of Resident Evil 1. Hell to me it’s it will always be one of the most quoteworthy games to exist for that very reason, it’s a type of charm that’s difficult to replicate. Here in Dino Crisis the actual banter between Regina and her crew seems genuine.
Her walking up to a disemboweled corpse and saying “Well that’s disgusting” always made me laugh, her sarcasm and wit in general has always been a reason why I’ve considered her to be one of the best ladies within the horror genre let alone in gaming as a whole. I gotta admit though, some of the lines from Dr. Kirk made me laugh my ass off since he was such a prick about things and would occasionally get all super over the top.
There’s three different versions of the first Dino Crisis out there for everyone to enjoy, the PS1 version was the original that came out and later the next year Dreamcast and PC both with Sega arguably getting the best version out of all three. In 2006 Capcom released this little gem onto PSN so if you got a PS3 (Because we still lack proper support for PS1 games both physically and digitally on PS4 unfortunately) or a Playstation Vita then you’re in luck.
Even if getting the game physically or from the Playstation Network isn’t an option for you then you’ll be happy to know this runs like a dream via emulation. I personally still got my original copy from 1999 and the strategy guide from Versus Books which has a cool ass poster included with it. Long story short, there’s quite a few options available to us to obtain this and play the fuck out of it.
Dino Crisis typically gets described as “Resident Evil with dinosaurs” which to an extent I can agree but the deeper you get into the game you realize it very much is its own thing despite all the similarities. Capcom Production Studio 4 and Shinji Mikami may have used Resident Evil as the framework to build this game but it still stands on its own without a doubt.
By time 1999 came to a close we were blessed with Silent Hill, Resident Evil 3 Nemesis and Dino Crisis. To say it was a good year for the survival horror genre is an understatement but I do feel as time has progressed that out of those three Dino Crisis hasn’t gotten its fair dues from the gaming world as time has gone on.
If for any reason this hasn’t made its way to your playlist and especially if you’re a diehard fan of the survival horror genre then you’re doing yourself a great disservice by not grabbing up a copy and giving it a go. Not only will you be racking your brain trying to figure out some of the puzzles, navigating through endless areas filled with swarms of “big ass lizards” ready to take a bite out of you and all the while watching an awesome sci-fi story unfold that you can dictate the direction of through the choices you make.
Hopefully we get to see Capcom dive back into this series and give this underrated gem a remake in the style of Resident Evil 2 and reintroduce it to the masses who should fear if dinosaurs did in fact walk the earth once more.