What's your most vivid memory of "Resident Evil"?
Mine's obvious: The dogs. And not just any of the dogs you encounter in Capcom's survival horror classic. Those dogs.
I can remember it like I was 13 yesterday: Walking through that L-shaped mansion hallway on the first floor, my guard lowered by the silence. The most alarming thing was the beige wallpaper.
Then smash! Rabid zombie dobermans burst through the windows. Chasing me. Gnawing me. Putting the absolute fear of god into me.
That fear opened a door for me — and not just the one I dashed through to get out of this kennel from hell.
Sure, games had made my heart race before. "The Legend of Zelda" did it when I fought a tough boss with one hit's worth of health left. "Tetris" did it when my blocks stacked within a row or two of the top of the screen.
But that crash of glass in "Resident Evil" didn't just make my heart race, it made it high-jump a flight of stairs. It was zero to terror in a split second. No game had shaken me like that before, and that's why it's my defining "Resident Evil" moment.
Capcom's 2002 Gamecube remake of the 1996 PlayStation game cleverly subverted this all-time scare.
The first time you set foot in the hallway, a window twitches — but it doesn't break. It's not until the next time you walk through, now uncertain of what to expect, that you're joined by the two Cerberi and jolted all over again.
The "REmake" doesn't just subvert the original game, though. It revamps it. The mansion is restructured, the dialogue rewritten, the actors recast both vocally in the game and physically in the cut scenes.
It's still a phenomenal game, even spookier in mood than the first and, thanks to the addition of the tragic Lisa Trevor subplot, even richer in story.
But it's not the same "Resident Evil." It's not my "Resident Evil."
Look no further than the members of S.T.A.R.S., the special forces unit sent to investigate reports of bizarre murders at the creepy Raccoon City mansion.
My Barry Burton talks like an oafish uncle, not a brother-in-law with a midlife crisis. My Chris Redfield looks like a smug early-'90s B-movie star in real life. My Jill Valentine is "The Master of Unlocking," as Barry describes her all too, well, oafishly.
All this cheese may not be "Resident Evil's" finest quality. OK: It's pure, concentrated cringe. But that and the dog and window show are two of the game's most fondly remembered traits. After "zombies," they're the first things any mention of the game brings to mind.
The "REmake" — and now its recent HD remaster — don't share these traits.
The result is a Venn diagram of cultural experience between players who identify with the first "Resident Evil" and those who do with the second. We all know to place the blue jewel from the fallen statue into the stone tiger's eye socket, but Crimson Heads are as foreign a concept to me as a "Jill sandwich" is to them.
Thirteen years later, the remaster spruces up "Resident Evil" for a whole new generation of players. It looks better than ever. It sounds better than ever. But Capcom also continues its weird eugenics experiment by tinkering with yet another of "Resident Evil's" most distinguishing traits: its controls.
The latest reiteration offers a new, more natural alternative to the original game's maligned "tank" maneuvering, where pushing up on the D-pad or analog stick moves the character forward, right turns them to their right, etc.
While the tank scheme works fine in the first person, it's not so smooth in the third. Walk past a door you want to enter and the delicate turnaround can go awry quick. Add a few zombies in the vicinity, and it's the clumsiest suicide squeeze you'll ever see.
One might use the word "broken" to describe such flustered movement. I wouldn't. On the contrary, tank controls work best for "Resident Evil."
For one thing, the game frames its action like a movie. When its camera angles change, so does your orientation. One cut could mean the difference between facing down at the top of the screen or facing left at the right of it. But the way you navigate that screen never changes. With the new controls, up is always up — but not always forward.
There's a more powerful case for "Resident Evil's" tank controls, though. They enhance both elements of the genre the game popularized: survival and horror.
By limiting your ability to avoid the toothy things stalking those narrow mansion hallways, the tank controls heighten the necessity of using the ammo you're trying to save. It's every bit as tensive a device as the smacking of zombie hands on windows, or the gradual disappearance of proper grammar in the writings of departed residents.
Besides, it's just unnerving, moving around like that. Have you ever had a nightmare where your movement just doesn't match up with what you want to do? Where you want to punch, but your hand moves in slow motion? Where you want to run, but your feet remain planted? That's "Resident Evil." Or it was, at least.
That's why I didn't hesitate to choose the tank controls for my play-through of the HD remaster of "Resident Evil." The game is still phenomenally unsettling, and looks sharper than ever before. But as this classic's DNA unravels, I find myself clinging to whatever memories of it I can.