Written by Jonathan Wojcik
RESIDENT EVIL ZERO MONSTERS
I might be showing my age here, but I literally never heard the word "prequel" in my entire life until Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was described as such in 1999, and then suddenly it seemed like everyone was making "prequels." I'm not saying this is a bad thing, by any means, a new story is a new story, I'm just saying that we take sequels and prequels for granted by now, but there was a time they were the hottest new trend, and it may very well be why Resident Evil Zero happened at all.
Released in 2002 and remastered in 2015, this is another one I didn't get to play myself, and maybe I should some day, because I hear a lot of good things about its gameplay, atmosphere and story. PLUS...
...IT HAS LEECHES!!! The mascot for this very website! The mascot of my life in general, at this point! It actually turns out that the vampiric annelids are fairly important to the entire series, as their genes were used in the original engineering of the T-virus itself, back in 1978 by a professor James Marcus. Reinjecting the virus into healthy leeches resulted in not only larger, stronger, more aggressive subjects but collective more intelligent and more organized, which we'll elaborate on a little later.
THE PROGENITOR LEECHES
The leeches have an odd design, less like an actual leech and more like a broad slug with a single nodule on their back of apparently unknown function. Instead of an oral sucker, a progenitor leech has a large, toothed maw dominating its entirely sucker-like underside, which is definitely cool looking, though this markes the umpteenth time a fictional leech has had a completely different mouth from any actual leech, and that's kind of a shame, because an actual leech has a pretty cool arrangement of three knife-like "jaws" with thousands of tiny teeth along their edges. The monstrousness designs itself!
As a prequel title, Zero features a number of experimental animals that weren't really successful as biological weaponry, such as these disquietingly large, eyeless frogs. The virus apparently failed to increase the intelligence of the "lurkers," and they were considered a dead end for Umbrella's research, though they would later develop the froglike and fairly effective Hunter Gamma.
I will say that the virus must have at least enhanced the lurker's tongues, since real frogs and toads don't actually have that snapping chameleon-like tongue at all! It's totally a cartoon thing!
"Eliminator?" Really, Umbrella? You wasted an entire synonym for murder on the codename for only a dang monkey? Admittedly, monkeys are terrifying enough on their own and a very fine choice if you want something already intent on eating people's faces, but we already know that the t-virus typically "zombifies" us mammals and reduces their intellectual capacity, resulting in another cancelled project. The Eliminators encountered in-game are also said to be half starved and neglected, which means that we don't really get to see them at their full capacity for monkeyshines.
Presumably one of Umbrella's first arthropod experiments, the Plague Crawler was also apparently one of their first successful genetic fusions of more than one species, proving that the T-virus could be used to create entirely new, custom-made forms of life.
THE PLAGUE CRAWLER
The insects used to create the crawler aren't specified, but what I'm seeing looks very strongly like a combination of cave cricket with dragonfly nymph. Perhaps the forelimbs are intended to come from a mantis, but there are other insects with raptorial forelimbs, and I don't see a whole lot of mantid in here otherwise.
Sadly, the plague crawlers were still too unruly and dumb to be effective evil minions, and they were supposed to have all been disposed of.
Another codename failure, this time for just how obvious and pedestrian it is. Just "stinger," huh? What about something like "Claw Stalker" or "Pain Tail?"
This is actually large enough to be the game's first boss, but there isn't a whole lot to it besides, well, a really big scorpion. The virus has, for some reason, melted its face into a blind and jawless blob, and I'm going to pretend it's also the reason that this poor arachnid is missing an entire pair of legs. REMEMBER, ARTISTS: a scorpion's pincers are modified pedipalps extending from the mouth. It still has eight legs in addition to its pincers!
Man, they REALLY hadn't gotten the hang of naming things. If you asked me to guess what kind of giant arthropod would get called a "centurion," I might have guessed something more famous for its combat skills, like a soldier termite or an atlas beetle, but a centipede? They're tough critters, sure, but I don't know if they're "centurion" tough. They kind of have more of a slinking, stealthy assassin vibe, I'd say.
Centurion is pretty HUGE, though, making it the second boss of the game. Since there are apparently no records of Umbrella ordering centipede experimentation, it's believed to be an accidental mutation.
Well, now we have NO codename, so maybe this is not only an accident, but an accident Umbrella didn't even notice before we encounter it as the game's third boss. Like many of these mutants, it doesn't elaborate on a regular bat beyond its enormous size, but we battle it inside the cathedral of an old church in truly spook-tacular fashion!
We thought the "Tyrant" of the first game was the original model...but it was only T-002! This here is T-001, less stable and more putrid but certainly no less bloodthirsty. It definitely has a more decrepit, sickly, unpleasant appearance, especially in this lovely conceptual art, and the skin of its back has an unfortunate habit of "exfoliating" at a rapid pace, exposing its spinal column as an easy weak point.
THE PROTO TYRANT
So we mentioned that the T-virus was engineered from leeches by Professor James Marcus, but it seems they grew pretty attached to him as they grew in collective intelligence, and eventually, their "queen" - because they have a queen - merged with Marcus shortly after his assassinated body was dumped in a sewer. Seeking revenge, his faded mind makes repeated attempts to rebuild his original form from entirely leeches, which have an almost octopus-like ability to alter their color and texture together, coating themselves in a membrane of slime that looks almost perfectly like a normal, living human at rest.
...When they move, however, the colony becomes floppier, stretchier and increasingly ghoulish, with later encounters barely looking human at all beyond their superficial shape!
The queen leech actually spent almost an entire decade slowly growing and mutating in the sewers as it integrated with its human creator, and the truest reincarnation of Marcus eventually battles the player in this impressively tentacled body. The big, toothy mouth is especially a nice touch, but we all know things are going to get bigger, scarier and much less humanoid.
THE QUEEN LEECH
The final form of Professor Marcus the Leech Queen is obviously pretty cool, a huge monster leech with fused leeches for flesh and a pair of almost humanoid arms, though it's the flower-like maw on the back that I find more interesting, and I honestly wish that had been this thing's head. In comparison, the front of it is a fairly ordinary monster worm we've all seen many times before.
Still, we don't really get that many good leech monsters either way, and I'm glad one of my favorite creatures became so central to a Resident Evil title!
I also appreciate, of course, that this "prequel" game really showed us the early prototypical stages of Umbrella's creations, although I am very, very disappointed by something they actually scrapped from the game...
You're KIDDING me, Capcom!! You DISCARDED a design this flawless!? My god, look at it! It's got a freaky plant-pod-mouth-butt, a body that looks like a jaundiced mutant schlong, squirming wormy fingers and an adorable cricket face! It really looks both as otherworldly and Freudian as its name implies, though that's actually a strained acronym for "DNA Arranged Lack of Intelligence."
THE UNUSED MONSTER: D.A.L.I.
...Ouch!?! You already made a dozen other monsters you decided were too stupid to live, guys. Was D.A.L.I actually stupid enough for that to be its entire namesake?! A complete and utter Fool?? A Nincompoop to end all nincompoopery???????
Let's really take in how PRECIOUS the Imbecile is. Look at those little Digimon eyes and tell me such a Moron wouldn't have been a fan favorite. It's even arguably fairly scary looking, in an appropriately surreal manner, even if we are to believe it is a Half-Witted Boob. Come to think of it, this was very nearly a "canon" counterpart to my own Malune, wasn't it? A "what the hell is THAT?" moment offering more confusion, possibly pity than any immediately obvious threat.
One very different take on The Nitwit is known to the public, and I don't love it as much, but love it I most definitely do. This Dingus would have had a sort of swollen hammer-headed shark face, with a lovely sucking maw and sleepy eyes that certainly communicates a Grade-A Buffoon, but those hook-lined flippers look mighty dangerous! As you can see, the Complete Dingus would have also hung from the ceiling, one of my favorite things for monsters to do, but the ability to look up at the ceiling wasn't really a part of these games yet, and the idea was scrapped.
The entire concept would actually be replaced in the game by the Plague Crawler, which is an enemy I like, sure, but it's just not the same, and I will never truly rest knowing that we missed out in Poor, Handsome, Pea-Brained Simpleton D.A.L.I, with Nary a Worthwhile Thought in its Entire Little Head.
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