Capcom Didn’t Expect Lady Dimitrescu’s Massive Popularity

"It’s not that we had anything specifically against Ethan’s hands," producer Tsuyoshi Kanda says.

Resident Evil Village, the newest entry in the famed survival horror series, brings a careful balance of action and horror, often replicating the adrenaline-fueled fights popularized by its older brother Resident Evil 4. This is no coincidence; producer Tsuyoshi Kanda told Fanbyte in a recent interview — while discussing other topics like the unexpected popularity of Lady Dimitrescu — that the classic was “heavily influential” in making Resident Evil Village.

“I’ve heard many people associate it as the fusion of Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and Resident Evil 4 and that’s very much how we viewed it internally as well,” Kanda says. “We see it as almost like the child of both titles, inheriting DNA from both to create something new.”

Development of Resident Evil Village began shortly before the launch of Resident Evil 7 Biohazard. Capcom was unclear on how the seventh mainline game would be received. That fanned out into broader uncertainty: What if the game didn’t perform as well as the team hoped? And would players gravitate toward protagonist Ethan Winters?

Luckily, the sequel was a massive success, with Resident Evil 7 Biohazard becoming the bestselling video game of the franchise; a whopping 8.5 million copies have sold since its 2017 launch. Once Resident Evil 7 was out in the wild, the decision was simple: Resident Evil Village would be a direct sequel to its predecessor, continuing Ethan’s story. But the team hoped to make some vital changes with Village rather than strictly follow the format of Biohazard.

“We ultimately decided that we wanted to expand upon what we had created in every aspect, whether it was the characters, enemies, weapons, or environments,” Kanda says. “For environments, we wanted to literally expand upon the Baker estate and create something bigger. That was where we decided to go from a mansion setting to a bigger village.”

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Navigating through the daunting village is tense. That’s for good reason. You never know what horrors Ethan, and by extension you, will face across its extremely distinct regions. Ethan goes through such tremendous pain (much of it bizarrely focused on his hands) that it borders on torture porn. The constant carpal injuries, the bulk of which occur early in the game, were so prominent that they became an Internet-wide joke. Kanda says that, no, contrary to popular belief, Capcom doesn’t have “anything specifically against Ethan’s hands” — it was just a perfect way to visualize pain to the player in a first-person game.

“His hands were a good way of conveying that because they’re readily visible on screen the majority of the time,” Kanda says.

Ethan’s hands weren’t the only concept from the game to become a meme. Long before it even released, the Internet became obsessed with the attractive Lady Dimitrescu, one of the prime villains of the new title, immediately after her first trailer reveal. Her significant presence across so many avenues online came as a surprise.

“I don’t think any of us expected the level of popularity that she drew across so many different crowds,” Kanda explains. “It was a real treat to see that her popularity not only hit within the Resident Evil community, but extended further out to people who may not know the franchise as well.”

Lady Dimitrescu’s castle is among one of the best levels of Resident Evil Village, replicating the similar fear of being stalked that Resident Evil 7 Biohazard pulled off so well. From there, the game does a tremendous job with pacing (excluding the, uh, frustrating factory section), weaving the player through environments where you never quite know what to expect. Probably the biggest surprise is another early level in House Beneviento. There you are stripped entirely of your weapons and left to fend for yourself inside a manor filled with unrelenting terrors.

Kanda explains that one of the core concepts when building the game was building “shinimono-gurui” survival horror, “which roughly translates to a desperate struggle to survive.” The team had to be conscious of not tiring the player out with constant frights or constant action, so nailing the pacing was a priority.

“We had coined it as almost a ‘theme park of horror,’ where each area would introduce a new twist on the horror genre,” he says. “For House Beneviento, it was our genuine attempt at providing straight horror, undiluted and unbridled by anything else.”

For Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and Village, the series changed to a first-person camera perspective in an attempt to make its survival horror more “up close and personal.” Looking ahead, Kanda isn’t sure whether the first-person perspective will continue for all Resident Evil games, explaining that those creative decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

“This camera angle fit well for what we were aiming for this time around, but it may not necessarily work for what we envision in the future,” he says. “Camera perspective is very much an integral part of presentation and game design, so it’s something we will always consider as an important decision to make when attempting to innovate and look forward in the world of survival horror.”

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Elise Favis

Elise is Fanbyte’s features and trending editor. She previously worked at The Washington Post and Game Informer.

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