The time jump in the village expansion is a big problem for Resident Evil
Resident Evil Village ends 16 years in the future with Rose, Ethan’s now-teenage daughter, visiting his grave. While catching up with her father, Rose is approached by a BSAA agent who tells her there is a situation they (and presumably Chris Redfield) need her help with. While this ending was clearly preparation for the then-unannounced expansion campaign, I still didn’t believe it until I saw the Shadows of Rose trailer during Summer Game Fest. Jumping into the future isn’t something Resident Evil hasn’t done before, and 16 is a major gap to try to fill. Shadows of Rose presents a major continuity issue for Capcom going forward, even though it’s a one-time expansion.
The Resident Evil timeline is long and well documented. With the exception of live-action movies and a few multiplayer titles (Operation Raccoon City, Mercenaries 3D, Resistance, and the upcoming ReVerse), all Resident Evil stories exist in a single canon. This includes nearly 50 games, movies, novels, manga, guides, and shows that, while largely self-contained, all exist on a continuous timeline.
For the most part, Resident Evil stories are set within the year of their release, or in the past in whatever timeline dictates. Oddly enough, the only game that breaks this rule is the original Resident Evil, which takes place two years after its release in 1996. Because the events of Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, and Resident Evil 3 all occur in the same week. in September 1998 – and Capcom can’t release three games at once – the first game is set in the future and the third is set a year in the past. Resident Evil 2, released in January 1998, set the standard that the rest of the main series would follow. Resident Evil 4 was released in 2005 and takes place in 2005. Resident Evil Village was released in 2021 and takes place in 2021.
Sometimes side stories had to take place in the past in order to merge with the timeline. Resident Evil: Revelations was released in 2012 but is set in 2004 as its story follows the events of Resident Evil 4. Netflix’s Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness was released in 2021 but it is set in 2006, just before the Spencer Estate raid in Resident Evil 5 where Wesker kidnapped and brainwashed Claire. These stories don’t reference each other – Infinite Darkness happened before Resident Evil 5 but was written after – but the timeline is still important to each character’s arc. Chris is a different man in Village than he was in Resident Evil, and while you don’t need to have played every game in between to understand or appreciate Village, it’s still part of his story that account.
That’s why I’m so surprised to see the timeline move forward 16 years for Shadows of Rose. This immediately tells us a lot about the future and limits the types of stories Capcom can tell. On the one hand, we know there won’t be the kind of cataclysmic doomsday event that we’ve seen in live-action movies or in the upcoming Netflix series, which uses the RE canon as his. At the end of Village, Rose tells her father about being busy with school and is picked up by a BSAA agent in a regular SUV. Clearly, the world hasn’t turned into a zombie wasteland, and that won’t happen in any Resident Evil game for at least the next 16 years.
We also know that Chris is alive and well in the year 2037, so any stories told about him between now and then will have a lot less dramatic tension. Not that I expect Chris Redfield to die, but it does limit what Capcom can do with the character to some extent. Everything that happens in Shadow of Rose will inform any future stories Capcom wants to tell. For the next 16 years, every idea or pitch a writer comes up with will have to pass through the Pink filter. Does this idea contradict what we established in the Resident Evil Village DLC pack? I’m surprised Capcom decided to put themselves in this position after all these years of carefully maintaining the timeline.
The obvious way out of all of this is to just continue the series from 2037. Whatever happens at the end of Shadow of Rose will be the new starting point, and Resident Evil 9 can pick things up from there and continue to advance the timeline, always a decade and a half ahead of ours. This would open up the possibility for more Revelations-style games that would fill in the gaps between 2021 and 2037 to show us what happened to characters during the interim.
It’s a risky proposition because it’s based on the assumption that the world we live in will be relatively the same 15 years from now, as it is in Shadow of Rose. He assumes that there were no major events or technological leaps that would fundamentally change society. If we’re all cruising around in flying cars and replacing our limbs with robot parts by 2030, Resident Evil is going to look weird to ignore. The same goes for any major wars or natural disasters that disrupt society to the point where it’s odd that they don’t factor into Resident Evil stories. Then again, if we’re all living in Waterworld thanks to climate change in 2035, the Resident Evil timeline will be the least of our worries.
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