Dino Crisis (not to be confused with “Dino Crysis,” a game we literally just made up yet somehow want to play) is a classic Capcom series based on the core principles of Jurassic Park, but without any of the troublesome IP entanglements or need to pay licensing fees. The Dino Crisis series was never the hit that the original Resident Evil turned out to be, but it’s maintained a solid base of fans over the years — rumors that the Xbox One would feature a new Dino Crisis 4 circulated widely early in that console’s life.
Now, one fan has taken it upon themselves to do what Capcom hasn’t — extensively remaster the first game. The new mod is a massive update and includes a replacement for the old DirectDraw 5.0 library (implemented via DX9, with DX11 support coming); swaps out DirectInput 3.0/5.0 for Xinput, RawInput, and DirectInput (effectively enabling modern controller support); replaces DirectShow with FFmpeg; adds a new 3D rendering mode and support for up to 4K; solves various frame-rate issues; and adds optional adaptive widescreen modes for aspect ratios like 16:9 and 16:10.
This is a truly impressive set of overhauls for such an old game, though there are some restrictions on playing it. The author, @REBehindtheMask, notes that the patch won’t work with the MediaKite release of the game (it requires the Japanese SourceNext release). You can, however, use a patch available on his download site to make your MediaKite version compatible with ClassicREbirth if you wish to do so.
The original source material rendered at a fixed 640×480 resolution with 16-bit color and was designed in the early days of PS1 emulation. @REBehindtheMask writes: “[The] 3D rendering in this port shows typical issue of early PlayStation enhanced emulation, with wobbly polygons all over the place and textures warped to complete distortion. This happens because CAPCOM literally emulated the whole PlayStation GPU and GTE (Geometry Transformation Engine, i.e. the chip that does 3D transformation) by implementing something akin to emulators like Bleem or ePSXe.”
Weird side effect: apparently Classic REbirth is pretty much compatible with the US version of the game as long as you swap the exe and use the video patch. #DinoCrisis #ClassicREbirth
— Loboto 3 (@REBehindtheMask) May 1, 2020
ePSXe and Bleem were both emulators from the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they were designed to get these kinds of games running on minimum PC hardware of the era, not to provide pixel-perfect recreations of the intended game. ePSXe was developed into the modern era, but the version of it that would have been paired with a game like Dino Crisis to get it running on PCs in the Win9X era very much would not have been a modern emulator. In this case, the re-release of Dino Crisis actually appears to fix some bugs, including audio problems.
There hasn’t been any rework of the game’s image assets, beyond the intrinsic benefits of better rendering work, so get ready for a return to some PS1-era classics with regards to low-poly models, low-detail art, and the like. It’s not even clear to me how much a straight AI upscale of the underlying assets would help. While they could undoubtedly be improved in certain respects, increasing overall image fidelity would also draw attention to flaws in the base models. I can’t imagine the gun Regina is holding will be improved if its upscaled texture looks even more like a human femur, for example.
There are still clear limits to what AI upscaling can accomplish in gaming and video — we’re at very early days for the tech. A game like Dino Crisis might benefit more from new textures more than upscaling the old ones. Then again, it may be easier to launch a project like that now that the ancient title is running on something like a modern framework.
Fans have been creating mods and updated art for as long as games have been moddable. But it feels like we’ve seen an uptick in these projects in recent years, thanks to the advent of better AI and post-processing tools, as well as folks like @REBehindtheMask, who launch these kinds of general update projects for multiple titles in a row.