Mushroom Soup For The Pixelated Soul
These days, when it comes to discussing the Resident Evil series, fans unanimously praise Resident Evil 4 as the best game in the series, if not all time.
They aren’t wrong with their choice, but it wasn’t too long ago when Resident Evil 2 was the top dog among fans, and it still holds a special place in my heart for not only introducing me to the world of Survival Horror, but was also one of the first games to really show me what the Playstation could do.
As we get closer to Resident Evil 5’s release, I’ve decided to talk about the one dangling loose-end from the 2nd game, little Sherry Birkin.
Having a young, defenseless character tossed in with a group of heavily armed, somewhat capable survivors in a horror setting is one of the oldest cliches in the book, but considering the infancy of the Survival Horror genre at the time, Sherry’s inclusion in RE2 was pretty innovative. Seen mostly in Claire’s scenario, players were treated to the concept of having to care for and protect a helpless NPC in a setting where death came in many faces and from many angles. The way Sherry would stick close to Claire and grasp her hand was a unique, emotional touch, years before everyone praised Ico for the very same concept.
There was also a brief section of the game where you were forced to take control of Sherry in order to retrieve an important key item (a, uh…key). Having no way to defend herself, the scenario made for an extra level of tension and fear.
It’s just too bad that the zombies were downgraded to merely vomiting on Sherry as she avoided them, most likely to avoid any extra controversy involving child murder (it’s the same reason they had to scrap their plans to include zombie kids in the first game). Ironically enough, Capcom had no problem having the zombie dogs take a bite out of her using their standard lunging attacks. You thought those dogs were spooky enough when they were busting through windows, imagine having to outrun them with a character that’s roughly the same size as them.
It wasn’t much of a shock that Sherry would survive the zombie outbreak by the end of the game, and it looked like she would spend the remainder of her days with Claire, who apparently took her in as an adoptive sister or daughter.
But then came the extra epilogue endings from Resident Evil 3, tossing in a new wave of twists and cliffhangers to further extend the story post-Racoon City.
The first one involves Leon being confronted by a “government official”, offering him some sort of deal in exchange for Sherry. Knowing what a badass Leon is (or will become), you’d think his sharp response would be to “piss off”, but apparently he was given one heck of a good deal, because….
It seems he really did hand Sherry over to the government. Leon must really like being told that he has value.
But there’s no way Claire would stand for this sudden exchange, right?
Nope, because it looks like it was done behind her back. Apparently taking place before the two epilogues above, Claire is seen here being brushed off by Leon so she can go after her brother. I’ve wondered for the longest time what was going on in this epilogue, with Leon and Sherry being mentioned to need medical attention, but looking at this pic again, it’s possible that this takes place immediately after their escape from RE2. It would make sense considering Leon’s bandages and Claire’s jacket-less look, but it didn’t always click with me since the ending originally showed that final portrait with Claire and Sherry riding off in a motorcycle.
Anyway, Claire goes off searching for Chris, which leads to the events of Code Veronica. It’s assumed that she wasn’t made aware of Leon handing Sherry over to the government, because….
It turns out that shadowy government figure wasn’t actually working for the government (surprise!), but instead was one of Wesker’s men.
Even so, Claire does survive the ordeals in Code Veronica, so it would make sense that she comes back to check up on Sherry, right?
For several years, we were left without an answer to that, because the RE series had entered a “dark age” of sorts, where Capcom worked tirelessly to make the fourth game in the series really, really good, but couldn’t decide on a scenario that satisfied them. After constant rewrites, they settled on placing Leon in a remote Spanish village fighting waves of non-zombies that chased after you, carried weapons, and screamed how they were going to carve you into meat chunks (in Spanish). Awesomeness ensued, and right now all you readers are thinking of replaying the game for the hundredth time. Do it.
Anyway, the critical success of Resident Evil 4 only guaranteed more sequels, so it didn’t take too long for the fifth entry to get announced, staring Chris Redfield in a decidedly controversial African setting.
For the fifth Resident Evil, we were promised that the story would take a darker, almost crueler tone than previous games. It certainly looks it, based on the trailers featuring more menacing (and more violent) enemies, a gritty Black Hawk Down-inspired aesthetic, and an all around gloomier feel that doesn’t leave much room for quips about bingo or small-time cult leaders.
But a darker tale wasn’t the only thing Capcom promised. They also promised the return of an old character that hasn’t been seen for a while, one that’s been “kept in confinement for several years.”
That comment, plus the teaser image above leaves little doubt the returning character is Sherry, who’s now an adult following the 7 plus years after RE2’s story. As you can see, she’s sleeping in some sort of hibernation tank, which RE veterans should know by now is never a good sign.
Even less encouraging is the menacing gaze she gives before the trailer goes black. Considering the malicious nature of her captor (along with the theory that William left a viral legacy within her), it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that Sherry’s been experimented on ever since her capture. Will Chris and his new politically-correct partner have to face her? Will he be able to save Sherry, or will he have to resort to a mercy killing?
Some of you might be scoffing me for even following Resident Evil’s confusing, poorly written storyline. Just go with the flow, and bust some undead heads open, right? Well, I don’t entirely share that sentiment; Even though the series has always maintained a level of cheesy horror movie drama (purely intentional for RE4, not so much for previous games), I have to give Capcom for maintaining one of the longest-lasting videogame plots out there, where almost every game has followed a strict continuity, always letting us know where each entry falls in the timeline, and what almost every character has been up to.
The short of it is that I do care about most of the RE cast, whether it’s to cheer bad assess like Leon and Chris, show sympathy for female characters like Claire and Rebbeca, or love to hate series mastermind Wesker, who has yet to be properly defeated and always chews up the scenery whenever he shows up, like a good villain should be. So it’s within my rights to ponder the fate of Sherry Birkin, the most helpless character in the RE series, as her briefly-mentioned capture has been one of the longest unsolved mysterious in a game’s plot since Janus’ sister.
It should also be worth mentioning that Resident Evil is a progressively darker, less forgiving series since the 2nd entry; The set pieces have grown darker and moodier, major characters have been killed onscreen (with a hideous mutation occurring before or after said death), and the BOW creations have been more horrific in both appearance and backstory. Just take a look at Lisa Trevor’s story, which is probably the cruelest and most disturbing creature story I’ve read yet, and that’s including anything from Silent Hill.
Now, it is true that in a case between whether Capcom has planned Sherry’s reappearance for just the right occasion, or just plum forgot about her and quickly tossed her in, the latter argument is probably the most valid. However, there’s still potential for this subplot to evolve into something interesting, and maybe a little moving. Having Sherry appear in RE5 as someone who first appeared as sweet and innocent, but has grown into something dangerous and resentful after years of torturous experimentation can be quite a tragic scenario for players to witness, and fills in quite nicely with the promise of a darker tone for the sequel.
However, I’d hate for Sherry’s “transformation” to occur without Claire being present, and it’s looking less and less likely that she’ll make an appearance considering the number of new female characters (as well as the rumored reappearance of a certain master of unlocking). It just isn’t the same for Chris to have an emotional and physical confrontation with her, especially since we don’t even know if he knows who she is (though that didn’t stop Leon from knowing who Wesker was in RE4, even though the two have never met face to face). It’s possible that Sherry will be a recurring villain, leading up to a future battle between her and Claire, but I’d rather have her story over and done with by the time part 5 rolls out (2 more months!).
Although it’s still unconfirmed if Claire is aware at all of Sherry’s disappearance.
One of the things that initially excited me about the CG film Degeneration was the reunion between Leon and Claire. Unfortunately, the interaction between the two former partners is casual at best, with no mention at all about Sherry. In fact, Claire has pretty much dumped her in favor of a new, cuter Indian girl. She also has a brief fling with a new male character in the movie (it’s Crispin Freeman’s voice, isn’t it? I know it’s sexy and all, but….), despite her tragic affair with Steve in Code Veronica. Apparently breaking up is no problem at all for Claire, and it seems she and Leon will never get together outside of someone’s fanfiction (Leon, meanwhile, nearly hooks up with a new female officer in this flick, who when out of uniform possesses a rack even larger than RE4’s Ashley).
The movie was still decent, even if the stiff character animation was nowhere near the level of Advent Children, but aside from a teaser about RE5’s evil biological corporation TriCell, it failed to deliver any news on the Sherry situation. Does Claire think she’s still safe in the army? Is she silently worried? Who the heck knows.
Well when all is said and done, I hope this mystery finally comes to a close in Resident Evil 5 (I also hope the game manages to match RE4’s near-perfection), and that it ends happily at that. Sherry’s had enough of a hard-knock life without having to follow in her father’s footsteps.