Every fortnight two contenders step in to the Arcade arena but only one walks away a champion as decided by you! We pick the fighters! You pick the winners! First up in honor of the recent Resident Evil HD Remaster breaking Capcom sales records and the upcoming episodic title Resident Evil: Revelations 2, we’ve decided to pit STARS team member Jill Valentine against survivor turned activist, Claire Redfield.
With reports of strange attacks and murders in the Arklay mountains, Jill and her fellow STARS team members are sent in to investigate only to find themselves at the mercy of terrifying nightmares, flesh eating monsters and a corporation hellbent on keeping their work secret from the world. It was 1996 when the world was introduced to Resident Evil, Jill and her counterpart Chris, and the world of gaming and the genre of horror survival was going to change forever and Jill helped set that in motion.
She wasn’t the first female hero, the idea of playing a female lead wasn’t new but Jill was different, setting herself apart from others, an intentional move by her creators and director Shinji Mikami who wanted to portray an independent, intelligent and driven character without having to rely an eroticising her so that players would like her:
“I don’t know if I’ve put more emphasis on women characters, but when I do introduce them, it is never as objects…. In some games, they will be peripheral characters with ridiculous breast physics. I avoid that sort of obvious eroticism.”
While as a character Jill was overshadowed by her partners’ strength and speed, she made it up with her resourcefulness and intelligence, heading into the situation at the Spencer Mansion/Umbrella laboratory facility with a pistol while Chris only carries a knife. As the Resident Evil games progress it’s more and more evident that Jill is not just trying to survive the disaster unfolding, she’s struggling to keep it at bay and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Returning in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis she desperately seeks a way out of Raccoon city and survives an infection of the T-Virus. It’s at this point that Jill turns her attention on Umbrella working with the United Nations and founding the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance with the aim of bringing down Umbrella.
However her endeavors ultimately lead to her sacrificing herself to protect her partner Chris, ending her life to save his or so we’re led to believe as Jill returns in Resident Evil 5, alive but under the control of Albert Wesker and more deadly in combat. Fighting his control with the help of Chris, she is freed and once more sets out to ensure Umbrella’s demise. Her appearance and her portrayal in Resident Evil 5 led to outcry from fans, all of whom were begging for the chance to learn more about her story and put her skills to the test, forcing Capcom to release DLC in which players took control of Jill highlighting the events of her capture and her attempts to escape.
The piano playing, explosions expert was thrust into the limelight over nineteen years ago and while the popularity of the games may have gone up and down in that time, Jill has remained a constant figure to admire and respect, whether she’s thwarting Umbrella, kicking Marvel ass or delivering snappy one-liners on the big screen, she has proven herself to be one of the most popular characters in gaming.
Following on from what Resident Evil started in 1996 was never going to be easy, so the obvious answer is to simply not make a direct follow-up, and instead set sights a little different. This resulted in the second Resident Evil being a departure from the original not only in setting, but in time and in lead character. Taking on the mantle of Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield was introduced as a voracious sibling who has found herself in Raccoon City some two months after the events of the first game, in the search for her brother Chris. Claire is nothing more than a driven college student upon first introduction; emotional, reactionary and quick-to-action, she learns to protect herself against the zombie hordes the only way she knows – by simply surviving. In Resident Evil 2, she seeks solace in not being the only human thrown into the deep end as one Leon S. Kennedy, of now Resident Evil 4 fame, is only a lowly beat cop when the two meet and begin helping each other make it out alive. Claire is immediately endearing to the player, a stark difference from Jill and Chris of the previous game whose training and militarized attitude make them slightly cold and mechanic, as she braves the endless walking dead to find out what happened to her brother, and throughout the game, help keep young girl Sherry alive. She embodies a very pure form of survival – to ensure that our family is safe above all costs.
Though she has only appeared in two games to date, Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica, with her third headline appearance coming in Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Claire has been a large influence on the game and has been an important part of the franchise’s history. She isn’t duty-bound to take part in the unending war on the Umbrella Corp., she hasn’t been been trained to thwart the darkness of this world, she chooses to do both. She chose to search for Chris, and chose to remain part of that search despite all the hurdles that stood in her way. Hurdles that saw her deserted on an Umbrella sponsored island literally filled with genetic experiments and all kinds of nasties outside the regular shambling corpses, and she still fought through every last one of them. It isn’t until the end of Code Veronica that her and Chris and reunited and she receives any kind of closure, only to stand with him in going against Umbrella and ending the T-virus once and for all.
If Jill is the power fantasy, Claire is the rebel fantasy – Jill has all the training and the know-how to get out of sticky situations, Claire develops it through cunning and will to survive. Claire is the vigilante, and along with Leon very much flies the flag for the regular everyday hero having a place in being an unyielding destroyer of dead flesh that refuses to stay dead. Now more than ever, we, and the Resident Evil franchise, need Claire and Revelations 2 to remind us how what we loved in the first place still exists in the series.