Hockey masks and horror… sound familiar? Splatterhouse!
No, im not talking about Friday the 13th
The first time I played a Splatterhouse game it was part 2 on the Megadrive (Genesis) and, oh boy, was I blown away! This was insane! It was bloody, gory and super creepy. Sega always allowed things on their console that Nintendo wouldn’t, but this was another level! Needless to say, I instantly became a fan of Namcos Horror-series. You play a huge guy wearing a hockey mask (no, its not Jason) smashing monsters and ghosts to a bloody pulp of goo, who wouldn’t love that? oh, right, parents and the media. So let´s dive deeper into the history of the series.
Loved by gamers, hated by parents…
It’s pretty safe to say that Splatterhouse caused a huge outcry of parents and the media.
The game was released in 1988 and videogame violence hadn’t been seen on that kind of level till then. Remember, until then Videogames have been mostly for kids. And then there came along this game, with this guy chopping demons with a meat cleaver… clearly, that game wasn’t meant for children’s hands! So Splatterhouse was probably the first game with a parental advisory warning printed on the front of the box that read: “The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children… and cowards.” We are still talking about Splatterhouse one, which was originally released in arcades (uncut) and got some home ports for the PC-Engine (mild cuts) and the Turbografx (heavier cuts but still gory).
Here in Europe, we did not hear much from it, I remember reading an article about Splatterhouse in a magazine back in those days, but the Turbografx never took off in Europe, especially in Germany.
The sequels even cranked up the blood & gore a notch! Splatterhouse part 2 from 1992 and part 3 from 1993 mostly got good critics. Both games, while still very violent, haven’t had the same shock-effect or public outcry as the first one. Nevertheless, they have been very awesome games, both expanding on the main gameplay mechanics of the main game. But after 1993, the series fell into and deep slumber for many years… until the rumors of remake started circulating.
From the beginning, the development of Splatterhouse has been a troubled one. In early 2009 the original developer BottleRocket was kicked out by Namco Bandai and the latter finished the development inhouse by themselves. After its release in 2010, Splatterhouse received mostly mixed and bad reviews, which, sadly, killed off the franchise to this day.
But let’s take a deeper look at all Splatterhouse games
The first Splatterhouse had a very simple premise.
You play as Rick, a student at a local university. Together with his girlfriend, Jennifer, they try to investigate the mansion of a famous, but missing, parapsychologist Dr. West. While a storm approaches, the two seek shelter in the “West Mansion”, but soon they get attacked by creepy monsters. Jennifer gets abducted and Rick is on the verge of death. Strangely he survives but is somehow bond to the “Terror Mask”, an ancient relic that grants him superpowers but can’t be removed and raises his blood-thurst.
That’s where the fun begins. Splatterhouse scrolls from left to right and the player has to overcome different obstacles along his way, mostly of demonic nature. There are plenty of weapons and different methods to progress the House. The monsters look gross, bloody and sticky and the graphics, in general, are nicely done! If you still not in a creepy mood the music and sound effects will give you the rest!
The game really stood apart from the other games of that time, not just with its visuals, but although with its mature story… Sometimes the hero can’t save the “damsel in distress”.
There are minor differences regarding what port of the game you are playing. The Japanese PC-Engine version is probably the way to go because it has the least cut content from the arcade version. The Turbografx16 removed or replaced all religious content and gave Rick a red “Terror Mask” most likely to avoid legal problems (after all, Rick really does look like Jason Voorhees). depending on the version you want to buy you should at least expect roughly 100$.
The Famicom Splatterhouse spinoff you didn’t know you wanted!
Before Namco released the real sequel, they made a Japan-only spinoff called Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti.
Yes, you read that right, there was a Splatterhouse on a Nintendo console. I know, that sounds weird *lol*. But in between part one and part two, there was Wanpaku Graffiti for the Famicom. Never released in the west, this game was really outstanding! The art style is super deformed and totally cute. Full of funny movie references it was a love letter to every horror fan. There aren´t many games out there with a dancing, Micheal Jackson inspired, vampire end boss, just trust me on that. If you like games like “Boku Dracula Kun“, Wanpaku Graffiti might be right up your alley! But it won’t be cheap, you should expect prices above 110$.
Splatterhouse 2, the sequel that topped the original!
My first Splatterhouse I played.
An instant classic, if you ask me. This game topped everything the first episode had to offer. More gore, better graphics, an impressive intro, yadda yadda yadda.
The story continues roughly a year after the events of the first game. Since then, the Terror Mask is talking to Rick in his dreams. That they still could save Jennifer. It doesn’t take long and Rick gives in, he dons the mask again and heads back to the mansion in the woods.
Again there are some translation differences that you need to know to fully enjoy the game. Only in the Japanese version its made clear that the house from the first game has burned to the ground (you see that in the first level). You must find a way to a second, hidden mansion even deeper in the woods, in the middle of a lake. The English version just states that you have to return to the West Mansion (which was actually destroyed in the first game).
The enemies are even grosser, the music rocks and the bosses are hard as hell. everything you come to expect from a Splatterhouse game! If you got the chance, you should grab it. Especially because its the cheapest of the original bunch, just around 60$ and it’s yours.
They changed the Formular for the final!
Holy moly, I guess the budget went up!
From the moment you power up your Sega Megadrive (Genesis) it won’t take long till you realize that Splatterhouse 3 is something special. The Intro is one of the best on the system (maybe since Sub-Terrania). It has multiple endings and you have an entire map to explore on each floor of the mansion! Have I mentioned how great the intro and the cutscenes are? The control scheme changed quite a lot. Because you move your character freely in some kind of “Streets of Rage” like environment, you are not limited to one “layer” anymore. This combined with the ability to enter doors and find your way through a maze-like structure make Splatterhouse 3 feel very fresh. On the other hand, the game got more complex, and if you enjoyed the simple gameplay of the prior titles that may be a big turnoff. Especially if you dislike games with a timer… oh boy this game has a lot of timed levels. Did I mention that the intro and the cutscenes are awesome? Did I?
Storywise, this is the last episode, and if you played it to the end you will see that there isn´t much left for a future story to explore. So to this day Namco never released a real sequel after part 3. That makes it very manageable to collect the entire series. But beware, part 3 ist the most expensive of the titles. You should estimate between 150$ and 200$. I’ve even seen prices like 300$. By the way, the intro is awesome! Did I already mention that?
Splatterhouse 2010, the underrated remake!
The unfairly spurned remake saw the day of light in 2010.
Last but not least. Considered as a retelling or reboot of the first game, somehow it managed to be panned by critics and fans alike. Frankly, I don’t get why this game got so much hate. Its conversations between Rick and the mask are priceless, the gameplay is fluent, the soundtrack is uber awesome (if you like Heavy-Metal). Overall it’s a very mature game. And, yes, it’s still gory as hell! The story is presented in some cool cutscenes and the entire cast of the game is fleshed out very well. Especially Dr. West, which you encounter for the first time in the series.
If you search a shortcut for collecting this series, this is the way to go, because it includes all previous main titles to unlock. Strangely some of the cutscenes and the intro of the third Splatterhose got changed here… Anyway, the reboot is available for the PS3 & XBOX360 and it’s really cheap. You could even get it for as low as 10$.