House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return
Developer: AM 1/Wow Entertainment
Genre: Light Gun Shooter
Release Date: 03/12/2008
You know, it’s funny. Out of all of Sega’s franchises, HoTD is one of the few that I love that HASN’T been ruined by Sammy. Phantasy Star, Sonic the Hedgehog, Shining Force, and more of all been dragged through the mud and figuratively raped by the new Sammy owned Sega. House of the Dead though? It’s always been an amazing series. At least the video games. We’ll not discuss the Uwe Boll films here.
I’ve always been a light gun fan. I Hate FPS’ but I love light guns. From the horrible plots and voice acting to the amazingly fun gameplay that anyone can quickly pick up and get addicted to, light gun shooter are easily my favorite rail games. Whether its Mad Dog McCree, Who Shot Johnny Rock, Vampire Night, or Die Hard Trilogy I’ve always managed to have fun with this genre.
Oddly enough though, it is the HotD spin-offs that I love best. Typing of the Dead and Pinball of the Dead are my two favorite games from the franchise, and I’m eagerly awaiting English of the Dead on the Nintendo DS. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the HotD series. I actually imported the very first game for my Saturn. It just means I love how wacky Sega has always been willing to take this series.
So here we are in 2008. We’ve got two arcade ports, one that previously found a home on the Dreamcast, and one that was available as an Xbox exclusive. Are the two repackaged as a compilation worth for $29.99 or do the games show their age when compared to last year’s amazing Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles?
Well there are two stories and multiple modes, so let’s just get into it.
HOTD2 – 2 years after HOTD1…
“OH Holy Crap! Zombies and flesh golems EVERYWHERE!”
That’s pretty much it. The game is very light on plot. All you need to know is that a businessman named Goldman reopened the research of Dr. Curien from HotD1 and flooded the world with the undead. G, Gary, James, and Amy are the main characters in this game where you try to end the wanton undead debauchery found in a small US city.
There are 4 modes open to you in HotD2. The first is Arcade, which is a spot on port of the original. This game may lack the branching paths of the original HOTD1 and its sequel, but for some reason this game is considered the crown Jewel of the series.
Next up is the Original Mode, which is more like RE:UC. It’s the same game, but here you can find items and power-ups that range from power ups to extra credits for play. You can only pick 2 items and then they are gone forever, so it’s all the more important you find items hidden in barrels or lying around while you shoot zombies.
Next up is Boss Mode, where you try to beat the first five bosses of the game as fast as you can. The further you get in the game, the more bosses will be unlocked past the first five. I’ve never been into these sorts of modes, but hey, it’s nice to have the option. Plus, it can help you train for when you fight the bosses in the main game.
Finally there is Training Mode. This mode presents some interesting scenarios for you to strengthen your light gun skills with.
All in all, you’ve got a nice collection of modes with HotD2, with my favorite being Original Mode. There is a one time mini game that you can access within HotD2, but let me repeat – IT IS A ONE TIME ONLY DEAL. This to me is one of the stupidest concepts ever put into a game. Why offer something you can only ever play once as long as you own the game unless you delete the save file. That’s just wacky.
HOTD3 – The year is 2019, and the world’s been decimated by the undead. Oops.
That’s pretty much the plot again, although HotD3 does offer an intro chapter and cut scenes before each chapter detailing Dr. Curien’s decent into madness. Here you play as G and Lisa Rogan in an attempt to find Thomas Rogan from the original HotD. This game brings back the branching paths, but it’s not as well done as in the first game. It also introduces full shotgun play, which is a lot of fun, and offers four very different endings for an added replay value.
There is no Original Mode for HotD3, but there is a Time Attack mode as well as an “EXTREME MODE” if you finish you beat both games in the compilation. Extreme Mode did nothing for me, but Time Attack was a lot of fun, if only for a new twist on the game and Dr. Curien’s commentary on how you did afterwards.
I was a bit disappointed by the lack of options with HotD3, which has aged far better than HotD2, but I was impressed with how much was crammed into the port of the old Dreamcast shooter. The HoTD2 one-off mini game still really gets under my skin even though I did quite well at it. I just think it’s one of the worst ideas I’ve seen in a video game in a long time and that brings down the score here.
There’s a decent amount of stuff here, but Sega’s spoiled us with their Sega Genesis Collection giving us 20+ games for 19.99. Even SNK has been throwing at us compilations for $15. For a $30, a two game compilation seems a bit weak, especially as they had room to fit in HotD1. Still, you have to pay $19.99 for a used copy of HotD3 these days, so this is a decent price for a decent collection.
Story/Modes Rating: Decent
Surprisingly, both games hold up pretty well. Yes the Dreamcast game is showing its age of ten years, but it still looks nice. The bosses are still quite impressive, as are the zombies, even if the actual human models are rather jerky and poorly done by today’s standards.
HotD3 is pretty bright and vibrant, but also quite bloody and gory. The graphics are still good here and are comparable to say, the recent Super Smash Bros. Brawl.. After all, one game using GCN level graphics, and HotD3 uses Xbox quality. I was very happy to see that HotD3 can still hold its own, especially with a lot of games on the Wii not utilizing the full power of the system.
Above average graphics here compared to other Wii titles, which tells you something considering how old both of these games are.
Graphics Rating: Above Average
Okay, here’s the thing. The voice acting in both games is appalling. But that’s really half the fun. Even Sega realized how bad it was and mocked HotD2′s acting in both their Typing and Pinball spin-offs. HotD3 isn’t much better, but it is a step up. We’re talking Resident Evil bad here. You’ll laugh when a character expresses dismay, disgust, or really ANY emotion, simply because the actors have no idea of how to convey it. Think Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller” and you’re on the right track. Personally I love James’ “My God” and the opening “The House of the Dead” voice, even though both are spectacularly bad.
There’s not a lot in the way of music for the game. What’s here is mostly forgettable and lost over the constant barrage of gun fire and zombie moaning. Sound effects too are about 95% gunplay and 5% bodies falling to the floor and melting.
You’re not really playing a Light Gun game for sound, and the genre is well known for having the worst voice acting in gaming. Trust remember to view it as camp, and you’ll have fun with it.
Sound Rating: Poor
4. Control and Gameplay
God damn is the wiimote amazing for light gun gaming. Say what you will about the lack of buttons and the simplistic controls in other games, for rail shooters, this sucker is AMAZING.
This HotD 2-pack features the best light gun calibration I’ve seen out of any console version of this genre. It’s superior to RE:UC in this respect (And really only this respect I’m sad to say), and you don’t have to wrench your wrist and elbow to reload like you do in that game. For reloading, you just point your wiimote away from the screen and it is automatic. Awesome. I will warn you that your arm will start to hurt if you play the game more than two to three times in succession, so try to take a few breaks here and there as well as stretch before playing. The Wii Blaster actually helps alleviate this stress a fair amount, and you’ll find it’s just as fun to play using it.
There’s not a lot here for controls. Just point and shoot for thirty minutes straight or until you die. Those are your two options. The controls are solid, simple and a lot of fun. This is the Sega I remember.
Control and Gameplay rating: Unparalleled
5. Replayability Rating
Sega has pulled an Ikaruga here. What this means is that the more you play the game, the more credits (continues) you earn. Play long enough and you unlock unlimited continues, meaning anyone can eventually beat this game. That’s a nice touch and it simulates real arcade play where if you went into one of these games with ten bucks in quarters, you were assured victory. You can also increase your max life bar from the starting 3 torches up to 9.
The trick here is that you have to do this for BOTH games. If you only play Hotd2, you’ll have a life bar of 9 and unlimited continues quickly, but you’ll still be at 3 pieces of health and 5 credits with HotD 3. This was a nice way to make gamers play both equally and really increase the desire to play. Light Gun games can be hard for beginners just like vertical or side-scrolling shooters, but that degree of challenge is taken away by unlimited continues. By making the gamer EARN those extra continues, you really reward perseverance. Awesome idea.
All the extra modes and the fact the fun of the game doubles with two players just ensure that this title will be a worthy purchase for your Wii and that you’ll be coming back repeatedly to blow holes in revenant anatomy.
Replayability Rating: Good
Like most games built for the arcade, the HotD games can be pretty tough. They’re designed so that you die frequently so that you pump quarter after quarter into the cabinet housing the game. With the amount of life and credits you are given at the start of HotD2, you’ll probably make it to stage 2 or 3 your first time play, depending on if you’re doing co-op or not. All the more reason to play repeatedly, so that you can earn those continues though, right?
HotD3 is a lot easier than the HotD2. I made it to the end of stage 4 with the bare minimum life and credits my first time playing through. Part of it is the wide spread of the shotgun in 3 over the pistol in 2.
The difficulty can be adjusted in the options menu of both games, along with blood colour. HotD also lets you change the level of violence, although I can’t imagine why you’d by a game involving shooting undead people in the head and not want it on maximum violence. After all, this isn’t a game you buy for a ten year old.
The default settings for the game are quite tough, even for old hats at the genre. Only a very rare gamer will be able to make it through either game without using a continue. That’s why we have the earned continues and sliding difficulty setting though.
Balance Rating: Above Average
These are two arcade ports that have been previously ported to other systems. Even the extra modes in the game are directly ported from the home console versions of the game. This was basically a dump of two games onto a Wii disc after SammySega saw how well Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles did. The promise from the of course was that we’d get HotD 4 on the Wii if this sold well.
There was nothing added to either title for the Wii port, and although HotD2 is considered by most light gun aficionados to be the best game in the genre, this title doesn’t bring anything new to the table. To be honest, these games were neither innovative or highly original even when they were first released. They were just well made and fun.
Originality Rating: Bad
Because both light gun games are so short, running at about thirty minutes each, one would assume it’s hard to get into them. That assumption would be wrong. As the games are so fast paced and frantic, you get sucked into the game very easily. Even if you’re playing at home, it’s as if you have a pair of blinders on.
It gets even better when you add a friend to the occasion. Besides trash talking the undead, you’ll be trading quips about how each other is doing and mocking the dialogue in the game. This is a wonderful party game, even if only two of you can play at a time. Your arm will get tired easily and the game is over quickly, so you pass the wiimotes over to another tandem and watch them go to town!
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
I’m always surprised that light gun games don’t do as well as they used to while FPS’ get bigger in the US every year. For me, I find the arcade goodness and faster paced gameplay to be better than a meandering campaign with awful camera angles. Obviously I’m in the minority.
If you had fun with RE:UC, you’ll probably enjoy the HotD two pack here. It’s cheaper, albeit it much shorter and with less options. Don’t hold that against HotD Return as it was first and RE:UC exists only because of the popularity of this franchise. Hardcore Sega, light gun, rail shooter and retro gamers will no doubt have a lot of fun with this title. More casual gamers might be a bit put off by the slightly dated graphics and only getting two retro games for $15 each.
Also? Not for children. Duh.
Appeal Factor: Above Average
I’m quite happy with the port of House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return. Long title though. I really miss AM1/Wow Entertainment. This developer gave us Skies of Arcdia, a ton of great Sega sports games and of course, the HotD series. It’s nice to have it back and this release makes me hopeful that the Wii (and maybe even the PS3?) will get their own version of House of the Dead 4 some time in 2008.
Both games offer an intense, albeit short gaming experience with solid controls and a great deal of mindless violence. It’s the first Sega published title I have been happy with sincethe Sega Genesis Collection and that’s two years old. Ouch. With Sega Superstars Tennis coming out in a few days, Sega has a chance to give me two quality releases in a row. Here’s hoping they don’t let me down for the first time since Sammy purchased them.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Graphics: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Balance: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Above Average
Short Attention Span Summary
Hey you! Looking for a budget Wii title that doesn’t suck? Well look no further. HotD Return may be barren of any new content, but it does contain two fun retro games with a few extra frills. It’s best played with a friend, but remember not to play for extended periods of time or your arm will start to hurt.