Interview With Splatterhouse Producers Mark W. Brown and Dan Tovar

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Splatterhouse franchise. It was one of my favorite games on the Turbo Grafx-16 and it was the first game I downloaded to my Wii’s Virtual Console. I even put the first game at #10 on my Top 30 Spooky Games Countdown

So of course when I learned that Namco Bandai was making a new Splatterhouse for the 360 and PS3, I was quite curious. Would it be a beat ’em up ala days of yore, or would the series be heading into survival-horror territory? Would it be a remake of the first game, or an entirely new chapter in the life of Mark B. Rick, Jennifer, and the Terror Mask? There was only one way to find out. Producers of the game, Mark W. Brown and Dan Tovar, were kind enough to sit down with me and answer some of my pressing questions about this next-gen Splatterhouse title.

It’s been three console generations since we’ve had a new Splatterhouse game, so I’m sure you’re as curious as I am about what all the new game will entail. So sit back, click the play button below this paragraph to treat yourself to a version of the original Splatterhouse‘s cathedral theme (done by Nino from the band “Mega Driver”) and see what Mark and Dan have to say!

DHGF: With the original Splatterhouse trilogy, continuity between the games was amazingly tight, especially compared to other 16 bit series. When last we saw Rick and Jennifer they were married, had a kid, and it turned out the Terror Mask itself was the big bad at the end of the series. Is this game essentially a remake of the first Splatterhouse, or is this adding a new chapter to the series?

Mark & Dan: Since Splatterhouse came out 20 years ago, it’s fair to say that storytelling in games has become a lot more sophisticated. We want to stay true to the original story while not just making a retread of what gamers experienced in the past. Knowing exactly what’s going to happen and when would take away from the sense of discovery that immerses you in a game’s story, so we’ve been mixing things up a bit and playing on expectations.

You’re right that it was pretty rare to have story continuity in games back then. The story arc that spanned the original three games was pretty satisfying and the finale wrapped the story up nicely. Like most games at the time, the story was pretty minimal. Basic set-ups and not a lot of background information. There was just enough to keep the player moving forward. To be fair, though, what the story accomplished along the way was incredible. It really pulled you in and it had some really inspired plot twists. It touched on a lot of interesting concepts that we wanted to further explore with the new game. Dr. West, for example, was a character that wasn’t really utilized in the originals, but the setup for the character was undeniably intriguing, so we decided to expand on that and bring him to the forefront.

DHGF: I notice that Gordon Rennie wrote the storyline for the game. This is a pretty big deal for those of us who live(d) in the UK who know Rennie as the handpicked successor of John Wagner, the creator of Judge Dredd. Could you perhaps explain to those unaware of Rennie’s writing background what made him the ideal choice as the new Splatterhouse scribe?

Mark & Dan: I’ve been a huge Judge Dredd fan since I was a kid, so that obviously helps. The thing was, we really wanted to expand on the story elements that came from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, so a good understanding of that particular mythos was a prerequisite for our writer. During our research, we came across Necronauts and the Cabalistics Inc. books, graphic novels that Gordon wrote. Those were two very different takes on Lovecraftian horror. They are outstanding books that we would recommend to anyone. We talked to a lot of very talented writers, but in our conversations with Gordon, it was obvious that he really got it. He’s turning in some amazing work and we couldn’t be happier to be working with him on this.

DHGF: In the original game, Rick traversed through the mansion of Herbert West of H.P. Lovecraft (Serial) and Stuart Gordon (Movie) fame. Will they be any subtle references to movies or works of literature that inspired the new design team?

Mark & Dan: Absolutely! H.P. Lovecraft has been a huge inspiration for us, as well as Stuart Gordon’s films “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond”. We’re not trying to lift anything directly from those sources, of course, but there are concepts that we putting our own spin on for the game. To be fair, though, it doesn’t just stop there. We’re a big group of horror fans and there are numerous films, books and comics that contain elements that we want to reference and pay homage to wherever we can. We loved that they did that in the original games and we want to continue that tradition.

DHGF: In 1993 during the Violence in Video Games Senate Hearing, Splatterhouse 3 was one of the big 3 titles decried against, along with Night Trap and Mortal Kombat. With the likes of Jack Thompson and others rallying against other violent games like the GTA series, did either of those factor in to the level of violence and gore being put into the new Splatterhouse?

Mark & Dan: The game is called Splatterhouse and we want to live up to the name. It’s made for horror fans and it will contain a lot of exaggerated fantasy violence. It’s important to point out that Rick is not an evil character. He’s a normal guy with a normal life thrown into a world of inter-dimensional horror. He’s trying to save the woman he loves and the Mask gives him the power to go toe-to-toe with an army of savage monsters. The Corrupted are the enemy of all life. There is no negotiating or reasoning with them. If Rick doesn’t fight, they will literally tear him to pieces and eat him…or worse. Rick is not a serial killer. He is not out to hurt any humans or even use his power for personal gain. His actions are selfless and noble under the circumstances.

DHGF: Will we be seeing any classic Splatterhouse bosses in the game? Personally I’d like to see poor old Evil Cross finally allowed into a US Splatterhouse game. The womb boss from Splatterhouse 1 is another personal favorite.

Mark & Dan: There are definitely many situations and characters that we took from the original games and, as we said earlier, we have kind of mixed things up a bit to keep things interesting. Splatterhouse had a big influence on games that came after it, so we ended up with a pretty unique dilemma. Ideas from Splatterhouse have been lifted pretty liberally by other games in the past, so if we didn’t update and tweak some things, it might seem that we were copying them when it’s really the other way around. Some things really needed to be revamped visually for current technology anyway, and in every case we feel that the important characteristics are retained while taking things in a more contemporary direction.

DHGF: Let’s talk about the touted regeneration aspect. It sounds to be quite gory. Can you go into detail about how this will work, as well as determine your character’s health? Will say, a lucky shot from an enemy instantly rip out Rick’s heart, thus killing him, or will be a gradual (and thus more painful) assault on Rick’s body?

Mark & Dan: Essentially, this is a new take on a tried and true system. The Mask heals Rick in real time, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to worry about getting hurt. The Corrupted have many creative ways of dealing damage and depending on how much damage Rick is taking, his regeneration might not be enough to keep him alive. When the extent of damage is displayed in the character’s appearance, the consequences in his abilities will be obvious. It’s harder to defend yourself when you are missing some significant body parts. Depending on the situation, the damage could be gradual or you could be put into a do or die situation. Our focus is to make either situation as fun as possible for the player to deal with.

DHGF: Splatterhouse is considered a very solid 2-D beat ’em up series. Were there any challenges in taking a series that has only been in 2-D before and converting it to a 3-D game?

Mark & Dan: Splatterhouse has always been a brawler at heart, so it was pretty clear to us what to concentrate on. Beyond that, there are some relatively simple things that made those games so great. The challenge was figuring out how to keep that feeling intact while making the gameplay more modern. That was very important for us all. We are really proud of the results we have achieved so far.

DHGF: A lot of the press on the game so far has only focused on the gore and violent visuals of the game, so let’s talk about the gameplay. How will the new Splatterhouse play? Will there be a fixed camera or a controllable one? Will the game play more like a 3-D button mashing beat ’em up or will it be more like a survival horror game? Will it be pretty linear like the earlier games in the series, or will there be more to explore and do?

Mark & Dan: This is definitely not a survival horror game. Splatterhouse is very action oriented. Very combat oriented. The combat is more “Ëœin-your-face’ and visceral. Rick is super strong and that really shows in the gameplay. The original game had a relatively small set of moves and abilities, so we wanted to really expand things in that area and add some depth.

We have a variety of cameras, but there will be player camera control.

There will be reasons to stop and look around for sure, but exploring isn’t one of Rick’s major priorities. His mission is one of singular purpose. Everything else is just getting in his way.

DHGF: I’ve read that Rick can actually animate fallen enemies and have them fight alongside him. How will that work gameplay and AI-wise?

Mark & Dan: Throughout the game, Rick will be collecting what we call Necro, which can be used for a variety of things, one of which is reanimating zombies. When they come back, they are even meaner than before and they can prove very useful in unexpected ways. These guys are more of a power-up than a sidekick.

DHGF: Finally, and for many possible the most important question of all: Will any of the original Splatterhouse games be available as unlockables or bonus material in the game?

Mark & Dan: We’ve known from the start how important this would be to the fans and so we are certainly looking into it. That’s all we can say for now.

There you go! A few questions answered and some new ones have arisen. Namco Bandai will be releasing the new Splatterhouse in 2009. Splatterhouse is being developed by BottleRocket, who is also known for games like The Mark of Kri and Rise of the Kasai. We’ve still got quite some time before it is released, so keep checking back here or try The West Mansion for more news, screenshots and information about the revival of this classic game series.

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