31 Days of Terror – Day 14: Splatterhouse

Chris Bowen: Splatterhouse, to me, is what I think of when someone asks me to think of a classic horror game. I can’t think of Castlevania because to me, the game was less about horror and more about occult myths (there’s a difference to me), and the other classic horror games – not counting Maniac Mansion, which I guess could fit the bill if you stretched it – were not good enough to mention.

Splatterhouse blew me away when I was young. I was amazed at the gore that was prevalent within the game, and being 11 or 12, the whole stage where you’re attacked by furniture was a “shit my pants” moment. Of course, they don’t stand up as well nowadays, after Resident Evil and those damn dogs, but what does make the transition to the modern day well is the fact that, for what is ostensibly a side-scrolling beat ’em-up, it plays pretty damn well, even today.

There were a few sequels, and there’s one in development now, but they didn’t quite stand up as well to the first one, in my eyes. The game has had a profound effect on a lot of people – just ask Mark B. – and as mentioned, wins the “Word Association” test, which is as indicative of its quality as any other metric I can think of.

Mark B.: I absolutely LOVE Splatterhouse, though I guess you probably knew that. Even though I had no idea who H.P. Lovecraft was when I first played the first game, years and years ago, it didn’t matter: running around as a dude in a hockey-like mask, murdering monsters with weapons was one of the best things I had ever seen. The first and second game don’t particularly play well, but years later I can still beat them, so they’re not that bad, gameplay-wise, and the artistic awesomeness of the games still shines through today.

My favorite, though, still has to be the third game. Someone, somewhere, is gasping loudly and chastising their computer screen because of that, but I don’t care: combining Splatterhouse and beat-’em-up mechanics was my video gaming PB&J and I still love the hell out of it. Everything about that game was awesome: the monsters were revolting, the storyline not only RETAINED ITS OWN CONTINUITY but also actually resolved the story nicely, in such a way that we could easily see that Rick and Jennifer turned out okay in the end, and thanks to the multiple endings, you could see a completely different storyline each time you played, depending on how good you were. Plus, there was the whole “Rick turns into a giant mutant” super-power that I still think is pretty spiffy. About the only thing that would have made that game MORE awesome was a two-player mode where Player 2 played as a mask-wearing Jennifer, and if someone could find a way to do that, I’d totally love you forever.

In conclusion: if you don’t buy the new Splatterhouse you’re a bad person. Thank you.

Alexander Lucard:Splatterhouse fits all my criteria for a superior game. It boasts excellent controls, amazing graphics for its time, and in what may surprise the 95% of you who have never played it, Splatterhouse also has a very deep story with the strongest continuity between the games on the series out of anything released for the 16 Bit era. We’re talking Ninja Gaiden I-III level of quality. Sadly, most gamers who haven’t played the series, or at least haven’t played in a long time probably only remember Splatterhouse for its comic book style ad campaign and the fact it was the goriest game ever made up to that point and for quite some time after. To underscore that last point, Splatterhouse was the first ever game to receive a “Parental Advisory” warning in the USA. Here now, I hope to show exactly WHY Splatterhouse deserves to be considered one of the ten best spooky games of all time.

The story of Splatterhouse is quite simple at first look. A guy and a girl go into a spooky mansion. Girl gets kidnapped by monsters. Guy goes and kicks some ass. This plot on its base level as served for many games, from Super Mario Brothers to Dragon Quest. However, Namco added a ton of depth to the plot, adding dozens of references and in-jokes to true terror aficionados. Let’s take a look at the plot fleshed out a bit.

Somewhere in New England stands the mansion of one Dr. Herbert West. Lovecraft and bad movie fans alike will recognize this name as “The Re-Animator.” This mansion is where Dr. West performed all his twisted experiments that would eventually lead to his grisly demise. Locals whisper that not all of West’s experiments died with him and that many still stalk the halls of the mansion, hoping that one day a living soul or two will allow curiosity to get the better of them and enter the mansion. Thus these squamous things will continue on their wretched creator’s work.

Enter two college students from Arkham University named Rick and Jennifer. Both are parapsychology students and decide to visit Dr. West’s mansion, which through folklore has now achieved the dubious nickname of “Splatterhouse.” A downpour occurs while they are taking pictures of it, and against their better judgment, the two college students enter the house in order to keep from getting soaked. There in the dark of Splatterhouse, a something loathsome grabs Jennifer and Rick is knocked unconscious, the last sounds he hears before passing out being Jennifer’s muffled screams. When Rick awakens, a strange glowing mask is hovering above him, whispering in his mind to join with it. Together they can save Jennifer. Rick recognizes it as the Terror Mask, an ancient Aztec mask used in sacrificial rites that has shown up occasionally in books of lore Rick has been reading. Before Rick can decide whether he wishes to accept the Terror Mask’s offer, it chooses for him. Rick feels the mask covering his face and merging with his flesh. Instead of protesting Rick suddenly finds his body coursing with power. Perhaps enough power to save Jennifer from whatever monstrosities dwell within the abode of Herbert West: Re-Animator? He has to try.

All this for a term paper. Jesus.

To save Jennifer, you will have to fight through seven levels of side scrolling beat-em up action featuring what is arguably the best graphics on any of the 16-Bit era systems. For my money, I can’t think of a better looking game. Hell, the graphics of Splatterhouse are better than most of what was released on the first two years of the Playstation’s life! Back when they were available, 2D side-scrolling beat ’em up’s were as popular with me as 2D shooters and 2D fighters. Those were my games of choice. And compared to both the home console and arcade versions of Double Dragon, Splatterhouse‘s respective versions blow that game away in all aspects. People, I just informed you of a 2D beat ’em up that is superior to Double Dragon. This statement alone should have you shrieking like banshees and looking for emulators of the game or at least on Ebay for happy legal versions of the game. Unless you’re one of those punk kids whose only expose to the awesomeness that is Double Dragon in that shitty, shitty movie. God I’m old. Okay, trust me on this. Double Dragon > 95% of the games of the Cube, Xbox, and PS2. And Splatterhouse > Double Dragon.

I may have said this several times already, but I’m going to repeat it until I’m blue in the face. Splatterhouse (at least to me) is the most graphically impressive game released during the first three way console war we had in the states. Final Fantasy IV? Blah. Static heavily pixilated graphics that in no way shape or form feature a skinless man with a bag for a head and chainsaws for arms. Shining Force 2? pretty designs, but no animation. Mortal Kombat II? Only if we’re talking arcade graphics. Only Splatterhouse has you hitting zombies with a 2 by 4, knocking them into static objects and causing their guts to burst out of them in a bloody display. And the Arcade version is even MORE graphics. Sure today, the graphics aren’t as impressive as say Oblivion, but for its day, you couldn’t get more intense visually than Splatterhouse. What other 16-Bit games offer heads being chopped off with cleavers? What other game offers anatomically correct hearts to measure your life? Only a game like Splatterhouse offers you a boss in which you must punch, kick and dismember a giant sentient womb that attacks you by giving birth constantly to monsters. Yes my friend, in Splatterhouse you fight demonic placenta. Every monster in the game is highly original and very detailed for its day. It’s easy to see why this game got a parental advisory warning years before Night Trap spawned the ERSB.

There are some differences between the arcade version of the game and the US TG-16 version of Splatterhouse The first and most obvious change is that for some reason, the console version has the Terror Mask’s colour turned from white to red. Perhaps to avoid a Jason Voorhees comparison? There also a different boss at the end of the fourth level. In the original arcade version, Splatterhouse features a living inverted crucifix which is surrounded by floating severed heads. On the console version, it’s just a giant blue head. Lame. This is most likely because a lot of states banned the arcade version of Splatterhouse due to graphic imagery and satanic metaphor. There’s also a slightly different ending to the game on the console version which foreshadows the last level of Splatterhouse 3. Now that my friends, is thinking far ahead. Especially in those days. Finally, the only real noticeable difference is the graphical quality and the fact that the arcade version of the game is noticeably easier.

Since Splatterhouse originally hit the coin op circuit nearly twenty years ago, almost every company that has put out a horror game has included some sort of homage to it. For example, EVERY Resident Evil game has a slight nod to the series. RE4 features not one but TWO bosses from Splatterhouse. The creature in the lake from RE4 is a spitting image of the thing in the lake from the last level of Splatterhouse 2, and the chainsaw zombies in the game are replicas of “Biggee Man” who is the third level boss in the first Splatterhouse. So for all the RE zealots out there, just remember even the Final Fantasy of Survival Horror falls down to its knees and worships at the altar of the Terror Mask.

Splatterhouse was one of the best overall games of the 16 bit era, featuring a strong story, graphics far ahead of its time, excellent controls, and a wonderful soundtrack. The story wrapped up perfectly with no loose ends left at the end of the third and final game of the series, but who knows? Fans of the series can jump up and down for joy as Namco is reviving the series with a new game for the PS3 and 360. You can read my interview with the dev team here.

Without Splatterhouse, it is feasible to argue we would never have had Survival Horror as a genre. Without Splatterhouse, people would not have been inspired to make Clock Tower, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Echo Night. It is a real testament to the quality of a single arcade coin-op that it was not only the first of an entire genre of gaming, but that it is still easily amongst the ten best ever made in this genre. If you’re even a fan of the genre in the slightest, you owe it to yourself to sit down and play through Splatterhouse. You’ll be amazed at how many things have been lifted from this twenty year old game and are still being used/ripped off/used as tributes in 2008.

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *