31 Days of Gaming Terror – Day 19: House of the Dead

Mark B: House of the Dead has always been tied with Time Crisis for my favorite light-gun franchise of all time; the latter because its play mechanics are fantastic and easy to work with, the former because it has a fantastic concept, because hey, killing zombies is always awesome. The first two games were generally your standard shooting games, and as arcade experiences go, they were pretty damn fun, but the series REALLY came into its own with the third and fourth games.

The third game was awesome, of course, because of the fact that the arcade cabinets allowed you to brandish shotguns instead of the normal hand pistols, and at the time, this was among the most awesome developments I could think of for such a game. Wielding am appropriately-sized plastic shotgun to mow down the walking dead? Yes, please. The game itself was, in many respects, really more of the same experience, to be sure, but the presentation and style of the game were so awesome at that point that even a home version, that was sans the plastic shotguns, was still absolutely fun and awesome to play.

The fourth game, therefore, upped the ante by giving you a MACHINE GUN to tote around, as well as tons more zombies on-screen at one time to deal with, both of which made the franchise, yes, EVEN BETTER. Now, there are people who will like the shotgun better than the machine gun and vice-versa, and that’s more of a matter of taste than anything, but the fact that Sega was trying new and different things with the franchise, to me, says that they really DO care about the series and want the fans to like it, which is nice. The “more zombies” approach, however, is something that the franchise has really been building up to for a while, and now that arcade technology is able to support it, it’s great to mow down ten or twelve zombies at one time, if only because it really simulates that “Dawn of the Dead” concept the game has aiming for since it began. The idea of facing down a few monsters here and there is good to start with, sure, but deep down inside, we want to cut through a swath of the living dead and live to tell the tale; look at the popularity of Dead Rising and you can see what I mean. House of the Dead 4 brought this to us, and between the ever-present anticipation of a home release of the game and the possibility of yet another sequel (maybe with assault rifles), I can honestly say I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of House of the Dead, and I hope Sega makes another four more, at least.

Misha: I was never much of a fan of pistol-based light gun games. Virtua Cop? Lethal Enforcers? No thanks.

My interest in the genre picked up with Alien 3: The Gun, on account of the gigantic cabinet-mounted pulse rifle.

Then came House Of The Dead 3. With shotguns.

SHOTGUNS, people. Your very own, honest-to-God, semi-automatic boomstick. No wimpy fire-offscreen-to-reload, you just pump the action and carry on shooting. Wear a long, black coat for that real ‘Matrix’ feel

The ‘set-piece’ encounters were great, the development of the story was exceptional for a gun-game (particularly in developing the overall HotD narrative), and the zombies/mutants/etc splattered in a most pleasing fashion.

Oh, and did I mention the shotguns? HotD 4 tried to up the ante further with automatic pistols, but they weren’t nearly as fun.

ML Kennedy: I love House of the Dead in all its incarnations, save the wretched Uwe Boll flick. What’s not to love? You get a gun, you kill monsters, and you don’t have to worry about getting lost or wandering around in a circle.

(We people with no sense of direction appreciate a rail. I should tell you how long it takes me to finish a Metroid game.)

The thing that always threw me off was the dialogue, though. For instance, you’d see some red stuff on the floor and your character would say something like “G’s bloodstains!” Every time I wonder, How does he know that thing? Does G’s blood have a particular quality that distinguishes its stains from all others? Does it smell of lilacs and springtime?

I never understood that thing.

Aaron Sirois: My roomate doesn’t play console games anymore. Everything has to be on the computer and his precious CRT monitor. The only thing he’ll ever play is whatever new Castlevania game comes out on the DS.

That being said, I still managed to convince him to hook up the old Dreamcast so we could get some serious House of the Dead 2 action going.

I don’t really like shooters, but there is something so simplistic and fun about light gun games. No matter what game or how bad is, I love them to peices. HotD 2 is probably my favorite of the bunch if only because nothing is cooler than blowing away zombies with a gun.

By now, I think I have the entire first level completely memorized. I know every nook and cranny. I know every enemy that will pop up and every human that will run by screaming. The first boss will always be the best for me. You had a gigantic ogre like monster rushing towards you and the only way to stop it was to shoot this annoying pixe from hell that buzzed around the screen. He was fast and small, so hitting him took incredible precision. To this day, we still can’t get past him without taking a hit or two.

If I ever fork over the cash for a Wii, one of the first games I grab will be the HotD port. Screw Super Mario Galaxy. I want to blast me some zombies!

Chris Bowen: I was less a fan of House of the Dead (I like my kills to drop in one shot), but there’s another great game that I was in love with in this series: Typing of the Dead.

That game made me a better typist all by itself. I loved that bloody game.

Michael O’Reilly: I recall playing Typing of the Dead with a fondness I can’t describe. It was a game designed to improve your typing skills by having you kill Zombies…with your keyboard. While it was originally put out for the Dreamcast I got it on the PC. I actually improved the speed at which I typed. That was astonishing back when it came out. Games don’t help you, they don’t teach you, was the common belief. This game here proved to me how wrong that sentiment was.

I remember playing House of the Dead 1&2 in many arcades and on the occasional home system, but it wasn’t until I played it on the Wii that I really got to enjoy the flavor. Sure the story was idiotic, but the quick firing and figuring out the weaknesses of your opponents was really fun. And could there be anything more enjoyable than standing next to your best friend firing away at hordes of zombies, competing to see who was the better shot? I don’t think so.

Guy Desmarais: I have never spent that much time with the franchise itself, but in its way, it still holds some kind of power that turn me into a zombie each time I encounter one of its machine in an arcade. An example would be my local movie theater. It features one of the last full-fledged arcade in Montreal, and each time I go to see a film, I have to drop a dollar or two in their House of the Dead cabinet. I don’t even know if it’s the second or third one. All I know is that I go straight to the cabinet, Time Crisis and Tekken be damned. I might be the only one saving that machine as the rest of the people there usually flock to Dance Dance Revolution while I’m busy taking down zombies. Some people just don’t know what real fun is.

A second example would be when I went on a trip to Australia back in May. Here I am, in Surfer’s Paradise, enjoying the beach and learning to surf. However, as soon as the day turned into night, I would go down the main street, straight to biggest arcade in the city. Sure, I would go for some games of Skeeball and other things like that to win some tickets, but my daily routine would also include a game of House of the Dead. Even at the other end of the world, I just couldn’t help it. Once again, I don’t know which version of the game I was playing. In fact, the whole franchise is nothing but one big blurry (and bloody) mess. All I know is that shooting zombies is fun, dammit, and House of the Dead is still the best game around when it comes to that department.

Alexander Lucard: Once upon a time Shining Force was my favorite Sega franchise. Thanks to horrible mismanagement and lackluster non-SRPG abusing the name, it has since fallen to second place leaving House of the Dead in the #1 position.

The first HotD was the first ever light gun game that I was able to beat without massive continues and quarters. I thought it was a fun, addicting and at times laugh out loud campy. I even owned the Saturn version of the game until it started showing up on Ebay for 2-3 times what I paid for it. It was a nice fast paced light gun and for a long time it was my favorite light gun game.

HotD2 was a step down in my opinion. At least the arcade version. I loved the home version with the different modes and challenges, but HotD2 was a bit too cheesy for me to really get into. Again, due to the decline of arcades in the US, I found I played this more on my Dreamcast then my home game.

HotD3 eventually replaced the first game as my favorite light gun game. I loved the shotgun in the arcades as well as the branching paths. It fast faster, gorier and one of the endings with the Zombie carjacker was hilarious. I first owned HotD3 on the Xbox and eventually picked it up for the Wii in House of the Dead 2 & 3 Returns.

I’ve yet to play HotD4, as it’s only been in arcades and I have yet to find one that has this game. From what everyone else has said about the Uzi experience, it just might be better than the third game and I would love to find out.

Typing of the Dead: This is what I miss about Sega. The REAL Sega, not Sammy Sega. Sega was always willing to lampoon itself with games like this. Leave it to them to combined a typing tutor with the merciless destruction of the undead. I felt TotD was superior to the original version of House of the Dead 2 in every way. Now the game was purposely funny instead of cheesy and offered some hilarious sentences to type in. I really wish this game would be ported to another system, as it’s truly something you have to experience first hand to appreciate. I still have my Dreamcast keyboard and bust this game out on occasion.

Pinball of the Dead: After Pokemon Pinball R/S, this has to be my favorite pinball game of all time. PotD contains three different pinball boards, each with their own unique challenges and themes. You could play each board separately, or engage in a campaign mode taking you all three. There were even boss fights where you would, once again, do battle with the HotD2 characters. It may sound like a bit of overkill, but HotD wasn’t out during the release and Sega seems to treat the original HotD like a redheaded stepchild for some reason. It’s never ported or remade. Go figure.

English of the Dead: This is the latest entry into the series and was released in May of this year. I have yet to play it as it’s only been released in Japan, and I don’t know of anyone who has managed to get their hands on it. The game is basically a fun and bizarre way to help native Japanese speakers improve their English. As one might imagine, it is very import friendly, and you just might learn some Kanji or Kana while playing it. Obviously this is not a game that will be coming stateside, but with the popularity of Ubisoft’s “My Coach” games, if Sammy Sega was smart, they’d find a way to reverse the game into JAPANESE/FRENCH/SPANISH/ETC of the Dead.

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