30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 19: Zombie Revenge

Zombie Revenge
Genre: Beat ‘Em Up
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: 12/31/1999

At one time, The House of the Dead was a hot franchise for SEGA. One could argue another spark has been ignited with moderate success of The House of the Dead: Overkill, but at one time, arcade entries of The House of the Dead were critical hits and considered among the greatest of light gun shooters. With such a hit on the company’s hands, it’s no surprise SEGA tried to branch out on the concept. One of these concepts threw original characters into a modified Dynamite Deka! engine and filled the game with denizens of the undead for a low-key arcade release. While the setup is interesting and the title was featured as a Dreamcast release, the only thing this abysmal brawler accomplished was arguably putting the first nail in the franchise’s coffin.

While the zombie menace seemed to be contained only within the confines of the Curien Mansion, suddenly, “the city” was infested with the beings, all thanks to some jerk named Zed. It is revealed the source of the rising dead was a military experiment that went wrong but, thankfully, three of the AMS’s agents are thrust into the heart of the scene to save the world. The title introduces three new dogs of the AMS – Linda, Rikiya and … Stick … let’s move on, shall we?

Zombie Revenge acts as a sidestory, which fell under the originally planned title of The House of the Dead 1 ½: Blood Bullet. Tucked inside of the title are a few references to the original game, ranging from subtle mentions of AMS agents from The House of the Dead to the most obvious reference of tackling an entire level inside the Curien Mansion. This context is perhaps the only facet that saves the story from being a total, generic bust, but, of course, these mentions will probably go over the heads of those not in know. Even so, there is absolutely nothing that ties events from the first game to the second and it’s assumed that nothing in Zombie Revenge serves as HotD canon. Looking at how the story plays out, however, even on its own, the story progression is dull, if not slightly confusing, even by classic brawler standards. The trademark HotD voice acting does the story absolutely no favors, either, but we’ll get to that later.

The original arcade title was short and sweet and this carries over into the Dreamcast version of Zombie Revenge. In whole, most players can tackle the entire game in about 20 minutes – if they can survive that long, that is. The Dreamcast port does get a couple of boosts with an original mode where players can toggle parameters that boost the power of their fists or guns and certain items collected through the game can be carried over into a VMU mini-game. The home version also provides a multiplayer one versus one fighting mode and a VMU “pet” can be saved and trained in order to make a certain character stronger in the fighting mode. There’s actually a lot of thought put into extending such a simple game, however, nothing is done exceptionally well in the extras and the “original” mode is virtually no different than the arcade mode, save some attack toggles.

Even though the graphics are perhaps the highpoint of the title, the visuals in Zombie Revenge are really nothing to write home about. If you can imagine either Dynamite Deka! game, Zombie Revenge has a similar aesthetic, however, Zombie Revenge features a much more appropriate dark and mysterious tone. While the character models are smooth and clean, apart from the main characters, most lack any sort of detail, even compared to the models seen in The House of the Dead. On the other hand, some of the environments can be fairly lively and varied as players roam from cities to sewers to countrysides and the intimidating boss characters were a bit impressive for the time of the game’s release. It’s sort of a mixed bag, really – most gamers shouldn’t complain about the visuals, but they are far from the system’s best.

Sure Zombie Revenge has some passable sound effects, including trademark The House of the Dead gunfire effects, Dynamite Deka! melee blows and some sickening spillage and zombie moans, but let’s just cut to the chase here – the voice acting in Zombie Revenge is arguably worse than that found in The House of the Dead parts one and two combined and would make the original Resident Evil’s voice acting seem like a candidate for a voice acting of the year award. As a simple arcade project, it is obvious zero effort was put into the scripting as the actors deliver their lines with no emotion, broken timing and a weak story. Maybe it’s not as bad as the English recordings for Chaos Wars and Rikiya has some slightly respectable work since he speaks entirely in Japanese, but there’s not anyone who can play Zombie Revenge and not cringe at these Raspberry-worthy performances.

Voice acting aside, there are still some lingering issues with the title’s sound. There are volume balance issues with some of the sound effects, most specifically from the vile substance one of the game’s bosses chukes all over the place and some of the zombie moans. They are way too loud and drown out most of the other audio and being recorded in short samples, they are played back in loops with short silence afterward that sound a little awkward and, on occasion, these samples will play when they shouldn’t. The game’s music fits the theme overall and, as a bonus, the Curien Mansion stage plays off a theme found in the original HotD. However, it probably won’t be for everyone, as I personally found some of the organ work particularly grating – once again leaning toward some of the game’s weird volume balancing. It’s a minimal complaint, but nothing in Zombie Revenge’s audio adds up to satisfying.

I’ve already made the comparison a few times, but even in the gameplay, Zombie Revenge should remind players of the time they’ve spent playing Dynamite Deka! Even so, Zombie Revenge, does stray from the path a bit by allowing players to guard instead of jump and creating separate controls for punching and shooting firearms. The title does make the most of the three buttons, though, as pretty much any combination of the buttons executes some sort of action and there are even additional contextual actions that can be performed based on the circumstance. With such a number of offensive and defensive moves available, the scope of each character is deceptive at first, however, that’s not to say each one is entirely affective. The combo structure in Zombie Revenge seemed to be a lot more limited and not as tight as found in Deka!, but, much like the other title, survival in Zombie Revenge hinges a lot more on grabbing anything resembling a weapon.

Seeing as charging in on armies of the undead and punching them in the face wouldn’t make much sense, Zombie Revenge relies much more on firearms than melee attacks. That’s not to say you can’t get anywhere by turning the game into an undead Final Fight, but players will soon learn that using the wide array of guns in the game and using calculated shots will take them much further in this semi-challenging game. With Zombie Revenge’s gameplay, everything seems sound, but its execution results in a repetitive, sometimes frustrating, experience. Players will experience a few camera twitches that lead to awkward angles, very powerful bosses and when the game doesn’t even take long to finish, the gameplay really falls short in the title with little to no reward for the player. That being said, players can still squeeze a bit of campy fun from the mindless action, especially with the game’s two-player feature.

With the minimal fun to be had with the title, there are certainly a few people who won’t mind returning to the title every now and again, but for the average player, a playthrough or two is that is necessary to see what there is to see in the game, even when you do consider there are a few hidden areas. Unlike other titles in the HotD lineage, there is no branching, which could have dramatically helped with the game’s replayability or story. As said, earlier, the game perhaps its most fun in two-player sessions, but then some weird balancing issues occur, making the mode almost a handicap as players do less damage to enemies as opposed to having the game introduce more enemies. In regard to brawler games, though, Zombie Revenge does have a tinge of originality which can really help its appeal – there are few zombie brawlers, the firearm reliance is fairly interesting and there are moments of developer brilliance such as the first mini-boss where players can rip a pole out of its chest and mercilessly beat the monster down with it.

The Scores
Story/Modes: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: BELOW AVERAGE
Replayability: DREADFUL
Originality: ABOVE AVERAGE
Addictiveness: DREADFUL
Appeal Factor: MEDIOCRE
Miscellaneous: BELOW AVERAGE
Final Score: POOR GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Even with the number of setbacks in Zombie Revenge, the game can actually still be moderately fun. It is an easy quickplay suggestion to any brawler or House of the Dead fan, but most players can easily stay away from the title and not miss out on anything, especially with the slightly better Dynamite Cop entry on the system, among the many other quality titles on the Dreamcast. With the game, you’ll get some solid graphics and a few shining examples of originality, but nearly everything else ranges from horrible to mediocre at best. It’s an interesting way to spend 20 minutes, but there is nothing here that will hook you for the long run.



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