February 4, 2009

The Influence Factor of Splatterhouse

Kube00 Says: I was poking through Game Informer when I noticed they had a piece about a new 3D looking Splatterhouse game coming to the PS3/360 this summer. I thought this was article worthy. For those of you who don’t know, Splatterhouse was an arcade action-adventure game made by Namco in the late 80’s. This so-called new Splatterhouse is a remake of the original 1980’s arcade version.

The original was later ported to the PC and TurboGrafx-16 systems; who even owned a TurboGrafx-16? Remakes of Splatterhouse 1 for TurboGrafx-16 and 2 for Sega Genesis have come to the Wii’s Virtual Console for a very reasonable amount of Goozex points. A third Splatterhouse was also developed in 1993 and debuted on the Sega Genesis.

Splatterhouse follows the story of Rick who, with his girlfriend Jennifer, seeks shelter in a mansion from a storm. Rick is knocked unconscious and Jennifer is mauled and kidnapped. Rick, while searching for Jennifer, finds the “terror/hell mask” and he puts it on. The mask grants him incredible strength. He then crushes monsters and tries to rescue Jennifer. It’s not that deep of a story, and by today’s graphics, the game looks simple. The sequels were more or less the same with updated abilities, weapons, and gore. The modern-day remake sticks to a similar plot but focuses on combos and getting makeshift weapons.

So what gaming genre is Splatterhouse? Is it an action game? Is it survival horror? Sega-16.com (a wonderful site with lots of 16-bit gaming goodness) states that it was directly influenced from 80’s horror movies. The violence and gore in the original was leaps and bounds above and ahead of Mortal Kombat and succeeded in getting Splatterhouse banned in many kid-friendly U.S. arcades. When the series came to the Genesis there was a warning label about the themes and the violence. In 1993, the game became part of the Senator Lieberman’s witch-hunt, joining games such as Night Trap and Mortal Kombat. In response, a Splatterhouse ad read, “Splatterhouse 3 for the Sega Genesis is the kind of game rating systems were invented for.” By the time the third game came out, the game was more or less a full-fledged beat ‘em up much like Final Fight.

After going back and re-playing a few levels of number 2, I’ll have to say it does feel like a 1980’s horror flick. And although I would love to say it was the predecessor to Survival Horror games like Resident Evil, I’m not so certain. Although, there are a few things in the game that might have inspired some of the games we enjoy today. Splatterhouse had creepy, eerie music and sound effects, creating the terrifying atmosphere, and the feeling of hopelessness and loneliness. Will you reach Jennifer in time? When you’re a 12-year-old kid playing this, and the in-game walls are oozing and two headed monsters are chasing you, you start to sweat a little. All of this is replaced with the grim satisfaction of smashing monster’s heads in. Most of the time you feel overwhelmed by enemies, and although there are no puzzles, you still have to find your way around the Mansion.

Let’s do a quick comparison to Resident Evil 1:

  • Creepy music and sound effects aka the moans of Zombies: Check
  • Navigating a Mansion: Check
  • Feeling great after blasting a monster with shotgun: Check

The similarities end there though, as Resident Evil has an interesting and twisted plot, lots of sequels, weapons, puzzles, multiple characters, etc. People say Alone in the Dark was more of an influence. But what can I say if you’re looking for a different 2D side scroller action game then look no further, as Splatterhouse still has a few punches to throw.