Splatterhouse 2 & 3 (Namco, 1992/1993)

A whole month worth of shrieks and creaks is right around the corner, so I thought I’d kick September’s sorry ass out the door by reviewing two horrid (horridly awesome, that is) Genesis games at once. Way back when I started doing this for NRW, I reviewed the arcade/TG-16 classic, Splatterhouse.  While that title is a definite milestone in video game history (not to mention one of the best horror-themed games of its era), a lot of our readers will be far more familiar with its sequels. Both are fantastic in their own right, and it’s a valid argument that they even outperform their forebear in terms of playability and presentation.

Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3 are very different games, but both are very true to the original when it comes to theme. In Splatterhouse 2, rick is given a chance by the newly-rejuvenated Terror Mask to save Jennifer (whom he failed to save in the original game). He goes back to West Mansion to find it re-inhabited by all manner of gross monsters, and ultimately sinks the whole mess into the lake after saving his lady love.

European box art for 2. Much more cartoony than the first one's promo art, but still suitably gruesome and chilling.

European box art for 2. Much more cartoony than the first one's promo art, but still suitably gruesome and chilling.

The game plays very much like the first one, but with a lot more effort put into detail and dynamics. The stages are still mostly linear, and most of the original gameplay elements are present, but sometimes you get a neat surprise like level or weapon specific animations when you kill a monster. The graphics are also a bit more detailed, and the music (composed by Eiko Kaneda) follows suit.  It was the first game in the franchise that I ever played, and I would liken its difficulty to that of the first game, but I would also call it more immediately approachable.

The third entry to the franchise really lets its hair down and stands out as its own title. Splatterhouse 3 continues the tale of Rick and Jennifer, along with their son David. Never released in Europe, Splatterhouse 3 was among the first Genesis titles to receive a rating by Sega’s own Video Game Council… and it understandably got an MA-13. In this one, Rick and his happy family have settled down in a nice mansion in Connecticut about five years after the last game’s events. Of course, that asshole mask comes back again, this time under the service of something called “The Evil One.” After Rick rescues both his wife and his son, he must defeat The Evil One and then finally rid himself of the mask after it reveals its true intentions.

Magazine ad for 3. Rick is looking buff as hell, and he'll need all that muscle to cut through the monsters and save his family a third time.

Magazine ad for 3. Rick is looking buff as hell, and he'll need all that muscle to cut through the monsters and save his family a third time.

Splatterhouse 3 takes the original play formula and cracks it open. Not only are the stages nonlinear, but the game plays much more like a beat em up in the vein of Streets of Rage or Final Fight, affording Rick a bit more up-and-down movement and a crude sort of move-set. Rick can also power-up the mask, saving spiritual energy until he mutates into a sort of Rick/Mask hybrid. This makes him much stronger, but doesn’t last terribly long. There is also a time clock, and how quickly you finish the levels (along with where you end up) can change the cut scenes and endings significantly. In other words, there are multiple endings, which lend significant replay value to the game. These cut scenes are visually impressive, as are the in-game graphics, and the music is all right too. I will say that the audio falls short of Splatterhouse 2, however… but just barely. The sound effects are excellent, though, and go along with the new beat em up format of Splatterhouse 3.

Both of these titles were unlockable as part of the 2010 Xbox 360 Splatterhouse remake, along with their granddaddy, the original game.  Everything I’ve heard and read has led me to believe that the remake just didn’t resonate with fans, which is unfortunate… because the original three games are incredible. Together they form a saga of love, loss, horror, and ultimately, the triumph of good over unthinkable evil. Not to mention that it’s just fun to splatter some monsters once in a while.

Things are gonna get gruesome as hell in my little corner of NRW this month, RetroMonsters. Stay tuned!!!

Things are gonna get gruesome as hell in my little corner of NRW this month, RetroMonsters. Stay tuned!!!