With Halloween nearly upon us, we felt it was a good time to look back at one of the video game universe's spookiest franchises, a series that relies more on blood and guts than survival horror. In a way, you do have to fight to survive so it kind of counts like that, but it's been more action-based since first releasing in the arcade in the late 80's. I'm talking about Splatterhouse, a franchise that Namco has worked on over the years from the release of the original game and the three sequels that followed, including a recent entry that came out in 2010.
We thought we'd look back at this franchise, as it definitely delivered on a few scares here and there – and a whole lot of carnage. But with the involvement of the Terror Mask, did you really expect anything otherwise?
Let's get started to where it all began…
The series got its start more than 20 years ago, first releasing in arcades before going to home platforms. It tells the story of Rick, a parapsychology student who's dating his fellow classmate Jennifer. The two are deeply in love, though the story doesn't really focus too much on their relationship. Instead, it puts them in the middle of a harsh storm, forcing them to seek cover in the West Mansion. It's here that the Splatterhouse's secrets are first revealed, with demonic creatures leaving Rick for dead and capturing Jennifer. Too weak to continue on his own, Rick finds himself teaming up with an entity known as the Terror Mask to "hulk up" and find the monsters responsible for his girlfriend's abduction.
What follows is a trip through six classic side-scrolling levels, each one growing more diabolical than the last. One minute you're in a water-filled basement knocking blob-like creatures into the wall, the next you're in a room where objects come to life with the chandelier crashing down at the end, possibly killing you. But perhaps the spookiest room in the whole game is one filled with mirrors, where your twin selves come bursting through and attack you from all sides.
The game eventually comes to a climax on a down note, as you're forced to kill Jennifer when she mutates into a hideous creature. After facing off against a monstrous beast with twin chainsaw hands, you eventually come face to face with a demon whose hands come out of the ground to grab you.
The game was considered a classic at the time, even though it wasn't commercially popular, and Namco even released a pint-sized version of the game for the NES – one that never got a Stateside release. However, Splatterhouse got plenty of love on the Turbo-Grafx 16 with a nearly arcade perfect port – one that you can snag now on the Wii Virtual Console for just a few dollars.
But the nightmare didn't end for Rick…
Splatterhouse 2 (1992)
Three years following what he believed to be Jennifer's demise, the Terror Mask comes back to Rick, stating that "she doesn't have to die" and that he should return to the house to save her. Easier said than done, considering the nightmares he's faced before, but he dons the mask and sets out to rescue his beloved.
Splatterhouse 2 released for the Sega Genesis (and also available on the Wii Virtual Console service) and has you traveling through side-scrolling levels battling all sorts of nasty creatures and turning them into bloody sushi with a number of weapons, including a 2 X 4 and a chainsaw. After rescuing Jennifer from a spiritual Netherrealm, Rick comes face to face with a nasty multi-headed creature, one who isn't so happy about her being taken away.
At least the sequel ended on a bit of a happier note than the first game, with the two happily together. However, the Terror Mask is still lurking about, knowing that it will run into Rick again. And sure enough, it did in…
Splatterhouse 3 (1993)
Feeling like the 2D side-scrolling series was wearing a little thin, Namco changed up Splatterhouse the following year into a Streets of Rage-style fighting game, where Rick once again dons the mask to beat up everyone from demonic teddy bears to multi-limbed creatures to the Mask itself as he attempts to save his wife Jennifer along with his son David.
While the gameplay was a bit more monotonous than the previous games (and the weapons weren't nearly as good), Splatterhouse 3 still offered some decent fighting action, including a special move where multiple fists launch out of your body. What's more, there are multiple endings depending if you rescue Jennifer and David in time. Watching them both die was obviously the most depressing one.
Ironically enough, this wasn't the end of Rick, as Namco decided to give the franchise a revisit for…
Nearly 20 years after the last sequel, Splatterhouse came back under the guise of both Bottlerocket and Namco's internal studio, the same one that worked on Afro Samurai beforehand. The game follows a plotline similar to the original game, with Rick being beaten by monsters (this time directed by the diabolical Dr. West) and Jennifer getting snagged. As a result, he puts on the Terror Mask and sets after her.
Splatterhouse 2010 has a huge number of changes. It's fully in 3D and features larger bosses than the series had seen before. What's more, the Mask actually has a better identity now, as it's voiced by Jim Cummings, who previously worked on lighter animated fare like Disney's Darkwing Duck. He provided just the amount of character the Mask needed.
The game got a little repetitive at times, and not everyone was crazy about the all death-metal soundtrack (featuring the likes of Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch, among others), but it's still a suitable action game for those who want to look into it. Plus, you can unlock all the previous Splatterhouse games from years past without paying anything more.
We hope you enjoyed the look back at these Splatterhouse games. Go check 'em out for yourself and remember to leave the lights on.