Saturday, September 25, 2010

Splatterhouse (1990, Namco/NEC, Turbografx-16)

When I was visiting a friend of mine back a few years ago, he had just bought a system known as TurboGrafx 16. It was mint condition in the box, which admittedly looked like it seen better days, and came with 4 games: Bonk's Adventure, Blazing Lazers, R-Type, and a particularly interesting game called Splatterhouse.

This game stuck with me over the years because it was one of the first games to implement graphic violence in the gameplay. Now you should know, the Turbografx version is not the prime example if this: most, if not all of the violence, has been toned down or removed. Also, certain aspects of the arcade original were changed. I have not played the arcade version, so this post will be about the TurboGrafx version.

You are Rick Taylor, a college student out with his girlfriend Jennifer to visit the mansion of the infamous Dr. West. A storm hits and you and your girlfriend take shelter in the mansion. Turns out that was a mistake because the mansion is infested with numerous types of monsters, and they manage to get a hold of you and your girlfriend. They slaughter you and kidnap Jennifer, but fortunately for you, you are saved by a artifact called the Terror Mask. It revives you, giving you superhuman strength to fight the hordes of monsters to save your girlfriend.

Splatterhouse is a side-scrolling beat em' up. Rick can jump, crouch, and attack enemies with either his fists or numerous weapons laying around the mansion, such as cleavers, 2X4s, etc. The action takes place on one plane, meaning Rick can only move left and right, not up or down like Final Fight.
The controls are nice and responsive, but Rick slides a bit after letting go of the directional pad. This led to a cheap hit or death here and there, but it can be easy to work with if you practice. The real fun of Splatterhouse is the use of weaponry, as they commonly destroy enemies with one blow, leaving a nice violent aftermath. The difficulty is on the hard side, as Rick can only take 3-5 hits before losing a life. Pattern recognition is the name of the game here, and if you are just a little slow on the draw, you are a dead man. Add in some tricky bosses, and you have yourself a hell of a time. Thankfully it's worth the frustration and effort, because Splatterhouse is really fun to play.

The main draw to Splatterhouse is the violence. Rick dispatches his gruesome foes in equally gruesome fashion, green goop flying all over the place, heads flying off, smashing monsters into the walls, leaving a nice stain. The mansion Rick goes through has seen better days, holes riddle the floors, along with countless unidentifiable remains. The boreworm stages look like piles of bloody meat stacked up, and the final boss looks like a human pizza (seriously.). In general, the game's visuals depends on if you like horror films (like me.) If you love gore, you'll love Splatterhouse. All others probably won't like it at all.

Not much to say here. The music isn't the least bit memorable, and the sound effects don't really give your attacks any impact. Kind of an disappointment, really.

Sadly, the TG16 port of Splatterhouse is heavily censored out. Most of the violence was softened a bit, a good example being the splatter effect when you smash a zombie against the wall in the first area. In the original, the zombie splattered green all over the wall, and slid down, leaving a nice blood streak on the way down. The TG16 edition simply shows the zombie smashed against the wall, nearly bloodless. Another case is with the boss in the chapel stage. The original being a inverted cross, and the revision being another mask. Understandable that they would change this, seeing that it would cause a great deal of controversy, but it's still a buzzkill.

Well, what can I say? Splatterhouse screams "Guilty Pleasure". The violence is the main appeal of the Splatterhouse series, but if you take that away, then it feels kind of like a Kung Fu clone, and a sloppy one at that. And that's the big flaw with the TurboGrafx version, it feels cut down. Not just because it's a port on inferior hardware (which it is), because NEC removed most of the violence to avoid problems with parents, which eliminates the purpose of releasing it here in the states any way. As it stands, it's an okay game at best, it gives a bit of challenge, and it's still kinda fun, but I would find a way to play the original arcade game.

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