Splatterhouse: A Retrospective!
by: Dr. Boogie

One of my all-time favorite games series has got to be Splatterhouse. They aren't games for everybody by any stretch of the imagination, but this series has a style all its own. Except for the Jason Voorhees style mask, but I digress.

In the late 80s, somewhere deep in the heart of Japan, a thought occurred: Friday the 13th was a great movie, but what if you could play as the hulking, machete-wielding mother-lover and fight off waves of hideous monsters? It was pure genius, and it stood to reason that a game would soon follow. Thus, Splatterhouse was born. I may have taken some liberties with the story, but to the best of my knowledge, that is how it came to be.

I relish any opportunity to talk more about these games, and so I bring to you this brief history of the Splatterhouse series, from its humble beginnings as a 2D side scroller to its transformation into a 3D brawler in 2010.


When Splatterhouse first came out, people didn't know what to do with it. Pounding a zombie's head in with your first, before picking up a meat cleaver and slicing another monster in 'twain? These kinds of things were unheard of in the distant year of 1988. Sure, games like Narc would give you the opportunity to blast homeless people to pieces with a rocket launcher, but Splatterhouse took a more intimate approach to its graphic violence.

It was so successful that a port to home consoles was all but inevitable. Unfortunately, a sanitizing for the home audience was also inevitable. First and foremost, the look of the iconic mask was changed to make it a little less copyright infringement-y. The developers also took the time to change the look on one boss character, a giant inverted cross, into a giant skull, which doesn't really seem that much better.

For the most part, however, the port was full of countless little changes designed to tone down the violence, gore, and scariness of the game. At the end of the day, however, you still have to wonder why they even bothered. What did the publishers think people wanted to see when they bought a game called "Splatterhouse"? Were they afraid that parents might mistakenly believe it to be a game about Jackson Pollock? It's a game about sticking your entire arm into a zombie's chest and pulling out whatever you can grab onto. You know, art!

Splatterhouse arcade version gameplay footage:

Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti

Not long after the original game was released, Japan got a taste of the rather odd followup, "Wanpaku Graffiti". My knowledge of Japanese is limited to the menu choices at Benihana, but the internet assures me that the title means "Naughty Graffiti," which in turn is a reference to the game being a silly, cartoony take on Splatterhouse.

As with the original game, Wanpaku Graffiti opens with Rick being brought back to life and his girfriend, Jennifer, being dragged off. This time, however, instead of Rick facing down the hordes of some ancient, faceless evil, his primary antagonist is the Pumpkin King. Perhaps there's a Japanese instruction manual out there that explains what all went on between these two, but it hardly matters. The point is that you control a super-deformed Rick as he travels the land chopping down monsters with his iconic meat cleaver.

Once you get past the overall weirdness of the title, you're left with a surprisingly solid game. Rick controls really well, arguably better than he does in some of the other games, and the game is packed with parodies of famous horror movies like Alien and The Fly. One of the early bosses even organizes a group of zombies for a brief Thriller tribute!

But the best part is when you finally beat the Pumpkin King:

The director says, "cut!" and the whole game is revealed to be a film shoot! What's more, the last screen shows Rick and Jennifer leaving the set and getting ready to travel to the real West Mansion. Apparently, Wanpaku Graffiti was meant to be some kind of prequel.

Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti footage:

Splatterhouse 2

Parodies are nice and all, but fans of Splatterhouse wanted a real sequel. In 1992, they got their wish with the Sega Genesis release of Splatterhouse 2. Gameplay-wise, it was more of the same: walk down a hall, punch monsters in the face, occasionally stop to pick up a pipe/shotgun/cleaver, but really, that's all you need with a game like Splatterhouse.

The real improvement game in the form of new bosses and set pieces that showcased the series' love of violence and gore. The very first boss is an enormous monster that you kill by punching it in the stomach until it bursts (note: make sure you aren't standing near the stomach when it bursts). Then you head to the basement and fight a giant glowing head by punching it in the eyes until its eyes burst (no need to worry about being drenched in acidic eye goop, though). And before you can even relax from that, you're traveling down a gore-choked river on your way to do battle with a host of acid-spewing mutant fetuses!

The results are not pretty.

This time around, the Terror Mask looks more like a grinning skull, as opposed to its usual hockey mask appearance. I suppose it makes sense, given that the mask is supposed to be some kind of ancient Mayan sacrificial mask, and Teotihuacan wasn't exactly fielding a lot of great hockey teams at the time, so I can't really complain. What I can complain about, however, is the difficulty on some of the later bosses, particularly the final boss. The tradeoff for Rick having a small amount of health and being fairly ponderous is that his enemies typically exhibit set patterns that aren't too tough to figure out. By the end of SP2, however, you'll be facing a floating mound of flesh that tries to bury you in a veritable avalanche of severed heads. For crying out loud, it's hard enough just getting Rick to face the left side of the screen!

Splatterhouse 2 footage:

Splatterhouse 3

The series was due for a change. The 2D side scrolling was okay, but the heart of the series had always been the spectacle. The team behind Splatterhouse 3 understood this, and so they decided to make their game a brawler instead. And it was good.

It had always been fun to see enemies disintegrate in a mist of gore after receiving one of Rick's punches, but SP3 managed to make combat both more sophisticated and more visceral. Rick's punches and kicks would send the enemies flying, and as they took damage, they'd show it. Some would simply get a bit bloody, but others would take a pounding and then have their heads slough right off of their shoulders. And that just made them angry!

The overall atmosphere of the series was captured perfectly, with an added element of tension: The monsters that are after Rick are also after his family. If Rick can't finish a stage on time, things get ugly...

But the best part are the new features of the mask itself. Forget the hockey and skull mask of previous games; the Terror Mask now has its own distinct look: a bleached, bone like consistency; deep, sunken eye sockets; grating over the mouth opening; and what looks like the back of the mask stretching slightly to encompass all of Rick's head.

Also new to the game are powerups that give Rick the ability to unlock the mask's true potential, namely the ability to mutate him even further:

At least twice as muscular as before, Mutant Rick forgoes any of the finesse regular Rick may have shown as a fighter in favor of raw power. Body slams, strangulation, and when all else fails, he simply launches his flesh out in thick tendrils to impale the enemy. The mutation is only temporary, but it's still damned impressive.

Of all the Splatterhouse games, the third is easily my favorite. It's not often you have a series change its established gameplay conventions, only to become that much better for it. I couldn't wait for the next installment to come out, but alas, the series had finally come to an end. Or so it seemed...

Splatterhouse 3 footage:

Splatterhouse (2010)

aAlmost twenty years later, the world finally got a chance to revisit the blood-drenched Splatterhouse universe. Splatterhouse (the 2010 version) is a remake of the original game, retelling that classic story of a boy and his mask. The violence was turned up to 11 for this one, with death and dismemberment being so commonplace that you won't think twice when the opportunity arises to beat a monster to death with your own arm! And there's nudity too, for some reason.

The devs stayed true to the series' roots by including a few 2d side scrolling sections to break up the 3D brawling sections. These bits were... less great. They tended to be unforgiving, even for a Splatterhouse game, and the controls were a bit loose for the kinds of maneuvers you're asked to pull off. Even so, it's impressive that the devs were able to include them without the transition being too jarring.

Violence and gore are the hallmarks of the Splatterhouse series, but the 2010 game seemed to have drilled it into the ground. There's definitely no shortage of gore, but seeing the same decapitation/impaling/forced rectal prolapse over and over again lessens the effect. It's still a fun game, but it needs a bit more variety. Or a shorter play time. I believe all the other games clocked in at around 45 minutes for a single playthrough. Maybe that's just the right amount of time for viewing the full rainbow of monster viscera.

Splatterhouse (2010) footage:

Splatterhouse is one of my favorite series because, if nothing else, it has its own unique style. A cursory glance at the original game would suggest that it was just some ill-conceived game hoping to cash in on the public's love of violence and famous movie monsters, but that would be an oversimplification. Splatterhouse has shown considerable growth as a series in spite of having only a handful of titles. If a sequel is ever made to the 2010 game, my only advice to the developers would be to remember where the series came from. Bizarre, grotesque imagery, moments of horror punctuated by graphic violence, monster designs that went beyond humanoids with claws and sharp teeth, these are the hallmarks of the series. If you can nail those, you can make a successful Splatterhouse game that delights as it disgusts.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's been almost half an hour since I last played Splatterhouse 3.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?


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Reader Comments

Oct 7th, 2011, 05:09 AM
Nice article. Someone needs to make more games with this horror movie style, i can't think of any recent games that even try its all survival horror or psychological.
Forum Virgin
Oct 7th, 2011, 06:36 AM
I am a proud owner of Splatterhouse tennis shoes. I cannot for the life of me understand why they made these (except as an exceptionally bad idea tie in for the xbox 360 game) but I am so happy to own them. Even have little metal masks sewn into the sides. Blood splatters as well, of course.

Anyway, I love this series. I had the original on (and still have) turbo graphixs 16. was the only reason to own that system to me.

Played the Grafitti famicom version on a nester disc emulator years later, and absolutely love it. It's almost a perfect game. One of my favourite "nintendo" games ever actually. So good I wish I would of had it when I was playing nintendo in the old days.

Never did get to play 2 or 3. But the greatest thing about Splatterhouse 2010 is that it has all three of the (main, not grafiti) games as playable extras!

So now I get ot enjoy the brutal love of playing 2 and 3 through, without having to track down the original cartridges (though I may do it anyway to be a complitest.)

Thanks for this review. Much needed awesome horror awesome for October.
Oct 7th, 2011, 09:17 AM
i actually really loved the 2010 splatter house, it had everything i wanted. and tbh since i grew up in mexico i dont really know much about the old ones
Im one good looking Troll
Oct 7th, 2011, 12:52 PM
I'm glad there isn't a game that gives you the chance to play as a real killer or is there?Games is all about being creative it can appeal to anyone even if you're a cowboy in real life you'll like Red Dead:Redemption,I want to play Red Dead Redemption Undead nightmare.Okay So I'm off topic about this game so what?I'm a troll!!
Oct 7th, 2011, 01:27 PM
West Mansion has some articles about Splatterhosue 2010. Basically, the development team got totally screwed in the end. Namco abandoned the game as soon as it launched. Splatterhouse 2010 even had some of the best writing I've seen in a video game. Dr. West is absolutely perfect. It's a shame, too, because the only game I enjoyed more last year was Vanquish.
I hate this hacker crap!
Oct 7th, 2011, 04:33 PM
I've been waiting for a thorough breakdown of this series to show up on the site for a while. I knew that it's arrival was inevitable. Great job Boogie, I didn't know about all these.
Funky Dynamite
Oct 7th, 2011, 04:55 PM
Glad you all like it.

If I could just go back to Splatterhouse 3 for a minute: imagine you're 9 years old, and you're playing this game this game for the first time. You're moving along, trying to get through the stages in a timely fashion, and then this pops up:

Talk about piling on.
The Wolf
Oct 7th, 2011, 09:19 PM
That's pretty much exactly what happened to me. I first rented this after a hockey game one Saturday morning and, yeah, it was unlike any other game I'd played. Nice to see you finally got a use for that Rick gif--though the one in your sig isn't working.

Also nice that you didn't call Biggyman "Bagman" this time around. You also called George Romero "John Romero" in another article. Tsk tsk.

Anyway, I saw the link to this on Facebook while I was at work and made sure I got a chance to read it later. Weeeeelll done.
Oct 7th, 2011, 09:36 PM
Great review! I didn't even know there was a Splatterhouse 2 or 3, let alone the Graffiti one.
Oct 7th, 2011, 11:53 PM
I enjoyed all of the Splatterhouse games, including the 2010 version. My complaint about it is that it's too short, not too long. The game is artifically legthened by a bunch of brawl sessions, instead of adding in more wild boss battles and stages. More animations would have been welcomed, of course, but they aren't THAT bad.

Btw it isn't a remake. It is hinted at via the storyline that time travel and alternate realities play a part in this sequel, or prequel, or remake, or AR variant....we don't know what it is. I sure hope they make a sequel though.

Btw, anyone who is insterested in these games pickup the 2010 version. The other three games are included as a bonus.
Oct 8th, 2011, 12:35 AM
Nicely done. The funniest part of Wanpaku Graffiti is the part where you get to fart in the teahouse. Yes, I'm that juvenile.
Sympathizes with the foo'
Oct 8th, 2011, 11:27 AM
I found good versions of both Rick and Hell Chaos (the big rotting head boss) to use in M.U.G.E.N., along with appropriate stages for them. The Rick character is pretty funny, as he uses tons of projectile moves ripped from other Namco arcade games, like Pac-Man (who bloodily attacks the opponent's crotch) and Dig Dug (who inflates them until they pop).
Shinobi Hero
Oct 9th, 2011, 03:50 AM
What bothers me about Splatterhouse 2010 is that they had Jim Cummings as the Terror Mask. I dunno, but, when I think of the terror mask, I don't think Mr. Cummings. I imagine a dark, inhuman voice speaking directly into Rick's brain and simply laughing and urging Rick to kill harder with some kind of sadistic, taunting form of motivation. When I heard Jim's voice as the mask, I felt like as if someone had been miscast or something.

I otherwise enjoyed it just fine. Having the first three games added as a bonus made it even better.
Oct 9th, 2011, 11:22 AM
I first came across Splatterhouse when I rented Splatterhouse 3 for my Genesis. I fell in love instantly. Splatterhouse 2010 was a great reboot, especially with the original 3 games included. I really hope they make a sequel to it. The world needs more Splatterhouse.
Wandering knight
Oct 9th, 2011, 12:48 PM
Splatterhouse 3 is my personal favorite. Now, getting the remake might be worth it since all 3 classic games are on 1 disc.
Oct 25th, 2011, 12:06 AM
Splatterhouse was a late find for me. I had a SNES when I was a kid, so I never got a chance to try these games until I was introduced to emulators, and I remembered this one creepy ad for Splatterhouse 3 I saw once in a Batman comic. Having gone through all of them, I can say that the first 4 games were brilliant, especially with the use of gore and how they worked with the limitations of the 16-bit era.

Sadly, the new one had a lot going against it. The creativity was abit lacking, and the non-stop heavy metal music killed whatever creepy mood the game tried to provide. Also, the over-use of quick time events and the lack of enemy diversity made the 2010 game a chore to finish. I actually found myself enjoying the 2D parts alot more, especially with the 16-bit styled music. I happen to agree with Joe Musashi when he said that the writing of the Terror Mask was all wrong. I imagined a cruel entity that constantly egged Rick on to commit more monsterous actions, not some lame joker that swears too much. If Namco makes another one, I hope they go back to the creepy mood and eject the comedy.
Unfunny Python Reference
Oct 22nd, 2012, 11:53 PM
I just bought a Genesis recently I definitely need to hunt down 2 and 3

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