Splatterhouse 2 (1992)
Written by Matthew Fishgold of Cakewolf.com
One of my favorite video game series of all time is the Splatterhouse series. As a kid, I only had access to rented copies of Splatterhouse 2 (1992) for the Sega Genesis and, although the game scared me, I could never give up the ride it took me on, no matter the nightmares. Now that I’m older and the world of media is right at my fingertips, I’m #blessed* with the opportunity to play the others in this franchise. There really is no better time to be a gamer than today!
The caveat I’d throw at anyone interested in the franchise is: most Splatterhouse games feel stiff and restrictive with the generic clunky physics that are common in a lot of beat ‘em ups (ex: Golden Axe 1989, Sega Genesis). Most of my friends weren’t into Sega games, complaining that beyond Sonic, Sega was shit. They were blind and spoiled with the excellence of games like Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, and it was pretty rare for kids to be exposed to games of that caliber on the Sega. At least where I grew up, it was mostly the popular titles that the stores carried. So masterpieces like Castlevania Bloodlines (1994, Sega Genesis), and Mega Turrican (1994, Sega Genesis) slipped under the snobby gamers’ radar.
Knowing no better, as a dumb kid I was looking for Splatterhouse 1 for the Sega Genesis. Then the Internet happened and I found out that the first Splatterhouse was originally a 1988 Japanese arcade game that made it over to the states in 1989 when Namco licensed it over to Atari Games, but the one hundred cabinets were recalled due to American censorship BS. Then a North American re-release happened in 1990 on the Turbografx-16, a system I never even knew existed as a Sega VS Nintendo kid. Today, however, you can find the arcade game as a hidden extra in the Xbox 360/PS3 remake, or even on your smartphone, none of which are the watered-down and gore-free censored version that you’ll find on the Turbo. The game did have an earlier, more faithful release (1992), but it was specifically on a Japan console called the FM Towns (good luck finding a working model of that finicky fucker).
Years later, the magic of emulators and ROMs happened, and after downloading hundreds of random games, I came across a very strange iteration of the franchise, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti for the Famicom (1989). Yep- a Nintendo game (for all intents and purposes)- and MY GOD is this game fucking polished. If the clunk of the other titles turns you off, this game has the best of both worlds!
The game starts off with a chibi sprite of a girl who’s crying at one of three graves. Suddenly, lightning strikes the grave she’s weeping on and our hero rises from the grave! Unfortunately, lightning hits another one of the graves and...a flying pumpkin comes out and steals the girl away...but you were buried with a meat cleaver! So you set out on your journey of 8-bit murder to save the girl, and boy is it fun!
This game is like a mix between Friday the 13th and Muppet Babies. Your main character looks just like Jason Voorhees, but a super cute chibi version of him that seems like it's straight out of Jim Henson’s head. This is a charming departure from the more muscle bound MC from the original and later titles.
Playing as a standard, linear, side-scrolling beat ‘em up, you constantly push right, slaying weird (but cute) monsters, and taking out bosses at the end of each level. With a unique spin on the genre, you have a death tracker that counts up as you slay. When you reach the requirement on the death tracker, you regain a bit of health and even upgrade to a higher health pool, so you can murder even more! Splatterhouse, teaching children of Japan that murder is a healthy and rewarding practice, since 1989. But just in case you’re a sensitive conservative gamer, candy will also heal you.
Also, I hope you like disgusting, because the 2nd level primarily takes place in a shit-ridden sewer where you're literally trudging through the hot chocolate.
Level 3 drops a hilarious Ridley Scott’s Alien reference with a mini boss girl who has like thirty chestbursters coming out of her like she’s got the extraterrestrial runs. This level takes place in the suburbs and even has a sweet moment in a church complete with a satanic cult possessed by a neon goat/demon thing.
There aren't very many levels in the game, and it runs only about an hour long (not including a few treats that dedicated gamers will discover- yep- the game has sssecretsss,) but along the way you'll see a ton of tributes. This is definitely a video game for horror fans- you'll see references to The Fly, Jaws, and what I consider to be Cropsey later in the game. With a ton of diversity in pixel art for its time, you can really tell this was a labor of love.
There are several of ways you can obtain this game. The best IMO for an American gamer, is to snag a reproduction cartridge for your NES with English translation. It should run you between 20-50$ and is well worth the cost (you do get what you pay for FYI). Some carts even come in a cool bright-blood-red plastic shell (check Etsy)! Another option is to get a rom and emulator, or, if you want to really invest, there are ways to get an original Japanese Famicom working in your home, but you'll have to deal with the story in Japanese if you go that route. Lastly, there are Famicom to NES converters that’ll run you around 20-30$ and that way you can play original Famicom games on your NES.
All of the Splatterhouse games are worth a go in my opinion, but there’s a third title in this franchise that got a Sega Genesis release, and I’d prefer to pretend it never happened. There was a time limit feature implemented that's just too damn frustrating for me. Other than that, it's pretty solid compared to the feel of 1 & 2.
Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti is a special gem. The gameplay is extremely responsive, the creatures are varied, so the visuals never seem to feel boring, and the overall B-movie feel is an absolute joy for horror fans that dig cheese.
A NOTE ABOUT REPRODUCTION GAMES:
Finally, if you’re interested, here’s a little bit of know how in case you’re interested in looking into reproductions. I don’t want anyone to get cheated when hunting for a game, so here’s a brief guide for you.
Erasable EPROM chips are photosensitive and are only temporary storage. Light will wipe the files off of the chip and even without the light they degrade over time and will eventually be useless. This process is called bit rot.
Many sellers who make NES games also use these erasable chips because they're cheap and they can make more money when selling them. When bought in bulk, light-erasable chips cost about 10-25 cents each. Quality chips cost between $2.50 and $8 depending on the size, and most games require 2 chips. These more expensive chips are permanent and do not degrade.
I'll include pictures to help show what I mean. Please excuse the red light; as I've said the chips are photosensitive. This is a game from a repro maker that’s an example of the cheap shit. See the window on the chip? That's how you can tell it's erasable/temporary. There is also a bare wire running across several contact points/pins; that's just dangerous, sloppy work.
The Little Samson game below is an example of a quality repro. You can see the difference in quality.
Some sellers don't make the games themselves and know nothing about what they're selling. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If they don’t answer in an educated way, move on. There are a ton of people making repros these days, and the good sellers are very knowledgeable in their communication.
*Editor strenuously objects to the author's use of "#blessed".