Splatterhouse Retrospective Part II: The Terror Mask Returns

Splatterhouse 2/Splatterhouse Part 2 (Namco: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, 1992)

When we last left Rick Taylor, the worst night of his life had just ended. It all began when he and his girlfriend, Jennifer Wills, had sought refuge from a thunderstorm in the old West Mansion. Jennifer had been abducted by monsters, and Rick had been bonded to a horrible ancient relic, the Terror Mask. Armed with the power that the Mask had given him and any weapon he could find, Rick had battled his way to the very heart of West Mansion, only to find that Jennifer had been altered by these creatures and was transformed into a horrible monster before his very eyes. The only way to save her... had been to kill her.

But even after Jennifer's death, his fight was not over. But finally, Rick stood victorious. The old mansion was being consumed by flames as the Terror Mask broke away from his face and hit the ground. Was it truly over? Judging by the ominous rebirth of the Mask after the credits rolled, probably not.

Splatterhouse fans would have to wait four long years before finding out if Namco ever planned to continue the story. After the surprise success of Splatterhouse on the NEC PC Engine/Turbografx-16, Namco announced plans to continue the series as a home console exclusive. However, the series would not continue on the NEC family of consoles. Rather, Namco announced Splatterhouse 2 for the Sega Mega Drive. This was a bit of a puzzler, at least as far as Japan was concerned. The Mega Drive was not popular there, falling into a distant third behind the PC Engine and Nintendo's Super Famicom. Despite this, Namco was a staunch supporter of Sega's 16-bit machine, as evidenced by the lineup of games they released for it: Phelios, Burning Force, Marvel Land and Rolling Thunder 2 being a few of the highlights.

Out in the rest of the world, things were different. The Mega Drive was huge in Europe and a monster hit in the United States, where the Mega Drive was known as the Genesis. The PC Engine had never been released in Europe, and the TurboGrafx had become the first casualty of the 16-bit Wars upon the release of Nintendo's Super NES in 1991. This may have been why Namco decided to program Splatterhouse 2 for the Mega Drive, rather than the PC Engine. Maybe they thought Splatterhouse was more popular outside Japan, and the sequel would stand a better chance on the more popular console. Or perhaps the Mega Drive hardware was more like the arcade hardware Namco was used to working with, and was more powerful than the PC Engine. This would enable them to make a game closer to the arcade than if they tried on the PC Engine.

Whatever the reason for Namco's choice, the end result was that Splatterhouse 2 (called Splatterhouse Part 2 in Japan) was released worldwide in 1992. This would be the first and only time Europe would receive one of the classic Splatterhouse games upon release, as the TurboGrafx port had never been released there, nor was Splatterhouse 3 the next year.

So what had Rick been up to since the end of the first game? The opening set the tone nicely:


Then the Mask begins speaking to him:


It ends on a slightly chilling note:


All this stuff about the Mask speaking to Rick and tempting him, this is all new. Even though it appeared that the Mask was alive at the end of the first game, it never spoke to him or tempted him in any way before that. It's an interesting retcon, the full scope of which won't be explored for another year. Ultimately Rick listens to the Mask, returning to the burnt-out ruins of West Mansion. From there, it's another battle through eight stages of terror. In the process, Rick discovers a second mansion (the "Hidden House" in the original Japanese), opens a portal to the Land of the Dead and bravely plunges into it, all to rescue the unfortunate Ms. Wills from a fate far worse than death.

The Mask has undergone a change since the last time it was seen. Originally resembling a goalie's mask in the arcade and PC Engine games (and a red mask with kabuki stripes in the TurboGrafx version), it had now been redesigned - twice, as it turns out. Namco has never commented on this, but it seems logical to assume that they wanted to distance Rick's look from a certain Mr. Voorhees, even back when the Turbografx port was released. This time around, the Mask was redesigned to a white mask with kabuki stripes in the Japanese version, and into a Mayan ceremonial skull mask for the rest of the world. Why they felt the need to do this, I have no idea. Interestingly, prototype pictures exist showing Rick wearing a Mask identical to the one in the TurboGrafx version.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, Splatterhouse 2 is a carbon copy of the original. There are no changes whatsoever, so if you're familiar with the original you'll feel right at home in 2. The music is very similar as well, although no themes from the original are reused. It still has that creepy '80s horror/synth vibe. The sound effects too retain all of the sounds you'd expect to hear, even introducing some new ones in the process. The weapons are for the most part all new, the only exception to that being the shotgun. The lead pipe replaces the 2x4, a fossil bone is great for crushing monster skulls, a boat oar is used to hilarious effect while walking along the pier, and the chainsaw makes its debut, even if its use is limited to one boss fight. There are also various one-use weapons like the potassium bomb - which incinerates creatures instantly - and even a severed monster head.

Aside from Deadmen and Boreworms, none of the original monsters resurface in 2. Instead, we get a ghoulish new assortment that would carve their own place in Splatterhouse history: among them the Screaming Mimis (whose screams would give Michael Jackson some stiff competition in his heyday), zombie piranha, sludge monsters, spirits that can reverse your controller directions if they touch Rick, and hideous CHUD-like zombies that infest the underground catacombs. The bosses are all new too: there's Deadman Fat (who has a taste for Deadmen, the cannibal), a giant head that bears a resemblance to Freddy Krueger, the "Murder Shed" that contains hanging mutant fetuses, a horrible fly/spider creature called the Metamorl, a zombie scientist, the octopus-like Leviathan and the hideous Pantheon - a horrible fleshy monster composed of multiple heads.

Rick does eventually rescue Jennifer from the Land of the Dead, and returns to the world of the living with her. But their battle isn't over, as they have to escape the collapsing mansion, destroy the Leviathan while racing across the lake, and finally fighting the Pantheon. As the credits roll, Rick and Jennifer are shown silhouetted against the sunset, finally free from the evils that have plagued them. But as Rick points out, the Mask "has left me as I was with Jennifer." It still exists. And as long as that Mask remains, it can happen again.

Unlike the original game, Splatterhouse 2 never received any ports to any other consoles. It was long rumored that it started as an arcade game, but according to Namco's official arcade history, this is not true. Still, to this day there are people that claim to have seen it in arcades. It's possible they saw it being played on one of Sega's Mega-Tech systems, which was basically the Genesis version of Nintendo's PlayChoice 10.

The most confusing thing about Splatterhouse 2 is the apparently fubared translation. Splatterhouse Part 2 spells things out very clearly: Jennifer is dead and in the Land of the Dead, where her soul had been imprisoned in crystal. The mansion Rick fights his way through is a second mansion, the Hidden House. The zombie scientist you fight in the game is none other than Dr. West. And perhaps most importantly, Rick had removed something called the "Forbidden Seal," which was basically nothing more than Namco's way of saying that a sequel was forthcoming.

The Splatterhouse 2 translation was definitely muddled. Jennifer is now someplace called "The Void" and is not dead, just waiting to be rescued. It's hard to tell if the new Mansion is just West Mansion rebuilt or what, because it's never specified otherwise (despite the presence of West Mansion's ruins in the opening cinema). The zombie scientist most people took to be "Dr. Mueller," a character who was intended to be West's replacement in the U.S. storyline. And as far as that "Forbidden Seal" stuff goes, it was all removed. Why all of this was done, it's hard to say. But Namco must have had their reasons.

Regardless of the botched translation, Splatterhouse 2 is a worthy successor to the original. And with the sequel all but announced after the credit roll, it was just a matter of time before Rick, Jen and the Mask would return.

Luckily, this time we didn't have long to wait.

Dave Wilkins Promo Art vs. Original Cover for Splatterhouse 2


Wanpaku Graffiti contains a multitude of film parodies. Among the films parodied are The Burning, Alien, Jaws, The Exorcist, The Fly, Friday the 13th (Diamond Lake? Diamond Camp?) and most amusingly, a full-blown spoof of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, complete with dancing zombies and a moonwalking vampire affectionately dubbed "Disco Dracula" or "Count Danceula" by some fans.

Rob Strangman, known by some as the one-man Splatterpedia, is the founder and webmaster of West Mansion: The Splatterhouse Homepage, as well as the import-focused retro gaming site The OPCFG. He also writes the "Matters of Import" column for the Digital Press fanzine, rules his discussion forum The Third Moon with an iron fist, is a Gradius enthusiast, a die-hard Indiana Jones fan, and a "genuine Rush scholar." He lives with his family in Connecticut.


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails