Splatterhouse 3

Console:  Sega Genesis

Grade:  B

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 42nd

Publisher:  Namco

Year:  1993

Genre:  Gore

Since the late 80s, Splatterhouse has made its name with the copious amounts of blood, gore, and general grossness that appear in each game, and the third entry in the series is no exception.  If you want slime, guts, and what can best be described simply as “assorted crawly stuff”, then this game will have what you’re looking for.  Also, there’s a good chance you’re 12 years old.  Let’s face it – there does come a point in most people’s lives where this kind of stuff begins to lose it’s appeal, and seems more childish than scary.  Here’s my advice: if your kid is asking for this game for his birthday, and it’s more than a few months away, don’t get it for him.  He’ll likely have outgrown it by then.

Also, since when do kids ask for games that came out before they were born?

I suppose that back in 1993 though, stuff like this might have seemed shocking and possibly even creeped players out a little.  Not like today, when you’ve likely seen things ten times more disturbing than anything in Splatterhouse simply by accidentally clicking the wrong link on YouTube.  The horror of fighting hordes of mutilated zombies in a blood-soaked mansion pales in comparison to the terror of accidentally watching some kind of not-quite-porn for people with very strange, and very specific fetishes, and following the suggested links on an online video site is often like a real life game of Minesweeper – 90% of them are fine, most the rest you know better than to click on, but then every so often you make a mistake and end up watching a video of a nurse pouring custard onto a schoolgirl.  That, my friends, is a kind of terror no video game can compete with.

Still, while the game might come across as being more silly than scary, it more than makes up for it with its gameplay.  Ditching the side-scrolling elements of the prior entries in the series, SH3 is a beat ‘em up style game, focused solely on brawling.  More importantly, though, it’s a really GOOD beat ‘em up, a feat which is harder to pull off than it sounds.  Games in this genre tend to be pretty similar, so design is everything, and the line between a really good game and a really bad one can get pretty thin.  Splatterhouse 3 excels due to a fast pace and a good balance of enemies – most of them being of the punching bag variety, with just enough tough ones mixed in to give the player a challenge.  A time limit further increases the need to hand out the beat-downs with ruthless efficiency.  As a result, you’ll often find yourself thinking “Man, I can’t believe how much ass I’m kicking!” while you make zombies’ heads explode with your fists.

And really, isn’t that exactly the right emotion to have while plowing through hordes of grotesque monsters in a haunted mansion?

In other words, this game is a lot closer to Final Fight than it is to, say, Cliffhanger, and that’s obviously a good thing.  Which is why we’re more than happy to overlook the fact that just about everything in the game looks like something that would get rejected from a Rob Zombie movie for being too cheesy.  Including the story.

Splatterhouse 3 begins five years after the previous game in the series with Rick, our protagonist, now married with a child,  They’re living comfortably in a mansion after he successfully transitioned from monster hunting to a lucrative career as a stockbroker.  This seems like kind of a strange career path to me, most people usually just study finance at a university and then get low paying entry level jobs.  Perhaps the demons you fought in the first two games were supposed to be metaphors for higher education, internships, and all the other challenges a person goes through before being ready to enter the modern workforce.  And in the third game, these monsters now symbolize the struggle of entering adulthood and settling down into a stable home life.

Then again, I might be giving WAY too much literary credit to a game with the word “Splatterhouse” in the title.

Anyway, things are going great until the monsters come back, take over the mansion, and kidnap Rick’s family.  Rick then does what he always does in these situations – dresses up in his Friday the 13th Halloween costume… er, I mean puts on the terror mask (apparently the blue coveralls are just what he happened to have on at the time, you know, during his normal everyday activities working on Wall Street) and sets out to kick some monster ass.

Which, sadly, is not at all similar to monster booty.

One thing you’ll realize as you make your way through the game is the impracticality of having a gigantic mansion with hundreds of rooms.  When every room is filled with traps and monsters, this can be something of a liability.  Think of it this way –  when I first got married, we lived in a five room apartment.  It got a little cramped sometimes, but I could rest assured knowing that if it ever turned out to be evil and haunted, and monsters kidnapped my wife and cats, they were only going to be one or two rooms away at the most.  That’s like, three, maybe four zombies I’d have to beat up to rescue them.  Even the average 2 story house only has what, ten rooms at the most?  You could probably kill that many monsters armed with a couple of heavy books or a pointy stick.

And even in non-monster circumstances, it doesn’t really make sense.  Rick has a wife and one kid.  That’s it.  How much space do they really need?  There is such a thing as having too much house, even if cost isn’t an issue.  You still have to furnish all those rooms.  So in addition to familiar-looking areas like a kitchen or dining room, there are plenty of rooms where they clearly didn’t know what to do with the extra space – one room is just filled with grandfather clocks, which looks kind of neat, but doesn’t really make any kind of sense if you think about it.  There’s another long room with no furniture at all, and the only adornment is one small portrait on the wall.  You start to get the feeling Rick and his wife probably ran out of ideas by about the 50th room or so.

Either that, or the monsters kidnapped most of his furniture, too.

 

Not to mention the amount of maintenance a house this large would require, which was clearly an issue at Rick’s house.  The wallpaper is looking tattered, the paint is peeling, and some of the fixtures are clearly broken.  I suppose some of this could be blamed on the hellspawn running through his home, but probably not all of it.  I mean, it’s not like there’s an epic boss battle against a demon that eats drywall.

This was the last game in the Splatterhouse series (upcoming PS3 reboot notwithstanding), which is a shame because it’s also the only good one.  Who knows, maybe after this incident, Rick finally moved into a reasonably sized home, stopped taking directions from taking hockey masks, and hired professionals to take care of any future monster infestations (I hear the Belmonts resisted the allure of Wall Street and opted to stay in the family business).  Or maybe people just stopped playing beat ‘em ups, and Namco realized there might be more money in this new “Tekken” thing they were working on than it making sequels for a series that, at best, had a small cult following.  Either way, this game ended up being kind of rare, and commands a fairly respectable price in the online marketplace.  Still, if you’re a fan of the genre and ever have a chance to borrow it from a friend (thanks, Stryker), or see a cheap one at a garage sale, or just have loads of money to burn on old Genesis games, Splatterhouse 3 is worth checking out.

Fighting Masters

Console:  Sega Genesis

Grade:  D-

Publisher:  Treco

Year:  1992

Genre:  Elephant Bellydancer

Fighting Masters is a pretty damn horrible fighting game from 1992.  The game has unbalanced characters, subpar music and graphics, and the gameplay seems almost entirely focused on landing cheap attacks and exploiting glitches with the collision detection.  And while it deserves some credit for being one of the few fighting games on the system not to require a 6-button controller, this is kind of countered by the fact that it basically only uses one button for attacks.  Another is used to jump (which could have just as easily been done by pressing up on the d-pad), and the third button, with the exception of one or two characters, isn’t used at all.  As a result, the gameplay revolves around doing the same move over and over in the hope of stunning your opponent, then throwing him into a wall, for this game’s sad version of a “combo”.

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Needless to say, while it’s easy to heap scorn upon such meager gameplay, crafting comedy out of it isn’t quite as easy.  And the bare bones story about an intergalactic fighting tournament where the winning planet is saved from extinction doesn’t give us much to work with, either.  Which is why we decided to spend the rest of this update profiling the game’s twelve characters.

Fighting Masters010Name: Dirk

Race: Human

Brad: Meet the last hope for mankind.  His name is Dirk.  I have to admit that seeing Earth being represented by Dirk doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence for the survival of our species.  I don’t know, maybe I was just hoping the savior of mankind would be a little taller or you know, wore pants.

Stryker: Does it say somewhere in the rules that we have to send one of our own to represent our planet?  ‘Cause I’d like our chances a lot better if we could send a bear.  It just doesn’t seem fair that all the civilizations are made up of scary monsters and we’re regular guys.

Fighting Masters011Name: Mastodon

Race: Elephant Exotic Dancer

Brad: Shit, as if fighting against an elephant isn’t scary enough, this one’s dressed up like a bellydancer.  I don’t know why, but that’s even more terrifying.

Stryker: How could there be a planet where the dominant species is a bunch of elephant dudes?  Did some Earth elephants get abducted by other aliens and put on another planet until they evolved into this?  Or are our elephants descended from some of these guys who landed on our planet?  Either way, they’re going to be pissed when they see what we’ve done to their relatives over the last few centuries.  Poor Dirk – this isn’t going to end well for him at all.

Fighting Masters013Name: Equus

Race: Horsey

Brad: Oh good, I always wanted a fighting game where I could play as the old Denver Broncos logo.  I should do fine as long as none of my opponents has a gigantic “D” that I’ll feel obligated to rear up through.

Stryker: Equus doesn’t normally wear boots, but he had to for this because there’s rules against braining your opponent with a horseshoe.

Fighting Masters025Name: Morin

Race: Hot Woman

Brad: I love Morin’s fashion sense, pairing an armored bikini with some kind of cape that starts at her waist.  Oh sure, just about everything else is out on display, but there’s no way anyone’s getting a glimpse of her butt.  I’d say the outfit objectifies women, but since Dirk’s showing more ass than she is, I guess everything’s ok.

Stryker: I just like that they let her use tonfas.  It’s like they put her in the game specifically so there’d be a female character to balance things out, but then since she’s a weak little girl, they had to let her use a weapon to make it fair for her.  That’s ok – I kinda doubt that getting a female character equal treatment in Fighting Masters was a big priority for the Women’s Rights Movement anyway.

Fighting Masters100Name: Grinder

Race: Breakdancing Robot

Brad: Grinder is kind of like the Terminator scenario brought to its conclusion.  Think about it – if a robot is representing its home planet in a tournament like this, it means the machines must have wiped out their creators.  The awesome thing in this case is that they did it not with guns, but with Freddy Krueger claws.

Stryker: I hate to spoil the ending, but I think the main purpose of Grinder is so that they would have a robot breakdancing throughout the ending credits.  Otherwise, he’s a pretty crappy character.  Oddly enough, while dancing, he doesn’t even do the robot.  Some might call that ironic, but I like to think that maybe his creators programmed him with a concept of dignity.

Fighting Masters777Name: Goldrock

Race: Vertically Challenged Rock Monster

Brad: The thing I love about Goldrock is that after he throws his opponent, he gets a big, smug grin and holds his arms up in victory.  He’s the only character in the game who does anything like that.  It’s like the designers decided they only had time to give one character a personality, and out of all the fighters, this was their choice.

Stryker: What’s even better is the fact that they decided to make him be kind of a dick.  Every time I think about this, I can’t help but imagine the development team in a brainstorming session, sitting around a table when one guy shouts out “How about an arrogant rock monster” and everybody else is like “YES!!!  That’s our best idea yet!”  Then they all give each other high fives and watch Roadhouse to celebrate.

Fighting Masters042Name: Phoenix

Race: Uh… Flying Rat Thingy?

Brad: Well here we go – this game will finally settle the debate of who would win a fight between a belly-dancing elephant and a … whatever the hell this is.

Stryker: Since a Phoenix is a big, flame-colored bird, and this thing clearly isn’t one of those, we’re left to assume that he’s from the planet Phoenix.  Didn’t know about the planet Phoenix?  Well, astronomers like to name planets they don’t really know much about after cities with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever.  That way the name is familiar but nobody gets any false preconceptions of what the planet might be like until they actually find out more about it.  The planet Phoenix is in the same solar system as Syracuse, San Jose, and Tallahassee.

Fighting Masters002Name: Zygrunt

Race: Lobster or Insect

Brad: Hey, look who’s not winning this tournament!  Poor Zygrunt.  We’re not even sure if he’s is supposed to be a giant bug or a giant lobster. And considering how confused he looks, we’re not sure he really knows either.  That’s ok – for all practical purposes, aren’t lobsters really just big, delicious insects that live underwater anyway?

Stryker: Thanks Zygrunt, at least Dirk won’t come in last place now.  Goldrock probably took one look at this guy and then ran to the store to buy a really big pot and a lot of butter.  Cocky bastard.

Fighting Masters005Name: Rotundo

Race: Fat Blue Guy

Brad: What’s this?  Did E. Honda get sick of having his ass handed to him by everyone in Street Fighter and decided to sneak into a different fighting game with easier competition?

Stryker: Or maybe just more edible competition.

Name: Dio

Race: Plant

Brad: Ok, I don’t get this.  Most of the other names made sense – Rotundo was fat, Goldrock was a Gold Rock.  But this guy looks nothing like Dio.  This was made even more frustrating by the fact that after every match his health bar would fill back up, and it sort of looked like I was charging up my “Dio Meter”.  I kept hoping that if I filled it up all the way I’d be able to do his finishing move – the Holy Diver! – but this was not to be.


Stryker: Well, I like Dio, if only because he’s the character that I finally beat this godforsaken game with.  I used the tried and true method of not moving or pressing any buttons until my opponent walked into me, then I threw him.  Worked every time.  Yeah, this game’s not very good.

Fighting Masters006Name: Xenon

Race: Freaking Dragon

Brad: Damn.  Do you suppose once all the other fighters saw this guy, they were like “Well, our planet’s doomed”?  I mean, Xenon can fly and breathe fire and if all else, just bite your damn head off.  Dirk couldn’t even remember to wear pants.  Sorry, non-dragon participants, maybe next year.  It’s like going to a Pee-Wee football tournament, and finding out the Dallas Cowboys are playing in it.

Stryker: Well, if he really is like the Dallas Cowboys, there might still be some hope – you could always hold off and wait for Xenon to implode on himself.  Maybe his various limbs will start fighting with each other, or he’ll start dating a pop star who’ll become a huge distraction while his coach stands around cluelessly and looking depressed.  Or maybe he’ll just accidentally fly into the scoreboard and break his neck.

Fighting Masters008Name: Uppercut

Race: Boxing Cyclops

Brad: Uppercut is kind of hard to buy into on a psychological level.  First of all, the idea that a planet other than Earth would independently develop the sport of boxing, right down to the gloves and everything, seems kind of hard to believe.  But for the sake of argument, lets assume that Uppercut’s home planet received some transmissions of boxing matches or something and became familiar with the sport.  Here’s the second problem – Cyclopses would suck at it.  They just would.  Boxing is a sport in which depth perception and field of vision are key aspects, and both of those things are greatly enhanced by binocular vision.  Besides, one punch in his gigantic eye and he’s done.  The sport never would have caught on in the first place, thus denying Uppercut a chance to ever get good at it.

Stryker: Uppercut plays kind of like Balrog from Street Fighter 2, but unlike Balrog, he’s far from worst character in the game.  That gives you an idea of just awesome the fighters on Earth must be – Street Fighter managed to give us 11 brawlers who are all better than Balrog.  The entire rest of the galaxy came up with maybe 6 or 7.

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