Pictured: from top left: Friday the 13th (NES), A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES), Night Trap (Sega CD/32X), Corpse Killer (Sega CD/32X), Resident Evil Director’s Cut (PS1), Resident Evil 2 (PS1), Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (Sega Genesis), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Sega Genesis),Silent Hill (PS1), Resident Evil (PS1), Splatterhouse 3 (Sega Genesis), Akumajō Dracula bootleg (Famicom), Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun (aka Kid Dracula, Famicom), Sweet Home (english text reproduction cart, NES), Monster Party (NES), Castlevania (NES), Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES), Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES), Rampage (NES), Ghosts N’ GoblIns (NES), Super Castlevania IV (SNES), Splatterhouse (Turbo Grafx 16), Haunted House (Atari 2600), Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (Famicom).
Let me start off by saying this is in no way intended to be a “best of” list, these just happen to be all the horror based retro video games I own. I drew the line at the PS1 because there are a lot of great horror / survival horror games that I have for newer systems (The Fatal Frame series, the numerous Silent Hill and Resident Evil sequels, etc.), so in order to not have to play through hundreds of hours of video games again I decided on just retro titles. Over the next week leading up to halloween I am goign to spend a couple hours everyday playing some horror video games and posting a brief blurb regarding my thoughts and comments.
I have decided to play them in chronological order by system, and I just got done playing a whole bunch of games, so let’s do this:
Haunted House (Atari 2600) – Atari, 1982
What is sometimes referred to as the first survival horror game, Haunted House can be thought of as the first primitive entry in a storied and awesome genre that includes the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games. This is a far cry from its descendants, however. You play as a pair of eyes who must navigate through a multi-floored mansion and collect the pieces of a urn and get them safely to the front door. You have a match that can illuminate the area directly around you and that is necessary to find items, such as the key to open locked rooms and the scepter that can ward off the various ghosts found around the mansion as well as the urns themselves. This game is notable also because it is th earliest example of scrolling graphics in a video game. Haunted House can be kind of confusing at first, but once you know what to do, the game is addicting as hell.
Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun (Kid Dracula) (Famicom) – Konami, 1991
Why this little gem never made it out of Japan is a mystery to me. This is a great, great platforming game that’s full of quirky Japanese humor, top notch level design, and bright vibrant graphics. This game is actually a super deformed spin-off series of Konami’s ultra popular Castlevania series. Another stand-out in this game is the music, in fact the first level theme sounds kind of like a j-pop remix of the Castlevania theme we all know and love. Awesome. Also of note, the boss at the end of the first level is a KKK clad ghoul with a swastika on it’s forehead. So maybe it is obvious why this game was not translated…
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (Famicom) – Namco,1989
Another reason to get into import gaming, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is again a super deformed spin-off of a popular horror franchise, and like Kid Dracula, Wanpaku features stellar level design, amazing boss battles, tight control, and platforming perfection. And again we didn’t see this gem come to our side of the ocean, and that’s a terrible shame because this is truely an amazing video game experience. The storyline mirrors that of it’s older arcade brother, but with lots of cuteness and thrown in, including a dracula led “Thriller” inspired dance routine and a Japanese school girl transforming into the Human Fly. Man this game kicks ass!
Monster Party (NES) – Bandai, 1989
A cult classic, Monster Party is a pretty tough platformer where you play as a kid named Mike, who gets jacked by some monster and taken to a planet inhabited entirely by monsters to defeat a rising force of evil. This game features some awesome boss battles, such as the trash talkin’ human fly trap pictured above. But what makes this game really special is the truly horrific ending. Take that, Nintendo of America censors!
Sweet Home (NES repro cart/Famicom) – Capcom, 1989
What to say about Sweet Home? While Haunted House may be regarded as the first survival horror game, Sweet Home is credited with advancing the subgenre beyond it’s simplistic origins. Based on a Japanese movie of the same name, you start the game playing as a group of 5 people sent into a mansion with the intention of photographing the deceased owners paintings (referred to as frescos, a type of painting done on plaster). Once inside the mansion your are locked in and must escape alive. Each charcter has one unique ability that can help you progress by solving puzzles, but by weary because once a charcter dies they cannot be reanimated. This mechanic yeilds 5 different endings as well as several ways to complete the game. The game incorperates an RPG element in the way that battles are fought and experience gained. This game is a must play for any RPG or survival horror fan, and the rom and patch can be freely download, or the translated reproduction cart can be purchased from out friends over at Game Reproductions.
Ghosts N’ Goblins (NES) – Capcom, 1986
What to say about Ghosts n’ Goblins? Being classified as a paddle biter, you know that its hard as hell. In fact, Ghosts n’ Goblins is one of those games that is so hard that I have out grown the kind of dedication, memorization, and constant practice that it takes to get to even the second or third level. I have so many games to play that I just can;t justify spending a week on one game when the only real payoff is on screen of misspelled text. If you want to tackle the animal that is Ghosts n’ Goblins, than I wonlt stop you. But I’d rather play Ulimate Stuntman or Comix Zone.