Once upon a time Anayo was a somewhat-too-easily-influenced nine year old who read too many R.L. Stine â€œGoosebumpsâ€ books. One day, this younger rendition of the aforesaid fellow was taken to an arcade inside of a shopping mall. It was here that he was given 75 cents or so to play whatever struck his whimsy. Whimsy dictated the nearby â€œSega's House of the Deadâ€, so with wide eyes and fathomless fascination he blasted the heads and limbs off of zombies for five minutes or so. He genuinely was never the same afterwards â€“ from that point and on, undead, rotting zombies and their brain-mongering groans would forever hold a place in his impressionable imagination. Determined to obtain a home-version of this game that had touched him so deeply, Anayo reasoned that Sega must have published a laity-purchasable edition of House of the Dead, logically enough, for his Sega Genesis (ha ha.) So with parental supervision and a blazing fast 20 KBPS dial-up connection, little Anayo went to google and (slowly) typed in â€œHOUSE OF THE DEADâ€. The following page appeared:
â€œBrand New for the SEGA SATURN!: HOUSE OF THE DEAD! Now you can take all the action home on your Sega Saturn system! Only $XX.XX! Visit your local game retailer TODAY!â€
Lamentably, Anayo did not own a Sega Saturn, and the family's next planned financial venture was not exactly a $200 expenditure for a gaming machine. The endeavor died â€“ until about eight years later, that is.
House of the Dead is a light gun game for the Sega Saturn. The basic format of the game is that of an on-rails shooter. You get to shoot stuff, but you don't control -where- you go: your direction is controlled by constrained paths and scripted instances. The game's story has something to do with this creepy house with dead people in it... and shooting them... and going inside and having all kinds of fun adventures... Then there was something about a mad scientist who did all these experiments in a creepy-looking house, and his staff of labcoat-clad scientists are attacked by carnivorous zombie hordes. It's really quite like Virtua Cop (if you've ever played that before), except with violence and grossness.
The graphics are... bad. Let's just put it this way; when you press the pause button, you can COUNT the pixels. There's this thing called â€œsuspension of disbeliefâ€... when it reaches a certain finiteness of detail, it doesn't convey any sort of illusion anymore. There's a point at which something stops looking like an evil monster coming to eat you and it instead just looks like a bunch of polygons and colored squares. Let me just say that House of the Dead sort of sticks it's pinky toes out over that line every now and then.
On killing zombies in House of the Dead, the gore is very gratuitous and gushy. This is thanks to a very high amount of flying gore-pixels and MOIST sound effects. The game has an ample share of dismemberment, exploding heads, exploding torsos, and such. The voice acting is hilariously bad. â€œPLEASE do not kill ME!!!â€, â€œNo. NO! No. NO! No. NO!â€, â€œIf you don't stop him... something TERRIBLE will happen!!!â€ It is all quite cheesy. Further adding to the hokeyness is House of the Dead's musical soundtrack. â€œJazz-o-rifficâ€ might be the best way to describe it â€“ with a mild Transylvanian influence. This cheesiness, however, seems to come across as being kind of endearing. It makes it mildly likable.
Sometimes there's people who need rescuing throughout the levels. A zombie might be coming at someone, and you have to prevent their death. At the end of each level you get a score for how many people you saved, and sometimes (if you're lucky) these people will express their gratitude by giving you a health pack (yes!). At regularly distributed intervals there's a boss monster (a biomechanical robot, a giant bat-man hybrid)...
There's two different modes in this game, first â€œarcade modeâ€, and the second being â€œsaturn modeâ€. The difference between the two is that in â€œsaturn modeâ€, you get to choose between different characters you want play as, and each of these have different advantages (one guy, for example, has a higher capacity clip, or another has shots that do more damage). I actually liked this. Some of the characters offered in this mode made the game easier, more interesting, or just plain more variety-laced than the average-Joe nobody you get in Arcade Mode.
As for the price, the American version of this game is very expensive. I've seen complete copies go on eBay for $60 before. It is with a heavy nasal growl that I assure the readers House of the Dead is not worth that much. It's a cool game, but the price tag is only THAT much because there weren't too many copies minted. I got the (cheaper) Japanese version for $10 (I've got an Action Replay Plus so I can play imports). Literacy isn't exactly a prerequisite for slaughtering zombies, and strangely, all the menus and in-game voices in my Japanese version are in English (although I'm not sure why <.<. $60... ouch. If it weren't for my earlier-mentioned childhood fetish I'd say it'd be unreasonable to pay $20 or even $15 for this game...
On the good side, House of the Dead is pretty entertaining. It keeps you light on your feet with all the stuff it throws at you. I like the branching paths; they spice things up with variety, replayability, whatnot. This game is more fun (and somewhat easier) if you've got a second player helping out. On the bad side, the graphics are chunk-o-riffic in a way that makes me somewhat incredulous that the game came out in 1998. There's a several second load time between each zone, which is mildly annoying.
To compare with other Sega Saturn lightgun games, House of the Dead certainly is much better than Virtua Cop 1, but it's not QUITE as good as Virtua Cop 2 (it comes close though). The main difference, of course, lies in the fact that the bad guys' heads explode when you shoot them. Brains...
Final Grade: B+