Splatterhouse 3 was the last game of the series until the 2010 reboot happened. And sadly, it’s the worst of the trilogy.
|Genre||Beat ’em up, horror|
|Purchase (Sega Genesis)||Purchase from eBay.|
At last, we’re at the final entry of the Splatterhouse trilogy: Splatterhouse 3 for the Sega Genesis. The one piece of background info that’s interesting about this game was that it’s the only game in the series to have an age rating. When Sega of America introduced the Videogame Rating Council in 1993, all games published on Sega consoles in North America from that point get a rating. In this case, Splatterhouse 3 was given a rating of MA-13, which is basically an old equivalent to a Teen rating by today’s ESRB.
Huh. Given the violent and gory content of the Splatterhouse series, you’d think Splatterhouse 3 would be rated MA-17 instead. Out of the handful of games that got this rating, two Mortal Kombat games stand out. I guess if there’s something that Splatterhouse had never done, it’s yanking out someone’s still beating heart before crushing it. Still, it’s hard to see any of these games being passed for a T rating by today’s standards…
Well, let’s finish this trilogy up. Let’s see if Splatterhouse 3 wrapped things up nice and tight. Oh, and for the record, I’m playing the original Sega Genesis game, not the edited version that was in the Splatterhouse 2010 reboot.
Five Years Have Passed
After the events of Splatterhouse 2, Rick Taylor finally married his sweetheart Jennifer and the two had a son named David. Life seemed to be going great as Rick became a successful businessman in Wall Street and purchased a mansion in Connecticut. So yeah, the West Mansion is not part of the story here. Big shock, I know.
But once again, Rick and Jennifer got pulled into a supernatural conflict. Man, the monsters must really hate these two. Sooner or later, Cthulhu would want a piece of that action and go, “Rick, you’re an abomination of an existence. And that’s ME saying that!” Rick and Jennifer simply cannot catch a fucking break in this life.
So some vague villain known as the Evil One (original name, by the way) sends its monster hordes to attack the mansion, kidnapping both Jennifer and David in the process. The Terror Mask, a mysterious cursed mask that granted Rick great power in the previous games, explained that the Evil One wanted to use David’s latent psychic powers to unlock the power of some gem called the Dark Stone. And apparently, the Dark Stone contains all of the Black Magic in the world, which will mean activating it will be like opening Pandora’s Box.
…Really? A kid with psychic powuhz? Haven’t seen one of those before! When you have no other plots to go by, then just bring in the MacGuffin child with unexplained psychic powuhz!
Silliness aside, let’s start up the game.
Just as with its predecessors, Splatterhouse 3 is a gory beat ’em up game where you play as a beefy Rick Taylor wearing a cursed mask. There are 6 levels in total, making this a relatively short game. But instead of a linear progression with occasional forks in the road leading to the same destination, this game uses a map system where you must navigate to the boss room. You can only pull up the map when the room has no enemies. As a result of this new mechanic, the game offers you more freedom on how to reach your destination compared to the previous games.
This is a potentially interesting idea as you may have unique enemy encounters, room designs and set pieces along the way. But… sadly, this is not the case.
Splatterhouse 3 gets monotonous pretty fast. Many of the early enemies use similar attack patterns and the open-ended level designs leave much to be desired. Every single room is a mostly empty cubicle or hallway filled with enemies and occasional items. Graphically, the game is more tame compared to its more gruesome predecessors as the rooms tend to be uninteresting.
The music is also just… okay, if not repetitive. Whenever there are monsters in a room, a battle theme plays. After you kill them, the music changes to regular level music. Rinse and repeat when you visit the majority of the rooms in the game.
Seriously, what the hell happened? The original Splatterhouse had rooms full of deadly traps, auto-scroll sections, disturbing backgrounds and unique bosses. There’s also the occasional platforming as well. Even the sequel had all this.
But here in Splatterhouse 3, many of those are missing. Sure, there are some disturbing-looking enemies, but we’ve definitely seen worse at this point. You might come across some “trap rooms” but they all work exactly the same. Some poltergeist throws furniture and other possessions at you or some ghost faces rise out of the floor. All this while making it impossible to get out of the room unharmed. And even then, those rooms don’t really take away much HP and are designed just to waste your time.
Ah, speaking of which, Splatterhouse 3 has a countdown timer mechanic. But this is not like with the Super Mario Bros. series, where you lose a life when the timer reaches 0. This timer actually determines your playthrough’s ending.
Yeah, this game has multiple endings, believe it or not. FOUR to be exact. Depending on whether you finish each level on time or not, you may get a different ending. Obviously, you’ll get the best ending if you complete all levels on time and the worst ending if you complete none on time.
This is cool and all and it does give Splatterhouse 3 some replayability value, but… it’s not really a fun game to go through multiple times.
Let’s talk about Rick’s moveset. He can punch and use a jump kick on enemies. If he gets close to an enemy, he’ll grab it and you can perform combos on them. However, this is mostly useful against a single enemy. If there are a group of enemies in the room, a grab will leave you completely vulnerable.
Rick doesn’t have the powerful slide kick like in past games. Instead, he has something called the Quad Spin Kick. AND IT’S POWERFUL AS FUCK.
Seriously, you need to use this spin kick often because the enemies in later stages are either damage sponges or simply don’t play fair. This technique inflicts a massive amount of damage against multiple enemies, as well as granting you invincibility frames until the attack is finished. There are very little downsides to using this attack, other than that it’s a little bit tricky to pull off. You just rock the Left and Right buttons back and forth on the D-pad, then hit the B button. You’ll get it just right quickly, but it’s when you have to use it often when it’ll be a bit challenging.
And here’s one of my biggest disappointments with the game: the weapons. I have no idea who thought this was a good idea, but basically weapons in Splatterhouse 3 are extremely limited. They’re somewhat more powerful than your regular attacks. But if you drop your current weapon, there’s a good chance that a spirit will spawn in the room and take it away.
This mechanic pisses me off. I kind of get why it’s in this game: so you don’t rely solely on weapons to get through the levels. In fact, some enemies are weak against specific weapons and receive bonus damage. But in my playthroughs of the game, these spirits spawn 90% of the time for me when I drop a weapon. So I played through most of Splatterhouse 3 by spamming the Quad Spin Kick.
What the hell kind of Splatterhouse game tries to not let you use weapons, one of the most fun parts about the series? Apparently, this one. And that doesn’t sit well with me.
Speedrun or GTFO
As you progress through the game, you begin to notice more annoyances. For example, some of the enemies inflict a ridiculous amount of damage compared to others. They also love to waste as much of your time as possible by wandering off-screen (during segments where the rooms only scroll in one direction).
Most of the monsters knock you off your feet when they attack you, costing you a few seconds. The red variations of those fat creatures with the large jaws are not only tanky, but they take about half of your health away from a single attack. You encounter variations of the first level boss, and they can block your attacks (even the Quad Spin Kick). There are these horrifying dog-cow chimera things that take a long time to kill. Or these incredibly annoying floating heads covered in bedsheets that occasionally become immune to attacks and do insane damage to you from a single attack.
This is where the POW meter comes in. To build it up, you can collect these blue Eldritch Orbs. With the press of a button at any point, Rick beefs up even more and becomes Mutant Rick. This is the closest to a powerup system that Splatterhouse 3 has.
As Mutant Rick, you’re a powerhouse who can take less damage while dishing out more pain. Even his Quad Spin Kick changes into a more powerful special attack called the Chestburster (bloody spikes made from his flesh sprout out), which is EXTREMELY useful against bosses. This attack’s range is utterly absurd, touching enemies near the edge of the screen. While in this form, the POW meter slowly goes down.
Remember when I complained about some of those tougher enemies? Mutant Rick can take most of these enemies just fine, saving you some time.
Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, here’s the issue: after you defeat all of the monsters in a room, Rick reverts to his normal state and his POW meter instantly drops to 0.
What!? Why? I don’t understand why that’s necessary. Why not just revert back and leave the POW meter where it stopped? That means you can only use this powerup sparingly while saving it up for the level’s boss. I guess that’s the idea, but… why not just make the Eldritch Orbs into rare drops?
So yeah, if I were you, DON’T pick up any Eldritch Orbs while you’re Mutant Rick. That way, you can restore some of the POW meter after he reverts back. This is an annoying workaround, but the best one you have.
To get the best ending, you’d want to save as much time as possible when you clear these levels. This means you need to be familiar with the level map. Generally speaking, the less rooms you need to travel through, the better.
However, you may notice these yellow doorways marked on the map. If you enter them, you will either find a 1Up with some enemies or it will warp you to a different part of the map, acting as a hidden shortcut. So keep that in mind.
After all, this game rewards you when you complete levels quickly.
In fact, I almost completely missed this game’s bonus stages: The Strange Zone. Ooh, spooky~
For the first four levels, if you complete them with more than 2 minutes to spare, you get to access a garden version of the Strange Zone. This area is a single path with weak enemies and multiple 1Ups that will make your playthrough easier.
If you complete either the first or second level with more than 3 minutes to spare, you access the cave version. This is BARELY possible and you are unlikely to get this by accident. It requires you to take the shortest route possible and use every method you have to save time, so everything you do must be deliberate and calculated. Even from spamming the Quad Spin Kick or the Chestburster, this is tough to do.
And it’s… surprisingly less interesting. That’s just great.
Unlike the garden version, the cave version plays like a standard level with a labyrinthine map. However, you don’t have the map of the level this time, so whether you finish it or not is by chance. Oddly, you fight some of the tougher enemies from the later levels here and you may pick up just a couple of 1Ups along the way.
And your final reward? You get to skip the next level. So if you got the cavern version of the Strange Zone in level 1, you go straight to level 3. And if in level 2, you go to level 4.
…Cool? I guess if you hate the timer mechanic in this game (which would be ironic considering you had to play through a level fast as shit anyway…) or want to do a speedrun playthrough, this would be useful. Otherwise, I don’t think all that effort is worth it. It’s really quite disappointing.
And if you’re wondering if completing the Strange Zone levels will alter the endings, nope.
The Faces of Evil
So you might be wondering if Splatterhouse 3 at least had some interesting bosses. In the previous games, you fight all sorts of weird shit: a chainsaw-wielding man with a burlap sack over his head, giant red maggots, haunted masks, giant zombies with melted flesh, giant creepy faces, YOUR OWN GIRLFRIEND AS A HORRIBLE MONSTER!
Yeah, there was a tragic scene in the original Splatterhouse where Jennifer Willis turns into a horrible mutant against her will. And you’d have to kill her in a boss fight as an act of mercy. Then you spend the whole sequel trying to save her soul and bring her back to life, then get happily married. Interestingly, Jennifer is in a similar situation once again in Splatterhouse 3.
Before I conclude the review, I want to bring up the time mechanic again because there is a cool Easter egg in it. For the first and second levels, Jennifer is the hostage you need to rescue.
Playing through the game, cutscenes occasionally depicting these blurry digitized photographs will play. In the visual department, this is by far the coolest thing in Splatterhouse 3. If you complete the first level under the time limit, a cutscene will play showing that a Boreworm had entered inside Jennifer’s body and is feasting on her insides. And to stop this, you need to defeat the Giant Boreworm boss in level 2 on time.
But if you take too long in level 2 and the timer is at 2 minutes…
Yep. It’s already too late. You already unlocked Jennifer’s bad ending. But if you waited even longer and completely run out the timer, then…
Oh my god. If I’ve seen this as a kid, I would shit my pants looking at this. In fact, considering the nature of the Splatterhouse series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jennifer’s full form at this cutscene would resemble some kind of horrible creation of The Thing. Sort of like…
Come to think of it, those dog-cow chimera things resemble the Thing. Maybe it’s possible that movie inspired some of the monster designs of this series.
Oddly enough though, this game missed the opportunity for you to fight the transformed Jennifer as a boss again, once again to kill her out of mercy. The story just sort of assumed that she’s dead after this.
Anyways, I’m getting off-topic. We’re going to take a look at the head honchos of the game. The boss fights in Splatterhouse 3, for a lack of a better term, suck.
For real, though. Functionally, many of these bosses are the same. They usually shoot projectiles at you (constantly knocking you off your feet) while moving away like the cowardly pussies they are. I guess that silly teddy bear boss fight was at least a bit interesting, but it still fights like a regular monster with more HP.
And guess what? That bluish shadow man is the Evil One. For being the main antagonist of this game, that has got to be the most unremarkable boss design in the whole series. And yes, he’s a cheap son of a bitch too. Like a coward, he blocks your attacks and moves away from you while constantly shooting energy balls and lightning at you.
The best ways to take on the bosses are:
- Become Mutant Rick and spam the Chestburster when they’re in range.
- If #1 doesn’t work because the boss is blocking the attack, get close enough to grab the boss, then keep mashing the attack button to strangle him.
- If your POW meter is down, spam the Quad Spin Kick or grab the boss and headbutt him constantly.
Honestly, when you think about it, Splatterhouse 3 encourages you to spam your special attack to get the best results in the game. There is no downside to using your special attack and enemies simply take too long to kill with just your regular attacks, especially the ones that inflict the most damage.
That’s… honestly not good design. The previous games do encourage you to use your special attack often, but never to this degree. Imagine if a regular punch combo only does small damage, while this special attack does nearly three times as much damage. What the hell is the punch combo good for? Nothing. Just be a spamming son of a bitch and get it over with.
Stage 6 is just the final boss battle. And surprise, surprise! The Terror Mask doesn’t need Rick anymore since he managed to kill the Evil One. All that’s standing between the Terror Mask and world conquest is Rick himself, so… anti-climactic boss fight!
I mean, to be fair, this is a two-phase battle and the Terror Mask has powerful enough attacks to eat through your lives like crazy. But this fight is not all that difficult after you just took on the Evil One. In fact, just become Mutant Rick and spam Chestburster. Just like you do for the whole game. Just like with the other boss fights, this one is lazily done.
So wait. If the Terror Mask is fighting Rick, how come Rick is still wearing the mask and he can still use its abilities? I think due to the surreal arena, this fight is supposed to imply that this is all happening in Rick’s head or something, but it was never clarified. But anyways, Rick defeats the Terror Mask. Depending on how you performed in your playthrough, the Terror Mask will either gloat that it feeds off the suffering of humans (probably the reason why Rick and Jennifer went through so much shit in these games, since the Terror Mask itself is the one leading them to certain doom) and will rise again.
But if you saved Jennifer and David, the Terror Mask will be destroyed for good, making the world a better place.
Aww. I guess it’s nice that Rick finally got his happy ending, hopefully never having to deal with this shit in his lifetime again. Well, maybe this ending is not as cute as it appears. One thing I noticed is that as this still image fades to black, something peculiar happens. David looks a bit…
Um, yeah. I don’t think it’s intentional for David to look like the spawn of Satan for a moment there. Still, that is a bit spooky for a good ending.
Anyways, that’s it for the trilogy. Splatterhouse 3 could’ve been a good sendoff to a series long forgotten by time. But now, it just seems to be the right choice to keep the games in the ’90s. The series remained at the status quo set by the first game and never got any better. It’s pretty clear that the games were quickly losing steam.
The third game tried to be more innovative with its map system, but it didn’t really change up the gameplay all that much. Mainly, it just changes how you progress through the levels. Otherwise, the enemy AI isn’t much better. Some of the monsters tend to rely on overpowered attacks that take away big chunks of your health, while others spam melee attacks to constantly knock you off your feet. Furthermore, nearly all enemies can take quite a bit of damage; you might as well be hitting sponges. This forces you to rely too much on the Quad Spin Kick and the Chestburster way too often, with the high damage output, long range and invincibility frames. And it gets old really quick.
When a game forces you to constantly use your special move because of how worthless your regular attack moves are, you know that the game is unbalanced.
Splatterhouse 2 may have poor hit detection and a final boss that makes me want to yank out my spine. But that game also embodied on what made the original arcade Splatterhouse so fun to play. Good bloody arcade action with excellent set pieces. And you could play it in a more accessible game console at the time, the Sega Genesis.
Splatterhouse 3 is simply disappointing. It’s not a terrible game, but it doesn’t measure up to its predecessors. And that’s all I have left to say about that. So there you go, the Splatterhouse trilogy. The series is pretty short-lived, though there are two more games that I have yet to talk about at this point.
One is a spinoff for the Nintendo Famicom released in 1989 called Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti. It’s definitely an odd game, going for this cute chibi comical look that heavily reminds me of Kid Dracula for the Castlevania series. And of course, the other game is the 2010 reboot of the series, which didn’t do quite well. I’ll eventually take a look at those games. But for now, I still have more horror games to look at for this month.
Splatterhouse 3Price Varies
- Despite the more open-ended gameplay, it's still relatively simple to learn.
- The countdown timer mechanic, which determines the multiple endings, which is a cool feature for a game of this era.
- The usage of blurry digitized photographs along with the game graphics during the cutscenes, which fools you into thinking that the people in the cutscenes are more realistic. When done right, you can even find a cool Easter egg as a consequence for your actions.
- All of the rooms are pretty much the same in basic design, lacking a variety of obstacles.
- You barely get to use weapons at all since the game keeps taking them away from you.
- Enemies are poorly balanced, as some early on can inflict a huge amount of damage. Their attacks and AI are also designed to waste as much time as possivle.
- The game gives you barely enough time to finish the levels, forcing you to spam your special move.
- Unremarkable bosses that fight with similar attack patterns.