Now it is time for part two of the Splatterhouse retrospective, but that does not mean that I am reviewing Splatterhouse 2, although I just finished it on the day I am writing this. There is instead this strange chibi spinoff called Splatterhouse Wanpaku Grafitti that was only released in Japan on the Famicom. Seems like a strange direction to take the series in considering the only game released prior was the arcade original. Yes I know plenty of games have chibi spinoffs, but they usually wait until there is more than one title. The gameplay of Wanpaku Grafitti is also noticeably different from the original, so I don’t even know why it’s a Splatterhouse game. And no, there’s no gore either. The game was alright but nothing particularly special, and can be recommended if you liked Monster Party but kinda wish it made a little more sense and didn’t have game breaking bugs.
I could not quite understand what the plot was about from what little was provided. The original game ended with Jenny dead after Rick escaped from the mansion, and hear you have them as kids. Even more strange is that Rick starts out dead in a coffin with Jenny nearby… even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. Rick randomly comes back to life and is reunited with his girlfriend… for about two seconds until a giant pumpkin comes and takes her. Yeah I know, makes perfect sense.
So if we are judging this by the standards of the previous game, it is a notable step down. However, it is quite clear that it is going for something different so let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. Rick now needs to rescue Jenny from the great pumpkin by traveling through 7 stages (I think, it might be 6) to reach her. Along the way, you end up fighting enemies that look like they are in a kiddy haunted house attraction or that are some type of pop culture reference. The first boss, for instance, is a vampire that has a one minute cutscene of him and 4 generic enemies dancing in sync to a sound alike of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” So this game is basically Monster Party meets Ghosts ‘n Goblins, presentation wise at least (although it does also have some fake difficulty thrown in, which is kind of like fake news except for game difficulty).
There is a mildly interesting charm to this game’s setting and tone, but I don’t find it to be quite as immersive as the aforementioned titles. I will admit though that I have not played Monster Party for myself and that Ghost’s n Goblins was kinda ass on the gameplay front so it seems likely that Wanpaku Grafitti is better than both of them. Regardless, the look of this game only serves as a backdrop and isn’t compelling all on its own nor does it add any lore to the series, aside from a secret ending that implies this is actually a prequel to Splatterhouse 1.
Graphics wise, the game is pretty good. The sprites and backgrounds are nicely detailed and there is a nice variety in settings and landscapes. The animation and sound effects are also fairly solid. The music was decent but there was not much that was particularly great aside from the ending credits theme. It is definitely a bit of a downgrade to have the same music used for each boss, including the last boss, when every boss in the original Splatterhouse had a unique track. Otherwise the tracks are fairly catchy but not GOAT material by any means.
If one couldn’t guess, there isn’t that much that I have to say about this game on the presentation front, and I don’t know if I’d say there’s much on the gameplay front either. Wanpaku Grafitti is still a 2D sidescroller, but it is not a beat’em up like the first game. Instead, I would describe it more as a stripped down version of Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden. You try to get to the end of a level mostly by walking right and working out enemy patterns. Your only attack is your axe/hatchet/cleaver/whateverthehellthatfuckingthingis that has a pitifully short range and isn’t even swung rapidly like Rick’s fists in the first game. This causes a lot of problem due to the fact that you need to get so close to enemies to even hit them, a lot of which are moving really quickly. Due to the short range, it often feels likes it’s completely random whether you hit the enemy or they hit you cause you’re so close.
This on its own would not be so bad if it Wanpaku Grafitti was not so stingy on invincibility frames. There were multiple points during Wanpaku Grafitti that I found myself getting hit twice or even three times by the same attack. Putting these two things together means that there will be a lot of cheap deaths and the only real option is to git gud and learn how it works.
I said in my review of the previous game that memorization based design is not inherently a bad thing if you have infinite continues. Guess what Wanpaku Grafitti doesn’t have? You have five lives in Wanpaku Grafitti and the levels don’t have checkpoints. Not five continues; five lives! While the levels themselves are fairly well designed and fun to play, the thing with the hit detection and invincibility frames results in most deaths feeling cheap and frustrating. The game technically has a password system, but it does not save the levels you gained from the enemies you killed if you skip to a later stage.
Yeah, Wanpaku Grafitti has RPG elements to it as well, so I guess that means I could count this review as an RPGs of the Famicom entry as well. Unfortunately, they seemed rather arbitrary and didn’t add much other than trying to get you to go after other enemies, and first game already had that with points. They even gave you an extra life when you reached a certain amount which meant they were actually fucking useful. In this game though, this just means that you either need to beat the entire game in one go or need to play through later stages underleveled.
Yes, I get that this was likely the intention to begin with just to incentivize gitting gud at the previous stages, but maybe it would have been a better idea to just design the stages to be difficult enough to stand on their own but fair enough to not feel like they are artificial padding. Hell I say this because that is exactly what they did with Splatterhouse 2 & 3, which were developed by the same team as Wanpaku Grafitti. So it is good that they learned for the later games, but in the case of this game, it just means you will likely be using emulator saves states.
Overall, Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti is passable. I didn’t think too highly of it but I wouldn’t say I disliked it. I’ve already mentioned the cheapness of the game but it isn’t simply that it’s “too hard” that’s the problem. The real reason is that there isn’t a lot of depth to the gameplay. You only have your one weapon and there are weapons you can pick up in like, two levels or something. The design varied from fairly fun to that annoying ass pyramid area that you’ll likely have to repeat 16 or so times. It’s not bad and there is some fun to be had, but it’s not something you need to go out of your way to play. If you are interested in it then by all means go for it, but you will also find a lot that are much better.
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